How to Choose the Best Neighborhoods in Berkeley

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Now that you have made the decision to move to Berkeley, it’s time to choose the perfect neighborhood in which to settle. This historic college city is teeming with students and residents alike, but each neighborhood in Berkeley brings something new and unique to the table. No two neighborhoods are the same.

Perched on the San Francisco Bay’s eastern shore in northern Alameda County, Berkeley gets its name from an 18thcentury philosopher and Irish bishop names George Berkeley. Bordering Oakland, Emeryville, Albany and Kensington, Berkeley has a population of 121,000. It’s home to the University of California, Berkeley, which happens to be the oldest campus in the U of C system. Considered one of the country’s most socially liberated cities, Berkeley has something for everyone.

When searching for your new home, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to the personalities of each area.

Downtown Berkeley

Here, you’ll find the heart of the city, with its towering apartment buildings, eclectic music venues and kitschy restaurants. It sits just one block west of the U of C Berkeley campus, so you can imagine what a hangout this is for students. Millennials have been flooding the downtown area recently, with more and more casual restaurants and bars lining the streets.

What defines this area is the diversity in food, music and art, all of which contribute to the vibrancy of downtown Berkeley.

West Berkeley/Fourth Street

If you’re a single family, this is the area for you. Historically associated with its Fourth Street shopping district peppered with name-brand stores like Apple and Crate and Barrel, this neighborhood sits two miles from campus. It’s always been more of a working-class neighborhood, which means you’ll find a lot of smaller homes such as bungalows.

South Berkeley

Today, South Berkeley is filled with coffee shops, high-end stores and vintage clothing boutiques, a bit further from its roots as a diverse black community in years past. It’s seeing an influx of wealth and influence from nearby San Francisco. There is still a small black community here, but there’s also a mix of UC Berkeley students, senior citizens and middle-income families that all contribute to a diverse demographic.

Southside/Telegraph Avenue

Located south of campus, this area is teeming with students and businesses like music stores and clothing shops. It’s predominantly a young, unique area that contributes to the quirky atmosphere that the city of Berkeley has always been known for. The businesses revolve around students, which means you’ll also see more affordable restaurants and bars, all trying to capture the attention of young people with books and the latest music.

That doesn’t mean you won’t see chain stores such as Chipotle, representing the growing commercial nature of the neighborhood.

Northside/North Berkeley

Northside is – you guessed it – located north of campus. The student population here is a bit older than those on Southside, comprised of graduate students and professors. When school is in, this area is bustling. When school is out, it clears out pretty quickly, leaving the locals with peace and quiet.

Mostly residential in nature, you won’t see as many multi-story apartment buildings here like you would downtown. If you venture just a little further into North Berkeley, the neighborhoods feature tree-lined streets and are more quiet and family-oriented.


Also family-oriented is the Elmwood neighborhood hailed for its diverse College Avenue restaurants that focus on promoting a healthier lifestyle for middle- and upper-class people. You’ll find lots of organic food restaurants, vegan cafes and gluten free bakeries. Despite its name, the College Avenue area of the Elmwood neighborhood is many blocks from campus, dividing the student-enriched Southside not just due to location but also higher prices that students can’t readily afford.

Tips For Choosing the Best Neighborhood When Moving

It can be tough to know which neighborhoods you want to settle into. But here are some general tips when trying to make a decision.

What are the most important features to you?

Knowing what makes a neighborhood special to your family means asking the right questions. Think about your preferences:

  • Quiet streets vs. busier area?
  • Walking distance to shops and restaurants?
  • College student or family?
  • Access to green spaces such as parks?
  • Older neighborhood vs. newer development?
  • Tight-knit community or isolation?

The Commute

Research how long will it take you to get to and from work. Try running the commute in the morning and afternoon to get a real-time sense of the time involved. If you can handle the rush hour commute, you’re golden. Take the time to find the best route to and from work, tweaking as you go.

Explore the Neighborhood

If you can visit the area beforehand, do so. Check out each neighborhood at different times of the day. Take a walk. Look at the conditions of the homes. What do the front yards look like? Do people take pride in their properties? Look at the condition of the streets and sidewalks to see if the city maintains them well.

How do the residents seem? Do they make eye contact with you, smile, say hello? Or does everyone pretty much keep to themselves? Check crime rates online to see which neighborhoods are safest. What kind of people live there? Students, middle age, young families, retirees? Perhaps you see a good mix of all.

Is the neighborhood comprised mainly of single-family homes, high rises, apartment buildings, or condos? Answers to these questions will give you a better idea of where you want to ideally live.

Contact Dependable Movers

Here at Dependable Movers, we handle moves to and from Berkeley all week long. For a free quote on your upcoming home or office relocation, contact us at 415-619-5997.





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