Top 10 Things To Do And See In The Excelsior District Of San Francisco

Photo of Dito Rayskiy
9 February 2017

From one of the greatest views of San Francisco to authentic local food, from the community that thrives on diversity and rich history to outstanding street art, there’s much to enjoy. The city by the bay gave birth to one of the oldest neighborhoods: the Excelsior district. Founded in 1869, this place is the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in San Francisco. Let us help you to explore one of the true hidden gems of San Francisco.

John McLaren Park

Map View
John McLaren Park, San Francisco
John McLaren Park, San Francisco | © Simopala/Flickr
As the second largest park in the city, John McLaren Park is a hidden gem of San Francisco. It’s a perfect place for picnicking, hiking or walking the dog. It has a playground for kids and two courts for tennis and basketball (though they’re always full on the weekends). Dog lovers: there is a dog lake. In the northeast of the park, there is Yosemite Marsh, which is regarded as a significant natural resource area. It’s highly recommended to bring a camera to capture the stunning views of the city and nature.

The Blue Tower Of Excelsior

This giant tower sits above all in John McLaren Park, and it captures a stunning view of the city. It is also known as La Grande Tank, which serves as water for drinking and fire protection. In the evening, a lot of people come to the tower to enjoy the sunset and the view of the city. Early morning is the best time to go up there while the city is still sleeping, as you have the amazing opportunity to witness it and think in blissful solitude.

John McLaren Park, 100 John F. Shelley Drive, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 831 2700

Steven’s Books

This bookstore has a big variety of books of all genres, with an especially impressive section for kids. It is surprising to discover this many books in such a small store, which can’t be found anywhere else. The owner is great. If the book you are looking for isn’t listed, make sure to ask the owner, and he will gladly order it for you. They are now building a new section at Steven’s Books, which is exciting news for every book lover. This bookstore will continue to thrive in the digital age.

Steven’s Books, 49 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 859 5371

The Hunting Flea Market

San Francisco has a huge amount of antique stores all over the city. However, the best way to find free, authentic things for apartment decoration is by finding it on the streets. Walk on streets such as London, Paris, Vienna, Naples, Madrid or Edinburgh (basically the world map) to find free furniture, paintings, hardware, or if you are lucky something special to make the whole place cozy. They say: ‘You haven’t truly lived in San Francisco, unless you decorated your apartment with the stuff you found on the streets’.

Excelsior Murals

In the heart of the neighborhood, it’s easy to notice famous Excelsior Murals on the buildings, schools or parks. Talented artists, who perfectly capture the dynamics of the neighborhood, represent the vibrant ethnic diversity of the place. One of the most famous murals – Excelsior Portal – is a combination of work of 200 neighbors and students from the Excelsior District. It can be found on the bridge over Highway 280 and Alemany Boulevard. The more you walk, the more you discover.

© Bruce Reyes-Chow/Flickr

Taqueria Guadalajara

Eat a breakfast burrito at 2 AM and make sure to ask for an extra egg. The Taqueria Guadalajara of Excelsior is one place in San Francisco where authentic Mexican food can be found. The owners offer two different options: eat inside (there are plenty of tables) or call in advance and pick it up. They always provide a giant basket of chips with every order. The orange juice is made right in front of you, as are the salsas. The best thing about this place is that it’s open until 3 AM on Fridays and Saturdays.

Taqueria Guadalajara, 4798 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 469 5480

Pupuseria Metapan

This cozy and family-owned Salvadorian restaurant has a variety of traditional Salvadorian cuisine. Metapan‘s famous pupusas are only $2, so if you are craving a pupusa, this is the right place to go. Service is fast and great, and traditional music makes this place seem like a mini version of El Salvador. Funny fact – teenagers go there to challenge each other how many pupusas they can eat. If you want to try something different, the Salvadorian hen soup is the best remedy for a cold.

Pupuseria Metapan, 4769 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 587 8599

The Broken Record

Some say that the Excelsior’s nightlife is pretty boring. Whoever believes this must be surprised to find out that there is The Broken Record, which has a spacious patio, all-day brunch on Sundays, and endless PBR and bingo on Tuesdays. It’s not a typical dive bar; it’s highly recommended to go there with group of friends to enjoy the drinks and grab a bite, all while listening some good old music. The Broken Record is cash only.

The Broken Record, 1166 Geneva Avenue, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 963 1713

Good Orchard Bakery

Bakery, Dim Sum
Map View
Excelsior | © Eric Heath/Flickr
Excelsior’s residents usually start their days early at 6 AM. The best way to start a day is with a cup of coffee or tea with traditional raisin buns from Good Orchard Bakery, where reasonable prices and quick service are guaranteed. One of the best shu mai can be found is in this small bakery, so you won’t need to go to Chinatown. Their famous sponge cakes are so tender and sweet that you have to be ready to grab them the moment they are displayed, because they most certainly will disappear within 5 minutes – that’s how delicious they are.

Explore, Explore and Explore

This neighborhood has always something to offer. Just by walking around, you can discover a new store with fresh food, or you can accidentally run into a band playing on the streets. Travel around the world while jumping from Persia Avenue to France Avenue, and then head to Munich, Italy, or Lisbon; the miniature world within 3.5 km will always find a way to surprise its residents. Every street and shop is a reminder of Excelsior’s rich history.