San Rafael

A resplendent jewel resting along the shores of both the San Pablo and San Francisco bays.

Welcome to San Rafael

Arguably the best weather in the Bay Area and a multitude of shops are just the tip of the iceberg in this gorgeous historic city
Conveniently located in between the verdant hills of California’s famous wine country and the dynamic energy of San Francisco, the city of San Rafael is a resplendent jewel resting along the shores of both the San Pablo and San Francisco bays. Accessible and always busy, San Rafael combines the best of California’s natural beauty with plenty of urban amenities.
San Rafael serves as the county seat of Marin and was incorporated in 1874. Modern San Rafael still retains the vestiges of its rich history with a myriad of historic architecture and noteworthy landmarks. When the area was colonized in the early 1800s, the Spanish established the Mission San Rafael Arcángel to serve as a sister mission to the Mission Dolores in San Francisco.

What to Love

  • Under an hour to San Francisco
  • Effervescent weather and near-constant sunshine
  • An abundance of shops and urban amenities

People & Lifestyle

San Rafael is the largest city in the county — with a population of nearly 60,000 — and those who choose to live here are treated to the convenience of having nearly every need or want right at their fingertips. Mountains, wine country, beaches, national parks, huge shopping centers, a thriving culinary scene, and quick access to all of San Francisco’s finest means that residents are never without options for entertainment.

Dining, Shopping, & Entertainment

San Rafael provides the ideal blend of local and national brands in their commercial districts, and residents are always a stone’s throw away from trendy boutiques and epicurean delights. Anchored by Macy’s and a wonderful cinema, Northgate Mall has a variety of stores in their chic, upscale location that’s perfect for a classic day of retail therapy.
Downtown is a wonder of eclectic shops and invigorating architecture, complete with a central plaza fountain wall and the glimmering façade of Mission Rafael standing watch. It’s a place for sampling the latest from hip breweries, grabbing a bite from mom-and-pop shops, and outfitting your wardrobe with unique finds from charming apparel stores. 
Just because San Rafael is a distinguished shopping location doesn’t mean that dining takes a back seat here — the city is brimming with incredible choices to satiate any palate. My Thai dishes out their award-winning Thai cuisine nightly and is known for their family-style meals made with only the freshest of ingredients. Take your tastebuds to Italy by savoring the Tuscan fare served at Il Davide, a San Rafael standout that many even choose to cater their weddings.

Things to Do

A day in San Rafael might start with a rejuvenating hot yoga masterclass from one of the many studios such as Red Dragon Yoga before getting breakfast at a downtown cafe and end with an exploration of the beach or any of the city’s exceptional landmark sites. Those who prefer to hit the green have a space of their own at the Peacock Gap Golf Club, where the course has been ranked the top in all of Marin County. 
History comes to life in many parts of San Rafael, even apart from the hallowed halls of the famous Mission San Rafael Arcángel. For example, at The Falkirk Cultural Center, visitors are encouraged to delve into the history of the home’s owners, who built the two-story wonder in 1888. The Sunday Marin County Farmers Market has long been a community tradition. This year-round community event is the third-largest farmers’ market in California. 
Outdoor recreation is abundant in San Rafael, too. When there’s sunny weather (almost always), McNears Beach is well-populated with happy locals picnicking, fishing, kayaking, or simply wandering the expansive 55-acre grounds. History and natural splendor converge at China Camp State Park, making it a treasure for intellectuals and adventurers alike.


San Rafael is home to several excellent schools. Top educational opportunities include:
  • Miller Creek Middle School, 6-8, one of the top public middle schools in Marin County
  • Sun Valley Elementary School, K-5, highly rated public elementary school
  • Glenwood Elementary School, K-5, highly rated public elementary school
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