The Mission District

The center of San Francisco's predominantly Hispanic neighborhood is 24th Street, a colorful collection of restaurants, taquerias, Mexican bakeries, fresh produce markets, butchers, and specialty shops. 24th Street, is a historic, tree-lined street, known as El Corazon de la Misione, or "the heart of the Mission." The festival of altars is located in Garfield Park, at 25th and Harrison, just one block south.

Mission Dolores at 16th and Dolores Streets is the oldest structure in San Francisco. Many of The City's pioneers are buried in an adjacent cemetery. The Mission District is famous for its murals, huge painted scenes on the walls and facades of buildings, which are part of a long established tradition in our city. There are nearly 600 murals in San Francisco, with the richest concentration in this neighborhood. Some of our favorite murals are on the front facade of the Women's Building on 18th & Valencia, Balmy Alley, which is on the Day of the Dead processional route, and the Garfield Park pool house which is on the opposite end of the altars. Many of these wonderful pieces are created by Precita Eyes on 24th street.

May is an especially high-spirited month in the Mission District. That's when San Francisco celebrates Cinco de Mayo and Carnaval, each culminating with exciting parades. Carnaval is considered The City's version of Mardi Gras. November hosts our Annnual Dia de los Muertos event, where thousands of people come to the Mission to celebrate their loved ones that have passed on. There are classes and workshops on creating altars, sugar skulls and papel picado at the Mission Cultural Center, Casa Bonampak, and Encantada Art Gallery.

Stroll along the Mission's wide avenues and you'll be struck by the profusion of taquerias, pupuserias, produce markets, Salvadoran bakeries, salon de bellezas (beauty salons). You'll also notice plenty of beautifully painted victorian homes, cafés, thrift shops and used-book stores that cater to students, artists, and activist that have historically been drawn to the Mission.

The Mission has always been home to political and social activists. Today it embraces neighborhood activist groups such as the Mission Anti Displacement Coalition, Dance Brigade, San Francisco Day Labor Program, and Global Exchange to name a few.

The Internet boom brought on an intense shift in the Mission-- trendy restaurants and boutiques blazed in and have settled in next to the neighborhood mainstays. Today, there's an interesting mix of places that survived the changes and new arrivals that are trying to make the Mission home. The different neighborhoods in the Mission are filled with people of different ages, races, and colors, one of the veritable mixing pots of San Franncisco.

Whether you're looking to take in the newer, locally-owned stores and cafes or get a taste of the neighborhood's history and Latin culture, the Mission is crawling with things to see and do, theater, parks, art galleries, restaurants, bars, shopping, people watching. While the flavor of the neighborhood changes subtly from block to block, you can easily walk from one to the other. Generally speaking, the 24th Street area is the culturally rich heart of the Mission, the stretch from Dolores Street through to Valencia Street is young and upscale, the area around 16th and Valencia streets hops with nightlife.

In a city where geography matters, The Mission, tucked into a nearly weatherproof valley between Potrero Hill and Twin Peaks, has a penchant for sunshine, even on days when the rest of San Francisco is silvery with fog.

For more information on local businesses and happenings in The Mission, please visit the following webpages:


On June 29, 1776, Father Francisco Palou, part of an expedition sent from Mexico, celebrated mass at the site selected for a new mission church. The settlers had gathered near the northwest edge of today's Mission District, a sunny valley that seemed good for farming—and a good place to introduce European ways to the wilds of Alta California.

The newcomers enlisted Costanoan Indians as converts and laborers to build a church. Completed in 1791, Mission Dolores is now the city's oldest building. The settlement was a qualified success; by 1841, it had no priest and a population of only about 50. But the Gold Rush would soon transform California, especially San Francisco.

Two sandy, hilly miles separated Mission Dolores from the center of the new town at Portsmouth Plaza. The Mission remained fairly remote until a plank road made it easily accessible in 1850. Soon, racetracks, bullfight arenas, and other raffish attractions sprang up by the church. The Mission District had become the place to go for a good time.

Rapidly expanding westward, urban San Francisco finally reached Mission Dolores, and in the 1860s the land around it was subdivided into housing plots.

The new neighborhood soon became a stopping-off point for successive waves of immigrants. As Germans, Irish, and Italians arrived, its working-class identity was solidly established.

An influx of Latin Americans that began in the 1930s became a flood in the '50s, when the area embraced the bright, extro-verted character we celebrate today.

Text written by Via on line, Trip Advisor, SF Gate.