Some neighborhoods of San Francisco, although essentially residential, they have a certain historical importance and can be of interest to the past that they have to tell, giving the opportunity to deepen historical events and processes that have marked (and still mark) our contemporaneity.
If Haight-Ashbury is the neighborhood that gave birth to the hippie culture, the neighboring one Castro district has another story to tell, that of the LGBT community, which saw the birth of its best-known symbol in this neighborhood: the rainbow flag. Walking along the streets of the neighborhood, the reference to the colors of the rainbow is consistent, including flags, murals and stripes on the street. Here is some more information for those wishing to visit this slightly peripheral area of San Francisco.
- History of Castro
- Where is it and how to get there
- What to see: short itinerary along the neighborhood
- Other places of interest
History of Castro
Castro is home to a large gay community however, until the 40s, the neighborhood, known as "Eureka Valley“, It did not have this particular connotation, and was largely inhabited by Irish working-class immigrants. Many gays began to settle in Castro during the Second World War, finding a certain welcome not only in the neighborhood but also in the rest of the city (thanks also to the support of the Beat Generation).
Some events that took place between 1978 and 1979 contributed to making Castro known all over the world: after his election to the City Council, Harvey Milk, the first openly homosexual politician elected, asked a Gilbert Baker to create a recognizable symbol of pride for the entire gay community; hence the famous rainbow flag, used for the first time in the gay parade that year.
In November of the same year Milk and Mayor George Moscone were killed in San Francisco City Hall by Dan White, then a member of the Supervisory Board. White, jailed for manslaughter, was sentenced to a few years in prison, sparking riots in the Civic Center and Castro neighborhoods known as White Night Riots.
Where is it and how to get there
Located between the Mission District and Haight Ashbury, the Castro district has its nerve center on Castro Street, particularly around the segment between 17th and 18th Street. Getting there is quite simple: just take the MUNI (lines L, M, KT) and get off at Castro Station, which stops right in the area just indicated.
For a more detailed idea of transport in the city, read our guide on how to get around San Francisco.
What to see: short itinerary along the neighborhood
The following is a short itinerary along the main points of interest of the district, all easily reachable on foot starting from the Castro Center station. The journey takes place for the most part on Castro Street, the neighborhood's Main Street, where shops and historic sites alternate with the typical Victorian terraced houses of San Francisco. The attractions are listed in order when coming from the station. For better orientation you can refer to the interactive map above.
- Harvey Milk Plaza: this is the point where you will find yourself once you get off the MUNI metro. Here you will immediately understand that you have arrived thanks to the presence of the large rainbow flag announcing the entrance to the neighborhood.
- Dove: 400 Castro St, San Francisco
- Pink Triangle Park: cross Market Street to reach the junction with 17th Street, where this small memorial dedicated to homosexual victims oppressed by the Nazi regime is located. The pink triangle is the symbol with which homosexuals were identified in concentration camps and over time it has been adopted by the LGBT community itself as a symbol of protest. The marble columns symbolize the victims, while from the triangle placed in the center of the memorial one can freely grasp a pink gem as a reminder of the tragic events.
- Dove: 2454 Market St, San Francisco
- Twin Peaks Tavern: historic gay club that, starting from 1971, opened its large windows challenging the local custom of the time.
- Dove: 401 Castro St, San Francisco
- Celebratory mural for Gilbert Baker: Take a small detour of 2 blocks (east) from the neuralgic point of the neighborhood, where you will find a particular building on your right. On the 2 doors there is a mural that April Berger created in 2017 taking up the theme of the rainbow flag in memory of Gilbert Baker. This building served as an informal meeting place for LGBT activists as well as an aid base for the many people who fell ill with AIDS in the 80s and 90s.
- Dove: 3745 17th St, San Francisco
- Castro Theatre: the beautiful façade of this historic building from 1922 is inevitably striking along the way. Inside, films and singalongs (projections with the audience singing along with the projection itself) are proposed.
- Dove: 429 Castro St, San Francisco
- Rainbow Honor Walk: along the sidewalk of Castro Street, somewhat in the style of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, you will notice portraits of people from the LGBT community who have distinguished themselves for particular merits.
- Crossroads of 18th Street and Castro Street: the intersection is easily recognizable by the rainbow stripes on the road, as if to identify it as the real nerve center of the neighborhood.
- GLBT History Museum: small museum with insights not only on the Castro District but also on the entire Bay Area.
- Dove: 4127 18th St, San Francisco
- Human Rights Campaign (Castro Camera): The current headquarters of this civil rights society was, once, Castro Camera, where Harvey Milk worked and worked for the cause.
- Dove: 575 Castro St, San Francisco
Other places of interest
Outside the nerve center of the district, and in any case a short distance away, it is located Corona Heights Park, a green area north of Market Street which, from the hill, offers a beautiful 360 ° view of the city, excellent for taking photos at san francisco skyline. Inside the park you will also find the Randall Museum of science. To reach the viewpoint from the station, allow about 15 minutes on foot.
- Where: Roosevelt Way &, Museum Way, San Francisco
- Where: 70 Corwin St. San Francisco
Although it is well connected to the MUNI, there are not many hotels in Castro, as you can see from this list of accommodations in the neighborhood. Unless you want to sleep in this area for particular reasons, my advice is to consider the other areas that are more suitable for finding an overnight stay, which I already talked about in the article on the best areas to sleep in San Francisco.
My tips on where to sleep in San Francisco