City Guide

The Best Neighborhoods in San Diego

By Bri Hand | Feb 8, 2022
Aerial view of San Diego's stunning coastline and homes.

Thinking about moving to San Diego? Who can blame you! With more than 70 miles of scenic Pacific coastline, gorgeous inland terrain characterized by hills, valleys, and canyons, and a vibrant, thriving downtown, it’s the perfect location for anyone who wants big-city vibes and the great outdoors of Southern California. If you are looking for info about what it’s like to live here you can check our pros and cons article!

San Diego is home to more than 3 million people across more than 100 neighborhoods. Here are some of the best neighborhoods in San Diego: 

  • Gaslamp Quarter
  • Little Italy
  • La Jolla
  • Carlsbad Village
  • Mission Hills

Let’s get started!

1. Gaslamp Quarter 

If you’ve got your heart set on a neighborhood that imbues a quaint historical setting with the best big-city amenities, look no further than San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.

Affectionately known among locals as the “Gaslamp District,” the neighborhood is the self-described historic heart of San Diego, taking its name from the majestic 19th-century houses and other buildings that line its streets. 

You’ll never be bored living in the Gaslamp Quarter. This little corner of the city jams a lot of action into its approximately 16 blocks, such as: 

  • Food and dining: From traditional American fare to Middle Eastern cuisine, the Gaslamp Quarter has dining options to please any palate.
  • Groceries: Grocery stores, artisanal markets, and farmer’s markets mean grocery shopping in the Gaslamp Quarter is easy and convenient. 
  • Coffee shops: Grab coffee with friends in one of the Gaslamp Quarter’s charming local cafes or snag a quick joe-to-go from one of the nearby chains. Stop by SkyBound Coffee and Dessert Lounge for fresh pastries and custard. 
  • Outdoors and recreations: No matter where you are in the Gaslamp Quarter, you’re always within walking distance of the beach. What more can we say?
  • Nightlife and entertainment: Speakeasy-style lounges, top-tier bars, and trendy nightclubs characterize the Quarter’s nighttime scene. During the day, check out one of the neighborhood’s many museums. And, for live entertainment, there’s the Horton Grand Theater
  • Transportation: The neighborhood is cozy and convenient enough that most of its attractions are walkable. The professional class who make up most of the neighborhood’s residents appreciate the easy commute to the downtown business district. 

Condo and apartment living are the norm for the Quarter’s predominantly single- or two-person households. High-rise buildings are a big draw, offering spectacular views of the downtown in one direction and the San Diego Bay in another. 

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2. Little Italy

For a different take on downtown, consider San Diego’s Little Italy, unique among San Diego neighborhoods. This vibrant neighborhood is one of the city’s cultural touchstones and is a big attraction for residents and tourists alike.

You’ll love the pedestrian nature of this immensely walkable neighborhood, which adds to the area’s sense of community. And although you don’t need to stray far from its boundaries for all your daily needs, you can get to most other parts of downtown quickly and easily by trolley. Locals enjoy: 

  • Food and dining: Experimental and concept restaurants, farm-to-table eateries, and world-class breweries and wine bars are just some of the dining options Little Italy offers—plus some pretty good Italian cuisine, of course.
  • Groceries: Eating in? Little Italy provides easy access to grocery stores like The Market and even has its own neighborhood gourmet farmer’s market.
  • Coffee shops: When you need a caffeine fix, you’ll have your choice between luxury cafes, local roasters, and recognizable national brands. Influx Cafe offers a lineup of freshly baked bagels, baked goods, and sandwiches, alongside organic drip coffees. 
  • Outdoors and recreations: Little Italy’s proximity to the waterfront gives residents reason enough to get outdoors. The neighborhood’s Italian-style piazza, complete with a three-tiered fountain, is another popular outdoor spot.
  • Gym and fitness: From traditional gyms to pilates studios to indoor cycling, Little Italy’s got you covered, no matter how you work out. 
  • Nightlife and entertainment: Cultural events, trendy bars, and street festivals throughout the year are just some of the entertainment options Little Italy offers. Stop by False Idol for a vast selection of tropics-inspired craft cocktails—you can even take home your very own souvenir tiki mug!
  • Transportation: Trolley service provides a quick and easy way of getting to other parts of the city. 

3. La Jolla 

Prefer the serenity of the beach to the bustle of the city? San Diego’s La Jolla neighborhood is right on the water and is one of the city’s premier coastal communities. Its nationally recognized schools and beautiful homes make it an ideal location for families with children.

  • Food and dining: Authentic Mexican cuisine, world-class fine dining, and some of the freshest seafood imaginable set the tone for La Jolla’s dynamic food scene.
  • Groceries: From Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to local and ethnic options, there is no shortage of grocery stores in La Jolla. 
  • Coffee shops: Whether you’re looking for European-style roasters for an afternoon espresso or trendy coffee bars for gathering with friends, you’ll find it in La Jolla.
  • Outdoors and recreations: Water activities like swimming, surfing, and kayaking are popular ways of enjoying the outdoors in La Jolla. You can also explore the coast’s many caves and coves. 
  • Gym and fitness: From gyms to swimming to running along the beach, La Jolla offers many ways to stay fit. 
  • Transportation: You’ll most likely need a car to get around La Jolla quickly and easily, although there is some public bus service nearby.

That said, La Jolla might not be right for every budget. Its mostly single-family homes sell for millions of dollars, and renting there can cost about $2,000 per month on average. 

4. Carlsbad Village 

If luxury’s your thing, you’ll fit in right in living in Carlsbad Village. Combining the glamour of high-end shopping and fine dining with the serenity of the area’s natural mineral spas and scenic settings, it’s a SoCal oasis. 

Here’s just some of what Carlsbad has to offer:

  • Food and dining: From breweries to bistros, ethnic cuisine to American fare, and fine-dining to seaside shanties, Carlsbad is swimming in great dining options. 
  • Groceries: Fresh markets, gourmet markets, national chains, and local stores all have a strong presence in Carlsbad. Swing by State Street Farmers Market for fresh produce and hot food vendors every Wednesday.
  • Coffee shops: Coffee lovers will want for nothing living in Carlsbad. The neighborhood is teeming with a variety of coffee and tea shops, no matter your tastes. We love the Succulent Cafe!
  • Outdoors and recreations: Swim in the Pacific Ocean or hike any of the area’s many scenic trails like Calavera Lake or Annie’s Canyon Trail. Sprawling golf courses and idyllic retreats round out the outdoor offerings. 
  • Nightlife and entertainment: Carlsbad knows how to have a good time. Watch the game at a low-key sports bar, take in some live music, or sample some truly excellent craft cocktails. We recommend stopping by The Camp Store at the South Carlsbad State Beach Campground for a canned cocktail and the best sunset you’ll ever see!
  • Transportation: You’ll have the easiest time getting around in Carlsbad with a car. 

5. Mission Hills

For a residential feel that’s close to everything, consider Mission Hills. This charming neighborhood, epitomized by its Craftsman bungalows and Spanish Revival-style homes, features dazzling views of downtown San Diego and the Bay, as well as hills and canyons.

  • Food and dining: No matter what you have a taste for, you’ll find it in Mission Hills. Chicago-style pizza, New American eats, Mexican and Spanish cuisine, and even sushi are all widely available. 
  • Groceries: Local options, regional and national chains, and fresh markets will keep your Mission Hills cupboard stocked. 
  • Outdoors and recreations: Mission Hills is full of great hiking, canyons to explore, and public parks to relax in, including family-friendly Devonwood Park, Brand Park, and Mission Hills Park, an old cemetery and current tennis court locale. 
  • Gym and fitness: With a wealth of 24-hour gyms, personal trainers, CrossFit, and even Jazzercise options, Mission Hills is a great place to get moving.
  • Nightlife and entertainment: From billiard halls to dance clubs, dive bars to world-class wineries, there’s something for everyone in Mission Hills. Visit Starlite for its desert-chic atmosphere and local menu that changes daily. The neighborhood is also conveniently located close to to attractions like SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, and Fiesta Park Island. 
  • Transportation: In a car, Mission Hills is only a 10- to 15-minute drive to downtown San Diego. If you’re not in a hurry, public transportation is another option. 

Landing: When you’re ready to find home

With so much to do and see in San Diego, it’s a great city to explore. If we haven’t convinced you enough yet, check out the pros and cons of living in San Diego

At Landing, we’ve made it our mission to reshape the way we live in apartments. We’re doing that by simplifying the renting process—say goodbye to application fees and hefty security deposits. Simply fill out our member application, provide a little personal information, and start renting in San Diego. Finding a furnished apartment in San Diego doesn’t have to be a headache. Let Landing make it easy.

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.