Tucked into the city’s southern corner, Bernal Heights is a funky neighborhood that is a bastion of artists and progressives. Perched atop a steep hill, you will find a quaint urban village that seems forgotten in time. At its highest point, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown, and San Bruno Mountain. Originally, Bernal Heights was part of the Rancho de las Salinas y Potrero Nuevo, and owes its name to Jose Cornelio de Bernal, to whom the land was granted in 1839 by the Mexican government. In the 1860s the rancho was subdivided into small lots, and was first populated primarily by Irish immigrants who farmed the land and ran dairy ranches. According to legend, a mini gold rush was triggered in 1876 when con artists planted the hilltop with traces of gold. The district survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, thanks to the hill’s bedrock foundation, and some ramshackle houses still remain that were constructed out of timber salvaged from the wreckage. Several small cottages on Shotwell Street were originally built as “bonus plan” dwellings, provided to people who had lost their homes in the disaster but still had jobs. For these reasons, more people moved to Bernal Heights following the earthquake. World War II brought another influx, this time of people who came to work in the naval shipyards of nearby China Basin.
Down to earth, eclectic, tight-knit community, progressive, artsy, low-key
At A Glance
Boisterous community of artists, activists and young families.
WHAT TO EXPECT
A funky area with small markets, cafes, fruit stands and community gardens, mingled along with sophisticated and trendy restaurants and boutiques.
A community mindset with local appeal committed to supporting families and each other.
Bernal Heights Park with its hiking trails, views and dog-friendly nature.
Bernal Heights is characterized by its colorful, eclectic homes, vibrant street art, and stunning views of the city.
YOU’LL FALL IN LOVE WITH
The community, views and the secret that is this unorthodox neighborhood.
Located In Bernal Heights
Excelsior, The Mission, Noe Valley, Glen Park, Bayview, Silver Terrace
East to West Boundaries
101 Freeway to the east, San Jose Ave. to the west
North to South Boundaries
Cesar Chavez St. to the north, 280 Freeway to the south
- Financial District via transit: 30 minutes
- Financial District via auto: 20 minutes
- South San Francisco via auto: 20 minutes
- Silicon Valley via auto: 50 minutes
AROUND THE BLOCK
Artists, eccentrics, activists, young families — all have come to this boisterous neighborhood and put down roots. To this day, Bernal Heights retains its funkiness along with its modernity, making it the best San Francisco neighborhood for those wishing to look backwards, forward, and straight ahead all at once.
WHAT TO EXPECT
This neighborhood is diverse in every way, from the makeup of its residents to the dizzying variety of architectural styles and living options available. Bernal has something for everyone, be it urban farmers looking to grow crops in their backyard, or farm-to-table enthusiasts gleefully browsing the Alemany Farmers’ Market on the weekend.
Sometimes it seems like Bernal Heights is one big farmer’s market, with locals strolling contentedly down Cortland Avenue calling each other by name. The neighborhood is committed to supporting its families, a fact driven home each fall at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center’s “Fiesta on the Hill”. Sure, Bernal Heights has its chic restaurants and its grizzled neighborhood taverns, but above all else it’s about the people.
Bernal Heights Park is one of the best unknown secret vistas in the city! From the highest point in this park, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown, and San Bruno Mountain. There are great hiking trails and it is a mecca for dogs where they can enjoy frolicking off-leash!
The architecture in Bernal Heights is a mix of styles, ranging from traditional Victorian and Edwardian homes to more modern, minimalist designs. Many of the homes are brightly painted in bold colors, giving the neighborhood a lively, cheerful feel.
YOU’LL FALL IN LOVE WITH
Locals sing the praises of “The Hill,” with its winding streets, many parks, and the drop-dead gorgeous views from the top of Bernal. You’ll love finding peace among the wild greenery on the east slope and trying in vain to keep the culinary joy that is Little Nepal a secret from outsiders. For many of its proud residents, there’s nothing not to fall in love with.
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