This quaint neighborhood perched atop a hill at the southern edge of the Mission Valley has a small-town feel that attracts artists, progressives, and young families seeking a first home. The area is also popular with dog owners, thanks to the neighborhood’s many off-leash outdoor spaces and single-family houses with yards. Many residents have lived here for years, enjoying the beautifully landscaped public stairways that crisscross the hill and the plentiful outdoor gathering spots like Holly Park, Precita Park, and Bernal Hill Park, which is at the center of the neighborhood and offers spectacular views. 

The homes here range from Victorian structures to mid-century dwellings and cozy bungalows, many of them continuing to be revived by a booming real estate market. The main commercial drag is Cortland Avenue, which is lined with small markets, cafes, and fruit stands, as well as trendy boutiques and innovative new restaurants. Also nearby is a stretch of Mission Street whose diverse eateries and hip bars make for a lively night out. Community spirit is strong in Bernal Heights, which is home to events such as Fiesta on the Hill, Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema, and the Hillwide Garage Sale. Many residents drive to work, taking advantage of the easy highway access and generally good parking, but several bus lines do cross the neighborhood at various points. ©2016 Maryann LoRusso

A vibrant mural, complete with a quote by singer/songwriter/social activist Holly Near, adorns the front of the Bernal Heights Public Library.

A vibrant mural, complete with a quote by singer/songwriter/social activist Holly Near, adorns the front of the Bernal Heights Public Library.

Kids love the butterfly garden and colorful, gated playground at Precita Park.

Kids love the butterfly garden and colorful, gated playground at Precita Park.

One of the city’s oldest green spaces, the renovated Holly Park features a colorful playground, picnic areas, basketball and tennis courts, and spectacular views.

One of the city’s oldest green spaces, the renovated Holly Park features a colorful playground, picnic areas, basketball and tennis courts, and spectacular views.

Good Life Grocery sells environmentally conscious products and shade-grown coffee beans, but it does also have a great butcher’s counter.

Good Life Grocery sells environmentally conscious products and shade-grown coffee beans, but it does also have a great butcher’s counter.

With its fireplace and laid-back atmosphere, Progressive Grounds is a perfect place to linger when the fog rolls in.

With its fireplace and laid-back atmosphere, Progressive Grounds is a perfect place to linger when the fog rolls in.

The Old Clam House is the city’s oldest restaurant, serving seafood in the same location since 1861 and surviving San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

The Old Clam House is the city’s oldest restaurant, serving seafood in the same location since 1861 and surviving San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

Held on Saturday mornings, the historic Alemany Farmers Market has operated in its current location since 1947.

Held on Saturday mornings, the historic Alemany Farmers Market has operated in its current location since 1947.

The Alemany Flea Market is a place to discover hidden treasures.

The Alemany Flea Market is a place to discover hidden treasures.

The relaxed, quirky Blue Plate restaurant is consistently praised for its adventurous combinations of fresh, seasonal ingredients.

The relaxed, quirky Blue Plate restaurant is consistently praised for its adventurous combinations of fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Owned by the former pastry chef of Slanted Door, Sandbox Bakery serves up delicious baked goods, including kid-sized sweets. 

Owned by the former pastry chef of Slanted Door, Sandbox Bakery serves up delicious baked goods, including kid-sized sweets.