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 twenty-something 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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From the undulating, hilly topography of its city streets to the dizzying heights of its famous cable cars, San Francisco possesses an undeniable charm that is immediately obvious. Tramp through Chinatown and enjoy a rainbow coloured skyline, plenty of hippie-friendly eateries and a charming atmosphere of cultural celebration and minority empowerment. Photography fanatics won’t be able to keep their fingers off their shutter-buttons as they stand before the iconic Golden Gate Bridge while it peeks out of the mist. Spanning the one-mile-wide strait between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, the rusty-red feat of engineering is very much the symbol of the city.
Who is San Francisco best for ?
For those who can’t imagine a better way to welcome in a sleepy Sunday than with a fresh organic brunch, the Ferry Building Market delivers in spades. Championing the finest in farm-to-fork produce, the market is the vibrant gathering place for local farmers, artisan producers and independent food businesses making this nothing short of a culinary Eden. For lovers of marine environments, stunning sea views and sumptuous seafood dinners are sure to delight and at the famous Cliff House restaurant you can enjoy both.
The best way to discover San Francisco
San Francisco is a great spot for a good old-fashioned road trip. Head along Highway 1 which runs down the Pacific coast to Los Angeles and experience the tangible differences between excessively glamorous LA and charmingly understated San Francisco. Enjoy an 11-day getaway punctuated by stops in small towns and get a real feel for the West Coast. For families with tiny trekkers in tow there are plenty of fun ways to discover San Francisco. Catch the ferry to Alcatraz and take a guided tour of the old military prison, cycle to Golden Gate Bridge to take in the dizzying heights and spectacular views and watch the seals at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Special moments during a trip to San Francisco
- Theatrical sunsets are a regular occurrence in San Francisco and even the locals don’t tire of these nightly shows. On lazy afternoons, wander up to one of the city’s panoramic points and watch the sun dip below a watery horizon as the Golden Gate Bridge shines bright in the amber evening light.
- Take to the skies and fly over San Francisco in a seaplane to experience the wonder of seeing the city spread out below like an intricate tapestry alive with colours and commotion. Enjoy a birds eye view of Sunset beach, Golden Gate Park and Downtown on your flight from the charming village of Sausalito.