San Rafael

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San Rafael 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[edit]

Larkspur landing with express ferries from San Francisco.

By car[edit]

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.

By ferry[edit]

Ferries run from the ferry terminal in Union Square-Financial District, downtown San Francisco. With H´hourly departures, every 30 miniatures during rush hours, ferries are a convenient way of reaching San Rafael. Larkspur Ferry Terminal is about two kilometers from downtown, but well served by buses.

By train[edit]

Starting in 2016, the new SMART system, or Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, will connect San Rafael with Santa Rosa and eventually Cloverdale.

Get around[edit]

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


  •   Mission San Rafael Arcangel1104 Fifth Ave (at A Street),  +1 415-456-3016. 11AM to 4PM Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The 20th of the 21 California missions, San Rafael was originally founded as an asistencia or adjunct to Mission Dolores in San Francisco in 1817, but was promoted to full mission status in 1822. San Rafael was a hospital mission, tending the sick from Spanish settlements and natives. The first mission secularized, it was used by General John C. Fremont during the Mexican-American War, and during statehood as the Marin County Courthouse. The original church was torn down in 1861, and a series of Catholic churches were erected at that site. The mission chapel has been restored in 1949, and tours of the site as well as a museum containing three original mission bells 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 Center1118 Fourth St (On 4th Street between A & B Street),  +1 415-454-5813. 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. $6.50-10.


Spider Murphy's Tattoo on Lincoln Ave.

  • Dharma Trading Company1604 Fourth St. (Walkable from the San Rafael Golden Gate Transit hub.),  +1 415-456-1211. 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 Inn1533 Fourth St +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 Grill1132 Fourth St. California pub / dinner food with burgers, fish tacos, and other standards.
  • Sushi To Dai For869 4th St +1 415 721-0392.
  • Taqueria San Jose615 4th St +1 415 455-0999. Just under highway 101.
  • Panama Hotel Restaurant and Inn4 Bayview St +1 415 457-3993, toll-free: +1-800-899-3993. 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 Cuisine4704 4th St +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 Food732 Fourth St +1 415 451-4765. Puerto Rican cuisine and tropical ambiance make this restaurant very popular with the locals.
  • Puentez Taqueria243 3rd St. (Located in the east corner of Montecito Plaza, near Trader Joe's),  +1 415-721-7992, e-mail: . 10AM-9PM Monday through Saturday. Mom & pop taqueria in Montecito plaza. $3-5.


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


  • Extended Stay Deluxe1775 Francisco Blvd +1 415-451-1887. 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.
  •   Panama Hotel4 Bayview St +1 415-457-3993. A small, quaint, nice hotel, with unusual and uniquely decorated theme rooms. 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 continental breakfast. If you like eclectic, not the same-as-usual experiences, this is the place.

Stay safe[edit]

San Rafael's crime rate would be considered moderate. 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 Canal 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 be confused as a rival to another gang and approached. 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. Not all parts of the Canal District are dangerous, but on some streets you can literally see massive amounts of broken glass where car windows have been smashed. Novato Street is the street with most gang members hanging out. However, it is home to some of the best Latin food in the Bay Area. West of Kerner is more dangerous than East of Kerner, which has nice town homes along the water.

Parts of Downtown, Terra Linda, and near Woodland Avenue have a lot of crime as well so just be aware of your surroundings there and don't dress all in red or blue. There is a lot of drug-related activity around the apartments near the mall.

Go next[edit]

Routes through San Rafael
END  W I-580.svg E  RichmondOakland
Santa RosaNovato  N US 101.svg S  LarkspurSan Francisco

This city travel guide to San Rafael is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.
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