10 Best Neighborhoods in San Diego

Don’t let the million-plus population fool you; San Diego is a city of neighborhoods. Yes, it’s the the eighth largest city in the U.S., but it holds a genuine community vibe. The best way to experience this for yourself is to spend as much time as you can out and about exploring.

Each neighborhood has its own quirks and charms that help make America’s Finest City a great place to live. With over 100 recognized neighborhoods, it’s hard to whittle the list down to just 10, but you’re sure to find something that strikes your fancy from the list below.

North Park

North Park. Credit: Courtney Hartmann Tisa
North Park. Credit: Courtney Hartmann Tisa

Once listed by Forbes as one of the top hipster neighborhoods in the country, this area isn’t all skinny jeans and handlebar mustaches; although you’ll find a few of those too! Here you’ll also be warmly welcomed to the local craft beer scene with new tasting rooms popping up all the time. While most of San Diego requires a car to get around, this neighborhood has excellent walkability, especially down 30th Street, which allows you to bar crawl all the way from El Cajon Boulevard down to Upas St.

Little Italy

It’d be hard to pick favorites when it comes to Italian eateries and why choose just one when there are so many to enjoy all within blocks of each other? If you have a hankering for pizza, pasta, cannoli or gelato, this is where you want to be. With beautiful condos overlooking the bay and the city’s best farmers’ market boasting 150+ vendors every Saturday, you have nearly everything you need right outside your door.

East Village

What used to be a quieter pocket of the city has recently been revitalized and is slowly evolving into one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in San Diego. It’s introduced SILO at Makers Quarter and Quartyard, two venues hosting everything from indie bands to festivals, food trucks to special events, without losing any of its downtown charm. Home to the nine-story Central Library, Petco Park, and many of the city’s favorite restaurants, it’s easy to see what the buzz is all about in this neighborhood.

Hillcrest

Bordering North Park and less than a five-minute drive to Balboa Park and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, the LGBT-friendly area of Hillcrest is a fun and energetic area driven by its culture and the residents who live there. A free trolley runs through the neighborhood and certain restaurants provide a free shuttle on weekends, so it’s no problem getting to where you want to go.

La Jolla

La Jolla. Credit: Courtney Hartmann Tisa
La Jolla. Credit: Courtney Hartmann Tisa

Head north and take a trip to the cove. Join the flock of visitors who walk along the sidewalk parallel to the ocean to catch a glimpse of the seals. Plan a hike at Torrey Pines. Shop ‘til you drop in one of the many luxury boutiques. Take a stroll through the art galleries. Or, simply enjoy some R&R with an ocean view and a cocktail in hand.

South Park

If it isn’t local, you won’t find it here. The neighborhood hosts a walkabout every quarter to celebrate its independently-owned businesses with live music and complimentary treats to all visitors. Quaint cafes, dive bars, and cool boutiques are more than enough reason to keep heading down 30th Street into this area.

Normal Heights

This neighborhood is sandwiched between University Heights and Kensington with the majority falling along Adams Avenue, a perfect place to find your next favorite coffee shop or craft cocktail bar. Casually cool is how one might describe this area where the residents consider themselves anything but “normal.”

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach. Credit: Courtney Hartmann Tisa
Pacific Beach. Credit: Courtney Hartmann Tisa

Flip flops and tank tops are the attire of choice down by the boardwalk. Whether you’re skating, surfing or sailing by, you’re bound to soak up the relaxed feeling of the beach life that embodies the atmosphere of this area. As you make your way down coast, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach will merge. Here you can still enjoy the pretty Pacific views, while also entertaining your inner child at Belmont Park.

Ocean Beach

This laid-back, dog-friendly community embraces organic living and hippie culture. It’s not out of the ordinary to see someone skateboarding barefoot down the sidewalk with a pup on a leash. Walk west on Newport Avenue and you’ll find yourself walking directly into the Pacific or at least to the pier for some truly breathtaking views. Home to the famous Hodad’s and one of the best places to score fresh fish tacos, it won’t be long before you’ll begin to feel right at home.

Point Loma

Right in the heart of this neighborhood is a former Naval Training Center now known as Liberty Station. Liberty Station is made up of popular restaurants, local art galleries, and is currently undergoing a complete rebranding with a city market set to open in early 2016. Cabrillo National Monument is located at the southern tip of Point Loma and boasts one of the most incredible, panoramic views of the city from the top.

Courtney Hartmann Tisa