San Francisco's nightlife scene is immense and changes dramatically depending on area, making it easy for visitors to end up at a cheesy tourist trap instead of at one of the many bohemian hangouts, classy cocktail lounges or locally fueled neighborhood bars that San Franciscans actually go to. Use these nightlife guides to really penetrate San Francisco's multifaceted party scene, I have several guides by type of bar as well as in-depth guides to the city's two most popular drinking areas: Union Square and North Beach.
North Beach is a party zone every night of the week, with the streets often filled with revelers overflowing out of the bars, cafes and restaurants that line the area. While Broadway is known for its adult oriented clubs and general boardwalk-like atmosphere, Columbus is packed with Italian Restaurants and authentic European cafes. Grant Avenue holds numerous bohemian hangouts, most of which host live music, and the stretch of Green between Grant and Columbus is a continuous line-up of local watering holes. This list focuses on the classic bars and clubs of the area, most of which have been around for decades and attract locals as well as visitors.
The Union Square area is where most visitors stay when visiting San Francisco. A smorgasbord of shopping during the day, the area cools down considerably at night but still hosts a high number of bars and dance clubs, although unfortunately many of them are overpriced and aimed primarily at tourists who don't know better. Use my exclusive list to visit the classic bars and hangouts of the Union Square area, including the downtown area's best dance clubs and the bars where locals go to congregate after a hard days work in the urban jungle.
Once you wander away from the downtown area into the real neighborhoods of San Francisco you will quickly notice that bars dot almost block here as well. San Francisco's dive bars are the local drinking establishments that cater to the eclectic residents of the country's most creative city. This list highlights some of the most fun dive bars in the city, where drinks are cheap, the scene is predominantly local and new friends are easy to meet.
The Irish figured heavily in the massive immigration that hit San Francisco after the Gold Rush boom and they quickly set up their famous pubs all over the city. San Francisco's Irish pubs are neighborhood institutions and usually double as casual eateries, a much better option than a chain restaurant. Some Irish pubs even feature live Celtic or bluegrass music and all of them draw strong local followings, meaning that meeting San Franciscans over a pint of stout is as easy as visiting some of the joints on my list.
Known as much for it's libertine ways as it's artistic leanings, San Francisco is dotted with strip clubs, including a particularly dense cluster along Broadway in North Beach. While some of these "Gentleman's Clubs" are nothing more than tourist traps that you will want to back out of as soon as they have palmed your entrance fee and ushered you inside, the city also sports some of the most historic and classic topless and fully nude clubs in the country, including the nation's only worker owned and unionized peep show.
If you are going to pay top dollar for a cocktail in San Francisco then I suggest that you do in one of the awe-inspiring and elegant historic hotels that grace the Nob Hill and Union Square areas. Not only do most of these hotels have luxurious charm and period details but they often sport the city's best views and are perfect for really enjoying drinks while immersed in pure San Francisco architectural splendor and scenic beauty. Most of the hotels on this list have classic bars or lounges located within them and you do not need to be a guest in order to visit them.
Cafes in San Francisco are much more than just fast-paced counters designed to serve up the morning fix. Not only are cafes the heart of social interaction in most San Francisco neighborhoods, they also usually serve alcohol and stay open late. Cafes in San Francisco usually double as nighttime destinations for a glass of wine in an intimate and often artistic ambiance. Many actually host a slew of nightly activities including live local bands, poetry readings and even stand-up comedy.