SoMa, short for South of Market, is an area of downtown San Francisco south of Market Street and northeast of the Mission District. It is San Francisco's urban renewal district, bordered roughly by Market Street on the northwest, the 101 Freeway (from Market Street to I-80) and 16th Street (from 101 to the San Francisco Bay) on the south, and the San Francisco Bay on the east.
Once home to warehouses and dilapidated Victorian houses, SoMa saw an artistic and club culture revival in the 1980s. By the time of the Internet boom of the 1990s, the "live-work" buildings of this area had become prime real estate, and the artists and musicians who had made it cool could no longer afford the sky-high rentals.
With the burst of the dot.com bubble, SoMa has become somewhat more affordable, but has also lost many of the businesses that made the area attractive during the boom. Some of the best clubs are still in SoMa, but a taxi is recommended for getting around, especially after dark as some areas a still a bit dangerous.
Map of SoMa
Being at the San Francisco end of the Bay Bridge and the heart of San Francisco's public transit network, there are extensive transit options to this district.
Caltrain, a commuter rail line between San Jose and San Francisco, terminates at the Caltrain station at 4th & King Streets.
Bordered by Market Street on its northwest side, SoMa is within easy walking distance of all MUNI Metro lines and the several BART lines which run under Market Street. Running on Market Street is the F-Line Streetcar which stops frequently on its route from the Castro to the Ferry Building, then north on the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf.
Additionally, the MUNI Metro T-Third and N-Judah lines emerge from the Market Street subway and travel through the SoMa district, stopping at a few places along the Embarcadero south of Market, including AT&T Park. The N line stops at the Caltrain station, while the T line continues south down 3rd Street into Southeast San Francisco.
MUNI offers extensive bus service through SoMa, with nearly every street having a bus line of some sort. Routes 10-Townsend, 20-Columbus, 30-Stockton, 45-Union/Stockton and 47-Van Ness are the best bets for getting down from the neighborhoods to the north, like Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf. Routes 1-California, 5-Fulton, 6-Parnassus, 38-Geary and 71-Haight-Noriega are some of the best for getting in from eastern neighborhoods like The Avenues, while routes 9-San Bruno, 12-Folsom/Pacific, 14-Mission, 26-Valencia and 27-Bryant come up from Southern San Francisco through the Mission district.
Nearly all intercity bus service into San Francisco runs into SoMa, and nearly all of it goes to the Transbay Terminal at First and Mission Streets. Greyhound, MUNI, and various other Bay Area transit services (AC Transit, samTrans, Golden Gate Transit, and WestCAT) all stop at the Transbay Terminal.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which is part of Interstate Highway 80, offers a direct connection from the cities of the East Bay area (such as Oakland) to SoMa. After getting into San Francisco, any of the first three exits (Fremont/Folsom, 5th Street, 8th Street) will lead you into SoMa before I-80 terminates at US-101.
From the south, there are two freeways running into SoMa: I-280 dead ends near the Caltrain Station - stay in the right lanes to get onto 6th Street, or stay in the left lanes to get onto King Street and past the Caltrain Station and AT&T Park. US-101 comes up from the south to merge into I-80, where you can get off onto I-80 and take one of the two eastbound exits into SoMa, or stay on US-101 (stay in the left lanes) and exit at 9th Street or Mission Street before the freeway terminates at Market Street (US-101 continues north as Van Ness Avenue).
SoMa is also well-connected to other San Francisco neighborhoods by surface streets. From the north, The Embarcadero is the best one for getting down from Fisherman's Wharf, while Van Ness Avenue is the best for getting from the Golden Gate area. Between those two are a number of other major thoroughfares, such as Montgomery, Stockton and Hyde Streets, which will also do nicely. From the south and southwest, 3rd Street, Mission Street and Market Street all work well.
Parking here, as anywhere else in San Francisco, can be a challenge, but there a number of parking garages in the district, including a large one at Mission between Fifth and Fourth streets for the Moscone Center. People driving to a Giants game are advised to park at the large parking lot along 3rd Street just south of AT&T Park, just across the canal.
Two ferry companies offer special ferry service to Giants home games at AT&T Park: Golden Gate Ferry from Larkspur, and Alameda Oakland Ferry from Alameda and Oakland.
Moscone Center, 747 Howard Street, ☎ +1 415 974-4000, . Stretching across adjacent two full blocks between Mission, Folsom, 3rd and 4th Streets (with another building across the street at 4th and Howard), Moscone Center is a major convention center and entertainment complex with a variety of attractions. As a convention center, the Moscone Center houses major exhibits and conventions, including a number of major (especially IDG) expos that occur each year, including Apple Computer-related expos such as Macworld and Apple's WWDC, and LinuxWorld. The main entrance to the Moscone Convention Center is on Howard St. (on both side of the street) in between 3rd and 4th Sts.,and the Center is divided into Moscone North, between Howard and Mission Sts., and Moscone South, between Howard and Folsom Sts. Moscone North and Moscone South is connected at the lower level underneath Howard St.; Moscone West is not connected to Moscone North or Moscone South.
Charles Looff Carousel, (corner of 4th and Howard). Daily 10AM-6PM. A beautiful carousel dating back to 1906, now fully restored and open for rides.$2 per ride.
Metreon, 101 4th Street (at Mission), ☎ +1 415 369-6000, . This Sony Entertainment-sponsored mall/entertainment complex has some interesting shops (including an entire store devoted to the Sony Playstation), a 15-screen movie theater with an IMAX screen, and a video game parlor/arcade where you can drink and play virtual bowling. A food court on the lower level serves the convention area and is overwhelmed during lunch hours of the major conventions.
Yerba Buena Bowling Center, 750 Folsom Street (between 3rd and 4th), ☎ +1 415 820-3532, . Su-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-Midnight. Bowling alley.Walk-in game $4.50-$7, depending on time.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street (at 3rd), ☎ +1 415 978-2700, . Tu-W, F-Su Noon–5PM, Th Noon–8PM. An interesting venue for local contemporary artists. Rotating exhibits, performances, and film screenings.$7 adults, $5 seniors/students, free on the first Tuesday of each month.
Yerba Buena Gardens, ☎ +1 415 820-3550, . Daily 6AM-10PM. The Yerba Buena Gardens, above the Moscone Convention Center, provide a nice urban oasis. A large grassy meadow, a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., play places for kids, fountains and gardens make this a great place to come, play and relax.Free.
Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center, 750 Folsom Street (between 3rd and 4th), ☎ +1 415 820-3532, . Indoor ice skating rink open year-round. Check the Ice Centre schedule online for public skating hours.$8 adults, $6.25 children, $5.50 seniors. Skate rental extra.
Zeum, 221 4th Street (at Howard), ☎ +1 415 820-3320, . W-F 1PM-5PM, Sa-Su 11AM-5PM. An arts and technology museum geared towards kids and families, with lots of interactive exhibits (some of them quite high-tech) giving you a chance to produce animation, video, sound, performance or visual arts.$10 adults, $8 students/seniors, $8 children/teens, free for children under age 3.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from Yerba Buena Gardens
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 3rd Street (across the street from the Yerba Buena Gardens), ☎ +1 415 357-4000, . F-Tu 11AM-5:45PM, Th 11AM-8:45PM. An innovative art museum with five floors of galleries featuring changing exhibitions as well as permanent displays featuring the works of some very famous 20th century artists, including Georgia O'Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and many others. Be sure to see the unique glass bridge on the 5th floor, perched high above the main lobby.$12.50 adults, $8 seniors, $7 students, free for children 12 and under.
Museum of Craft and Folk Art, 51 Yerba Buena Lane (just off Market between 3rd and 4th Streets), ☎ +1 415 227-4888, . M-Tu, Th–F 11AM–6PM, Sa-Su 11AM–5PM. This is the only folk art museum in Northern California, known for a rich offering of focused and unique exhibitions of traditional and contemporary folk art and craft from around the world.$5 adults, $4 seniors, free for under 18.
Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission Street (between New Montgomery and 3rd), ☎ +1 415 227-8666, . Tu-Su 11AM-5PM. A unique museum dedicated to cartoon art in all its forms.$6 adults, $4 students/seniors, $2 children, age 5 and under free.
California Historical Society Museum, 678 Mission Street (between New Montgomery and 3rd), ☎ +1 415 357-1848, . W-Sa Noon-4:30PM. Changing exhibitions showing the history of the state.Free.
Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission Street (inside the St. Regis Hotel), ☎ +1 415 358-7200, . W-Sa 11AM-6PM, Su 12PM-5PM. A museum dedicated to the diaspora of Africans.$10 adults, $5 seniors/students, children 12 and under free.
Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission Street (between Third and Fourth streets), ☎ +1 415 655-7800, . F-Tu 11AM-5PM, Th 1PM-8PM. Dedicated to Jewish history, art, and culture.$10 adults, $8 seniors/students, free for youth 18 and under (Thursdays after 5PM: $5 for all visitors, still free for children 18 and under).
The Artists Alley, 863 Mission St., ☎ +1 415 522-2440, . Tu-Su 11AM-7PM. One of the largest art galleries in California, the space is more than 4000 sq. and exhibits works of over 50 San Francisco Bay Area artists.
South Park, along Park Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets. This is a charming quiet park in the middle of the hustle and bustle of industrial SoMa. Eat at any of the small restaurants around the edges, they are all pretty good. Not very nice at night since homeless use the park to sleep.
Treasure Island. An artificial island half-way between San Francisco and Oakland connected to Yerba Buena Island which the Bay Bridge passes through. The island has excellent views of the San Francisco and Oakland skylines and quirky structures from the international fairground turned-navy base-turned neighborhood. Accessible by Muni bus line 108 from the Transbay Terminal in SoMa.
A view of left field and the bleachers on a gorgeous day for Giants baseball
San Francisco Giants - AT&T Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza (at Third and King Streets), ☎ +1 415 972-1800, . One of the building projects that revitalized this area, the stadium is an imposing brick edifice that has all the necessary modern amenities, such as beer and Wi-Fi. It looks out upon San Francisco Bay, which makes a fine backdrop for those home runs that splash into McCovey Cove. On days where there are no Giants home games, public tours of the ballpark are available at 10:30AM and 12:30PM.Giants tickets range from $10 to over $100, depending on section and date of game. Ballpark tours $10 adults, $8 seniors, $6 children.
CounterPULSE Theater, 1310 Mission Street (at 9th), ☎ +1 415 626-2060, . This hybrid theater located at Mission and 9th Street is a hub for experimental art and activism. Online calendar boasts new and eclectic events year-round.
Dore Alley. This street hosts the Up Your Alley Fair. It is the warm up event for the famous Folsom Street Fair. Held the last Sunday in July, this preview is smaller, wilder, more local, but no less crowded and just as fun.
The Folsom Street Fair, . This annual event, held on the last Sunday in September, features Leather, Bondage, Rubber and other Fetish and BDSM activities. Stretching over a mile you will find wall-to-wall dance clubs, bands, and booths where you can shop for a whip or learn about safe sex. It started out as an underground event to protest the gentrification of SoMa. It is organized by a non-profit to raise funds for many SF area charities. It's a world class event, and the third largest outdoor event in California. With a suggested donation is $5, it's quite a bargain today.
LovEvolution (formerly Love Parade and Love Fest), . A yearly annual event held on a Saturday in late September or early October. It has become the largest public electronic music festival in the nation. The revelers and floats gather at 2nd and Howard, with the floats going down Market and ending at Civic Center Plaza. It attracts well known electronic DJ's and thousands of partiers, with some dressing up in wacky costumes to join in the parade.
Alexander Book Co., 50 2nd Street (between Stevenson and Jessie), ☎ +1 415 495-2992, . M-F 9AM-6PM. A large independent bookstore with three floors of thousands of new books.
Foto-Grafix Books, 655 Mission Street (between New Montgomery and 3rd), ☎ +1 415 495-7242, . Tu-Su 11AM-5:30PM. An extensive collection of photography books, along with a lot of Ansel Adams books, prints and posters.
General Bead, 637 Minna Street (between 7th and 8th), ☎ +1 415 255-2323, . Tu-F 10AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 12PM-5PM. Thousands of beads and bead-based products for any bead and jewelry lover.
Metreon, 101 4th Street (at Mission), ☎ +1 415 369-6000, . A Sony Entertainment-sponsored mall/entertainment complex has some interesting shops, such an an entire store devoted to the Sony Playstation, a book store, a toy store, and a couple of other electronics/entertainment related stores.
Podesta Baldocchi, 410 Harriet Street (at Brannon), ☎ +1 415 346-1300, . M-F 7:30AM-5PM, Sa 8AM-2PM. A charming and long-standing floral shop.
San Francisco Shopping Center, 865 Market Street (between 4th and 5th), ☎ +1 415 512 6776, . M-Sa 10AM-8:30PM, Su 11AM-7PM. This massive nine-floor Westfield-owned complex contains around 400 shops and restaurants, including some upscale places. Anchors for the mall include a Bloomingdale's, a Nordstorm, a Bristol Farms grocery, and a movie theater.
Brainwash, 1122 Folsom Street (at Langton between 7th and 8th Streets), ☎ +1 415 431-9274, . M-Th 7AM-10PM, F-Sa 7AM-11PM, Su 8AM-10PM. It's a Laundromat! It's a cafe! It's a pub! It's all of the above. A fine place to do your laundry while grabbing a beer, some lunch, playing a little pinball, surfing the net, chatting with your friends, or watching a live show.
Cha Am Thai Restaurant/Bar & Grill, 701 Folsom Street (near Third St, behind Moscone Center South), ☎ +1 415 546-9710, . Daily 11AM-3PM, 5PM-10PM. A tranquil Thai restaurant serving delicious and well-presented dishes at very reasonable prices, just a block from Moscone Center.Lunch under $9, dinner entrees under $16.
Chaat Cafe, 320 Third Street (near Folsom), ☎ +1 415 979-9946, . One block from Moscone Center, this Indian restaurant serves an extensive menu of dishes from Indian street food, wraps, salads, and tandoori to curries, with no MSG, all at reasonable prices. First Indian "fast-food" chain. M-F lunch special $5.
Home Menu, 1565 Mission Street (at South Van Ness), ☎ +1 415 861-3173 (fax: +1 415 861-6788). M-F 10AM-10PM, Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 10AM-4PM. Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine (review is for Vietnamese). Stir-cooked dishes with barbecued meats and fresh vegetables. Chef may ignore your order if he thinks you'll like something else better, and when he does the food is excellent for the price. Soups, rice porridge, pho available. Accessible, not vegetarian aware, no MSG, beer, Chinese pop instrumentals, bright lighting, free delivery.$3.50-$6.75 apps/salads, $5.75-7.50 rice plates, $6.50-$8.50 entrees.
Katz Bagels, 606 Mission Street (between New Montgomery and 2nd Street), ☎ +1 415 512-1570. One of very few places to get actual bagels in California. Yes they're boiled, then baked. Open from the morning commute hours through lunchtime. Try the sandwiches.
Reds Java House, Pier 30 (on the Embarcadero near the Bay Bridge), ☎ +1 415 777-5626. Have the hamburger, fries and an Anchor Steam combo.
21st Amendment, 563 2nd Street (between Bryant and Brannan), ☎ +1 415 369-0900, . M-Tu 11:30AM-9:30PM, W-Sa 11:30AM-10PM, Su 10AM-9:30PM. Good "California-style microbrew" beers. Classic brew pub-grub - burgers, fish, some salads. The Jerk Chicken is excellent. Full menu and images are online. Great place to have drinks before or after a Giants game.
Canton Chinese & Dim Sum Restaurant, 655 Folsom Street (between 2nd & 3rd Streets), ☎ (415) 495-3064, . Open daily for lunch and dinner. Large selection of Cantonese dim sum as well as traditional Chinese dishes, including tanks of live seafood. Great place for a banquet.
Delancey Street Restaurant, 600 Embarcadero Street, ☎ +1 415 512-5179, . Tu-F 11AM-11PM, Sa-Su 10AM-11PM. It's not just a restaurant, it's a training school for the Delancey Street Foundation - an organization that helps people rebuild their lives from scratch. Nice backdrop of the San Francisco Bay and cheap eats to boot.
Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant, 2 Harrison Street (between Spear and the Embarcadero), ☎ +1 415 243-8246, . Su-Th 11:30AM-Midnight, F-Sa 11:30AM-2AM. You'll need a mint or four after sampling their garlic fries, which some say are the best in the city. Relatively standard pub fare with their own brews available on tap.
Hidive, Pier 28 (on the Embarcadero near the Bay Bridge), ☎ +1 415 977-0170, . This is where SoMa residents go for quick meetings and meals. You can also find decent food here to go along with the great waterfront views.
Manora's Thai Cuisine, 1600 Folsom Street (at 12th), ☎ +1 415 861-6224 (fax: +1 415 861-1731), . Lunch M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, Dinner M-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, Su 5PM-10PM. A favorite Thai place among locals, they serve up a great Pad Thai and Thai soups.
South Park Cafe, 108 South Park Street (at Jack London Alley between 2nd and 3rd), ☎ +1 415 495-7275 (email@example.com), . Lunch M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, Dinner Tu-Sa 5:30PM-10PM.
Thirsty Bear Brewing Company, 661 Howard Street (1/2 block from Moscone Center), ☎ +1 415 974-0905 (fax: +1 415 974-0955), . M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F 11:30AM-11PM, Sa Noon-11PM, Su 5PM-10PM. Brewpub meets tapas bar. Good beer brewed in-house, from very light lagers through a nice Kozlov Stout. One or two brews on nitrogen. Very good small-plate food with a Mediterranean / Spanish flair. Tuesday is cask-ale night - beer served from traditional wood cask instead of modern steel - while it lasts, which usually isn't very long.
Tres Agaves, 130 Townsend Street (between 2nd and 3rd), ☎ +1 415 227-0500, . Su-W 11:30AM-10PM, Th-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. Best margaritas in the city, along with great Mexican food. The food comes with so many sides that one appetizer and one entree is easily enough for 2 people.
Fringale French Bistro, 570 4th Street (at Freelon between Bryant and Brannan), ☎ +1 415 543-0573 (fax: +1 415 905-0317), . Lunch Tu-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, Dinner Su-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-11PM.
Zuppa, 564 4th Street (between Bryant and Brannan), ☎ +1 415 777-5900 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +1 415 777-5950), . Lunch M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, Dinner M-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM, Su 5PM-9PM. Modern industrial decor and excellent Italian food. Wood fired pizzas, great salumi. Go for salumi, pizza and a salad and split everything for two.
21st Amendment, ☎ +1 415 369-0900. See above under Eat.
Annie's Social Club, 917 Folsom Street (at 5th), ☎ +1 415 974-1585, . M-F 4PM-2AM.
Bacar, 448 Brannan Street (between 3rd and 4th), ☎ +1 415 904-4100, . Over 100 wines by the glass. Sometimes have 50% off everything on the wine list in some category.
City Beer Store & Tasting Bar, 1168 Folsom St (between Hallam St and Langton St), ☎ +1 415 503-1033, . Tu-Sa Noon-10pm, Su Noon-6PM. Your best bet for beer to go.
District, 216 Townsend Street (between 3rd and 4th), ☎ +1 415 896-2120, . Old furniture store converted to the latest wine-bar in SoMa.
Gordon Biersch Brewery, 2 Harrison St (on the Embarcadero), ☎ +1 415 243-8246, . Su-Th 11:30AM-Midnight, F-Sa 11:30AM-2AM. See above under Eat.
Hotel Utah, 500 4th Street (at Bryant), ☎ +1 415 546-6300, . M-F 11:30AM-2AM, Sa-Su 1PM-2AM. Popular brewery.
Jillians, 101 4th Street (inside the Sony Metreon), ☎ +1 415 369-6100, . This upscale sports bar has a huge video wall great for watching sports. There are also 8 well kept pool tables for something to do. This bar becomes a dance club on Friday and Saturday nights with a strict dress code -- nice shoes required.
Thirsty Bear Brewing Company, 661 Howard Street, ☎ +1 415 974-0905, . An upscale brewpub/restaurant and favorite expense-account spot for the trade show crowd from nearby Moscone Center. The cask-conditioned ale is satisfying, but the place can get crowded.
Tres Agaves, ☎ +1 415 227-0500. See above under Eat.
Many of San Francisco's best dance clubs are in SoMa.
1015, 1015 Folsom Street (at Harriet between 6th and 7th), ☎ +1 415 431-1200, . Lines all night outside during the weekend. A twenty-something meat market.
The Cat Club, 1190 Folsom Street (at 8th), ☎ +1 415 703-8964, . Thursday is 80's night where you're guaranteed to hear at least one Madonna song throughout the night.$6 cover.
DNA Lounge, 375 11th Street (near Folsom), ☎ +1 415 626-1409, . The DNA Lounge is a 2-story club which often caters to the geekier "digerati" crowd. One of the founders is Jamie Zawinski, a former Netscape superstar and Internet nabob. Events feature themed electronica dance nights (Industrial, Techno, Trance, etc) and live bands.There is usually a cover between $3 and $25 (for the bands).
The End Up, 401 6th Street (at Harrison), ☎ +1 415 357-0827, . An SF institution. Essentially doesn't close on the weekend, and thus where people 'end up'. Great old school SF house music. Unexpected outdoor patio/waterfall space to chill.
Mezzanine, 444 Jessie Street (at Mint, between 5th and 6th), ☎ +1 415 625-8880, . Where all the shirtless buff gay boys go. Great sound system. If you like cheesy techno and disco diva wailing music, this is the place.
The Stud, 399 9th Street (at Harrison), ☎ +1 415 863-6623, . Fun semi-dingy club. Don't miss Trannyshack, Tuesdays at midnight. Very worth the sleep deprivation at work the next day.
This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
$100 - 199
$200 and over
Pontiac Hotel, 509 Minna Street (at 6th), ☎ +1 415 863-7775 or +1 800 504-1005 (email@example.com, fax: +1 415 552-4491), . Clean and comfortable hotel.$35+.
Mosser Hotel, 54 4th Street (between Stevenson and Jessie), ☎ +1 415 986-4400 or +1 800 227-3804 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +1 415 495-7653), .
Pickwick Hotel, 85 5th Street (at Mission), ☎ +1 415 421-7500 (email@example.com, fax: +1 415 243-8066), . 189 elegantly appointed guestrooms and suites and 3,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, located just a block from the Moscone Convention Center.
Four Seasons Hotel, 757 Market Street (between 3rd and 4th), ☎ +1 415 633-3000, . Very high-end hotel. Beautiful art collection, and extensive sports club with fitness facilities and spa.
Harbor Court Hotel, 165 Steuart Street (between Mission and Howard), ☎ +1 415 882-1300 (fax: +1 415 882-1313), . A waterfront boutique hotel on the Embarcadero, across from the San Francisco Ferry Building, with views onto San Francisco Bay.$230-$280.