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The Richmond District

An Ethnic Gourmand's Paradise and a Nature Lover's Haven

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The Richmond District
Photo by Ocean Malandra
Tucked into San Francisco's northwest corner, the Richmond District offers visitors a variety of delights and pleasures that are usually reserved for locals. For natural splendor, it is unrivaled in the city, as it contains a continuous stretch of rugged coastline as well as many of San Francisco's largest and wildest parks. Culturally speaking, the Richmond is just as fascinating, as wave after wave of immigrants have left their mark on the area and dining here is a rewarding global adventure.

Visiting the Richmond District

Although it is not served by the Muni Metro subway, the BART system or any sort of special streetcar, the Richmond is still easily accessible by public transit. The 38 Geary Muni bus, which stops right at Union Square is frequent and fast, while the 1 California bus makes the trip easy for those coming from North Beach or Chinatown.

Running for 50 blocks until it terminates at the ocean, the Richmond District is divided into the Inner Richmond and the Outer Richmond. The former holds more restaurants, shopping and commercial attractions and the latter is home to more natural sights.

Exploring the Inner Richmond District

The Inner Richmond is bordered by Golden Gate Park to the south and the Presidio National Park to the north, both of which are whole day excursions in their own right. In fact, the Inner Richmond serves as a gateway to the De Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences, both located just inside of the 8th Avenue entrance to Golden Gate Park along Fulton Street.
  • Clement Street: Known to locals as "New Chinatown" or even the "Real Chinatown", this bustling and charming street is lined with some of the city's best Chinese restaurants and produce markets as well as high quality samplings of other Asian cuisine including Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and Burmese. Clement is also the nightlife center of the area, and is home to many of the city's Best Irish Bars, remnants of a not so distant past when the neighborhood was packed with recent immigrants from the emerald isle. Walking Clement Street, especially between 1st and 10th Avenues, is a fun way to explore a very real and local part of San Francisco.

  • Mountain Lake Park: This 14-acre park was designed by William Hammond Hall, who also designed Golden Gate Park. Here you will find a tranquil duck-dotted lake, a large children's playground and several trails that wind through ancient cypress groves and eventually head deep into the Presidio. Mountain Lake Park is located just two blocks north of Clement Street, behind Lake Street, between 7th Avenue and Funston Avenue.

Exploring the Outer Richmond District

Bounded on three sides by nature, the Outer Richmond is the best destination in the city for those who need some outdoor recreation and a break from the urban frenzy. There are still tons of great ethnic restaurants out here but outside of a tight, and particularly cosmopolitan, cluster at about 26th and Clement, they are more spread out - just rewards for those willing to do some true off-the-beaten-path exploration. At 37th Avenue and Balboa Street, a small laid-back neighborhood centers around the historic Balboa Theater, which has been recently restored. Golden Gate Park is much more low-key out here as well, an unhurried place for long walks and private picnics.
  • Richmond District Beaches: The Richmond is home to most of San Francisco's urban beaches. Baker Beach, San Francisco's most popular sunbathing spot, is located in the Outer Richmond just as Lincoln Boulevard, which is accessible from 25th Avenue, enters the Presidio. Here you will find a nude and gay friendly area as well as more mainstream and family friendly offerings. Turn left on 25th instead of right and you will enter the very upscale Seacliff neighborhood, where mansions hug the steep cliffsides. The area is also home to the small but incredibly beautiful China Beach, which is often uncrowded and peaceful. Ocean Beach, which lines the neighborhood's western boundary is less rugged and scenic and faces right into the wind, but is still a popular place to walk or throw a beach bonfire party.

  • The Palace of the Legion of Honor: A three -uarter scale replica of the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur in Paris, this art museum houses important works of European art, including a cast of The Thinker by Auguste Rodin, as well as an extensive collection of artworks from ancient civilizations. The Palace of the Legion of Honor is located in Lincoln Park, high on the cliffs over the Pacific Ocean and offers magnificent views of the city and the water. Be sure to check out the San Francisco Holocaust Memorial, a gripping outdoor installation located adjacent to the museum.

  • Land's End and the Cliff House: The majestic beauty of the California coastline is apparent here where the city meets the raging Pacific Ocean. The Cliff House is a restaurant sitting over the water high on the cliffs and is on our list of the Best Waterfront Restaurants in San Francisco. Just north of the Cliff House, there is a ruin of the Sutro Baths and then the rocky outcrop of Land's End, the city's northwest corner. Above the crashing surf, the Land's End trail offers visitors a chance to hike along a substantial stretch of raw coastline and features multiple sweeping viewpoints and trails leading down to hidden beaches.

Exploring Geary Boulevard

The whole stretch of Geary Boulevard in the Richmond District is lined with commercial activity although much of it is more oriented to cars then pedestrians. The castle-like Holy Virgin Cathedral is an awesome Russian Orthodox church on 26th and Geary, complete with gold plated domes. Geary is also home to many of the Richmond District's legendary culinary institutions including Indian, Japanese and even Italian, several of which have landed on our list of Best Italian Restaurants in San Francisco.
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