San Rafael in San Rafael

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San Rafael [1] is a city in Marin County, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Historically one of the original Spanish mission settlements, San Rafael is now a mid-sized commuter town.

Get in

By car

San Rafael is on the 101 Freeway, north of San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge. 101 crosses Highway 580 in San Rafael, making the city a major influx point for drivers from the East Bay.

Get around

Downtown San Rafael is based on a grid network, with numbered streets running east-west and lettered streets running north-south.


  • Mission San Rafael Arcangel, 1104 Fifth Avenue (at A Street), 415-456-3016, [2]. M-F 6:30AM-5PM, Sa 8:30AM-5PM, Su 9AM-5PM. The northernmost of California's 21 missions, San Rafael was founded in 1817 as an asistencia or adjunct to Mission Dolores in San Francisco. San Rafael was a hospital mission, tending the sick from Spanish settlements and natives. The mission chapel has been restored in 1949, and tours of the site as well as a museum are open to the public. Free.
  • Marin County Civic Center The Civic Center is the only example of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed government building in the world, and was considered to be well ahead of its time, making it a creative choice as the backdrop of the film Gattaca.


The Farmers Market every Sunday at the Civic Center is a great place to stock up on farm fresh vegetables & fruit, bread from many local bakeries, and gourmet cheeses and fresh seafood. Grab a cup of coffee, sample a fresh crepe or waffle, and get to know some of the most dedicated farmers in Marin.

  • Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (directions: On 4th Street between A & B Street) 415-454-5813
    price: $6.50-10
    open: Mon - Thur 6pm - 9pm Fri 4pm - 9pm Sat & Sun 2pm - 9pm
    The Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center is a beautifully restored Art Deco theater that was seen in the film American Graffiti. It plays independent films, popular foreign films, and documentaries daily and is located at the heart of 4th street.


Spider Murphy's Tattoo on Lincoln Ave.

  • Dharma Trading Company (address: 1604 Fourth St., San Rafael) (directions: Walkable from the San Rafael Golden Gate Transit hub.) 415-456-1211
    A spectacular collection of materials for dyeing fabric. You can also order from them online.


Like most Bay Area towns, San Rafael has a number of pubs and taco joints as well as cafes and bars. Many restaurants are located on Fourth Street

  • Muffin Mania, Vegan and cornmeal muffins. Grateful dead atmosphere. Delicious sandwiches. Excellent coffee.
  • Mayflower Inn, 1533 Fourth Street, [3]. Phone: +1 415 456-1011 British Pub serving lunch & dinner. Great salads, burgers, fish & chips, bangers & mash, sausage rolls, and other standards.
  • Broken Drum Brewery & Wood Grill, 1132 Fourth Street. California pub / dinner food with burgers, fish tacos, and other standards.
  • Sushi To Dai For, 869 4th St, Phone: +1 415 721-0392
  • Taqueria San Jose, 615 4th St, Phone: +1 415 455-0999 Just under highway 101.
  • Panama Hotel Restaurant and Inn, 4 Bayview St, Phone: +1 415 457-3993, 800-899-3993. Cozy Marin County Bed and Breakfast and Restaurant. Check out the Jazz Thursday nights. Mexican-Italian-Californian Cuisine in an artsy Interior. Great outdoor dining in spring and summer.
  • Lotus Indian Cuisine, 4704 4th St., Phone: +1 415 456-5808 Simply the best Indian food in Marin, relaxed and quiet atmosphere, excellent service, and a retractable ceiling to let in the sun on a warm day.
  • Sol Food, 732 Fourth Street, [4]. Phone: +1 415 451-4765. Puerto Rican cuisine and tropical ambiance make this restaurant very popular with the locals.


  • Fourth St. Tavern
  • Mayflower Inn -- Authentic British Pub & Grill, same location since 1971 -- 1533 Fourth Street
  • Trevor's Tavern -- A home away from home.


  • Embassy Suites San Rafael / Marin County Hotel and Conference Center 101 McInnis Parkway. (415) 499-9222, [5]. Located towards the north of the renowned Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Days Inn, 737 E. Francisco Blvd., +1 415-453-3450, [6].
  • Panama Hotel Restaurant and Inn, 4 Bayview St, 415-457-3993, 800-899-3993, [7]. Bed & Breakfast. Wireless Internet, Restaurant and friendly staff.
  • Extended Stay Deluxe, 1775 Francisco Blvd, 415-451-1887, [8]. Accommodations geared towards the Extended Stay Traveler. 112 guest rooms complete with fully equipped kitchens, on-site laundry facility, Indoor Pool, Outdoor Hot Tub, Meeting Room, Breakfast in the morning, Business Center, Wireless Internet throughout the property, Flat Screen Televisions in all rooms, and Fitness Center on-site.
  • North Bay Inn - San Rafael (address: 855 East Francisco Blvd) 415-456-8620
  • Panama Restaurant and Inn (address: San Rafael, CA)
    Actually, the Panama is NOT a B & B. It is a small, quaint, nice hotel, with unusual and uniquely decorated theme rooms (not corny). The restaurant is likewise unusual and pleasing, and yes, the jazz is a nice addition. The whole affair is located in a quiet district, near the center of town. Rates include a very nice (no fruit loops) continental breakfast. If you like eclectic, not the same-as-usual experiences, this is the place.

Stay Safe

San Rafael's crime rate would be considered moderately high. Murder and gang violence has reached high levels and are increasing at disturbingly high rates, with stabings and/or shootings occuring every few weeks. The downtown area does have a higher amount of car break ins than one might expect.

If you decide to venture into the Canal District, stay alert, even in the daytime. The District is home to many first-generation immigrants who densely populate apartment buildings to offset the relatively high cost of living, and street gangs are relatively common. Try not to wear too much red- or blue-colored clothing--you may easily be confused as a rival to another gang and appraoched. It is best not to walk around the Canal District at night, even if traveling with someone else. The neighborhood has a fairly high amount of gang violence, robbery, and car theft. If driving through the Canal District, it is best to keep your windows rolled up and your doors locked at all times.Be sure that not all part of the Canal Disrtict is Dangerous(Novato street is the street with most gang members hangingout) On some streets of the Canal District you can literally see massive amounts of broken glass where car windows have been smashed. However, it is home to some of the best Latin food in the Bay Area.

(Note: As a resident of the canal district, I would love to see some hard numbers on the violence and property damage. It doesn't surprise me that cars are broken into in a poor neighborhood, but the danger of violence seems radically overstated. It's true that ethnic minorities abound, but that doesn't mean you'll get ripped out of your car while you're driving--feel free to keep your windows rolled down until you park.)

Get out

  • Nearby Fairfax and Larkspur
  • San Francisco is just a 20-30 minute drive south on 101.
  • Head over the hill to Stinson Beach on the Pacific Coast.
  • Continue north on 101 towards Napa Valley and the wine country.

WikiPedia:San Rafael, California