When you think of the Bay area in California, the first place that probably comes to mind is San Francisco. While there’s no denying the allure of living in the Golden Gate City, there’s also no denying that it’s one of the most expensive places to rent an apartment in the United States.
Thus, if you want to experience the incredible food scene, amazing weather, and liberal atmosphere of the Bay area while still enjoying a cheaper cost of living, you should consider living in Oakland.
Oakland is located right across the bay, and since it’s connected to downtown San Francisco through the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), most dining and shopping destinations are only a short ride away.
When you consider that you can get all the perks of living in San Francisco but with cheaper rent if you choose an apartment in Oakland, you might decide that Oakland is a great place for first-time renters.
Here are our picks for the five best neighborhoods in Oakland, and why this city is giving Frisco a run for its money.
5 Best Neighborhoods In Oakland
- Lake Merritt
- Rock Ridge
The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $3,077.
Lake Merritt is perfect for young professionals who are looking for affordable apartments while still living close to downtown San Francisco’s business district. Its beautiful waterfront properties make it one of the most popular areas for both locals and tourists alike, especially during the summer months.
When it comes to dining options, Lake Merritt certainly has merit (pun intended!). You’ll never run out of great places to eat, from the Grand Tavern’s classic American fare to Portal’s famous brunch specials. Of course, you can also choose to set up a barbecue or picnic along the shoreline of the lake if you want to dine al fresco.
What It's Known For
Oakland’s near-constant sunny weather serves as the perfect atmosphere for outdoor activities, and Lake Merritt offers its residents a host of experiences to choose from! With nearly 4 miles of shoreline, you can jog, hike, or go for a walk. There are also water-based sports to enjoy such as rowing and canoeing.
Lake Merritt also has its fair share of indoor activities as well. Catch a movie with friends and family at the Grand Lake Theatre, or spend an afternoon at the Oakland Museum of California.
The average rent of a 1-bedroom apartment is $2,661.
Located in the western area of Oakland, Montclair is one of the safest neighborhoods in California. In fact, it can rival the safest neighborhoods in San Francisco! According to AreaVibes, Montclair has a crime rate that is 69% lower than the Oakland average, making this neighborhood popular with young families, singles, and retirees.
The community in Montclair is tight-knit, and many of the businesses are owned by locals. Montclair is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods in Oakland as well.
What It's Known For
If you love shopping locally, Montclair is the place for you. The Montclair Village is a compact shopping district that hosts boutique stores and independent coffee shops. The 626 Night Market is where you can find delicious and unique fusion food, like the Ramen Burger and Rainbow Grilled Cheese sandwich.
Even the entertainment options in Montclair reflect the quirky lifestyle of the neighborhood! One of the most popular destinations is Axe Lair, where yes, you can learn how to throw an ax! If you want something a bit more child-friendly, you can visit Amy’s Farm, a working farm where families can reconnect with nature.
The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $2,123.
The best way to describe Piedmont is small, quiet, and affluent. This serene neighborhood is best for families with kids because of the proximity to both schools and public parks. Some of the best schools in California are located in this neighborhood, including Beach Elementary School and Piedmont High School. If you have kids, Piedmont is a clear winner when you’re comparing apartments in different Oakland neighborhoods.
As you might guess, Piedmont has a calm and tranquil vibe, with most of the local amenities geared towards promoting a strong community. You’ll find great parks such as Piedmont Park and Dracena Quarry Park nestled between homes.
What It's Known For
Piedmont’s biggest attraction might also be one of the most unique in the whole of Oakland: Mountain View Cemetery. You might be interested to learn that this is reportedly the final resting place of some of California’s most notable personalities, such as the Ghirardelli family of chocolate fame, as well as the Black Dahlia.
Now, Piedmont doesn’t offer much in terms of dining and entertainment options other than those you can find along Piedmont Avenue. Cato’s Ale House is the local watering hole, with 23 beers on tap and karaoke nights. However, if you’re looking for more dining and clubbing options, you should consider heading to Rock Ridge, which is only 5 minutes away via Moraga Avenue.
The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $2,661.
Thanks to its thriving arts scene and wide range of dining and entertainment options, Rock Ridge is the most popular neighborhood in Oakland for young professionals and artists. It is located in the northern part of the city, with the abundance of bungalow-style homes as its distinguishing feature. You’ll also find a lot of studio and 1-bedroom apartments in this area.
Rock Ridge has a family-friendly atmosphere, welcoming locals, and lively energy. It also boasts great local amenities, such as its well-kept parks and a BART station.
What It's Known For
Many of Rock Ridge’s places of interest can be found on College Avenue. You can easily spend a whole weekend checking out antique and vintage shops. If you’re looking for a great vintage find, try visiting Talisman Antiques. You can also check out Maison d’Etre if you want to deck out your apartment in retro furniture.
When the sun goes down, that’s when Rock Ridge really steps into high gear! McNally’s Irish Pub is a local favorite, but if you want something a bit more upscale and private, head on over to Redfield Cider Bar & Bottle Shop.
The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $2,475.
Another popular neighborhood for artists and young families alike, Temescal is home to some of the best museums, local coffee shops, and bars in Oakland. The atmosphere in this neighborhood is lively and energetic, and street art is one of the most common sights you’ll find.
One of the best things about Temescal is the low crime rate. Of course, its easy access to the BART via the MacArthur station is also a great draw for those looking for an apartment in Oakland.
What It's Known For
If you’re looking to brush up on your acting skills or maybe learn how to do a stand-up comedy routine, make sure to head over to the Temescal Arts Center. They offer art classes and workshops year-round, as well as indie performances by local artists.
Of course, you can’t have a neighborhood so steeped in arts without having a thriving brew culture as well! Temescal Brewery is the beating heart of the craft beer scene, and you’ll love spending those warm summer nights drinking a cold one with your friends.
One of the most alluring things about living in the Bay area is the weather, and Oakland has great weather in spades. In fact, you might even argue that it has better weather compared to San Francisco!
Just like San Francisco, Oakland has mild and pleasant weather almost year-round. The average daily temperature hovers between 60 to 70 degrees, and most days are sunny. However, Oakland edges out San Francisco because you don’t need to worry about the fog suddenly coming in and causing a 10-degree drop in temperature.
Pretty much every part of the Bay area is accessible through the BART. Even neighborhoods that are a bit further away from stations can easily be biked or walked, which is probably why Oakland has a pretty good walk score of 74. In fact, Oakland ranks among the top 10 most walkable large cities in the USA.
If you have a car in Oakland, you’ll love living there even more! Parking spots are easy to find around the city and you won’t get slapped with insane parking fees either. What’s more, parking is free during public holidays!
Cost of Living in Oakland
If there’s one drawback to living in Oakland, it’s the cost of living.
While it’s not as expensive as San Francisco, the cost of living in Oakland is almost 50% higher than the national average. A family of four will spend around $8,900 per month on rent, food, transportation, and utilities.
The best way to think of living in Oakland is getting the best of San Francisco while still getting a better deal on rent. Renting an apartment in Oakland is around 50% cheaper compared to getting a similar apartment in Frisco, but you’ll be enjoying the same great weather, food, and lifestyle.