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Best Neighborhoods in San Diego

Best Neighborhoods in San Diego

It is rare that you ever hear anyone talk about “bad” San Diego neighborhoods. You might even wonder if they exist. Well, before you just assume you can pack up, move here, and find a place anywhere, you may want to get acquainted with the neighborhoods first. The great thing about this vibrant city is the diversity when it comes to housing and communities. Comparing the neighborhoods will help you choose one most suited to your lifestyle and needs. Below are a few of the best neighborhoods in San Diego to get you started.

What is the Cost of Living?

The cost of living in San Diego is not quite as high as New York City, but it is higher than the national average. If the average is 100, San Diego is at 143. However, this is primarily for housing and education. Utilities are at 112 and food is 106. Going out will not cost you that much more than what you are likely already used to, as the city is only at about 103. There are always great food and drink specials to be found during happy hour. If you want to compare your current city to San Diego, Bankrate offers a fantastic free comparison tool.


Just north of Balboa Park, you will find this lively, colorful, diverse, and gay-friendly neighborhood. Hillcrest is often compared to places like Greenwich Village, Castro, and Vancouver’s West End. It is trendy, pedestrian-friendly, and boasts blocks of bars, restaurants, shops, services, and entertainment venues. Most businesses are locally owned too. Hotspots include Hash House A Go Go, Crest CafĂ©, the Alibi, Flashback, and Buffalo Exchange. This neighborhood is full of bungalows.

Mission Hills

Do you have a fondness for old architecture with a ton of character? Mission Hills is an upscale but laid back area with beautiful older homes. Larger than average homes line the winding hilltop streets of Mission Hills, with the landscaping of each new one you pass more intricately manicured than the last. This neighborhood is beautiful and classy, but not nearly as snooty as what you will find in La Jolla. Much of the architecture is old but has been nicely restored, and you will love that the houses are unique. You can tell the place was created long before builders started using three similar-looking cookie-cutter molds to create an entire neighborhood.


There are a lot of young families and professionals in Kensington, and nearly everyone has a dog. Seriously, your neighbors will learn your dog’s name first before even asking what your name is. Oh, and Kensington Pet Supply delivers! Everyone goes all out with Halloween decorations here, and at Christmas, there are a small festival, parade, and pictures with Santa. You will have a hard time finding a neighborhood more focused on community than Kensington.

University Heights

You will constantly hear people who live in University Heights say that their neighborhood is the best in all of San Diego. This is definitely a place where you will always feel safe, whether out for an evening jog or bike ride, or walking home from the corner bar. The location could not be better too, as you are minutes from Balboa Park, Hillcrest, and North Park. There are Whole Foods within walking distance of anywhere in the neighborhood, and there are some fantastic small restaurants and bars.

Little Italy

If you are looking for a charismatic neighborhood with beautiful churches, countless outdoor cafes, mouthwatering Italian restaurants, and a fantastic weekend farmers market, you have come to the right place. You can’t help but feel as though you really are in a different country here, and the vibrant community is welcoming, whether you speak Italian or not. On the downside, parking can be a drag, especially on weekends, but if you already live here, you will not have to drive to your favorite brunch space Sunday morning.

Normal Heights

This is an extremely walkable and affordable neighborhood. No matter where you live, you can easily walk to grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, pet stores, and the post office. There is a nice mix of houses and apartments for rent and purchase, including plenty of old ones with a ton of character. The nightlife is laid back and the crowd is a little more mature than what you find downtown. There is a hipster vibe here, which you may love or hate.
It is really hard to narrow down all the great neighborhoods to one list. Of course, downtown San Diego gets an honorable mention. You may also want to consider North Park, City Heights, Golden Hill, and Ocean Beach. Famished from apartment searching, stop by a sushi and sake spots in San Diego to satisfy your belly. Our favorites are Zenbu Sushi, Nobu, & Tajima.

To help you with your move, here are the best moving companies in San Diego.

About the author

Unpakt Team