SoMa and Financial District Travel Guide

SoMa and Financial District Summary

Pros

  • Easy access to public transportation and taxis; three BART stations along Market Street
  • Some of the city's best contemporary art at SFMOMA, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum
  • Financial district borders the Embarcadero and Ferry Building, popular tourist sites and waterfront walkway
  • Easy access to Moscone Center, the city's largest convention and exhibition center, in SoMa
  • $8 to $10 ride from San Francisco International Airport
  • Safe (though vagrancy and panhandling are common, as throughout San Francisco)
  • Some of the city's tallest buildings, offering breathtaking views of the city and San Francisco Bay
  • A few notable dining options, and plenty of ideal places for a quick lunch
  • Close to Union Square's shopping and entertainment

Cons

  • Relatively few bars in the area, and they typically close by midnight; nightlife is minimal during the week, dead on the weekends
  • Great restaurants are few and far between
  • Far from many popular tourist attractions, like Golden Gate Bridge and Park, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Presidio -- though that's true of most of San Francisco's hotel-heavy neighborhoods
  • Accommodations are mostly pricey, large chain hotels; few boutiques and budget options
  • Street parking is difficult if not impossible; hotel parking is expensive.

What It's Like

SoMa ("South of Market") and the Financial District are distinct neighborhoods with their own distinguishing characteristics, and aren't actually adjacent -- they're essentially kitty-corner from one another along Market Street, a central artery that cuts through the center of downtown San Francisco. So why group them together? They share a business-centric atmosphere, attract a large portion of the city's business travelers between them, and are about equidistant from many of the city's most popular tourist attractions.

Full of well-tailored suits and skyscrapers, the Financial District is wedged between downtown San Francisco and the waterfront; and borders the Embarcadero, Chinatown, Union Square, and Market Street. It's not particularly convenient to many of the city's biggest tourist attractions -- it's about as far from Golden Gate Bridge and Park as you can get, for example -- but that's true of most of San Francisco's hotel-heavy areas.

SoMa, "South of Market," has cleaned up and grown considerably in the past 10 years or so, coming into itself as a business district with an artistic bent -- some of the city's best museums are located within these blocks. The result is artistically landscaped office buildings with a small selection of bars and restaurants that attract a decidedly business crowd.

On weekends and weekday evenings, SoMa and the Financial District are both all but dead. A few notable restaurants, like Anchor & Hope and Tres Agaves, and the city's pioneering transgender restaurant and club, Asia SF, dot the neighborhoods, but these areas are mostly filled with chain restaurants, Starbucks, corporate skyscrapers, and business hotels.

Where To Stay

SoMa and the Financial District both have their share of 600-plus-room hotels like the Marriott, Hyatt, and Westin. But some of the city's luxury properties are also here, including the St. Regis and Four Seasons, both just South of Market, and the Mandarin Oriental in the Financial District. With the exception of Good Hotel, an environmentally conscious boutique on the outskirts of SoMa, the area's hotels start at or above $200 a night -- so travelers on a tight budget, or anyone seeking a funky urban boutique, should look elsewhere.  

Facts

Languages:

English

Airports:

San Francisco Int'l Airport (SFO)

Peak:

June 21 - Sept. 22

Vaccines:

No

Currency:

U.S. Dollar

Electricity:

120 V, 60 Hz

Tipping:

15-20% at restaurants

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