Don’t let the tourists fool you. This neighborhood may be bustling with year-round excitement, from the clanging of cable cars to the hordes of people taking photos near the famous Union Square. But the area’s striking architecture, premier outdoor spaces, and world-class shopping, dining, and entertainment also make downtown a great place to live, particularly if you work here among the towering buildings.

On these busy city blocks you’ll find an assortment of apartments and flats—many with stunning cosmopolitan views—as well as some single-family dwellings in a range of architectural styles. Surrounded by musical theaters, fine dining venues, art galleries, and some of the world’s best shopping, there’s never a dull moment downtown. Getting around here is a breeze, too, as the cable cars and several public transportation lines make it highly accessible to other parts of San Francisco. Since there is so much to see and do in this neighborhood, walking is also a great option any day. ©2016 Maryann LoRusso

Formerly part of the city’s Red Light district, Maiden Lane is now home to high-end boutiques and art galleries. 

Formerly part of the city’s Red Light district, Maiden Lane is now home to high-end boutiques and art galleries. 

Many acclaimed productions are held at the Curran Theatre.

Many acclaimed productions are held at the Curran Theatre.

The Westin St. Francis Hotel was built in 1904 by the trustees of the estate of Charles Crocker, one of the “Big Four” railroad magnates.

The Westin St. Francis Hotel was built in 1904 by the trustees of the estate of Charles Crocker, one of the “Big Four” railroad magnates.

Cable cars that run along Powell Street are a San Francisco institution.

Cable cars that run along Powell Street are a San Francisco institution.

The Xanadu Gallery on Maiden Lane is San Francisco’s only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building.

The Xanadu Gallery on Maiden Lane is San Francisco’s only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building.

The Crocker Galleria is home to a couple of cozy rooftop parks, perfect for taking a lunch or coffee break.

The Crocker Galleria is home to a couple of cozy rooftop parks, perfect for taking a lunch or coffee break.

Neiman Marcus is famous for its stained-glass, domed ceiling.

Neiman Marcus is famous for its stained-glass, domed ceiling.

A great gathering place in the heart of the downtown area, Union Square is a 2.6-acre public plaza bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Streets.

A great gathering place in the heart of the downtown area, Union Square is a 2.6-acre public plaza bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Streets.

At the holidays, Union Square comes alive with a skating rink and a holiday tree.

At the holidays, Union Square comes alive with a skating rink and a holiday tree.

The Banana Republic store on Sutter Street is the company’s flagship.

The Banana Republic store on Sutter Street is the company’s flagship.

The Westfield Mall features a Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and dozens of specialty shops and eateries.

The Westfield Mall features a Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and dozens of specialty shops and eateries.

Farallon, an upscale eatery with a raw bar and an undersea-themed décor, is one of many wonderful restaurants in Union Square.

Farallon, an upscale eatery with a raw bar and an undersea-themed décor, is one of many wonderful restaurants in Union Square.