As with many of our favourite cities, San Francisco is a collection of distinct and distinctive neighbourhoods inhabited by tribes ranging from hippies to hipsters, but also containing some of the most iconic landmarks of any city in the US. The prison of Alcatraz, the sea lions at Pier 39, the Swan Oyster Depot restaurant and all the other classic 'Frisco sites are well worth exploration, and with a little bit of help from us, you can avoid the tourist hordes as well.

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Why we think you’ll love it

'Frisco is a city that has always welcomed immigrants, and their gastronomic contributions make it fabulous for foodies.

Our guide to holidays in San Francisco

So where to start? For a sense of context, visit the original hippy commune of Haight-Ashbury (now, ironically, full of chic boutiques that would have produced mutters of 'commercialism, man' back in the 60s). Next stop might be The Mission, a neighbourhood that's become home to hipsters, and consequently craft beer breweries and achingly cool restaurants.

You can work off the over-eating by walking up the extremely steep (and winding) Lombard Street in the Russian Hill district made famous by Steve McQueen's epic car chase in Bullitt before hitting the waterfront to meet those iconic sea lions or browse the stalls at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. Finally, there's a strong chance of bumping into a twentysomething tech billionaire in Mid-Market, home to Instagram and Twitter and now a major rival to Silicon Valley as the city reinvents itself once again.

Time Difference

GMT -8 hrs

Top picks for San Francisco

The balcony lounge at Hotel Vitale, luxury hotel in Big Sur

Hotel Vitale

San Francisco

The eco-friendly Hotel Vitale occupies an enviable position at the foot of the Embarcadero, the eastern waterfront of the Bay of San Francisco.

Where to stay

Views of the Golden Gate Bridge at Cavallo Point, luxury hotel in the Big Sur

Cavallo Point

San Francisco

Cavallo Point is a historic boutique hotel just 15 minutes south of Sausalito. It occupies an enviable position at the base of San Francisco’s most noteworthy landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Where to stay

Lobby at Clift Hotel, luxury hotel in San Francisco, Big Sur

Clift Hotel

San Francisco

The Clift is in the centre of San Francisco, just a stones throw from Union Square, and combines old-school elegance with a distinctly modern touch.

Where to stay

St Regis San Francisco, luxury hotel in San Francisco

St Regis San Francisco

San Francisco

Located in the SOMA district of San Francisco, the city’s cultural hub, the St Regis is in the heart of this lively city.

Where to stay

Entrance at Hotel Zetta, luxury hotel in Big Sur

Hotel Zetta

San Francisco

If Soho House were to open a hotel in San Francisco (watch this space) it would look a lot like the Zetta Hotel. This ultimate Californian city hang out comes complete with oversized cushion chairs, pool tables, funky light fittings and a clientele of hip creative types (with the odd business type thrown in for good measure).

Where to stay

The Fairmont San Francisco

The Fairmont San Francisco

San Francisco

This grand dame in trendy San Francisco sits atop Nob Hill, one of the highest points in the city, and so offers guests stunning views of the city and the bay below.

Where to stay

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