Along the city’s northern shore lies the Marina District, an area that’s continually evolved throughout its history — from ocean dunes to exposition grounds to fishing haven to quaint residential area — and has been shaped by each of its former selves.
The neighborhood’s most iconic piece of history is the dramatic Palace of the Fine Arts, the last remaining structure from the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which helped rebuild the area after the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906. Now, the structure’s dramatic dome and columns are a popular location for weddings, photo ops and sunny afternoon strolls.
Marina Green, edged by bobbing boats and serenaded by foghorns, is picturesque and perfect for kite-flying. Fort Mason Center, a converted military base, is home base for arts organizations and the superb bayside vegetarian restaurant Greens. Chestnut Street is restaurant row, where you’ll find everything from gourmet adventures to great burgers. Hearty haunts such as the Balboa Cafe flourish just off Lombard Street, and Michelin-starred delights await at Atelier Crenn on Fillmore. Unique shops are sprinkled throughout the area, including art galleries, artisanal foods, clothing and more. As you stroll around, spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz are readily available.
For some of the city’s best views, climb up to Pacific Heights, which rests on atop a ridge to the south of the Marina. This posh enclave is home to foreign consulates, powerful politicians and tech magnates. Upscale shopping is found along Fillmore, where big ticket items include high-end clothing, luxurious accessories, gifts and more.
Adjacent to Marina and Pacific Heights lies Cow Hollow, a former grazing ground for cattle that has since sprouted into a charming, peaceful neighborhood. Explore local boutiques, spas and restaurants along Union Street, whose older areas maintain a distinctly European vibe (think street cafes and well-kept storefronts).