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With over 10,000 places to get a drink, you should be able to easily find your way into a San Francisco watering-hole. The majority of the city’s historic bars are clustered around North Beach and Chinatown; here you will find (as discussed earlier in this guide) the old haunts of intellectuals and celebrities such as Tosca Cafe (featuring a opera jukebox and “house” cappuccino with brandy), Vesuivo Café (haunt of the Beat poets), Li Po Cocktail Lounge (a 50’s dive bar in Chinatown) and The Saloon (the oldest bar in town, circa 1886).
While the aforementioned bars are great for getting a drink and soaking up atmosphere, if you want to see today’s movers and shakers in San Francisco, you will have to head elsewhere in the city. For a great happy-hour on the water, try Americano Restaurant and Bar on the Embarcadero at Market St. and then stop by The Redwood Room of the Clift Hotel for an stylish scene that caters to the jet-set crowd and occasional movie star. In the Mission District, two classy bars that cater to the young and restless are Medjool (2522 Mission St.) – which features a rooftop bar with stunning city views; and, Levende Lounge (1710 Mission St.) an intimate setting with exotic cocktails. The Marina, however, is where you will find the swankiest singles scene in the city; stop by the Balbo Café or Matrix (both on Fillmore near Union St.) to see the San Francisco’s socialites hard at work.
Finally, for bohemian bars and unique places to get a drink, there is no better place than the Mission. Stop by the Beauty Bar (Mission and 19th St.) to get a manicure with your martini before 10pm, head to The Make-Out Room (Mission and 22nd) for a punk show, and end up at the Oxygen Bar at 795 Valencia St. for some aromatherapy.
No matter your preference in music, fashion or lifestyle, San Francisco has a place for you let loose. While bars/cafes can be found in all neighborhoods, clubs are to be found in specific locations within the city. If you are interested in large, multi-level dance clubs that are open until the early hours of the morning, South of Market (SoMa) is the neighborhood for you. Head to Ten15 Folsom (club name and address are the same) for world-famous DJs and a mind-blowing sound/light system. Five blocks down Folsom St. you will find several clubs located on 11th St., including the DNA Lounge, a well regarded establishment owned by the co-founder of Netscape. Two more dance clubs that are worth the cover (most charge $10-$20) are Ruby Skye – a plush converted theater at 420 Mason Street in Union Square – and very trendy Dolce - located at 440 Broadway in North Beach.
If you are looking to get away from the mega dancehalls of SoMa/downtown, head into San Francisco’s Mission or Castro neighborhoods for distinct club scenes. Salsa and Latin dance are alive and well in the Mission; head to Roccapulco (3140 Mission St. at Cesar Chaves) to see live salsa bands and impressive couples on the dance floor or down the street to El Rio for free belly dancing lessons and cervezas on a large outdoor patio. And if you are interested in checking out the alternative/gay club scene, the Castro is definitely the best place to start. Offering a large array of options and a lively atmosphere along Market Street, this neighborhood is a world-famous destination for visitors to San Francisco.