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SoMa, San Francisco Travel Guide

SoMa Summary


  • 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
  • Easy access to the Moscone Center, the city's largest convention and exhibition center
  • $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
  • AT&T Park, home of the Giants


  • 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
  • Street parking is difficult if not impossible; hotel parking is expensive
  • Some seedier, less attractive areas, such as the blocks around Sixth Street and Mission

What It's Like

SoMa, "South of Market," has cleaned up and grown considerably since the late 1990s, coming into itself as a business district with an artistic bent. Art spaces, designer warehouses, loft apartments, young technology companies, and some of the city's best museums dot an otherwise industrial area that spans about two miles (from 11th Street to The Embarcadero, roughly). The result is artistically landscaped office buildings with a small selection of bars and restaurants that attract a decidedly business crowd. Much like the Financial District, SoMa can feel pretty sleepy on weekends and weekday evenings. But unlike the Financial District, which in most areas offers little beyond its chain restaurants, Starbucks, and corporate skyscrapers, an increasing number of notable restaurants like Anchor & Hope, Tres Agaves, and the city's pioneering transgender restaurant and club, Asia SF, bring sprinkles of vitality to this part of the city. Just note that you might have to walk several dark, seedy-looking blocks before coming to a hip coffee shop.

Where To Stay

SoMa is large and incredibly diverse; you can go from swanky to sketchy in the span of a block. Most of the major hotels huddle around three major areas: The Embarcadero (east), the San Francisco MOMA and Moscone Center (middle), and over by the Civic Center (west).

Along the waterfront Embarcadero there's been a sudden surge of restaurants in and around the Ferry Building, right at Market Street. Fittingly, two relatively new and stylish boutique hotels sit here: the Hotel Vitale and the more affordable Harbor Court Hotel.

But most of the neighborhood's major hotels are in the center of SoMa, surrounding the Moscone convention center and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Along with some of the city's best luxury hotels -- the Intercontinental, the St. Regis, and the Four Seasons, among others -- you'll also find some of the big-chains business hotels, such as the Marriott Marquis and the Westin San Francisco Market Street.

Though not quite as popular, or as active, the neighborhood around the San Francisco Civic Center comes with some of the least expensive hotels in the city. The environmentally conscious Good Hotel, for example, is an especially good value.

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