Downtown San Diego is more than just a collection of streets and tall buildings – it’s a community. And if you look closely enough, you’ll find that unique neighborhoods make up the social identity of this city. Cortez, East Village. Columbia District, City Center, Gaslamp Quarter, Marina and Little Italy strike a fine balance of possessing a unique flavor that contributes to the cohesive whole that is Downtown.
Whether you’re newly exploring the Downtown scene, or you’re looking to get other than your own, start your journey into the what and where of the happenings in Downtown’s neighborhoods!
One of Downtown's oldest residential neighborhoods.
The history and charm of Cortez Hill offer a unique appeal to residential living Downtown. This cozy urban neighborhood boasts beautiful views of Balboa Park, the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Cortez Hill is Downtown's connection to our urban core. Residents can discover that perfect work-life balance by grabbing a cup of joe at Achilles Coffee in the morning before heading to work at one of San Diego's many growing businesses.
Don’t miss out on these neighborhood gems:
Achilles Coffee Roasters is a small, independently owned coffee roaster located in San Diego, California. We source responsibly grown beans from Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, and Indonesia.
Achilles Coffee Roasters offers a variety of craft coffees, from light roast Ethiopian to the bold signature Gaslamp Blend, there is an offering for every palette. Live edge California Walnut counters and lots of natural light offer a comfortable relaxed atmosphere in Cortez Hill to enjoy great coffee. Our lounge with free WiFi offers a great escape from work at home or the office.
Soleluna Cafe is the result of the passion for an authentic Italian restaurant experience.
At Soleluna, they combine the true tastes of Italy with a “home away from home” atmosphere focused on casual elegance from sunrise to sunset. They offer a great Italian traditional homemade cuisine, friendly service, and a cool ambiance.
Cocina 35 is dedicated to bring you the essence of MEXICO, the flavors, aromas, and textures that were given to them, growing up cooking right next to their grandparents in MEXICO.
Tweet Street Park
Tweet Street ill was more than 15 years in the making, but it’s a new bright spot in San Diego’s Cortez Hill neighborhood. It was named in honor of the avian artwork perched atop colorful poles: birdhouses created as part of a public art competition aimed at attracting native birds back to the neighborhood.
Downtown's urban hub.
With more than 700 businesses calling East Village home, the neighborhood is crafted by entrepreneurs, makers and artists who redefine the norm. Experience the recent transformation that East Village has undergone—from gritty, industrial warehouses to an urban playground, filled with hip new bars, boutique galleries, restaurants, and nightlife. The rise of Petco Park and the Central Library have catalyzed community growth and encouraged innovative thinking. Maker's Quarter and UC San Diego Urban are building off this movement toward human-centered design.
Check out some of our favorite places below:
Copa Vida’s goal and vision is to be a cafe that is approachable and welcoming, authentic and transparent, and an engaged member of the local and global community. New to San Diego, and hailing from Pasadena, this crew has found a special place in the heart of Downtown San Diegans.
Downtown Central Library
The new San Diego Central Library is a beautiful new facility in East Village that houses a wide variety of books, and literature, a high school, frequent and free community events, as well as Comic-con themed parties. There’s always something to do at the library!
Mission Brewery was originally established in 1913. The brewery, like most breweries of the time, went out of business during the first year of Prohibition. In 2007, Dan Selis, an avid homebrewer, re-established the brand and eventually relocated the manufacturing and the tasting room to Downtown San Diego in the Historic Wonder Bread Building in the East Village.
Rare Form is modern-day European deli that is part of a cool dual-concept venue which includes a rooftop bar called Fairweather. Perhaps start at Rare Form to enjoy classic butcher shop items including pates, terrines, sandwiches with house-cured meats, in addition to the likes of matzo ball soup.
Cafe Chloe is a cozy, urban neighborhood cafe located in San Diego’s hip East Village which serves an award-winning menu of updated bistro classics alongside gourmet coffee, tea and boutique wines. Open all day, this jewel box of a cafe offers a variety of enjoyable experiences. Join the locals in our convivial, sunny dining room to linger over breakfast or lunch, then come for a candlelit dinner and watch the world go by from our charming sidewalk patio.
The Mission concept specializes in simple, healthy, tasty food with a whimsical edge and a focus on artful presentation at an affordable price. By focusing on the use of simple and fresh ingredients, this vibrant urban bistro promotes living in an increasingly health-conscious world.
Located steps away from Petco Park, The Blind Burro is owned and operated by Good Time Design in San Diego. The Blind Burro specializes in baja coastal cuisine using local and sustainable seafood and produce when possible. Think grilled fish, chicken and shrimp with a Mexican and Baja inspired twist.
At the heart of our waterfront:
The Columbia District is home to the city’s finest art, historic architecture and urban transportation - a place where you can fully experience the downtown lifestyle. Located among its luxury condos are some of downtown’s trendiest spots. Get your sweat on at Pure Studio or Elevate Training, build your startup at one of the many new coworking spaces, and then snag a show after work at the trendy new music venue, Music Box.
Music Box is the premier concert venue and event space in downtown San Diego. Situated in Little Italy, their venue features a diverse array of talented performers, including nationally celebrated artists, local legends, and up-and-coming acts. The tri-level site boasts audiophile-quality acoustics, locally sourced food menus, and spacious floor plans. Founded in the tradition of legendary venues such as the Fillmore in San Francisco, and the Palladium, El Rey, and Wiltern in Los Angeles, they are truly unique among San Diego nightlife destinations.
Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Back in the mid-1980s, San Diego was void of the thriving beer scene it has today. In fact, the city had not seen fresh beer since Prohibition, and the term “craft beer” didn’t exist. But that wasn’t going to stop Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner; two college buddies eager to change the status quo. Inspired by a brewpub Chris came upon while traveling through Australia, the pair had a dream: bring local, handcrafted beer back to San Diego.
Carnitas Snack Shack
In 2011, Chef Hanis Cavin and Sara Stroud opened Carnitas’ Snack Shack, their first joint venture in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego. The “Snack Shack,” as it’s affectionately called, serves up thoughtfully-sourced, pork- centric American cuisine and local craft beers in a fun, no-fuss environment.
Museum of Contemporary Art
At MCASD in Downtown, experience contemporary art in a historic setting – the Jacobs Building, formerly the Santa Fe Depot baggage building – and a view site-specific installation by artist Richard Serra. MCASD provides an unprecedented variety of exhibition spaces and experiences for the community, showcasing an internationally recognized collection and a dynamic schedule of exhibitions and public programs.
Food Truck Wednesday
We know that finding the right bite for lunch is crucial for getting you through the day. Each Wednesday you can find a line of food trucks offering some of San Diego’s most diverse selection of street eats lining B Street down to India Street.
Santa Fe Depot
The Santa Fe Depot in San Diego, California is a union station built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway to replace the small Victorian-style structure erected in 1887 for the California Southern Railroad Company. Currently occupied and serviced by Amtrak and our San Diego Trolley system.
Stone Brewing has come a long way since opening in 1996. They have grown from a small microbrewery with just two founders into one of the largest craft breweries in the United States, employing more than 1,100 amazing men and women. From the beginning, their goal has been to brew outstanding, unique beers while maintaining an unwavering commitment to sustainability, business ethics, and the art of brewing.
The heart of Downtown.
City Center is the economic engine that drives it all. A hub of business activity and neighborhood life, City Center is also home to many rooftop patios and sunny plazas for lunch meetings or happy hours.
San Diego Civic Theatre
San Diego Theatres enriches the region through exceptional performing arts and education experiences, fosters collaboration in the arts community, and serves as a catalyst for economic development of a Downtown Arts District.
Donut Bar is listed as the Number 1 Donut Shop on lists from USA Today, Thrillist.com, MSN and many other nationally acclaimed news organizations and blogs. San Diego Magazine has also honored us with consecutive annual Best of San Diego awards for Best Critics’ Choice and Readers’ Choice.
House of Blues
The House of Blues grew out of founder Isaac Tigrett’s love for the unique American art form known as the “the Blues”. Weaned on this music during his early childhood in Tennessee, one of Isaac’s goals was to introduce the world to the music of the rural south, including the Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Jazz and Roots-based Rock & Roll.
WestBean Coffee Roasters
By respecting the overall process and how the green coffee made it into our hands, we make it our responsibility to explore each varietal by diving deeper and deeper into the intricacies of the roasting process. It is only when the coffee is skillfully roasted, that it has a chance to be prepared at the highest level, crafting a great cup. To us a cup of black coffee is colorful and complex in its own way. At the WestBean we let our craft speak for itself.
Yoga One offers a variety of yoga styles & levels in a welcoming, safe and non-competitive environment. All of our classes are led by experienced and inspiring instructors, providing a balance of alignment, breath & present moment awareness. We look forward to sharing the joys and benefits of yoga with you.
San Diego Symphony
Historic Copley Symphony Hall inside the Jacobs Music Center, home of the San Diego Symphony, is regarded as one of the finest classical music venues on the West Coast. The beauty and majesty of this historic hall has added to the stature and artistic growth of San Diego Symphony Orchestra.
The West Coast’s premier entertainment district.
Guests can immerse themselves in our rich Victorian architecture and history, dine with world-renowned chefs, and dance the night away at nationally-recognized nightlife venues. Tucked tightly into 16 ½ blocks, the Gaslamp Quarter is a walkable urban playground located in Downtown San Diego adjacent to the East Village residential area and downtown's Civic Core. Gaslamp's centrality makes it the perfect place for San Diegans in any neighborhood to unwind or grab a bite to eat before heading to a Padres game at Petco Park or catching a show at Spreckles Theatre.
Horton Plaza Park is located next door to Westfield Horton Plaza shopping center, at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Broadway. Horton Plaza Park is one of San Diego’s newest and most exciting outdoor venues. Events occur year-round including concerts, cultural performances, and other live entertainment.
The Balboa Theatre is a historic vaudeville/movie theatre in downtown San Diego, US, built in 1924. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Balboa was refurbished and reopened as a performing arts venue in 2008.
At Café 21, it’s always happy hour! They’re serving up brunch, dinner and a complete line of craft cocktails every day of the week. As one of the most innovative restaurants in the Gaslamp District and University Heights, they’re committed to changing the way their customers think about food. If you’re looking for a delicious, gluten free & organic restaurant in San Diego, then you’ve found the right place.
Rustic Root showcases a dynamic rustic American cuisine where dishes are rooted in tradition yet have an inventive modern flare. Our signature drink menu concentrates on timeless and iconic classics, with creative options for playful drinkers like their craft cocktail shots – sip-size versions of the classics finished with curated garnishes.
The Werewolf is your one stop shop for good drinks, great eats, and karaoke! Located between Horton Plaza and Market Street, there’s so much to do and so much to see.
Barleymash is the fun, high-energy downtown restaurant and bar that celebrates the richness of American culture through its appetizing and progressive bar fare. Both the restaurant philosophy and menu offerings draw heavily from two barroom staples: beer and bourbon. The name, in fact, refers to the typical grain mixture used in the brewing and distillation process of both beer and bourbon. What results from this pairing is a uniquely American dining experience and aesthetic that remind all patrons of two simple ideas: life is meant to be sipped and savored, and good times should always be shared.
The front porch of Downtown San Diego.
Residents and visitors are welcomed with the same iconic bay views and salty sea air that first drew Juan Cabrillo to San Diego in 1542. A pedestrian’s paradise, the Marina District's expansive waterfront continues to convert warehouses and empty lots to luxury high rises and community gathering spaces. Carnita's Snack Shack, a new addition to the Marina's Embarcadero, is one of the best places on the water to indulge in Baja fish tacos and spicy margaritas. Just south of the Shack is Seaport Village, an area that will soon undergo a massive transformation, complete with beaches, restaurants, and a 500-foot spire. The Marina District has a storied past and an inspiring future.
USS Midway Museum
Imagine experiencing life at sea aboard one of America’s longest-serving aircraft carriers. Visitors to the USS Midway Museum enter a floating city at sea and walk in the footsteps of 225,000 Midway sailors who served our country and upheld the American ideals of strength, freedom and peace.
On your next trip to San Diego you can be assured of two things: the weather will be amazing and you’ll discover lots to do at Seaport Village. Come explore 50-plus diverse shops, 17 unique eateries and outdoor entertainment.
The Lion’s Share
We promise you undivided attention, without stalking your water glass. We are a new place. But we are not new to this. Therefore, please don’t hesitate to make comments or suggestions on how we can improve, adjust, or just make your time at TLS at little cooler. Sit back. Relax. Look the antelope in the eye and dismiss the worries of your day. Have a laugh or two and enjoy your share.
Eddie V’s Prime Seafood
Eddie V’s charismatic vibe draws you in and holds you close, invites you to be seen, or sit back and just savor. The finest seafood and steaks. World-class wine and service. And live jazz in the V lounge.
A different world.
Take a step into a different world (with a San Diego twist) in Downtown’s Little Italy neighborhood. This neighborhood is bustling everyday of the week with visitors to authentic Italian restaurants, bars and urban wineries. Every Saturday, count on sun, fresh fruit, cold brew coffee, and artisan crafts at the most popular farmer's market around. Whether enjoying a casual dinner or a sunset stroll, Little Italy is a hip neighborhood grown from Italian roots.
Little Italy Farmer’s Market (Saturday)
Join us every Saturday at San Diego’s premier grocery & gift destination: the Little Italy Mercato. Find over 175 farmers & vendors on W. Cedar St. from Kettner Blvd. to Front St., 8AM – 2PM, year-round, rain-or-shine, and support small family farms & local entrepreneurs. The award-winning Little Italy Mercato welcomes California certified farmers & ranchers to supply all of your fresh produce needs, as well as flowers, cheeses, eggs, honey, nuts & more. Additionally, you can find fresh-baked breads, locally-made jams, dips, sauces, seasonings, fish, and snacks from our #5blocksofawesome vendors. Purchase artisan handcrafts for a unique gift, and enjoy a select number of on-site prepared food and beverage options.
The doors of Buon Appetito opened in June of 2003, tongue in cheek that the vision of a San Francisco style eatery would manifest in this still sleepy part of San Diego. As well, there was a curiosity about the art scene in the area and Daniela decided to adorn the walls with local artists work, changing out the work quarterly. After about a 9 month gestation, Little Italy began to get a breath of night life and local condo owners started to explore their newly built neighborhood. Buon Appetito got a running start and there was life, happy guests, cheer & great meals amongst friends and families.
Filippi’s Pizza Grotto
Vincent DePhilippis and Madeleine Manfredi from Nimes France met in New York NY (Mamma and Papa) married in 1925, then settled in Westchester Pennsylvania. Then moved to San Diego in 1947 where they opened an Italian market named Cash & Carry Italian foods on India Street in San Diego. 1950 was the beginning of what has become a very successful line of family restaurants that are today know as Filippi’s Pizza Grottos that are owned and operated by original family members of the founders.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
From the farmer to the beans, the roasting to the brewing, to their service, their relationship with the neighborhood and their impact on the environment. They’re always striving for perfection. The green beans they seek must meet their high standards, and they roast and prepare this coffee with the utmost respect to those who grew it.
Juniper & Ivy
Juniper & Ivy, owned by Michael Rosen with influence from Chef Partner Richard Blais, elevated the San Diego dining scene upon opening in early 2014. Located in the north end of the Little Italy neighborhood, they offer refined American cuisine with unique iterations of the classics. The whimsical menu, executed by Executive Chef Anthony Wells, is in a constant state of change depending on the freshest, season ingredients provided by our local purveyors.
The Crack Shack highlights a full bar program with craft cocktails, a thoughtfully chosen wine list, and curated local craft brews on tap. They believe in sourcing happy, pastured chickens fed all natural grain. They source Jidori Chicken from Southern California— our chicken comes to us fresh, never frozen.
Mona Lisa Italian Restaurant
Mona Lisa Italian Foods is located in the Little Italy area of San Diego, California. Their Italian restaurant offers a full bar, extensive wine list, and great service in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. The restaurant’s menus include pizza, antipasti, hot and cold sandwiches, pasta and ravioli, and house specialties including veal and chicken dishes, lasagna, manicotti, seafood, and more.
Executive Pastry Chef/Owner, Karen Krasne is a San Diego native, who graduated from the University of Hawaii with a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition. She has studied pastry-making at the Cordon Bleu and returns to France regularly to train with the masters at LeNotre and Bellouet Conseil. Combined with classical training, her trips to exotic places are what truly inspire the creativity of her desserts.