About Downtown San Rafael
San Rafael is at the center of things. The oldest, largest and most culturally diverse city in Marin also enjoys the best weather. San Rafael is a lively business and cultural center located in an area of incomparable natural beauty.
At the city’s heart is our charming, downtown shopping district. The Downtown’s and the West End’s mixture of Victorian buildings, ethnic restaurants, cafes and coffee shops, brewerys and wine shops, retail stores, bookstores, boutiques, furniture stores, art, jewelry and collectibles as well as and financial institutions and professional services and offices, creates San Rafael’s ecclectic hometown flavor.
In the center of town is the San Rafael City Plaza, with its innovative water wall fountain. The plaza has become a community gathering place and the center of seasonal events such as the Thursday night farmers markets and summertime concerts.
Nearby is an authentic recreation of Mission San Rafael Arcangel; founded in 1817 as part of California’s mission chain, a replica of the original mission with a museum, gift shop and self-guided tours, attracts many visitors. It is also the backdrop for the annual Italian Street Painting Marin, where hundreds of artists, art lovers, families, students, and people from communities all over the Bay Area come to celebrate the magnificent art of Italian Street Painting.
Downtown also has the Rafael Film Center which features year round Art Films and is home to the World Famous Mill Valley Film Festival in October. We have several live music venues and Performing Art Centers in our vibrant district from Highway 101 to the West End of Fourth Street.
San Rafael’s history is present in many of its beautifully restored turn-of-the century buildings, including the Marin History Museum, the Falkirk Cultural Center, and the 106-year-old Dominican University. Many of these buildings are featured in a self-guided walking tour guide, available at the local Chamber of Commerce.