Top-rated places to visit in Marina District, San Francisco

The Marina District, a.k.a the Marina, is a flat neighborhood bordered by the waterfront and Fort Mason, the Presidio and Lombard Street. Popular with tourists and locals alike for its glorious views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands, ample open spaces, and popular eateries and bars, the Marina is a microcosm of San Francisco life.

Many visitors first arrive at the Marina via a section of the San Francisco Bay Trail that skirts the waterfront from Aquatic Park and Fort Mason to the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a beauty, passing Marina Green Park, the Saint Francis and the Golden Gate yacht clubs, and the mansions strung along Marina Boulevard. You may want to dawdle at Fort Mason Center, which hosts art and cultural events, as well as educational classes. Within the former fort’s buildings, you can find great coffee from Equator Coffees, sample modern German fare at Radhaus, indulge in the freshest veggie stylings at San Francisco’s OG vegetarian restaurant Greens, or grab a cocktail at The Interval at Long Now.
Walk east onto the jetty past the yacht clubs to experience the Wave Organ. The sculpture, made of PVC and concrete, includes 25 pipes set at different heights that offers a unique sonic experience during high and low tides. A little further along, Crissy Field, a recreation center, wildlife sanctuary and popular beach and waterfront trail, includes a restored marsh, ample picnic opportunities and, for those chilly, fog-whipped summer afternoons, a hot chocolate at the Warming Hut.
From Crissy Field, it’s easy to check out the Presidio Tunnel Tops which hosts daily food vendor “pop-ups” — from beer and sausages from Fort Point Beer Company, to Indonesian street food from D’Grobak. For days when eating under a roof is called for, head over to Colibri Mexican Bistro for chicken mole and handcrafted cocktails, Sessions for its weekday afternoon happy hour or the Presidio Social Club for its epic patio scene.

Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, Calif.

John Wu/Getty Images/iStockphoto

From the eastern gate of the Presidio, also called Lombard Street Gate, turn left and walk the half mile or so to the Palace of Fine Arts. Though it is also an important event venue, the Palace grounds host countless brides and grooms who snap wedding photos in front of the golden-hued buildings and perfect pond.

What to eat in the Marina District, day and night

From here, it is an easy walk to the heart of the neighborhood’s restaurant and bar scene, centered on Chestnut Street. From Divisadero to Fillmore Streets, Chestnut Street is busy both day and night, with plenty of offerings for a cocktail or a meal after a visit to the Marina’s many sights. The energy is effusive, spilling into the side streets and along a similar stretch of Lombard Street.

The back patio at the The Tipsy Pig is the best way to enjoy the Marina hotspot.

John Storey/San Francisco Chronicle

Home Plate is a breakfast and lunch café beloved for its huveos rancheros, omlettes and benedicts. Known for its brunch, Blackwood offers classic American omelettes and pancakes alongside Thai morning fare such as kai gata and jok moo rice porridge. The laid-back parlor vibe of The Dorian makes it a hot spot for cocktails, day and night — the espresso martini is the go-to “any time of day” cocktail order.  Ditto The Tipsy Pig — the beautiful, mirror-backed wooden bar is a neighborhood favorite at night while the cute back patio is where the action is on sunny days.
As day transitions to evening, California Wine Merchant is a great spot for a glass of wine (there are 30 available). The cocktails at Maybeck’s are worth seeking out, as is the burger at Causwells and pizzas at A16.
The neighborhood boasts a movie theater, the Presidio (not to be confused with the live performance theater that’s actually in the Presidio itself, the Presidio Theatre). There are many late-night spots for après movie, too. One of the city’s famous dive bars, the Horseshoe Tavern, bills itself as the “non-Marina Marina bar” thanks to its down-home vibes, while Monaghan’s Bar holds onto its Irish roots with a 20-tap beer list, including Guinness that’s straight off the boat from Ireland. And Western-themed Westwood serves up a vaquero margarita that pairs perfectly with their barbecue baby back ribs and poutine-style French fries. (It also regularly features live music, check the calendar for upcoming events.)

A Marina classic and a modern marvel

No article about restaurants in the Marina is complete without a nod to Lucca Delicatessen. The nearly hundred-year-old San Francisco institution attracts legions of fans for its sausage and beef meatballs, housemade ravioli and beautiful window displays. But it’s their overstuffed sandwiches that get all the Instagram love (the #1 Italian Combo layers salame, ham, mortadella, provolone and mild Italian peppers) .
But perhaps the most widely recognized Marina restaurant — Atelier Crenn — actually sits just across Lombard Street in Cow Hollow. Helmed by chef Dominique Crenn, Atelier Crenn, considered one of the 100 best restaurants in the world, was recently awarded three Michelin stars. That’s made Crenn, the first female chef in the United States to earn first two and then three stars, a celebrity. 

This story was edited by Hearst National Editor Kristina Moy; you can contact her at [email protected].

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