Balmy Alley In Mission District

Mission District Neighborhood Guide – Best Things To Do & Must Eats

The Mission District in San Francisco is best known for its street art and wall murals. In this neighborhood there are over five hundred murals which you can find painted on businesses, schools, parks and even private homes which have been mostly commissioned by the property owners.

The Mission District is also one of the top destinations for foodies visiting San Francisco as the area is known for its exceptional Mexican and Latin American food influenced by the large Latino community that live here. Even Anthony Bourdain stopped by for a torta from That’s It Market.

Mission District Orientation

The main two streets where you will find most of the Mission District’s shops and restaurants is Valencia Street and Mission Street. Between these two streets is where you will find Clarion Alley, an alley covered in street art.

Balmy Alley is a few blocks over from Mission Street and is where you will find the colorful murals on store fronts and buildings often pictured in magazines or on social media. The neighborhood as a whole is very walkable and dotted with small parks.

Murals & Street Art in the Mission District

The Mission District’s murals and street art is what this neighborhood is most notable for and the reason behind most visitors choosing to explore this part of San Francisco.

Murals and street art here have been described as a visual record of cultural and social developments and has social, political, religious and historical messages. Balmy Alley was the first area in the Mission District to display murals followed by Clarion Alley.

You can find street art across the entire Mission District but they are most concentrated in Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley as mentioned above and also in Lilac Alley and along 24th Street between Mission and Hampshire Streets.

Balmy Alley In Mission District
Balmy Alley In Mission District

Things To Do In The Mission District

Mission Dolores

Mission Dolores is not only the oldest Mission in California, but also the oldest building in San Francisco. The original Mission was founded in 1776 and has since played a central role in the religious and cultural way of life in San Francisco. The building has been a witness to San Francisco’s California Gold Rush and the destructive 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. 

Today the Mission Dolores Parish comprises both the Basilica and the Old Mission which are both located at the crossroads of the Mission District, Castro District, the Lower Haight, Noe Valley, and Upper Market Street neighborhoods.

Adjacent to the Old Mission is the Cemetery and Gardens of Mission Dolores. The only cemetery in San Francisco’s city limits is the final resting place for some of the first Californians and numerous Ohlone and Miwok. The gardens of Mission Dolores have been planted with traditional native trees, flowers, and other plants from the 1791 period.

The beautiful gardens and architecture of the Old Mission and Basilica make a great destination for visitors to the Mission District looking to learn more about San Francisco’s history.

Things To Do In Mission District
Photo by Dick McLeish

Visit Dolores Park

Dolores Park which was named for nearby Mission Dolores is one of the Mission District’s main landmarks. The almost sixteen acre park has some of the best views of San Francisco’s city skyline and is a popular destination for locals and tourists visiting the neighborhood.

Besides the spectacular views, Dolores Park has tennis courts, a basketball court, a soccer field, skate park and children’s playground. A 150-foot Observation Wheel will be added as a new attraction in April of 2020 which is said to have views all the way to the ocean.

Interesting Facts: Dolores Park which was once a Jewish cemetery was bought by the city in 1905 and served as a refugee camp for residents who were displaced by the horrific earthquake and fires of 1906.

Mission District Guide - San Francisco
Dolores Park in the Mission District, San Francisco.

Balmy Alley

Balmy Alley has the most concentrated collection of murals in the Mission District. The murals here have been around since the mid-1980’s and began as an expression of artist’s outrage over human rights and political abuses in Central America.

To this day, murals are still being created here that cover subjects from human rights to local gentrification. The murals are always changing so no visit will be the same. The block long alley can be found off of 24th Street and parallel to Treat and Harrison Streets.

Clarion Alley

Clarion Alley between Mission and Valencia Street is where you will find some of the popular murals that the Mission District is known for.

The murals have been painted by the Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) who have been responsible for creating over seven hundred murals since 1992. CAMP’s mission is to support and produce socially engaged and aesthetically innovative public art and create street art as a means for supporting political, economic and social justice messages.

Mission District - Things To Do & Must Eats

Vintage Store Shopping

The Mission District has many vintage and thrift clothing stores where you can find unique and bargain items. Shop at Afterlife Boutique and Wallflower for vintage pieces or rummage through the Buffalo Exchange store for used clothing at bargain prices. Buffalo Exchange not only sell used clothing and accessories, but also buy clothing from shoppers or except exchanges for store items. You can find most of the shops mentioned above on Valencia Street.

Things To Do In Mission District

Browse Book Stores

If you enjoy hunting for a good book, the Mission District has quite a few book stores for you to peruse. Check out Dog Eared Books who have been in operation since 1992 and offer new and used books. This book shop is very community driven focusing on local authors and small presses. Even the art work hanging above the book shelves are the work of local artists. The brightly lit sunny space makes it an easy place to spend an hour or two.

Another alternative is Alley Cat Books who is also owned by the same company mentioned above. This book shop also has a pleasant interior and not only sells books, but is an art gallery and community space too. You can find the art gallery at the back of the store and don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a poetry reading or film screening.

Things To Do In Mission District


The Mission District has a great nightlife scene with many upscale establishments and dive bars for you to grab a drink or two. ABV is one of the more popular bars where you can enjoy a cocktail in a sleek environment.

If you’re looking for somewhere to dance try the Public Works Club, a nightclub that features local and international DJs spinning tracks into the early hours. For live music try the Brick and Mortar Music Hall or The Chapel.

Where To Eat In The Mission District

The Mission District is known for its Mexican community so you can expect to find plenty of Taquerias and some of the best burritos and tamales in San Francisco right here. Latin American food is also common so if you haven’t had an empanada or papusa before this is the place for you to try one.

Chile Lindo

A good place to begin your Latin American food journey is at Chile Lindo, a small hole-in-the-wall shop slinging delicious empanadas on 16th street in the historic Redstone Building. If you don’t know what an empanada is, it is basically a moon-shaped pastry stuffed with savory or sweet fillings.

This Chilean Deli & Coffee Shop offers six different empandas all at $7.50 a piece. You can choose from Pino (Niman ranch beef), Spicy Pino, Pollo, Jamon y queso (ham, cheese, and jalapeño) and Chilango (cheese and jalapeño). There is also a vegan option made with ground round soy protein.

Places To Eat In Mission District


Lolinda is a modern Argentinean steakhouse offering steaks, tapas, cocktails, and wine. They serve Latin American dishes which are subtly Californian influenced. Their steaks are cooked to perfection over a wood-fired asador and are served in generous portions. Be sure to try their amazing Yucca fries which have a beautiful contrast of crispy and creamy texture. There are also two elegant bars located inside the restaurant.

Places To Eat In Mission Distrcit

Foreign Cinema

Foreign Cinema is a popular restaurant and bar with locals and visitors to San Francisco because of its unique outdoor courtyard setting where string lights provide a magical ambiance and a classic film like Casablanca is projected onto the wall. This restaurant which offers a daily changing menu featuring seasonal ingredients has won numerous awards.

Getting To Mission District

You can get to the Mission District by Bus, BART, Train or Light Rail. Get on the Blue, Green, or Red BART and get off at the 16th Street or 24th street Mission stop. By Muni take the Muni Metro J to 16th and Church street. The 12, 14, 22, and 33 buses also make stops throughout the neighborhood.

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Where To Stay In San Francisco

San Francisco is an expensive city, especially when it comes to accommodation. There is really no way to avoid the high hotel prices and staying here on a budget is difficult. Hotels that have lower prices are often not in safe neighborhoods so it is worth spending the extra and staying in a mid-range priced hotel.

The Fairmont

The graceful and stately Fairmont hotel sits atop Nob Hill in the Financial District offering panoramic views of San Francisco. This luxury hotel has a reputation for impeccable service and is the perfect stay for romantic getaways and relaxing retreats.

Best Hotels In San Francisco

Ritz Carlton

The Ritz Carlton is a luxury hotel located near Union Square. Rooms and suites come in crisp whites, deep blues, and rich grays to inspire tranquility.

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The Kimpton

The Kimpton Alton Hotel is a 4.5 star hotel located in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. This hotel features a bar, lounge, 24 hour fitness center and is one block from San Francisco Bay.

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Argonaut Hotel

The iconic Argonaut hotel is housed inside the historic Haslett Warehouse building in the Fisherman’s Wharf district. Guests can enjoy waking to views of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge before venturing next door to Ghirardelli Square and Hyde Street Pier.

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The StayPineapple

The StayPineapple is an upscale hotel located in Union Square steps from the city’s best shopping and dining. Stays come with signature lightweight robes, equator coffee, unlimited bottled water, beach cruiser bikes, and pineapple treats.

Best Hotels In San Francisco

The Hilton

The Hilton is a reasonably priced hotel in Union Square near Westfield shopping center. This 4 star hotel features two restaurants, a lobby bar, outdoor pool, and San Francisco’s highest rooftop bar which is perched on the 46th floor.

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