Conveniently located in the North Bay area just 30 minutes from San Francisco, the vibrant city of San Rafael is the heart of Marin County. The city’s central location and varied elevation provide access to an abundance of natural habitats, and its close vicinity to the bustling metropolis of San Francisco provides the advantages of urban living with a smaller-town feel.
Welcome to San Rafael
The self-proclaimed “city with a mission,” San Rafael’s rich history began with the founding of Mission San Rafael Arcángel in 1817. Previously the site of multiple Coast Miwok villages, the mission location was developed to be a hospital for central valley natives in part because of its ideal weather. The current mission site is a rebuild of the original, made in 1949, and stands as a proud iconic landmark of the city.
San Rafael is the oldest city in Marin County, as evidenced by its many Victorian buildings and impressive architectural wonders. The housing options here are vast and range greatly in architectural style. Well-maintained historic houses, new single-family homes tucked along the bay, sprawling mansion estates perched in the magnificent hills — all can found in this charismatic city.
What to Love
- Spectacular beauty and history at the San Raphael Arcángel Mission
- Close proximity to bustling San Francisco
- Gorgeous weather and hilltop estates
People and Lifestyle
With a population of just around 60,000 and property values much higher than the country’s average, San Rafael is the place to go to find your own piece of sanctuary. The residents of San Rafael tend to be highly educated, and though the town itself offers many opportunities, a large portion of the population commutes to the nearby San Francisco for employment. The city is lively yet still sheltered enough from the world to offer serenity to residents and visitors alike.
Shopping, Dining & Entertainment
San Rafael has no shortage of places to satisfy your retail needs. For a day of shopping and fun, you’ll want to head to Northgate
and explore. With brand names like Express
and Home Goods
, in addition to coffee shops, spas, eateries, and a theater, this local mall has plenty to keep you entertained.
Visit the unique Terrapin Crossings
venue for drinks, live music, and great food. Terrapin has three separate entertainment areas, including “The Backyard,” a waterfront park beside the restaurant's patio that has a spectacular view of the canal. Experience some of the best in beer at Pond Farm Brewing
, a local favorite owned by a husband-and-wife team who share a passion for crafting excellence.
Featured on Food Network
, the exquisite Puerto Rican comfort food of Sol Food Restaurant
is a must-try in San Rafael. The menu here is brimming with savory options like their chuleton sandwich made with mouth-watering fried pork chops or the plantain-fried prawns that have the perfect amount of crunch. While you’re there, be sure to order any one of the many incredible desserts, like the pineapple bread pudding served with warm butter and mango sauce.
Things to Do
San Rafael has no shortage of beautiful outdoor scenery to enjoy, and the city is adjacent to major parks in addition to those within the city itself. McNears Beach Park
is an absolute oasis, with 55 acres of staggering views along San Pablo Bay and easy access to recreational fun such as biking, fishing, kayaking, and tennis. Another option along the bay, China Camp State Park
is a perfect place for horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking along the 16 miles of trails. Visitors can also dive in to enjoy some swimming or wind-surfing, and the park has locations for camping as well.
Big on community, San Rafael also has an abundance of festivals and events for its residents. Every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Marin Farmers Market
draws crowds in with the freshest local produce in the area. Now the state’s third-largest farmers market, this community event is still mostly enjoyed by locals who visit weekly to get their shopping done. Once a year, in the scenic streets of downtown San Rafael, the Italian Street Painting Marin
brings fine art to life with showcases from incredible artists, all to the benefit of the community outreach program fostered by the Bay Area Creative Foundation.
San Rafael is home to a number of excellent schools. Top educational opportunities include:
- Marin Academy, 9-12, highly ranked private high school
- Glenwood Elementary School, K-5, highly ranked public elementary school
- Sun Valley Elementary, K-5, well-rated public elementary school