Castro, the epicenter of gay life in arguably one of the friendliest cities in the USA, is an unusual, yet unmissable experience. Well served by public transport, this gay district is situated...
Castro, the epicenter of gay life in arguably one of the friendliest cities in the USA, is an unusual, yet unmissable experience. Well served by public transport, this gay district is situated around Market Street, the main artery of San Francisco.
Castro is recognizable by the countless rainbow flags lining the streets and blocks. At the entry to this gay area flies a huge rainbow flag on Harvey Milk Plaza. The tone is set.
Not far from here, at 429 Castro Street, sits the famous Castro Theatre. Its rich, Spanish Baroque-style façade is an emblematic symbol of the district, as is the Human Rights Campaign Store, based in Harvey Milk's old house (575 Market Street).
The Castro is typical of San Francisco with its steep streets and flamboyantly-colored Victorian houses. The people are warm and friendly and the storekeepers happy to have you.
Castro: culture and craziness
In walking through the area, be sure to not miss the famous blue house (maison bleue), idolized in the song bearing the city’s name by Maxime Le Forestier (3841 18th Street). On the same street, 10 minutes away by foot, is the GLBT History Museum (4127 18th Street). Thanks to its rich content (manuscripts, objects, video archives, photos, posters…) it traces the American history of LGBT, specifically that of the San Francisco community.
Walking around the Castro, you'll encounter so many colorful characters, and get a real feel for the special ambiance San Francisco's gay area offers. The key words here are liberty, respect, and acceptance. Well, actually, speaking of liberty, since November 2012, it's illegal to walk the streets naked... however, don’t be surprised to see men walking about proudly in their jockstraps!
Shopping and fitness
Being San Francisco's gay district, Castro is full of exclusively gay shops, such as Does Your Mother Know (4141 18th Street), and lots of queer clothing stores. A number of restaurants, such as Frances (3878 17th Street), offer local and fresh products, or if you prefer to eat on the go, food trucks line the streets.
If you feel guilty afterwards, you can hit the gym (or the spa) at Fitness SF Castro (2301 Market Street), one of the largest gyms in the neighborhood. Once you’ve regained your strength, it's time to make way to the numerous gay bars and clubs of San Francisco, where there's something for everyone. Moby Dick (4049 18th Street) is great if you want to quietly enjoy your beer. Alternatively, sports bar Hi Tops is rammed at the weekends (2247 Market Street).
Frisco fairs and fresh air!
Every Sunday in October, the Castro Street Fair takes place. The neighborhood comes alive with live shows, DJs, artists, performances, dancers, street vendors, charities and onlookers alike, coming together to celebrate. Don’t miss it if you’re around during this period.
Finally, make your way to Dolores Park, where gays, hippies, and tourists enjoy the breathtaking view of San Francisco. If the weather's sunny and warm, come relax with a ‘coconut with rum’ and - if you dare - try a ‘space cookie’ on sale in the park. Sit back and let the ‘magic’ happen!
If you want to go even higher, make your way to Twin Peaks, located at the foot of the Castro (Twin Peaks Boulevard). These famous twin ‘hills’ are one of the highest points in the city, where you can fully admire the San Francisco Bay Area.