San Francisco city guide: Where to stay, eat, drink and shop in California’s bohemian coastal city
The Summer season of Love, sourdough bread and steep hills: these are only a few issues that make San Francisco stand out. Regardless of being residence to fewer than one million individuals, the “Metropolis by the Bay” has a world status, one which has drawn guests from the world over for hundreds of years.
You’ll end up amongst locals who’re a combination of techies and yuppies, artists and activists, in addition to vacationers donning Alcatraz sweatshirts as a result of they anticipated Los Angeles climate. Conversations about tech and social innovation are backdropped by the nice – reminiscent of Victorian structure – and the unhealthy – damaged automotive glass from break-ins. However all of it stimulates the artistic spirit that defines San Francisco.
Between Michelin-starred eating places, crisply distinct neighbourhoods and breathtaking bridges, there’s lots to see and do. Right here’s the place to begin.
What to do
Go to the Golden Gate Bridge
Some would possibly say the one strategy to actually expertise the enduring Golden Gate Bridge is to stroll throughout its 1.7 mile span – however whereas that’s completely enjoyable and manageable, there are different choices. As an alternative of driving or taking a bus to the Welcome Middle on the south finish of the bridge, as many do, think about going throughout and as much as Battery Spencer for an almost eye-level view with the bridge towers. The bonus of this method is that San Francisco usually has a lot marine fog over the bridge that the view is obscured anyway, however the view from above in the identical circumstances is gorgeous. In case you have the time and vitality, you can even stroll throughout the bridge after which as much as the point of view to get the complete expertise.
Discover the totally different neighbourhoods
San Francisco is a comparatively small metropolis at 7×7 miles, making it very walkable – when you can deal with the hills – and there’s nice selection within the totally different neighbourhoods. It could possibly really feel like a problem to discover all of them, so plan forward earlier than diving in: if you wish to really feel prefer it’s the Summer season of Love, head to Haight-Ashbury to get immersed in hippie tradition. Many LGBTQ+ newcomers and guests to San Francisco are drawn in by town’s accepting tradition, notably within the Castro, the place rainbow flags and crosswalks greet you.
Loads of worldwide cultures have discovered a house in San Francisco, forming distinct communities. North Seashore is the place you’ll discover town’s Italian flavour, but additionally the legacy of its Beat Poets. Head to Tony’s Pizza Napoletana for the previous, and Metropolis Lights Bookstore for the latter. Don’t miss eating and buying within the Mission District – traditionally a Latinx neighbourhood, it now shares area with the hipster crowd. Lastly, don’t miss the sound of mahjong tiles clacking within the metropolis’s Chinatown, the most important outdoors of Asia and one of the best place for attending to know Chinese language-American tradition. The Chinatown Ghost Tour ($45/£37) is an extra-special strategy to get acquainted with this distinctive a part of San Francisco. Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Sq. are town’s vacationer centres, however it’s tremendous to skip them as they’re a bit generic.
See as a lot of Golden Gate Park as doable
Even a lifetime of residing in San Francisco isn’t sufficient to see every part within the sprawling, various Golden Gate Park. Discover your strategy to the de Younger Museum ($15/£12), town’s oldest museum and architecturally placing even from the surface. It showcases tremendous artwork, and is conveniently located close to the California Academy of Sciences, which has interactive science displays together with a planetarium. Of the park’s many gardens to discover, make sure to try the expansive San Francisco Botanical Backyard ($10/£8), the greenhouse-style Conservatory of Flowers ($10), and the soul-quieting Japanese Tea Backyard ($10-$12).
Take the cable automotive
If there’s one classically “touristy” expertise you must do in San Francisco, it’s using town’s cable automotive. Catch one on the turntable on Market Road within the downtown space all the way in which throughout the hills to Fisherman’s Wharf, the place you’ll be able to see Pier 39’s well-known sea lions. Take a look at the MTA web site for extra data on getting tickets.
The place to remain
For boutique luxurious, keep within the SoMa neighbourhood at Lodge Zelos. The rooms are fashionable and distinctive, with deep tubs and enjoyable bathrobes. Their restaurant and bar, Soiled Behavior, has unbelievable views and meals. Doubles from $209 (£168), room solely. viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/zelos
To get a style of the eccentricity that provides San Francisco its distinctive id, keep at Noe’s Nest Mattress & Breakfast in Noe Valley. Every room is extra eclectic and quirky than the subsequent, and all of them are canine pleasant. In case you can handle to pause perusing the unusual collections and memorabilia in the home, you’re effectively positioned to discover the Mission District. Doubles from $225 (£180), B&B. noesnest.com
To get a style of old-fashioned San Francisco, head to the Fairmont on the prime of Nob Hill. That is an upscale lodge, with Edwardian structure and refined ambiance that actually evoke town’s spirit. Staying right here or not, a go to to the Tonga Room is important to get a style of San Francisco’s tiki tradition. Doubles from $300 (£244), room solely. fairmont-san-francisco.com
The place to eat
San Francisco is a foodie metropolis, whether or not we’re speaking world-renowned eating places or holes-in-the-wall.
It’s doable that Sam Wo in Chinatown is the primary Chinese language restaurant in the complete nation, however it’s virtually actually the primary in San Francisco. It’s an establishment that’s beloved by vacationers and locals alike, and might make an important start line for exploring Chinatown’s delicacies typically.
Cafe Zoetrope in North Seashore is a triple menace: a chunk of San Francisco historical past, a cinematic surprise, and a rattling tremendous place to eat Italian meals. This restaurant within the flatiron-style Sentinel Constructing is owned by The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola. A group of film historical past and memorabilia will hold you entertained as you dine on conventional Italian dishes.
The Home of Prime Rib is a San Francisco establishment that harkens again to a time when a very good meal meant good meat and potatoes, and a stiff drink. This was tremendous eating at its most interesting, and most lifelong San Franciscans agree that town wouldn’t be fairly the identical with out this restaurant.
San Francisco is a seaside metropolis, and Sotto Mare is the place serving up one of the best of what the native ocean has to supply. That is the house of cioppino, California’s declare to fame on the subject of Italian meals. You can even get Pacific delicacies reminiscent of Dungeness crab right here (when it’s in season).
The place to drink
There’s no scarcity of locations to get a very good drink in San Francisco, whether or not your vibe is dive bar (Li Po), tiki (Smuggler’s Cove), fancy (Prime of the Mark on the Mark Hopkins lodge), or simply straight up bizarre (Kozy Kar). Chances are high that it doesn’t matter what you’ll like, Trick Canine can be up your alley, too.
In the case of consuming and partying arduous, there may be nothing fairly like Butter. The drinks are sturdy, comparatively cheap, and the accompanying bar snacks are a number of the finest within the metropolis.
This can be a metropolis that takes its caffeine significantly and Fluid Cooperative Cafe within the La Cocina Municipal Market is especially particular. This trans-owned beanery serves up nice espresso, and offers you an opportunity to discover San Francisco’s dedication to social justice by way of meals.
Come to the Japanese Tea Backyard as a result of it’s lovely and calming, keep as a result of the tea service shouldn’t be missed. Within the midst of exploring America’s very first backyard of its sort, cease on the tea home – in-built 1894 – to participate within the serene tea ceremony.
The place to buy
Union Sq. is San Francisco’s prime buying district, with all one of the best manufacturers and shops. That is the place you’ll find Sak’s fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton and the remainder. It’s particularly pleasant round Christmas when the tree is up and Macy’s fills its home windows with adoptable puppies and kittens from the San Francisco SPCA.
Wingtip is a high-end males’s retailer within the Monetary District promoting clothes and niknaks for males of style, plus cigars – and there’s even a basic barbershop onsite. In case you’re fortunate, they could allow you to peek within the non-public membership a number of flooring up.
The Ferry Constructing is stuffed with pleasant retailers, however it actually comes alive on Saturdays through the farmer’s market. You would possibly end up choosing produce alongside a number of the area’s most famous cooks as they hunt for one of the best substances.
A number of the finest boutique buying is centred round Haight Road and Valencia Road, within the Mission District. Each are residence to classic, second-hand, and considered one of a form retailers that may’t be discovered wherever else.
Edwardian and Victorian structure defines San Francisco, with its shiny colors, ornate mouldings and general extravagance. Whereas you’ll encounter buildings like these all over the place, essentially the most iconic assortment of this model is the Painted Women. They turned further well-known as stars of the intro sequence for the TV present Full Home, however initially these grand houses mirrored the magnificence of the gold rush period. Head to Alamo Sq. park, particularly at dawn or sundown, for an unbelievable architectural view.
Nuts and bolts
What foreign money do I would like?
What language do they communicate?
English, although Spanish, Chinese language, and even Russian could be useful in sure areas.
Ought to I tip?
18-20 per cent.
What’s the time distinction?
Pacific Time Zone, or GMT-7
How ought to I get round?
San Francisco is a really walkable metropolis if hills don’t hassle you, in any other case MUNI buses and trains will get you the place you must go. The Van Ness BRT simply opened in April 2022 as town’s latest bus hall, so you’ll be able to attempt it out and let San Franciscans know what you consider this long-awaited mission. The BART practice can be out there in sure areas of town, and is one of the best public transport choice to the East Bay. For a scenic and value efficient choice for travelling to the North Bay (and different areas), take the Golden Gate Ferry. Extra transport information could be discovered right here.
In case you determine to hire a automotive, make certain to have completely nothing – not even trash – seen in it if you park. Automotive break-ins, aka smash and grabs, have been on the rise, and one of the best defence is to make your automotive not appear definitely worth the effort.
What’s one of the best view?
Drive up the winding street to Twin Peaks for a shocking view of town and the encircling Bay Space.
Don’t name it “San Fran” if you need locals to love you. And at all times carry a lightweight jacket – even when the climate appears scorching and sunny, that coastal fog can sneak up on you quick.
Attempting to fly much less?
You would take a cargo ship from Le Havre, France, to New York Metropolis – from the place you’ll be able to take the Amtrak practice to Chicago, one other to Richmond, California, and the native practice on to San Francisco.
Positive with flying?
British Airways, United and Virgin Atlantic all have direct flights from the UK.