When outsiders think of Berkeley, world-class University of California, Berkeley comes to mind, as well as its history of liberal activism.

Locals, however, have many more reasons to appreciate this eclectic metropolis. The extensive trail system in the surrounding hills and public transportation that takes you into the heart of San Francisco or Oakland in minutes, are some of the reasons Berkeley is one of the most desirable communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Berkeley is roughly a quarter the size of Oakland, with a population of just over 100,000. Many of the residents are associated with the University of California, Berkeley, which has approximately 35,000 students, or the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, with a staff of over 4,000. Both institutions are world-renowned for research and academic achievement. Living in Berkeley, it is impossible to be immune to the energy and innovation that spill over from these organizations into every aspect of the community. As one of the most politically liberal cities in the U.S., Berkeley is also at the center of many progressive movements.

Berkeley is truly a community built on education and learning. In addition to UC Berkeley, the city is home to The Graduate Theological Union—the largest religious doctoral program in the U.S.—and two community colleges. Not surprisingly, the public school system, Berkeley Unified School District, is also known for its superior quality within the region. The district includes over 11 elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools, all of which educate almost 10,000 students combined.

Berkeley has even more to offer than top-notch education, an eclectic range of activities, and ideal weather. Some of the most beautiful places to live are situated in the Berkeley Hills’ neighborhoods of Cragmont and La Loma Park—both have breathtaking views and winding streets bordered by luxurious homes. Although smaller than Oakland, its neighbor to the south, Berkeley has almost as many diverse neighborhoods. All of the neighborhoods, from the Bay to the Hills, have a lot to be desired.

Always brimming with activity, much of the action in Berkeley is centered around Cal or just west of the campus in Downtown Berkeley. The Claremont neighborhood boasts historic homes and scenic views of the San Francisco Bay. Set in the hills of Claremont overlooking the San Francisco Bay is the stunning Claremont Hotel, a prominent landmark in both Berkeley and the Bay Area.

Berkeley’s charming Elmwood District is best known for the shopping along College Avenue. North Berkeley, commonly referred to as the “Gourmet Ghetto,” is full of restaurants that would make even the most jaded foodie blush. The epicenter of farm-to-table food sourcing began here with Alice Waters’ esteemed restaurant, Chez Panisse. Many of the chefs from Chez Panisse have gone on to start other restaurants and bakeries in the Gourmet Ghetto and beyond.