The 10 Hottest Bay Area Neighborhoods for Young Professionals

|February 7, 2017

The network of neighborhoods in San Francisco and the Bay Area can be overwhelming — especially when you’re deciding which one to live in. As a young professional, you need to take into account the restaurant and bar scene, outdoor opportunities and even transportation to work and other metros.

Lucky for us, many Bay Area neighborhoods have the perfect ratio of city to park and BART stations that make it easy to get around. Our list of the best in the Bay is a collection of the top social scenes, networking opportunities, accessibility and more!

And if you’re still not convinced: last year, San Francisco was named the best American city for Quality of Living! Mercer’s study considered everything from the political and natural environment to recreation. So pack your bags, because the Bay is the place to be.

Take a tour of the hottest neighborhoods for young professionals and find out where to go and what to do when you’re not working.


1. SoMa / South Beach

Things to do in SoMa

Photos courtesy of Bar Agricole and @cindyloughridge + The Perennial and Helynn Ospina

SoMa, or South of Market, is one of the largest neighborhoods in the city and is densely populated with tech startups. Because of the size, it borders neighborhoods with dramatically different characters, allowing varying sectors within SoMa to develop. Because of nearby AT&T Park and the abundance of popular restaurants, the most desirable sector is the SoMa / South Beach area. From there, you can walk to a Giants game, explore Yerba Buena gardens and get to SFMOMA.

A Few Hotspots in SoMa / South Beach:

Food: Bellota, Cockscomb + The Perennial

Drinks: 21st Amendment, Bar Agricole + Tank18

Culture: SFMOMA, Yerba Buena Gardens + AT&T Park

2. Marina
Things to do in the Marina

Photo courtesy of Reed & Greenough

Marina has one of the most lively social scenes in SF — especially for young professionals and singles. All along the San Francisco Bay, you’ll find the Palace of Fine Arts Theater on one end; on the other, Fort Mason and nearby Ghirardelli Square. Famous for its shopping destinations and home to Crissy Field, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for walking, running, biking, picnicking and frisbee tossing. And every Sunday, stop by Fort Mason Center Farmers’ Market to pick up some local produce!

A Few Hotspots in Marina:

Food: A16, Causwells + Delarosa

Drink: California Wine Merchant, Reed & Greenough + The Interval at Long Now

Culture: SFMOMA Artists Gallery, The Crissy Field Center + Palace of Fine Arts

3. Mission District

Things to do in the Mission District

Photos courtesy of The Roxie, Laszlo and Flour + Water

Historically, the Mission was home to artists, activists and Central American culture. With the internet boom, young professionals came pouring in and today, the neighborhood has settled into a pleasant mix of both its history and its growth. Made up of four primary areas, the Mission offers nightlife, trendy restaurants, culture and even a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city — Dolores Park.

A Few Hotspots in Mission:

Food: Flour + Water, Foreign Cinema + La Taqueria

Drink: ABV, Laszlo + Evil Eye

Culture: The Roxie, Dolores Park + Project Artaud


4. Uptown Oakland

Things to do in Uptown Oakland

Photos courtesy of The Gastro Pig and Aubrie Pick + Diving Dog Brewhouse

In recent years, Uptown Oakland has become an important entertainment center. Because of its proximity to various theaters, art venues and a BART station, people flock here for shows, concerts and nightlife. As a result of the increased popularity, modern restaurants and trendy bars have opened various locations in the neighborhood — giving it a constantly growing social scene and making it even more popular among young professionals. In addition to social attractions, Uptown is within minutes of Lake Merritt, the city’s primary destination for recreation and outdoor adventure. In short, it has a little bit of everything!

A Few Hotspots in Uptown Oakland:

Food: The Gastropig, Duende + Parlour Restaurant

Drink: Starline Social Club, Fauna + Diving Dog Brewhouse

Culture: Fox Theater, The New Parish + Oakstop

5. Jack London Square

Things to do in Jack London Square

Photos courtesy of Peter Lyons Photography, The Forge + Chop Bar

Originally developed in the ‘70s as a tourist attraction, Jack London Square has evolved into a trendy and quaint area. The mix of ’50s coffee shops, turn-of-the-century warehouses and modern architecture offers a bit of everything — from packed bars to quiet lounges and outdoor opportunities. Located right on the waterfront, the neighborhood has easy access to both downtown Oakland and downtown SF as well as its own BART station and a quick route to the Oakland airport. Ferries from the Square go to downtown SF, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf and, during the summer, Angel Island — but there’s plenty to do if you stay on land!

A Few Hotspots in Jack London:

Food: Haven, Lungomare + The Forge

Drink: Heinold’s First and Last Chance, Cerruti Cellars + Chop Bar

Culture: Jack London’s Cabin, Jack London Square Farmers Market + The Night Light

6. Rockridge

Things to do in Rockridge

Photos courtesy of Millennium + Rockridge Improvement Club

Before the Bay Bridge, Berkeley’s Rockridge was a quiet neighborhood of homey cottages and bungalows, many of which still stand today. Now, the bridge and a neighborhood BART station provide easy access to SF and the Bay Area, allowing for growth in tourism and relocation. Though it is still primarily a residential area, the gourmet restaurant and nightlife scenes (especially along College Ave.) make the area a perfect home for young professionals who want a bit of both worlds. All of this combined has caused home values to increase in the neighborhood while still maintaining a down-home feel. Be sure to wave to your neighbors and nod as you meet strangers on the street because you can be sure they’ll do the same!

A Few Hotspots in Rockridge:

Food: Duchess, Millennium + Wood Tavern

Drink: Rockridge Improvement Club, The Barrel Room + The Golden Squirrel

Culture: Center for Art and Public Life, Firestorm Community Mural Project + California College of the Arts

7. Gourmet Ghetto

Things to do in Berkeley

Photos courtesy of Berkeley Art Center and Ann Trinca + Tupper & Reed

In case you can’t tell from the name, food is an important part of Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto — but not just any food. In particular, residents prefer locally sourced ingredients, diligently prepared meals and preparation that showcases natural flavor. In short, if you’re a young professional/food lover, it’s the perfect neighborhood for you. The neighborhood was born out of late-60s and early 70s counterculture and has stayed true to many of its original ideals. The atmosphere is all about local appreciation, passion and restfulness.

A Few Hotspots in Gourmet Ghetto:

Food: Chez Panisse, Cheese Board Pizza + Epicurious Garden

Drink: César, Tupper & Reed + the original Peet’s Coffee & Tea

Culture: Live Oak Park + Berkeley Art Center


8. Downtown San Mateo

Things to do in San Mateo

Photo courtesy of Mortar & Pestle and Dyana Lovold

San Mateo offers more affordability in a developed part of the peninsula. In comparison to other, more expensive family neighborhoods like Burlingame and Hillsborough, young professionals can find affordable housing, a lively social scene and cultural destinations. Downtown offers the most entertainment when it comes to food and drink. But outside of socialization, Central Park allows for recreation, nature and wildlife right in the heart of the city!

A Few Hotspots in San Mateo:

Food: Espetus Churrascaria, Central Park Bistro + Pausa Bar & Cookery

Drink: Grape & Grain, Mortar & Pestle + Downtown Tiki Lounge

Culture: Central Park Japanese Tea Garden, Ryptic Room Escape + San Mateo Public Library

9. Downtown Palo Alto

Things to do in Palo Alto

Photos courtesy of Oren’s Hummus Shop and Tai Kerbs + Bird Dog and Eric Wolfinger Photography

Palo Alto is a given when it comes to destinations for young professionals. Silicon Valley is the heart of the tech boom and home to Apple, Facebook and YIPEE (Young, Innovative, Professional, Entrepreneurs, Etc.). With Palo Alto and Stanford at its center, the city offers plenty of networking, socializing and learning. Downtown is charming and filled with both modern hotspots and classic favorites.

A Few Hotspots in Palo Alto:

Food: Oren’s Hummus Shop, Zola + Bird Dog

Drink: The Rose & Crown, The Wine Room + The Old Pro

Culture: Bryant Street Gallery + Arboretum Grove


10. San Rafael

Things to do in San Rafael

Photo courtesy of Fenix Supper Club

North of San Francisco, San Rafael provides affordable living, community events, outdoor activities and hiking trails, a regionally popular farmer’s market, great restaurants and bars for the locals. Young professionals mix in with families in a comfortable community atmosphere. You may not plan on staying for long, but the diversity of activities and welcoming neighborhoods may convince you!

A Few Hotspots in San Rafael:

Food: Sol Food, Vin Antico + Green Chile Kitchen

Drink: The Mayflower Pub, Pint Size Lounge + Flatiron Cafe

Culture: Mill Valley Film Festival, Fenix Supper Club + Terrapin Crossroads

Share your local knowledge!

Have any insider tips on moving to the Bay Area? Share them in the comments below!

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McGuire Real Estate

McGuire Real Estate

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