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A Guide to San Francisco's Suburbs
Real Estate

A Guide to San Francisco's Suburbs

The best suburbs of San Francisco let you leave your heart in the city while always welcoming you back home with open arms.


5 min read

May 28, 2021

Who wouldn’t want to live in San Francisco? Huge opportunities, beautiful scenery, exquisite dining culture, and top-notch education—the Bay Area has it all. But you don’t need to live in the centermost neighborhoods of San Francisco to experience its history, culture, and iconic architecture. On the contrary, San Francisco’s suburbs take you far away from the hustle and bustle while keeping everything the city has to offer within arms’ reach.

Whether you’re a young professional or a retiree, a family or a single-person household, the best suburbs of San Francisco let you leave your heart in the city while always welcoming you back home with open arms.

The best suburbs of San Francisco

Berkeley borders the cities of Oakland and Emeryville to the south and the city of Albany along with the unincorporated Kensington to the north.

1. Berkeley 

Median home price: $1,488,700

Driving distance to Downtown San Francisco: 20 minutes

Berkeley is a San Francisco Bay Area city that is most famous for its liberal politics. But, it definitely has a lot more to offer to its residents. Known for its food and dining scene, educated community, and of course, the University of California, Berkeley, this suburb near San Francisco is great for young professionals, students, and those looking to work in education. 

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Berkeley’s public libraries are among the best in the country; the public school system is excellent as well. This San Francisco suburb also boasts a world-renowned disability advocacy program, great theater and music scenes, sports programs, and community and residential gardens. Overall, if you’re looking to be surrounded by a community of open-minded, ethnically diverse young people, Berkeley is the best San Francisco suburb for you.

Located in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, Walnut Creek features hundred-year-old buildings and extensive high-end retail stores.

2. Walnut Creek

Median home price: $844,100

Driving distance to Downtown San Francisco: 27 minutes

The most affordable suburb of San Francisco on the list (but by no means affordable compared to nationwide standards) is Walnut Creek. Here, you’ll find great schools, plenty of green spaces, and mostly residential neighborhoods that are ideal for growing families.

In need of a break from peace and serenity? Head to Main Street and find yourself among active crowds, shopping destinations, trendy restaurants, and cozy East Bay coffee shops. While you’ll find everything you need in Walnut Creek, the BART station can take you back to the City by the Bay whenever you crave an S.F. getaway.

Oakland is the third largest city overall in the S.F. Bay Area. It's also the 8th most populated city in California, and the 45th in the country.

3. Oakland

Median home price: $891,800

Driving distance to Downtown San Francisco: 15 minutes

Oakland is better described as a city than a suburb, but it still earns a deserving spot on this list. This San Francisco suburb is usually the choice for people looking to stay close enough to S.F. without the hefty rent prices. Therefore, Oakland is full of young professionals, singles, and families coming from all backgrounds. This also means you won’t have a problem finding a community you relate to in this suburb near San Francisco.

This relatively affordable suburb of San Francisco offers you a flourishing foodie scene, thriving startup culture, great nightlife, and, of course, a prime accessible location. Compared to plenty of other San Francisco suburbs, Oakland is also among the most racially and economically diverse, which is a plus for many.

4. Pleasanton

Median home price: $1,310,300

Driving distance to Downtown San Francisco: 40 minutes

Pleasanton has a very fitting name because it’s indeed a very pleasant Bay Area suburb to live in. Great ethnic diversity, a spectacular education system, an unemployment rate of less than three percent, and more benefits qualify Pleasanton as one of the best San Francisco suburbs for families.

You’ll be close enough to S.F. for a weekend spent in the city, and to Tahoe if you ever feel like paying the mountains a visit. With the best of both worlds within a few hours’ drive—and plenty of hometown perks to begin with—Pleasanton is a suburb near San Francisco you can’t go wrong with. 

Palo Alto is headquarters to a number of high-tech companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Space Systems/Loral, VMware, and Tesla.

5. Palo Alto

Median home price: $3,172,800

Driving distance to Downtown San Francisco: 40 minutes

Living in Palo Alto is definitely up there in price point, but it's not for nothing. Both a college town (Stanford University) and a launching point for high-tech startups (Facebook), this suburb near San Francisco ticks many boxes—especially for those looking for a city where they can work in tech.

Many people move to Palo Alto for the spectacular educational opportunities and beautiful scenery, as well as safe and clean neighborhoods. However, the downside is the extremely high housing market prices, along with the commuter traffic. If those aren’t exactly problems for you, you’ll love living and raising a family in the beautiful suburbs of Palo Alto.

Originally an agricultural town, Los Altos now serves as a major commuter hub for residents working in other parts of Silicon Valley.

6. Los Altos

Median home price: $3,471,100

Driving distance to Downtown San Francisco: 45 minutes

Not too far from Pleasanton is its more upscale equivalent, Los Altos. Great for families and retirees looking to move to a quaint and safe locale, Los Altos is as suburban as S.F. suburbs can get. While it hasn’t seen much population growth over the years (largely due to the high housing prices), the community at Los Altos is very kind and welcoming to newcomers. 

With great architecture, amazing schools, and an abundance of natural beauty, moving to this suburb near San Francisco is bound to satisfy those who like life in the slow lane.

Menlo Park is quite an educated citiy. Nearly 70 percent of its residents over the age of 25 have earned a Bachelor's degree.

7. Menlo Park

Median home price: $1,218,600

Driving distance to Downtown San Francisco: 40 minutes

If you prioritize diversity, great public schools, good weather, and outdoor recreation, Menlo Park is a Bay Area suburb you should definitely consider moving to. You’ll have the massive perk of being within a reasonable driving distance of San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Half Moon Bay—talk about a prime locale.

While this suburb near San Francisco has a pretty cool downtown, there’s pretty much no active life here after 9 p.m. If you consider frequent evening hangouts a priority, you’ll have trouble adjusting to life in Menlo Park. However, if living in a quiet, safe, and tranquil neighborhood with an overall suburban feel is something you prefer anyway, you’ll like calling Menlo Park home.

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