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It’s hard to imagine a more historic place that District 8. This is the place of Beat poets, pasta, pirates, parrots, pioneers and financiers. A walk down the Embarcadero reveals everything you need to know.

Start at Aquatic Park — the foot of Russian Hill. Look straight up Hyde Street (one of the steepest streets in San Francisco) and you can instantly see why an address here is so prized. Russian Hill is packed with charming  pre-war homes, condos and TICs, many of which begin in the mid $900s. While there are plenty of charming alleys here, Macondray Lane is said to be the inspiration for Armistead Maupin’s Barbary Lane in Tales of the City. But look out: tourists abound, not just here, but in search of Lombard Street and the crookedest street in the world.

Head east, and take in the sights and sounds of North Beach. Once home to the city’s Italian immigrant population, now it’s a hodgepodge of cultures and you can still experience the beatnik culture in the famous City Lights bookstore. Although you may not be able to tell by looking around this densely populated part of San Francisco, the reason it’s called North Beach is that it really used to be a beach — the water’s edge came right up to what is now Taylor and Francisco streets. Joe DiMaggio grew up here, along with San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto. The neighborhood still boasts one of the liveliest nightclub scenes, attracting locals and tourists alike. But get away from the hustle of Columbus, and you’ll find steep streets and quiet cul de sacs, particularly as you head up to Telegraph Hill.

This is one of the most coveted neighborhoods in San Francisco, because it routinely has clear weather so you can actually see the outstanding views. Or it could be the fact that the steep streets often dead-end here, leading to quiet streets where everyone seems to know each other. We think it’s the mix of some very contemporary architecture (meander up to the end of Union Street, for example) mixed with gorgeous Art Deco buildings you may have seen in old Humphrey Bogart movies like the Maltese Falcon. History is everywhere here, and single family houses tend to start in the high $1 millions.

If you look east from Telegraph Hill, you can’t help but notice one of the hottest areas in San Francisco — North Waterfront. This used to be the land of working docks and longshoremen, but over the last 40 years it’s been redeveloped into one of the finest examples of mixed-use commercial/residential developments in the country. Here you can find a great selection of condominiums and loft-like spaces mixed into the old warehouses that have all been converted into offices. The area really got a huge boost after the 1989 earthquake, when the old Embarcadero freeway (nee eyesore) was torn down and the Embarcadero Boulevard (as we know it today) was built. This is a great place to live if you love the City, because there’s easy access to everything you need — including the Marin ferries. Condos here start in the mid $700s, but easily push over a million when views are fantastic.

One of the best parts about living in the Financial District (the business end of the Barbary Coast) is simply saying that you live there — it’s one of the most historic neighborhoods in the city. Once you get out of the concrete canyons that face Market Street and head over to Jackson Square, you’ll find a surprising number of condos and lofts that offer full-service amenities with the ambiance of a small city. Look for the brass inlays that mark the Barbary Coast trail. It’s one of the best ways to get familiar with the area’s grand history of vice and debauchery. These days, though, the Barbary Coast and Financial District is just a really grand place to live. Homes here begin in the mid $800s for a fairly roomy condo.

Nob Hill is one of District 8′s most privileged neighborhoods, with some of the last remaining mansions from the railroad titans of the last century, Grace Cathedral, Huntington Park and a suite of five-star hotels. Some parts of Nob Hill feel like a throwback in time, with small barbershops, coffee shops and old cocktail lounges mixed in among the old-school apartment buildings. If you’re looking for a pre-war, traditional flat, this is the place for you. Condos tend to run upwards of $900 to start, but we have on occasion found some exemplary studios here starting in the high $500s.

If you head down the steep slope of Taylor street, you’ll find yourself smack in the middle of the neighborhood known to Realtors as Downtown, but to everyone else as the Tendernob, Lower Nob Hill or the Theater District. Downtown is home to Union Square and the best shopping in the City, but you’ll also find a great number of historic apartment buildings along Pine, Bush, Sutter and Post. Though it can sometimes be a wee bit rough around the edges, this is the place to live if you want a classic one-bedroom apartment for less than $300.

It’s when you move into the real Tenderloin that things get … interesting. It’s about 50 square blocks of single room occupancy hotels — but there are also plenty of signs of life here. Little Saigon (Larkin and Hyde Streets between Turk and O’Farrell) was officially recognized by the City a few years ago, and there are plenty of well-tended storefronts here. But the pickings are slim in terms of property to buy.

Last but by no means least, the Van Ness/Civic Center subdistrict is one of the cultural hubs of the City. If you want to live close to City Hall, Davies Symphony Hall, the Wall Memorial Opera House, Asian Art Museum or the Civic Center, this is the place for you. It’s a great area to find a condo in the mid-$400s.

Handy Links

Russian Hill Neighbors

SF Gate’s View on North Beach

The Barbary Coast News

Wikipedia’s Entry on the Barbary Coast

Nob Hill Association

Wikipedia’s Entry on the Tenderloin


415 576 5432

Asian Art Museum
415 581 3500

415 955 1919

415 433 6300

415 393 9000

Fleur de Lys
415 673 7779

SF Symphony
415 864 6000


From the Barbary Coast to the top of Telegraph Hill, this historic district has just about everything you need.