This trendy bustling area of San Francisco has gone from strength to strength due to its innovative local community.
Once a thoroughly Hispanic neighborhood, much of the area’s great art and gastronomy reflects the presence of this demographic. The Mission has gentrified fast in the last decade, and as a result, you’ll find cool vintage boutiques and fashionable cafes on every corner.
Explore the colorful murals and tiny art galleries scattered across this deeply bohemian district.
Here are the 15 best things to do in and around Mission District.
1. Visit Mission San Francisco de Asisi
The oldest building in San Francisco, this church and museum will enrich your experience of the city by introducing you to some of its history.
Completed in 1791 by Spanish missionaries and named after the founder of the Franciscan order, the Mission’s museum explains in detail how the natives were sometimes brutally converted to Christianity by these early settlers.
The interior of the church is richly decorated with colorful striped beams and some impressive wall paintings, and it’s a lovely place to sit in quiet contemplation. The small garden and cemetery outback are equally worth admiring. The graves here date back to the 18th century.
2. Eat and Watch a Movie at the Foreign Cinema
This fantastic restaurant, created by renowned chef Gayle Pirie, doubles as a movie theater.
Gayle’s modern, Mediterranean-style cuisine is lauded by the critics. The restaurant’s menu includes plenty of freshly caught fish from the Pacific Coast, and lots of vegetables from upmarket organic farms. The bar’s classy and original cocktails are also the subject of tremendous praise.
The novelty of this restaurant is that it runs a cinema in its courtyard. The string lights and patio heaters make for a comfortable and chic cinema experience, and the films on show here are achingly cool. Pop in for a drink or dinner and catch a flick.
3. Relax in Mission Delores Park
Delores Park is located next to the beautiful San Francisco Mission, and it is the perfect place to people watch and recline among the locals.
Just elevated enough to give you pretty good views over San Francisco, on most days, half the city seems to be here relaxing in the sunshine or playing music.
Stock up on supplies from one of the area’s great local bakeries or produce markets before settling down with a blanket at this great local landmark.
4. Get some Pastries at the Tartine Manufactory
Located in an old factory warehouse, this smart, modern, industrial space feels more like an art gallery than a bakery.
Enjoy lunch made by a legion of talented chefs or get some of their fantastic freshly baked bread when it’s warm out of the oven.
If you’re on the move, pick up some pastries and sweet treats made with an eccentric twist, or get an outstanding cup of coffee from this popular hipster hangout.
5. Listen to Some Music at The Chapel
This great venue was built as a mortuary chapel in 1914 and has since been converted into a haven for music-lovers. The rafters of this old building look beautiful when lit up by the colorful modern spotlights, and its great acoustics make it the perfect place to hear bands perform.
The regular nightclub here hosts some pretty great acts, and it’s a cool place to dance the night away.
Come here for “sinner’s hour” (happy hour), in the trendy bar space, or eat at the amazing onsite restaurant “the vestry”.
6. Dress Like a Pirate at the 826 Valencia Pirate Supply Store
There’s lots of great shopping to be done in Mission District. While you’re browsing, make sure that you at least pop your head into this eccentric local gem, which is designed to look like the inside of a pirate ship.
This local non-profit supports impoverished students who are passionate about writing by peddling pirate-related costumes, books, clothing, and games.
The company also prints the work of local young artists and runs regular literary competitions. It has received lots of passionate support from both local people and professional writers. The mural on the front was designed by author Dave Eggers and cartoonist Chris Ware.
Make sure you go home with an eyepatch — it is for charity after all.
7. Browse the Paintings at the City Art Cooperative
One of many hip galleries in the Mission District, the Art Cooperative is specifically for local San Francisco artists. If you love the amazing murals scattered throughout the area, come here to see more of the local talent.
Owned and operated by a collective of over 200 artists, the best in contemporary art is on display here.
Pick up a print of your own in the great art shop, or if you feel like splashing out, pick up some originals from San Francisco’s finest.
8. Find the Murals in Clarion Alley and Balmy Alley
Mission District is much-loved for its fantastic street art, particularly the murals in Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley.
Balmy Alley includes two blocks worth of bold street art. The trend started in the 1970s when two women, the Mujeres Muralistas as they are now known, created a masterpiece. Ever since, scores of artists have flocked to join them. Most of the murals have political themes painted by Latino artists.
The art in nearby Clarion Alley is similar but covers just one block. It was created in the 1990s and is also intensely political and highlights the lives of the Hispanic community. The Clarion Art Mural Project located here is a well-run community of artists who contribute to the murals. Enjoy the contemporary color and be sure to take a camera.
9. Get an Ice-Cream at Bi-Rite Creamery
One of the best and most extensive ice cream shops in the world, this popular parlor serves up all sorts of unusual treats and has dished out hundreds of different flavours over the years. This includes flavors from classic peach cobbler to bizarre pumpkin pie. Vegans can expect some great flavours too, with regular oat milk alternatives on the menu.
The flavors here change pretty regularly, but some popular constants include salted caramel and lavender honey, made from local ingredients.
Be sure to go mad with your selection of toppings by adding some fudgy sauces, chocolaty sprinkles, or crunchy cookies.
10. Visit the David Ireland House
Born in 1930, David Ireland was a San Francisco-based artist whose internationally renowned work included an eclectic blend of architecture, sculpture, performance art, and painting. Much of his work was a genre-defying blend of mediums.
His Victorian Italianate house at 500 Capp Street includes some of his greatest works of art. The house itself has been artistically modified, and it once served as Ireland’s studio. You can take a tour here, led by a group of passionate professional artists, to learn more about the man himself.
Come here to explore his body of work, and that of other internationally renowned artists.
11.Eat a Mission Burrito
This area of San Francisco is probably most famous nowadays for inventing the mission burrito.
Supersized and overflowing with ingredients, this is a local American take on a Latin American classic, invented by the Mission’s Hispanic community. Created in the 1960s, locals started to steam their tortillas to make them flexible enough to add extra ingredients.
You can buy them on every street corner here, but some notable purveyors include, Taqueria El Farolito, a classic Mexican hole-in-the-wall, and Papalote which makes a fantastic vegan take on this San Fran classic.
12. Take a Guided Tour of the SF Armory
Once the local arsenal for the national guard and now used primarily for rock concerts, this incredible building was constructed in 1912 and built in the Moorish Revival Style.
The building itself has had a bizarre history. It was an important stronghold in the bloody events of the San Francisco Strike of 1934, but it was also used as a film set for the original Star Wars movies in the 1970s. Finally, it was used as a dungeon for kink.com, a popular porn website.
Take the guided tour here to learn more about the history and architecture of this magnificent building.
13. Try the drinks at Eristavi Winery
The Eristavi Family came to the US from Georgia, and they brought European wine-making techniques with them. In addition to hosting local events, they offer great wine-tasting classes and a shop to pick up some bottles.
Sourcing their grapes from the Sonoma and Napa Valley vineyards, they have won multiple awards for their creations.
Housed in a lovely transformed industrial space, come here to taste, to learn, and to try some tasty Georgian inspired cuisine with your wine.
14. Visit the Red Poppy Art House
This popular performance space on the edge of the Mission district is a gallery, a bar, and music venue rolled into one.
Sporting a cool bohemian vibe, lots of local jazz and folk artists flock to perform here. Grab a chair or bring a cushion to relax to some local tunes in this intimate little art space.
Alternatively, come here to sip some great local brews and admire the many paintings which adorn the walls.
15. Play Some Indoor Minigolf at Urban Putt
This wacky arcade space is a local indoor minigolf course with an attached bar. The interior is a mix of colorful playground and steampunk spaceship and could easily be confused with a movie set.
With lots of fun things to do here in addition to their 14-hole golf course, bring your friends and drink some craft cocktails while you play.
Stay for the great restaurant when you’re done, its modern cuisine is top-notch.