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 step up, strip down and go too far: 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. Following dinner, there's the pressing matter of a drink. A brief flirtation with respectability in 1906 convinced City Hall to ban 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 your 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 reached via Telegraph Hill's garden-lined stairway walks, windswept hikes around Land's End and climbs up rocky Corona Heights.
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 Mission Dolores Park or a hasty retreat to the tropical heat at the 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
Discover San Francisco travel guide
Experience the best of San Francisco - Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Chinatown, cable cars - we've selected the most iconic sights and top experiences so you can enjoy the real San Francisco with the minimum of fuss.
Cheese travel: tips from a cheesemonger
Gordon Edgar is the cheese buyer for San Francisco’s famous Rainbow Grocery Cooperative (rainbow.coop), a store that is well-known by Bay Area food-lovers for having an amazingly well-stocked and diverse cheese selection.
Best budget places to stay in San Francisco
San Francisco by cable car
San Francisco city guide
Sunny days suit most cities just fine, but San Francisco saves its most dramatic views of Golden Gate Bridge for foggy weather.
Top 10 walking tours for globetrotting foodies
The best – and tastiest – way to fast-track your understanding of a city's cuisine is to embark on a guided walking tour that includes sampling the local food. Tuck into the best offerings from street food stalls, meet chefs at cafes and restaurants, and local producers at markets.
Best places to eat in San Francisco
Pocket San Francisco
Come as you are, and ditch your inhibitions – you won’t be needing those in San Francisco.
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.
Viator VIP: California Academy of Sciences Early-Access Admission
Experience San Francisco’s amazing California Academy of Sciences with this early-access admission ticket. Enjoy admission one hour earlier than the general public to explore the aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and 4-story rainforest, all under one roof.
Top 40 rock 'n' roll travel sites countdown (40-21)
You don't have to worry about road trip tunes when rock 'n' roll is your destination. The beat comes naturally when you're connecting the dots between crossroads, polyester suit shops, distortion pedals, death sites and links to those Gallagher brothers. To help start, here's our Top 40 list.
San Francisco - Planning (Chapter)
Your journey to San Francisco starts here.