Aerial shot of the Golden Gate Bridge at night.

15 Things to Know About Living in San Francisco

Thinking about moving to San Francisco? This Bay Area city is home to Silicon Valley tech startups, the largest LGBTQ community in the U.S., iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Painted Ladies, and an incomparable dining scene. Here are 15 things to know about living in San Francisco!

Yes, It’s Expensive to Live Here

Aerial view of Downtown San Francisco at night time. Photo by Instagram user @dtm_photo
Photo via @dtm_photo

You’ve most likely heard about how expensive it is to live in the Bay Area. But just how outrageous is the cost of living in San Francisco? It’s about 73% higher than the national average. Like its costly East Coast rival New York City—with whom it frequently competes for the title of most expensive U.S. city—San Francisco’s high cost of living is tied to its real estate market. As more transplants move to the nation’s tech capital in search of employment opportunities, the higher the demand is for housing. Currently, the average monthly rent in San Francisco is around $3,933, and the median home value is around $1.3 million. It’s not impossible to find affordable places to live in San Francisco, but if you’re moving to the Bay Area from outside of California, you might still find the housing prices that local residents consider “affordable” to be a bit shocking.

Job Opportunities Continue to Grow

Outdoor patio with plants at the Facebook Headquarters. Photo by Instagram user @arquitecturaviva_
Photo via @arquitecturaviva_

Why would people move to San Francisco if it’s so expensive to live there? The Bay Area is home to renowned Silicon Valley tech companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Salesforce, all of which have been recognized as some of the best tech companies to work for in the U.S. In 2018 alone, the tech workforce in the state of California grew by 51,500 jobs—most of which were in Silicon Valley—helping the SF metro to outpace tech growth in larger cities like NYC and Los Angeles. Of course, technology isn’t the only industry adding value to the city’s economy and helping to keep the unemployment rate around a steady 2.5%. Finance, tourism, and healthcare sectors have also seen considerable growth, accounting for some of San Francisco’s largest employers outside of Silicon Valley.

It’s Called “Fog City” for a Reason

The red Golden Gate Bridge on a foggy day. Photo by Instagram user @belindshiphotography
Photo via @belindashiphotography

With moist winters, dry summers, and an average temperature around 60 degrees, the City by the Bay has a mild, coastal climate similar to that of the Mediterranean region, making it an ideal home for outdoor enthusiasts. Though the San Francisco weather is practically perfect year-round, the SF area does have a unique weather phenomenon that helped spawn one of city’s many nicknames: Fog City. During summers in particular when the hot inland air meets the cool ocean air, San Francisco’s coast and bay get blanketed by a thick fog that can hang around for a day or two, causing the city to feel cooler than usual and even delay flights at the already-busy San Francisco International Airport. The fog is so well-known that it even has its own hilarious Twitter account (@KarlTheFog) created by locals.

Home to the Famous Golden Gate Bridge

The red Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. Photo by Instagram user @ludditeking
Photo via @ludditeking

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you think of San Francisco? Most likely, it’s the Golden Gate Bridge, thanks to its frequent appearance in popular films and TV shows like X-Men: The Last Stand and Full House. Completed in 1937, this suspension bridge stands 746 feet tall and stretches 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate strait, which links the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. The iconic landmark connects San Francisco’s Presidio and Golden Gate National Recreation Area, both of which are outdoor recreation hot spots beloved by both Bay Area locals and tourists.

Get Used to Steep Hills & Crooked Streets

Hilly cobblestone streets of San Francisco. Photo by Instagram user @alvic3
Photo via @alvic3

Whether you plan to commute on foot, by bike, via streetcar, or with a personal vehicle while you’re living in San Francisco, watch out for the city’s notoriously steep—and sometimes winding—roads. If you ask local residents which street is the steepest street in San Francisco, you’ll probably get a variety of answers from Filbert Street to Bradford Street (This is usually because some people gauge by angle, while others gauge by grade). And, of course, you may hear about Lombard Street, the famous Russian Hill neighborhood street with steep hairpin turns. Regardless, you’re bound to run into these aggressive streets from time to time, so make sure you take it easy when walking or biking downhill, get your vehicle’s brakes checked often, and don’t get too close to other vehicles when going uphill!

Earthquakes Are Part of San Francisco Life

Black and white photo of an earthquake on Telegraph Hill. Photo by Instagram user @keystonemast
Photo via @keystonemast

Back in 1906, the Bay Area experienced a 7.9 magnitude earthquake that leveled most of San Francisco. As of today, this natural disaster is still recognized as one of the worst and most destructive earthquakes in both California and U.S. history. How did it happen? Well, the City by the Bay sits on the San Andreas fault line—the same that gives Southern California a good shake every now and then—as well as six other fault lines. Though the metro hasn’t encountered another earthquake like that of 1906, the SF area does have earthquakes on a regular basis. These are relatively small (i.e., 2.5 magnitude or less) and mostly go unnoticed by anyone without a seismograph. But if you’re moving to San Francisco and you’re new to this type of natural occurrence, check out The Great California ShakeOut, an annual event that helps California residents prepare for and stay safe during an earthquake with useful tips.

A Puzzling Number of Districts & Neighborhoods

San Francisco skyscrapers in the North Beach neighborhood. Photo by Instagram user @torreyfox
Photo via @torreyfox

One kind of funny thing to know about San Francisco is that no one’s quite sure how many districts and neighborhoods there are. This is because realtors, city supervisors, local travel guides, and long-time residents all have differing thoughts on which neighborhood is part of which district and where all of the boundaries are. On the upside, the sheer number of these districts and neighborhoods means you’re bound find the area that fits your lifestyle! If you’re looking for a San Francisco neighborhood with a strong foodie culture, cool art scenes, and great job opportunities, SoMa and Embarcadero might be the perfect place for you. Enjoy the outdoors? Areas like Presidio and Marina District are within walking distance of some of San Francisco’s best outdoor recreation spots. Or maybe you want a quieter, more family-friendly spot, in which case, check out Nob Hill and The Avenues, where streets are a little safer, homes are more spacious, and schools are well-rated throughout the area.

The World’s Gay Mecca

Woman walking across rainbow path on street in Castro District. Photo by Instagram user @stephpatullo
Photo via @stephpatullo

San Francisco has long been the top LGBTQ-friendly city in the U.S., thanks to its large population of LGBTQ residents and storied history in the fight for LGBTQ rights. The city was the background for the election of California’s first openly gay official Harvey Milk, as well as the first issuance of a same-sex marriage license in the U.S. In addition, San Francisco has strong protections for the LGBTQ community through non-discrimination laws regarding housing, public accommodations, and employment. And with San Francisco Pride—one of the world’s biggest pride parades—and the ever-vibrant Castro District, it’s no wonder why San Francisco was nicknamed “the world’s gay Mecca.”

The Oldest, Largest Japantown in the U.S.

Tower with Japanese architecture in Japantown, San Francisco. Photo by Instagram user @alex_xuu
Photo via @alex_xuu

One of only three Japantowns in the U.S., San Francisco Japantown is by far the largest and the oldest. Located in the Western Addition neighborhood, this six-block community is home to several shops, restaurants, Japanese cultural events, and the beautiful San Francisco Peace Pagoda. Visit the Japan Center mall to find everything from amiko and manga to Japanese snack foods and home decor. Try the Hinodeya House Ramen at Hinodeya Ramen Bar, the Sea Urchin Cream Sauce Udon at Udon Mugizo, or the Omakase Dinner featuring sashimi, nigiri, and more at An Japanese Restaurant. And don’t forget to check out some of J-Town’s annual events like the Northern California Cherry Blossom FestivalNihonmachi Street Fair, and Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival.

Pursue a Higher Education

Aerial view of the University of San Francisco on a sunny day. Photo by Instagram user @usfca
Photo via @usfca

Moving to San Francisco to attend college? The Bay Area is home to several top-rated schools, including Stanford UniversityUC Berkeley, and a variety of arts and tech schools that feed into Silicon Valley startups. There are plenty of colleges and universities within the San Francisco city limits, too. University of San Francisco is a private Jesuit university that offers more than 230 programs for undergraduate and graduate students with business and finance among its top fields. San Francisco State University is a public university that has a wide range of degree options for students of liberal arts, business, education, health and social sciences, and more. University of California San Francisco is dedicated to the health sciences and has been recognized as one of the best medical schools in the U.S. And there’s also City College of San Francisco, a community college that offers 50 academic programs and more than 100 occupational programs for students of all ages and backgrounds.

Visit Some of San Francisco’s Best Attractions

Picture of rowhouses from the show Full House. Photo by Instagram user @tigerladyy
Photo via @tigerladyy

Want to get to know your new city better? There are tons of things to do in San Francisco, so get out and start exploring! Head over to Alamo Square to admire the colorful Victorian rowhouses known as the Painted Ladies. Stroll around the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts campus in the Marina District before catching a concert or ballet in the theatre. See giraffes, penguins, otters, and more at the San Francisco Zoo in Lakeshore. Step through the historic Dragon’s Gate and discover all that Chinatown San Francisco has to offer. Visit Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf for shopping, dining, live music, and sea lions. Tour the mysterious Alcatraz Island, where notorious gangster Al Capone was once imprisoned. Make your way to Oracle Park in South Beach to watch a San Francisco Giants (MLB) game. And don’t forget the gigantic redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument just across the Golden Gate Bridge!

Welcome to the Ultimate Foodie City

Hands cutting up German food at Suppenkusche. Photo by Instagram user @theculinaryedge
Photo via @theculinaryedge

If you’re looking for a city that loves food, San Francisco is the place to be! From family-owned Italian diners and upscale tapas restaurants to street-style taco trucks and Korean barbecue joints, San Francisco has a restaurant for every craving! Check out Asian fusion restaurant The House in Telegraph Hill, where you can get wasabi noodles, fried salmon rolls, and seared ahi. Order German favorites like potato pancakes, pork sausage, and pickled herring at Suppenküche in Hayes Valley. Try some of the best seafood in San Francisco at The Codmother Fish & Chips in Fisherman’s Wharf. Dig into a plate of Chicken & Waffles or Blackened Mississippi Catfish at Cajun restaurant The Front Porch in Bernal Heights. Or savor locally-sourced ingredients in dishes like Tacos de Pescado al Pastor and Totopos con Chile at organic Mexican kitchen Nopalito in Inner Sunset. Looking for more San Francisco restaurants to try? Check out this dining guide from Eater San Francisco!

Make a Brunch Date

Plate of pancakes with strawberries from Zazie. Photo by Instagram user @eatinwithcorinna
Photo via @eatingwithcorinna

Brunch is a huge part of San Francisco culture. Considering the City by the Bay frequently wins the title of top foodie city in the U.S., its love of breakfast food should come as no surprise. But where are the best brunch spots in San Francisco? Cozy bistro Zazie in Cole Valley is a popular go-to, thanks to its outdoor patio and delicious Miracle Pancakes. For a Korean take on brunch, head over to Surisan in North Beach to try dishes like Bulgogi Bap and Kimchi Fried Rice. If you have mimosas on the mind, The Pink Elephant Alibi in SoMa is the brunch spot for you—they have over 20 different mimosa flavors! What about a down-home Southern breakfast? Brenda’s Meat & Three in NoPa serves up everything from beignets and flapjacks to fried chicken and cheddar grits. Take your pick—you truly can’t go wrong with brunch in San Francisco!

Get to Know the Local Brews

Flight of five different beers from Seven Stills Brewery. Photo by Instagram user @beveragemode
Photo via @beveragemode

Interested in seeking out some of the best breweries in San Francisco? Try the Baykeeper IPA or Anchor Porter at Anchor Brewing in Potrero Hill, which has been brewing beer since 1896. Order a Chocasmoke Oatmeal Stout or a Simon Saison at Seven Stills at one of their three locations in San Francisco—they even make whiskeys distilled from their craft beers! Sample the Nectar of Life Kolsch or the Heff Bridges Hefeweizen in the dog-friendly open space at Black Hammer Brewing in SoMa. Sip on the Animal Tropical IPA or Galaxy Park Single Hop Pale Ale at Fort Point Beer Company‘s Embarcadero taproom in the restored Ferry Building. Or throw back one of 16 rotating beers on tap like the Anxiety Pils or Sunset District Blonde Ale at Triple Voodoo Brewery in Dogpatch.

Experience the San Francisco Nightlife

Man DJing in a club with purple lights. Photo by Instagram user @phantomairship
Photo via @phantomairship

Whether you’re in the mood for dancing or hunting down the hottest speakeasies in town, there are plenty of things to do in San Francisco at night! Head over to sports bar BuzzWorks in SoMa, where you can find more than 40 rotating beers on tap and some of the biggest games of the year on TV. Visit LGBTQ-friendly dive bar Last Call Bar in Castro for ’80s music on the jukebox and happy hour specials from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Enjoy cheap drinks, plush couches, and Battle of the Decades events at intimate clubbing spot Monroe in North Beach. Pick out a cigar from the humidor and settle in for some smokes and whiskey at The Occidental Cigar Club in Financial District. Make your way to Union Square to find the hidden Benjamin Cooper cocktail bar for handcrafted drinks like the Queen of Thieves. Or if you’re looking for best drag shows in San Francisco, show up early at Oasis in SoMa to get drinks and good seats!

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15 Things to Know About Living in San Francisco