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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 exploring while on holiday here, and with a little bit of help from us, you can avoid the tourist hordes as well.

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.

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Ferry to Alcatraz
If You Do Three Things
1
Visit Alcatraz

Catch the ferry to Alcatraz Island for a tour of one of the world's most notorious prisons, and enjoy impressive views back towards the city on the way. The disused prison is now one of San Francisco's most popular attractions and the island is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. You can tour the cell house and see the nine by five foot cells where the prisoners lived.

Golden Gate Bridge
If You Do Three Things
2
Cycle Over Golden Gate Bridge

Hire a bike and cycle the 1.7 miles across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, which opened in 1937 and cost a staggering $27 million (about $1.5 billion today). To avoid the crowds (and the heat in the summer), do this early in the day and continue your ride to the town of Sausalito, where you can grab some lunch before getting the ferry back across the bay into the city.

Fisherman's Wharf Seals
If You Do Three Things
3
Visit Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39

Visit the historic Fisherman's Wharf district to watch the fishing boats, visit delicious seafood stalls and restaurants, and spot sea lions basking in the sun. The area makes for a fantastic family day out, with plenty to do and see for all ages. Head to the iconic Pier 39, the most visited site in San Francisco, for fantastic views of the city and the bay.

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San Francisco
San Francisco
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Chinatown San Francisco
Deeper Cuts
Head off the beaten track and uncover the little-known gems of a destination
Explore Chinatown

Enjoy a morning with a private guide in the famous San Francisco Chinatown. Go beyond the tourist traps and commercialised restaurants and learn about the history of this fascinating neighbourhood. Start off bright and early with a dim sum breakfast before exploring a Chinese market, learning about all the ingredients and taking part in a traditional tea ceremony, ending this authentic experience with family-style lunch.

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A Note on Price

All of our holidays are completely tailor-made and prices will vary based on things like when in the year you will be travelling, how far in advance you book, the class of flights included and the level of accommodation you choose. The guide prices shown across this website are designed to provide you with a broad indication of how much to budget for your trip.