Introducing San Francisco
Grab your coat and a handful of glitter, and enter the land of fog and fabulousness. So long, inhibitions; hello, San Francisco.
Consider permission permanently granted to be outlandish: other towns may surprise you, but in San Francisco you will surprise yourself. Good times and social revolutions tend to start here, from manic gold rushes to blissful hippie be-ins. If there's a skateboard move yet to be busted, a technology still unimagined, a poem left unspoken or a green scheme untested, chances are it's about to happen here. Yes, right now: this town has lost almost everything in earthquakes and dot-com gambles, but never its nerve.
Food & Drink
Every available Bay Area–invented technology is needed to make dinner decisions in this city, with the most restaurants and farmers markets per capita in North America, supplied by pioneering local organic farms. In 1906 City Hall banned women from bars, effectively driving the action underground through Prohibition. Today San Francisco celebrates its speakeasies and vintage saloons – and with Wine Country providing a steady supply of America's finest hooch, the West remains wild.
California is one grand, sweeping gesture, a long arm cradling the Pacific. But then there's San Francisco, that seven-by-seven-mile peninsula that looks like a forefinger pointing upwards. Take this as a hint to look up: you'll find San Francisco's crooked Victorian rooflines, wind-sculpted treetops and fog tumbling over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Heads are perpetually in the clouds atop San Francisco's 43 hills. Cable cars provide easy access to Russian and Nob Hills and splendid panoramas atop Coit Tower. But the most exhilarating highs are earned on Telegraph Hill's garden-lined stairway walks and windswept hikes around Land's End.
Microclimates add a touch of magic realism to San Francisco: when it's drizzling in the outer reaches of Golden Gate Park, it may be sunny in the Mission. A few degrees' difference between neighborhoods grants permission for salted caramel ice cream in Dolores Park or a hasty retreat to tropical heat inside California Academy of Sciences' rainforest dome. This town will give you goose bumps one minute and warm you to the core the next.
Why I Love San Francisco
By Alison Bing, Author
On my way from Hong Kong to New York, I stopped in San Francisco for a day. I walked from the Geary St art galleries up Grant Ave to Waverly Place, just as temple services were starting. The breeze smelled like incense and roast duck. In the basement of City Lights bookstore, near the Muckraking section, I noticed a sign painted by a 1920s cult: 'I am the door.' It's true. San Francisco is the threshold between East and West, body and soul, fact and fiction. That was 18 years ago. I'm still here. You have been warned.
Best places to stay in San Francisco
San Francisco city guide
Sunny days suit most cities just fine, but San Francisco saves its most dramatic views of Golden Gate Bridge for fog. When it swirls around the towers, romantics and photographers rejoice.
Watching wildlife along California's coast
Ready for coastal California's top wildlife spotting adventures? Here you'll find the USA's mini version of the Galápagos Islands, as well as an underwater canyon as big as the Grand Canyon. The Golden State's 1100-mile shoreline abounds with tide pools, kelp forests and protected bays and beaches too...
Best places to shop in San Francisco
Best budget places to stay in San Francisco
Pocket San Francisco
Grab your coat and a handful of glitter, and enter the land of fog and fabulousness. You’re just in time for the next outlandish act here at the outer edge of California and reason – if there’s a costume unworn, technology unimagined, skate...
San Francisco destination guides
Secret sights of San Francisco
San Francisco is known the world over for its beauty, its open-mindedness and its weirdness. So it should be no surprise that the City by the Bay is chock full of strange and unique secrets. Below are just a few of favourites known only to locals, and only the locals that really explore their own back yard...
San Francisco by cable car
Alcatraz and San Francisco City Tour
Combine a San Francisco City Tour and guided visit to Alcatraz for the ultimate introduction to San Francisco! You'll enjoy the beauty and attractions of everyone's favorite city, in addition to a scenic ferry ride to Alcatraz Island for an audio walking tour. Likely to Sell-out! Alcatraz regularly sells out weeks in advance. Book ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoias Trip
Take time out for a day trip into the wild beauty of Yosemite National Park from San Francisco. You'll spend 5-6 hours inside the park with a combination of guided hikes, breathtaking vistas and free-time to explore on your own. Enjoy the beautiful countryside and discover the raw beauty of California's most famous national park.
What to do in San Francisco: tips for every taste
If you're going to San Francisco, there's no need to wear a flower in your hair, but you do need to decide how to spend your time. San Francisco is diverse in every way, and the variety of options for a traveller can be a bit overwhelming...