Neighborhoods / Waterfront

Waterfront

More city than San Francisco?

Say you’ve had your fill of colorful Victorians and charming apothecary shops; what you really want is an honest, urban neighborhood: modern condo buildings with on-site gyms and underground parking, a stone’s throw from a stretch of unbroken waterfront with views galore and easy access to one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations. The North Waterfront gives you all of this and more. It’s a place where walking takes precedence over driving, where a Saturday morning stroll might take you all the way to AT & T Park in one direction and Fort Mason in the other, where your Monday-through-Friday stroll to work might take all of five minutes, which is how long it also takes to walk to Aquatic Park and Fisherman’s Wharf, where the ghosts of San Francisco’s blue-collar fishing past mingle with present-day visitors from all over the world. The North Waterfront isn’t a “typical” San Francisco neighborhood; it’s more of a bustling big city neighborhood adjacent to some of San Francisco’s most iconic places.

Area Map

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Commute

Commuter Buses
The Google bus is the only tech bus with a stop near the North Waterfront, at Columbus and Union in North Beach. All other buses come no closer than Van Ness and Union, which is one reason why the North Waterfront remains popular with those who work in San Franisco, rather than in Silicon Valley.

SFMTA Light Rail
The F light rail line rums along the northern and eastern edges of the North Waterfront, beginning its trip at Fisherman’s Wharf then continuing down The Embardacero before turning inland at Market Street.

The North Waterfront is almost completely bereft of MUNI bus lines. The 82X travels north-south on Battery and Sansome Streets and the 47 and 39 lines head east-west on North Point Street.
Nearest CalTrain Station
3rd and King Streets

Nearest BART
Embarcadero

Estimated Commute Times
Financial District via auto: 15 minutes
Financial District via transit: 20 minutes
Financial District via foot: 25 minutes
South San Francisco via auto: 30 minutes
Silicon Valley via auto: 50 minutes

Around the Block

Who Lives Here
The North Waterfront is not only for tourists; this district’s stout collection of condominium buildings houses everyone from young professionals to emtpy-nesters, with a few families sprinkled in for good measure.

Not the usual crowd
Less than 3,000 people live within the North Waterfront’s 0.4 square miles of space, giving the hyper-urban district a much lower population density than that of the rest of San Francisco. That’s because so much of the North Waterfront is commercial, from Sansome Street’s blocks of office space to Pier 39’s tourist-friendly shops and restaurants. To live in the North Waterfront is to say goodbye to prosaic joys like yards and detached garages and instead to value historic landmarks and dramatic cityscapes. Into this wood, glass and metal setting comes the North Waterfront crowd, singles and marrieds residing in compact condominium and apartment units, diverse in age and more likely to work in financial services than technology. They own fewer cars than residents of less urban San Francisco neighborhoods. More have come here from other states and other countries. They make slightly more money than the citywide median and ask of their domiciles more pragmatism than whimsy. This is a neighborhood of robust, ambitious locals, people who love city life and don’t mind running across the occasional tourist or two. North Beach and Telegraph Hill are right next door, but they wouldn’t trade their sleek two-bedroom condo with a view for a vault full of colorful tales from the Barbary Coast.

How They Live
This is city living in a way familiar to anyone who’s dreamt of living urban. It’s pedestrian-friendly, close to downtown and offers boundless options when it comes to free time.

Walk to work, walk home, walk on Saturday
Walk five minutes in any direction from the North Waterfront’s Parc Telegraph condominium complex and you’ll find downtown’s skyscrapers, Telegraph Hill’s charming cottages, the retro European glory of North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf, so many visitors’ first stop on their San Francisco vacation. Ironic, then, that life in the North Waterfront is unlike that characterized by its iconic neighbors. The North Waterfront is a place of quick stops by the grocery store, Uber rides to hip restaurants and long weekend jogs along The Embarcadero, dodging tourists the whole way. Many North Waterfront residents chose the neighborhood because of its proximity to work, not because they found in it that darling Edwardian flat they’d dreamed of growing up in Ohio. It’s a practical place, a go-get-it place, tempered by the fact that all the whimsy anyone could need is just around the corner, ushered in by street performers and carnival barkers urging passers-by to come check out Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not! and the new lifelike statue of Johnny Depp at Madame Tussaud’s. The dichotomy is real — and really appreciated in The North Waterfront. Sure, Noe Valley has its strollers and the Haight its leftover hippies, but where else can happy hour seekers choose between raucous Pier 23, the sleek Waterfront Restaurant and the Disney-like camp of the Rainforest Cafe?

Housing Market
The North Waterfront market is dominated by mid- and high-rise condominium complexes located in its northwest corner. Nowhere else in the city will you find so many large, contemporary buildings.

Condos, condos, condos
If life in the North Waterfront is unlike that of any other San Francisco neighborhood, so, too is its real estate market. There is a very limited inventory of homes in this district, both in sheer availability of units and in the breadth of the types of properties available. North Waterfront real estate is easy to define: it’s almost exclusively a collection of mid- and high-rise residential buildings located within roughly a two square block area where the neighborhood transitions from office/commercial buildings to the tourist districts of Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Here you’ll find the Parc Telegraph, 101 Lombard, Wharf Plaza and Telegraph Landing, large complexes of for-sale and for-rent units with one, two, sometimes three bedrooms. Studios are also available. None of these units are widely available to purchase, but when they are, they can be had for less than $1 million (for studios and one-bedroom units). Rents here run slightly higher than the citywide median. Some units are available furnished and/or short-term. North Waterfront buildings vary in amenities. The Parc Telegraph, for example, has an on-site fitness center and conference room.

What To Expect
Expect lots of tourists traipsing through your neighborhood, great views from your contemporary condo unit, 10,000 steps on your FitBit each day and a life of excitement and convenience.

Quiet at times, not quiet at others
Because it’s a neighborhood whose defining characteristics are its preponderance of office space and its tourist-ready friendliness, the North Waterfront is a potpourri of places and things. As much as your sophisticated unit at 101 Lombard screams “urbane,” you will eventually find it difficult to resist the simple retro joys of a bay cruise, and the neon lights spelling out “A. Sabella,” “Alioto’s” and “Tarantino’s” will eventually make your chest tighten with wistfulness. Don’t fight it. Embrace it. Expect to quickly find your regular jogging path on The Embarcadero and expect to not notice how many tourists you jog each day as you complete your workout. Expect to not notice the historic plaques along with route for awhile, then expect to find them fascinating once you do. Expect to marvel at the enormity of every cruise ship that docks at Pier 27. Expect to climb the Filbert Steps often, at least when someone visits, because they never stop being fascinating. Expect to take visitors to see the sea lions at Pier 39 and expect just as much to look out at quirky Forbes Island and promise yourself that someday you’ll go there, maybe just for drinks. Expect to stop taking the bus or the train downtown because it takes just a little longer to walk. Expect to make the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market a regular stop. Expect to base your housing decision not on space but on the possibility of a bay view. Expect to park your car for weeks at a time, hopefully in your secured, gated personal spot, and likewise, expect to eventually know on sight which city each of the historic F Line trolleys originally came from.

What Not To Expect
Don’t expect a single-family home, a yard, easy parking, lots of Victorian charm and to go more than a few hours telling somewhere how to get to Lombard Street.

It’s not like the other places
This is a tough one, because most San Franciscans come here with visions of painted ladies dancing through their heads. You won’t find them — not even one Victorian mansion — in the North Waterfront. Don’t expect, then, to live out your Victorian dreams in the North Waterfront. Don’t expect to find tourist-free streets, either. This neighborhood includes Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, both of which combined are San Francisco’s tourist Ground Zero. Relax. Ask questions. Get used to giving out directions. Don’t expect to find an active street life after dark in the North Waterfront, aside from the chaos of Fisherman’s Wharf. Sansome is a street of condos and offices. People who don’t live in the North Waterfront generally don’t visit the neighborhood at night, which doesn’t mean it’s dangerous; it’s just quiet, which can be nice. Don’t expect to get out of shape. There’re too many rec and fitness options either in or near the North Waterfront. Buy a bicycle; start a jogging regimen; join 24-Hour Fitness. Don’t expect large, single-family homes, yards, two-car garages or any other trappings of suburbua/suburbs-within-a-city. This isn’t that place. It’s a place of large condominium complexes like the Parc Telegraph, which features an on-site gym, a hot tub, a conference room and furnished units for short-term renters, often newcomers to the city who’re killing time in corporate housing while searching for a permanent roost. Expect the North Waterfront to be its own unique thing; and in a city like San Francisco, that’s saying something.

PERFECT FOR
Young professionals, empty-nesters, new arrivals, fitness buffs, cyclists, gourmands, urban lifestyle lovers, pedestrians, fans of contemporary architecture, fans of walking to work, people who appreciate the simple joys of Fisherman’s Wharf, anyone who relaxes by watching sea lions bask in the sun, cravers of a water view.

NOT PERFECT FOR
Large families, traditionalists, anyone who can’t live in San Francisco without having loads of San Francisco charm, people who get impatient with tourists, joggers who aren’t agile enough to dodge large crowds of people holding maps, single-family home lovers, auto enthusiasts.

You’ll Fall In Love With
The lifestyle you choose in the North Waterfront is urban all the way; you’ll love the excitement, the convenience, the water views and the off the charts WalkScores.

For some, the North Waterfront might be an acquired taste. Some of its joys aren’t obvious at first. How about a Bay Cruise? It might seem best left to visitors from the Midwest; one slow trip under the Bay Bridge might change your mind. And it’s difficult not to eventually fall in love with crab legs from the stand at Alioto’s, once you let your mind drift to a time when this was a working waterfront. The circumstances and demographics have changed, but the crab is still fresh. You’ll love buying produce at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market and having a front-row seat every time the city celebrates July 4 and New Year’s by shooting off fireworks over the bay. You’ll love picnics at Maritime Park, going over the hill into North Beach, the realization that your commute is now 10-block stroll into the Financial District on a foggy morning; you’ll love the quiet enclave the neighborhood becomes after dark, how the collection of residential buildings in the square created by Sansome, Lombard, Chestnut and Montgomery resembles a blown-out, grown-up college dorm. You’ll love leaving all of that noise behind but knowing that it’s just a few blocks away and easy to visit, and you’ll love your neat, practical, modern condo or apartment unit where everything works and the bay is just outside.

Places to go

The Waterfront Restaurant and Cafe
The Waterfront Restaurant and Cafe
Pier 7

Opened in 1969, a 1997 renovation elevated the Waterfront Restaurant to the point where its water view is no longer is calling card.

Piperade
Piperade
1015 Battery

“West Coast Basque Cuisine, bringing together these two cultures by incorporating fresh local ingredients into French, Spanish, and Basque dishes.”

Butterfly Restaurant
Butterfly Restaurant
Pier 33

“Like a Saigon market, Butterfly reveals the mysteries of flavors and sights ready to be explored by day or by night, allowing taste to heighten the senses.”

Forbes Island
Forbes Island
Pier 39

“The world’s only floating island” features underwater dining rooms, requires a short boat trip for entry and was once a floating home.

Castagnola’s
Castagnola’s
286 Jefferson Street

One of a handful (Alioto’s, Tarantino’s, Fisherman’s Grotto) of seafood restaurants remaining from Fisherman’s Wharf’s heyday.

Grumpy’s Restaurant
Grumpy’s Restaurant
125 Vallejo Street

Cozy, serving deep fried food and possessing a “dollar bills nailed to the ceiling” casual atmosphere, Grumpy’s is a relaxed oasis.

Pier 23 Cafe
Pier 23 Cafe
Pier 23, The Embarcadero

Family owned and operated since 1984 but seemingly older, Pier 23 features waterside dining, a raucous bar and live music every night.

Buena Vista Cafe
Buena Vista Cafe
2765 Hyde Street

It was here, at this legendary waterfront bar, that Irish Coffee is reputed to have been invented, in 1952.

Red Jack Saloon
Red Jack Saloon
131 Bay Street

Despite its proximity to Pier 39, the Red Jack Saloon is a classic neighborhood joint, a perfect spot to watch the game.

Gold Dust Lounge
Gold Dust Lounge
165 Jefferson Street

Once Herb Caen’s downtown hangout, the Gold Dust Lounge was moved from its original Union Square location to Fisherman’s Wharf in 2012.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not
Ripley’s Believe it or Not
175 Jefferson Street

Nothing is too odd, too kitschy, too gruesome for Ripley’s, the classic sideshow museum does, indeed, feature shrunken human skulls.

Norman’s Ice Cream and Freezes
Norman’s Ice Cream and Freezes
2801 Leavenworth Street

Fisherman’s Wharf needs its ice cream store to be larger than life. Norman’s delivers on that promise.

DeLise Cafe and Bakery
DeLise Cafe and Bakery
327 Bay Street

An unassuming cafe offering “healthy gourmet pastries and frozen desserts that are lovingly handcrafted in small batches daily.”

Sock Heaven
Sock Heaven
2801 Leavenworth Street #6

Socks are the thing; crazy socks are even more the thing. Find every kind of sock imaginable here.

Japhy
Japhy
2201 Powell Street

Retro surf trunks, retro and current surf wear feeding the notion that Moon Doggie, Frankie and Annette live.

The Wharf Store
The Wharf Store
398 Jefferson Street

Yes, there are souvenirs, but the Wharf Store is also the only marine supply retail store on Fisherman’s Wharf.

The Bay Company
The Bay Company
496 Jefferson

Even locals will find the Bay Company’s collection of t-shirts and souvenirs irresistible, which is why this store stands out in a crowded field.

Alioto-Lazio Fish Company
Alioto-Lazio Fish Company
440 Jefferson

One of the last family-owned and operated fishing companies in San Francisco, in business for over 70 years.

Musee Mechanique
Musee Mechanique
Pier 45

Old San Francisco icon”Laughing Sal” welcomes you to this time-killing home of arcade games from the turn of the century to the classic 1980s.

Joe DiMaggio Playground
Joe DiMaggio Playground
651 Lombard Street

Renovations are underway for this urban playground, rec center and swimming pool, named after North Beach’s favorite son.

Spoke and Hub
Spoke and Hub
1042 Columbus Avenue

One of several bicycle rental shops located in or near the waterfront, Spoke and Hub is also a repair and sales shop.

24-Hour Fitness
350 Bay Street

The North Waterfront outpost of the ubiquitous 24-Hour Fitness chain has everything you need from a gym at an affordable cost.

Accelerate Sports Performance
Accelerate Sports Performance
2215 Powell Street

“Through applied science, objective and subjective assessment, and custom-tailored training programs, we help athletes maximize their full performance potential in sport and life.”

Fit Life Training Studio
Fit Life Training Studio
377 Bay Street

“Health, wellness, fitness and performance.”

Beach Beauty Salon
Beach Beauty Salon
413 Beach Street

Nail care, hair styling, waxing, tinting and dermatological facials.

The Bare Fox Wax
The Bare Fox Wax
1275 Columbus Avenue

“There is no reason to continue to use the obsolete razor and soap. Experience the benefits of waxing today.”

San Francisco Cable Cars
San Francisco Cable Cars
Aquatic Park

What’s a trip to San Francisco without a cable car ride? Go one step further and catch it at the turnaround, right here in Fisherman’s Wharf.

Project Zen
Project Zen
325 Bay Street

“We specialize in are Swedish, Thai massage, Deep Tissue, Trigger Point, Foot Reflexology, Shiatsu, Hot Stone, and Thai Herbal Press.”

Sea Lion Center
Sea Lion Center
Pier 39

No one knows why they came, but the collection of sun-basking sea lions at Pier 39 has become a real tourist attraction.

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