Downtown San Diego Neighborhood Guide

The nightlife in the Gaslamp Quarter and surrounding downtown San Diego is well-known to locals, but this part of the city is also full of history and diverse food options on top of those rooftop bars and lively venues.

Whether you’re already here or thinking about moving to San Diego, explore this spirited part of town as part of your research into the city’s neighborhoods. Take in the tastes, sounds, and atmosphere of downtown San Diego.

Gaslamp District, downtown San Diego

A Brief History of Downtown San Diego

As you do your wandering and are wondering what to do in downtown San Diego, pay attention to remnants of the vibrant neighborhood’s past. 

First on the scene in 1860, the neighborhood’s Gaslamp Quarter was once known as San Diego’s “New Town,” overlapping with the city’s Chinatown. 

Saloons and gambling halls, several leased by the infamous Wyatt Earp, were popular throughout the Gaslamp and downtown until revitalization efforts for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915 made the neighborhood a popular destination for everyone in the city.

Those lamps that look like they’re from a bygone era have only been in place since the 1980s, by the way, less an effort to light the way and more of a nod to the neighborhood’s aesthetic and architecture.

Downtown San Diego Restaurants

Downtown San Diego eateries are diverse and delicious. Start things off right with breakfast at the Gaslamp Breakfast Company, Cafe 222, or the Provisional Kitchen, Cafe & Mercantile. For an elevated brunch experience, book a Sunday brunch at The Westgate Hotel, perfect for celebrations and special occasions. 

Downtown San Diego’s food has no niche unless you consider mouthwatering a niche. Taste street tacos at La Puerta, some of the city’s best sushi at Taka Restaurant, or the city’s only Russian cuisine at Pushkin Restaurant. For fine dining options, head to STK Steakhouse or the Seaport Village location of Eddie V’s.

Some of the best Italian is just nearby in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. Monello and Civico 1845 offer authenticity and excellent variety.

Downtown San Diego Bars

We’ve already briefly mentioned what downtown San Diego and the Gaslamp Quarter are known for — the nightlife. Have your drinks in some of the best bars in the city, let alone downtown San Diego.

Head to Noble Experiment, run out of The Neighborhood eatery, or Vin de Syrah, an Alice in Wonderland-themed bar, for samples of San Diego’s best speakeasy experiences. Enjoy a high-end evening at the Altitude Sky Lounge, the highest open-air rooftop bar in the area. 

Taste some of San Diego’s brewery scene at Half Door Brewing Co. in the East Village or the Gaslamp’s Resident Brewing Co. 

Things to Do in Downtown San Diego

Outside of indulging in all of the food and drink offerings in the neighborhood, there is plenty more to do in downtown San Diego.

Catch a baseball game at Petco Park, a place with better food options than you’re likely used to at the ballgame. 

Embrace the Halloween spirit no matter the time of year on a Ghosts of the Gaslamp Tour, a visit to the neighborhood’s most historic and haunted sites. The Davis-Horton House is a regular stop on the tour, a worthy visit all on its own not only because of the reported hauntings there but the Gaslamp Museum inside.

Enjoy any of the annual cultural and just-for-fun events held in and around downtown San Diego, from the city’s Mardi Gras celebrations and the Taste of Gaslamp to Comic-Con, increasing in popularity every year. 

If you’re not able to snag tickets to the popular comic festival, there are plenty of free events throughout the neighborhood during that time, on top of the stellar people-watching to be had during the event.

Stroll Seaport Village and the Embarcadero, or visit the USS Midway Museum along the San Diego Midway, all a nod to the city’s naval past and present. 

Take a walk to the adjacent neighborhoods, all special in their own right. You’ll be within a short distance of all of the fun to be had in Little Italy from downtown San Diego or Balboa Park, home to the famous San Diego Zoo and miles of urban hiking trails.

Benefits of Living in Downtown San Diego

Downtown San Diego apartments have the benefit of both walkability to some of the best restaurants, bars, and historical sites San Diego has to offer and easy access to the city’s public transportation options if you’re headed elsewhere. 

The neighborhood is always abuzz with activity, and you’ll be close to the action, even if it’s just taking a walk through downtown to find your own fun on any given day. 

Want to see what it’d be like firsthand as you consider where would fit your lifestyle best in San Diego? Set up a tour with the Allegro Towers, the epitome of downtown San Diego living just steps away from the best of this part of town.