San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood echoes back to the city’s Spanish roots. Its wide avenues are lined with taquerias, pupuserias and single stall markets selling fresh produce. Here you will find Salvadoran bakeries tucked up against wire-transfer shops busy with locals sending money back home in Central and South America. The Mission hasn’t strayed too far from its Spanish roots, today being the home to San Francisco’s Central American and Mexican families – who have largely called the neighborhood home since the 1950s.

The neighborhood is also popular with young college graduates, activists, artists and generally anyone who leans towards a more ‘alternative’ lifestyle. If you look hard enough, you may even catch a glimpse of the slow gentrification that is happening thanks to the DotCom boom – just look for the trendy restaurants and stylish boutiques. Mix it all together and you get the Mission of today: a unique mix of people, history and tastes that give this San Francisco neighborhood its unique, one-of-a-kind vibe.

Where it’s At

The Mission is spread over several sub-neighborhoods and includes the stretch from Dolores Street to Valencia. The area around 16th and Valencia streets is full of nightlife, while the Bryant Street area is the spot for trendy dinning.

What to See

At the heart of the neighborhood is Dolores Park, where one can enjoy a game of tennis or soccer or, in the upper half, take in the views of the city and East Bay. The Mission Dolores, next to an ornate Spanish-style basilica, is a historic adobe chapel that is one of the city’s oldest standing buildings. To get a taste of the areas artsy side, swing by the 826 Valencia Writing Project. Set up by Dave Eggers, it provides an educational work space for kids and teens looking to improve their writing skills.

Where to Eat

For some Caribbean fare, try Boogaloos (3296 22nd St), best known for its weekend brunch and its 1970s lava lamp décor. Café Ethiopia (878 Valencia St) serves as a good introduction to eating Ethiopian and has a diverse vegetarian menu (although the food is rather tame when it comes to spices). To get a real taste of the Mission spirit, try La Taqueria (2889 Mission st). The crowded and loud taqueria is the place for tacos and burritos.