The origins of Mission date back to 1700, when the first Spanish colonists founded some important missions there, including Mission San Francisco de Asis, still today among the best preserved in all of California and to which we owe the name of the neighborhood.
Today Mission District is the ethnic district of San Francisco, where shops, taquerias, tropical fruit markets and panaderias spread Mexican and Latin atmospheres along the streets of the district. But what makes this area unique is essentially the high concentration of murals, which seem to transform the entire neighborhood into a veritable riot of colors, an open-air museum that will accompany you throughout your visit. So let's see what to see and how to get organized to enjoy Mission to the fullest ...
- Where is it and how to get there
- Is Mission District dangerous?
- To see
- Mission San Francisco de Asis
- Mission Dolores Park
- Mission District Art Galleries
- Mission Tour
- Where to eat: Mexican restaurants and more ...
Where is it and how to get there
Mission District is located south of SOMA (South of Market) and borders Castro to the west, which can be visited in conjunction with Mission (from Mission Dolores Park you just have to walk a few blocks west to reach the neighboring district). The Mission district is well served by public transport, here's how to get there:
- BART: all lines. Stops 16th Street and 24th Street on Mission Street. Lines: Convenient if you are coming from Union Square, Financial District and Embarcadero.
- Bus: Line 49. Convenient if you're coming from Fisherman's Wharf. The bus picks up at the corner of Van Ness and North Point and continues along Mission Street stopping roughly every two blocks. Get off according to the point of interest you want to reach.
- Car: you can reach Mission by car but you will have to opt for paid parking, for example the Mission-Bartlett Garage or the Mission-Otis Garage. In any case, as said on several occasions, I recommend not to visit San Francisco by car unless you are forced to.
To find out more and organize yourself in the best possible way, I refer you to our guide on how to get around San Francisco.
Is Mission District dangerous?
Compared to other districts in the city, Mission requires some more attention. We have already addressed the topic in an article dedicated to the less safe neighborhoods of San Francisco, so I refer you directly to the in-depth analysis.
Here are the main places of interest and types of attractions to look for in this neighborhood.
San Francisco can boast more than 1000 murals, most of which are concentrated in the Mission neighborhood. In this district, public enterprises, private homes, schools, churches and restaurants do not hesitate to ask local artists to adorn the exterior of their buildings with their works of art. To connect the numerous requests to clients, a special non-profit body will take care of it, Precita Eyes Muralists, active in this field for about 40 years.
The neighborhood is therefore literally littered with murals and it is therefore impossible to name them all. Here I will limit myself to recommending some streets, intersections or buildings where you can admire some very significant ones; to orient yourself and insert them in a path you can refer to the map of the murals just below.
- Women’s Building (18th St and Lapidge St): probably the most famous mural in the whole neighborhood. Made in 1994, it is a sort of visual testament that celebrates the contribution and courage of women of all times.
- Balmy Street (o Balmy Alley): This little red brick alley is actually where it all started. It was in fact here that, in the early 70s, the first artist painted a mural on the back of a building. Now the whole alley is almost entirely covered with it.
- Clarion alley: another small alley completely covered with murals, whose works are due to the artists of the Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP), which aims to promote socially engaged and aesthetically innovative art.
- Flynn Elementary School (Specifies Ave and Harrison St): on the south side of this school you will find 2 large murals, respectively entitled Family Life (to the left of the viewer) and The Spirit of Mankind (to the right).
- 24th Street (between Balmy Alley and the intersection with York Street): a short walk that will give you the opportunity to admire the many murals that adorn the buildings along the road, as well as to visit the Precita Eyes Muralists Visitor Centerjust past the Harrison Street intersection.
Many of the murals you will encounter have particular meanings, sometimes connected to events that occurred in the city, so to enjoy them to the fullest, I recommend that you also evaluate a guided tour, in order to be adequately introduced to the context in which these works were born. Of the available tours I speak a little below.
Mission San Francisco de Asis
Also known as Mission Dolores, it is the oldest structure in San Francisco, as well as the sixth religious settlement in the California mission chain (The real way).
The original building, built on 9 October 1776 in adobe in the style of the time, was later joined (in 1918) by a much larger basilica, influenced by the architectural style exposed to the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego a few years earlier.
Attached to the church is a small historic cemetery, where Indians, pioneers and politicians who marked the history of the city between 1830 and 1898 are also buried. In the garden of the cemetery there is also a statue of Father Junipero Serra, canonized as a saint by Pope Francis and responsible for the foundation of 9 Californian missions.
Both the mission and the adjoining garden with cemetery can be visited every day, according to the times shown on the official website.
Mission Dolores Park
With tennis courts, basketball courts and a play area for the little ones, the Mission Dolores Park it is the green area of reference for the inhabitants of the neighborhood. Here the most recurring activity of the locals is to lie down on the lawn to have a nice picnic or simply sunbathe. For a tourist the main reason to visit this park, besides the pleasant walk, is the nice view of Downtown; the hillside position of Mission Dolores Park offers a privileged point of view.
For photos the best spot is probably the southwest corner of the park, just a few steps from the The Golden Fire Hydrant (3899 20th St.), a gold hydrant today celebrated as "the miraculous hydrant that saved the district during the fires of 1906". Inside the park you will also find a statue of the Mexican revolutionary Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.
Mission District Art Galleries
At Mission, art is not only expressed on the street but also in various private galleries that bring together local talents. Many are located near the intersection of Mission Street and 24th Street, but also in the section of Valencia Street known as Valencia Corridor. Here are 2 interesting examples:
- City Art Cooperative Gallery (828 Valencia St.): innovative art gallery where artists are allowed to rent a wall to exhibit their paintings and receive 70% of sales as a reward. The gallery has no paid employees, they are the same artists who, during their shifts, also perform maintenance tasks.
- Breed Gallery (1470 Valencia St.): founded in 1970, this gallery supports Latin and Mexican art, especially that socially engaged in favor of minorities.
The guided tours of the neighborhood are essentially divided into 2 types: those dedicated to murals and those dedicated to the tasting of the typical Latin dishes of the area (or those that combine both aspects). Here are 3 examples:
- Street Art Tour: Murals and Graffiti
- Dining experience in the Mission District
- Food Tour – Murales of the Mission
Mission is a very lively neighborhood and the numerous events it hosts every year testify to this. Here are the most significant:
- Dia de los Muertos: on the evening of November 19st, the Latin community of Mission celebrates their dead with a long parade that usually starts at 1pm and ends at 2 or XNUMXam. Numerous memorials are placed along the streets of the district to remember the missing loved ones.
- Carnival Parade: The Carnaval in the Mission District celebrates Latin American and Caribbean arts and traditions and lasts for 2 days. The highlight of the whole event is undoubtedly the grand parade, which usually crosses 24th, Mission Street and 17th. The event is held during Memorial Day Weekend (late May).
- Cesar Chavez Day: in April, the Mission district dedicates an entire day to civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, with a parade, markets, music and dance.
- Cinco de Mayo: Usually in early May, between 21st and 24th streets of Valencia Street, there is a party designed also for families and dedicated to Latin American culture, focused on food, music, dance and art.
Where to eat: Mexican restaurants and more ...
The Mission District is home to numerous Mexican restaurants, both casual and fast-service venues. However, there are also other types of kitchens, here are some suggestions:
- The Taqueria (2889 Mission Street): If you see a place with a long line outside the door walking on Mission Street, you can't go wrong, it's La Taqueria, one of the most popular places in town for those looking for authentic Mexican food. Remember to take cash with you as they don't accept credit cards.
- Foreign Cinema (2534 Mission Street): at the antipodes of the informal taqueria that swarm along the streets of the neighborhood, this restaurant with a refined menu focuses on a winning mix: food, films and art. In fact, every evening a film is projected in the background trying to create a particular atmosphere, while on the walls you can admire a series of paintings, just like in an art gallery.
- San Jalisco (901 S Van Ness Ave): another interesting place for those looking for Mexican food and a pleasant themed atmosphere (in this case the culinary tradition comes from the Jalisco region).
Mission boasts a fair number of accommodations, including Victorian-style residential bnbs that can suit anyone looking for a "local" experience. For more details, I refer you to our article on where to sleep in San Francisco, where you will find a section dedicated to finding accommodation in Mission and also in the other main districts of the city, with a series of recommended facilities.
My tips for sleeping in San Francisco