ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Travel Guide to San Francisco Neighborhoods: the Castro District

Updated on June 1, 2014

The SF Castro District

The Castro, officially known as Eureka Valley, is one of the largest and most well-known LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) communities in the world. If you want to leave San Francisco with a complete picture of the city, the Castro is definitely a must-see.

Ah, yes - the rainbow flags of the Castro.
Ah, yes - the rainbow flags of the Castro. | Source

Castro Events, Festivals, and Historical Tours

Bordered by Market Street on the northwest, 22nd Street in the south, and Church Street in the east, most of the district’s streets are decorated with rainbow flags (a symbol of LGBT pride), and homosexual couples can often be seen walking in the streets.

As a center for LGBT spirit worldwide, the Castro hosts several very popular events, such as the Castro Street Fair in late October and the San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade, which takes place on the last Sunday in June. When these events roll around, the Castro becomes very lively and very crowded, so plan schedules according to whether you want to be in the crowd or not.

If you’re interested in the history of the Castro (and there’s rich history behind this district), I’d say the most complete option would be a tour. My suggestions would be San Fran City Guide’s tour “Castro: Tales of the Village” (a free two-hour tour that operates most Saturdays, Sundays, and Tuesdays) and “Cruisin’ the Castro”, which is available on weekdays for a fairly reasonable price. More details on tours can be found on their respective websites: and

An additional bonus of these tours is that they can direct you to great attractions, like the GLBT History Museum (4127 18th St.) or the Castro Theater (429 Castro St.). Because the Castro Theater is often mentioned in guides, I’ll use a couple of sentences to cover it. I don’t often enjoy San Francisco’s “destinations”, mostly because (no offense!) they're often swarming with tourists. However, the Castro Theater should definitely not be missed by any thorough visitor. Complete with red velvet seats and an organ player to entertain before the movie, this beautifully maintained theater makes for a great experience. Even if you don’t plan on spending too long in the Castro, consider paying this spot a visit. Please bear in mind that, like many places in the Castro and in the city generally, this theater is cash only.

I'm a vegan (hey, it's SF!), but I've been told that the Castro has some great burgers.
I'm a vegan (hey, it's SF!), but I've been told that the Castro has some great burgers. | Source
The Hot Cookie Bakery in the Castro.
The Hot Cookie Bakery in the Castro. | Source

Food in the Castro

Now onto my favorite subject: food! The Castro has only relatively recently become home to restaurants beyond bars and pizza, but I do have a couple of personal favorites. For a complete breakfast or a casual lunch, I suggest the Cove on Castro Café (434 Castro St.), a mom-and-pop vibe all-American diner that offers a great view of Castro Street and an extremely welcoming staff. This is the place to be if you’re looking for the locals and are happier away from the noise.

Lime (2247 Market St.) is a daytime party spot and is a great place for all-night-then-all-day partiers and people-watchers. The LookOut (3600 16th St.) is first and foremost a gay bar, but before 5 p.m. it’s a great place to people-watch. A warning to non-partiers, however: after 5, it can get wild and the place is always pretty lively.

This district also has some incredible options for sweet tooths. The Hot Cookie Bakery (407 Castro St.) is a widely acknowledged SF establishment, famous for its racy penis macaroons, though there’s plenty there for those who’d rather not eat a phallus as well. The cookies are fresh baked and absolutely delicious. The place only accepts cash and is quite small, so keep your eyes peeled when looking for it.

An equally great and far less racy place to get some sugar is Sweet Inspiration (2239 Market St.). The staff is usually very friendly, and the huge display of desserts is overwhelming in the best way. The cakes there are fabulous, and the gelato is decent as well.

Castro / San Francisco Souvenirs and Keepsakes

Looking for souvenirs? The gift shop Under One Roof (518A Castro St.) should definitely not be missed. This shop has the usual Castro gift shop rainbow-colored flags and such, but it also stocks extremely unique items that I doubt you’ll see anywhere else. Part of the merchandise is donated and all of it is fairly priced, though it’s hard to complain about giving a little extra seeing as 100% of the proceeds go to AIDS foundations. If you’re looking for something to remember San Francisco by, I would suggest paying this shop a visit.

A quick note on taking memories with you: some locals, especially in the Castro, aren’t huge fans of tourists taking photos of them or their homes. If you’re an avid photographer, please either ask permission or take pictures as unobtrusively as possible. Standing in the middle of the sidewalk and snapping pictures of couples taking their daily walk will likely earn you some annoyed frowns.

This is actually a shot of the Castro Theater, because I wasn't able to find pictures of any of the actual bars. Will update soon!
This is actually a shot of the Castro Theater, because I wasn't able to find pictures of any of the actual bars. Will update soon! | Source

Nightlife in the Castro

A better way to remember the Castro might be from one of the district’s many bars and clubs. Note to hardcore partiers: my suggestions are generally for those who are just looking for a drink and a bit of a fun night out. Serious clubbers might want to check out The Café (2369 Market St.), but beware! The Café has a reputation among SF locals of being extremely wild, even by the standards of the Castro.

For those looking for a taste of the Castro but in a more relaxed way, I suggest Blackbird (2124 Market St.) The drinks are delicious, the crowds are quite diverse by the standards of the Castro (On any given night, there will be at least a couple of straight guys and gals there.), and the staff is generally helpful and friendly.

Another good place to try is the Twin Peaks Tavern (401 Castro St.). Though its older crowd has earned it the nickname “the Glass Coffin”, this is one of the few bars in the Castro that comes without endless Britney Spears remixes and dance-offs. Castro visitors be warned: that’s only half a joke! This bar is much more relaxing and laid-back than most of the Castro; a good place for visitors just looking for a fairly stiff drink and mellow conversation with the locals.

Final Neighborhood Notes: Transportation

One final note on visiting the Castro: do not drive. Parking is difficult to come by anywhere in the city, but in the Castro it’s close to impossible to find. The Castro is well connected by the Muni lines to Downtown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Haight Ashbury. Additionally, the F-line historic street cars run six miles from the Castro all the way down to the Wharves. I recommend them as a great way to get a brief overview of districts and landmarks.

This was just a brief overview of what San Francisco’s Castro district has to offer. Though it’s not one of the more popular SF tourist destinations (see Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown), this unique community is an essential part of San Francisco’s culture. Have a great time exploring the Castro!

Where to find the Castro

The Castro:
Castro, San Francisco, CA, USA

get directions

Come and visit this awesome district!


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)