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Blog · SF Travel Guide to the Haight: History, Food, Shops, Art

SF Travel Guide to the Haight: History, Food, Shops, Art

By Rebecca Sang
SF Travel Guide to the Haight

The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco is one of the most iconic, Instagram-ready parts of the city to visit, a treasure trove of the city’s history and renowned architecture as well as a hub for delicious food, eclectic shops, and beautiful outdoor spaces. As a local, I find this neighborhood is my go-to destination when I have guests who want to experience “the real San Francisco”— especially if they only have a day or two here.

Ready to explore this trendy SF neighborhood? Here’s everything you need to know to plan your visit.

A little Haight history

Haight Victorian Homes

he Haight-Ashbury neighborhood was founded in 1853 as an affluent suburb of San Francisco, which is why the area today is peppered with so many of the colorful Victorian homes that the city is famous for, such as the oft-photographed Painted Ladies, a row of seven iconic, colorful Queen Anne houses frequently seen in movies and TV shows.

Many of the oldest of these homes were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, but the district quickly bounced back as a hub for small businesses, shops, and restaurants, as well as housing for working-class families and immigrants.

In the 1960s, the neighborhood became a national focus as it stepped into the limelight as the center of the counterculture movement. Young people from all across America flocked here, giving birth to the “Summer of Love” in 1967, a social phenomenon that celebrated peace, love, and music. 

The Grateful Dead, who were central to the movement, lived at 710 Ashbury Street. Janis Joplin lived nearby at 122 Lyon Street and performed at local venues like the Filmore and Winterland Ballroom. And Jefferson Airplane, one of the pioneering bands of psychedelic rock, lived at 2400 Fulton Street, where they held parties and jam sessions attended by other famous musicians of the era. 

Today, murals, street art, and the overall bohemian vibe of the neighborhood celebrates this deep connection to the ’60s and the modern peace and justice movements that were inspired by them.

Tour Haight-Ashbury with a local


This boho neighborhood is steeped in history, with its charming Queen Anne homes and eclectic street art, but there’s a darker side here too. Whether you’re a true crime enthusiast or not, you’ll find yourself captivated by what you can learn and experience on our True Crime Tales from the Haight Walking Tour

Travel back to the Summer of Love of 1967 — but it wasn’t all love here in SF. Over 150 murders took place in the district around that time. See places like the home of Charles Manson and where Jim Jones (the cult leader who orchestrated the Jonestown Massacre) once lived near Haight Street. And you can walk on tombstones — really, we all do here.

Join us to discover the sinister secrets of Haight-Ashbury… if you dare.

More to do in the Haight

A perfect day in the Haight might begin at the east entrance to Golden Gate Park, where you can stop by the Conservatory of Flowers and its surrounding gardens. The Conservatory of Flowers is a magnificent Victorian-style greenhouse that is a tropical paradise within, with vibrant orchids, towering palms, gossamer ferns, and a myriad of other rare and exotic plants.

Next, walk along Haight Street itself, where you will experience the district’s historic, bohemian vibe directly through vibrant murals and the many small boutiques and vintage stores. 

There are also many amazing shops in the area to choose from, but here are a couple that you can’t miss:

  • Amoeba Music, one of the world’s largest independent music stores, is a cultural cornerstone of the neighborhood and a haven for music lovers. 
  • The Booksmith, nestled in the heart of Haight-Ashbury, houses a vast, carefully curated selection of books. It also serves as a cultural hub of the bibliophiles of the city, hosting book clubs, author meet-and-greets, and the important speaker series Berkeley Arts and Letters, which hosts local luminaries and international experts.
  • Piedmont Boutique is a veritable treasure trove of costumes, avant-garde statement pieces, and drag-show-ready fashion. The Piedmont Boutique isn’t only a store— it’s an SF institution that has encapsulated the city’s spirit of individuality, freedom of expression, and appreciation for queer culture for over 40 years.
  • Sockshop Haight Street is known for its vast variety of socks in every imaginable color, pattern, and design. Whether you’re looking for socks featuring your favorite movie, a bold pattern to make a fashion statement, or something warm and cozy for everyday wear, you’ll find it here. A visit to this store is bound to be an unexpectedly delightful experience, adding a splash of color and fun to the rest of your day.
  • The Sword and the Rose is a hidden gem on Cole Street that is a must-stop shop for any inclined toward witchiness or the mystical. The owners hand-blend over 90 types of incense, oils, and bath salts for folks from all walks of life. They also offer tarot, palm, and astrological readings, and have a sweet secret garden to enjoy.

Where to eat in Haight-Ashbury

Jimi Hendrix House
Credit: Shelby L. Bell / CC BY 2.0

If after a day of walking and shopping, you’ve worked up an appetite, the Haight’s foodie-focused cuisine and the myriad of international food options available will not disappoint. 

Here are the top four restaurants in the neighborhood to try:

  • Cha Cha Cha is a lively restaurant across from Amoeba Records that serves up delicious Caribbean food in an eclectic setting. My favorites are the plantains, jerk chicken, and Chicken Paillard. The Sangria here is infamous.
  • Magnolia Pub and Brewery is a gastropub that brews its own range of craft beers and has a menu that features all the usual classics, such as hamburgers and fish and chips, but also elevated options like sun-dried tomato arancini, seared ahi sandwiches, and stuffed dates.
  • The Alembic is the perfect spot for those who love cocktails and tapas — their inventive cocktails are inspired by more familiar aperitifs, each with a unique twist, to be enjoyed alongside small, savory plates such as crab cakes with red pepper coulis and fennel salad, or flatbreads topped with bruleed pineapple, ham, and gruyere cheese. 
  • Haight Street Market is technically a market, not a restaurant, but its deli draws San Franciscan sandwich-lovers from across the city’s 46.9 miles  Take your sammy to nearby Buena Vista Park, the oldest official park in the city, for unparalleled panoramic views.

Things to do nearby

Golden Gate Park

Near the Haight is Golden Gate Park, which in and of itself is a destination with tons to do. 

For garden lovers, there’s the tranquil and verdant Japanese Tea Garden, where tourists and locals alike will sit down for a spell to experience a traditional tea ceremony and the famously crisp, delicate almond cookies. 

There’s also the San Francisco Botanical Garden, where serene paths weave through themed gardens of every style. 

For those into art and culture, the de Young Museum is within easy walking distance and hosts collections of American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries as well as temporary exhibits from masters such as Monet and Ansel Adams. Meanwhile, the California Academy of Sciences is one of the largest natural history museums in the world, with an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum all under the same roof. 

How to get to the Haight

Ashbury-Haight Intersection

One of the most common ways to get to The Haight is to take the N-Judah MUNI line from downtown and get off near Golden Gate Park. Or drive and park at the Music Concourse Garage, an 800-space underground parking lot near the de Young and California Academy of Sciences museums, with an entrance on Fulton Street at 10th Avenue. 

There’s also plenty of street parking in the lower Haight area.

Local tip: If you park on the street, make sure you check the street signs and pay your meter — the SF parking crew is notorious for how quick they are to find and cite those who overstay their welcome.

When to visit Haight-Ashbury

The Haight has a few special events throughout the year.

Come during the second Sunday in June to experience the annual Haight-Ashbury Street Fair or in October to take part in Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free music festival that has featured the likes of Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. 

But no matter what time of year you make your trip, you’re sure to make memories and find a little something you’re excited to take home with you.

The authentic Haight-Ashbury experience

Ashbury-Haight Intersection

Whether you’re a bibliophile, a museum and architecture fan, a connoisseur of unique shopping and dining experiences, or an outdoorsy type who is willing to sweat a little for gorgeous views, you’re bound to fall in love with the Haight and all that it has to offer.  

With its rich history, vintage boutiques, chic restaurants, and famous parks, this neighborhood has something to offer everyone. 

Curious about other amazing San Francisco neighborhoods with lots of culture, food, and historical interest? Check out our guide to San Francisco’s Mission District.