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As you cross Golden Gate Bridge on your way into San Francisco, your view is of a gigantic city surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on three sides. High-rise buildings in downtown San Francisco shoot into the heavens, dominated by the Transamerica Pyramid building.
San Francisco, in the western state of California, USA, is a thriving economy unto itself with a diverse population of roughly 850000 living in the city. The San Francisco Bay Area is the hub of technology with the 2nd highest number of Fortune 500 companies in the USA, and where entrepreneurship is revered.
San Francisco is a trendy chic city pulsating with bright and fresh attractions. It’s easy to see why San Francisco attracts global travellers from all walks of life.
With its history of the Gold Rush and reputation for fine cuisine, hotels, haute couture or even hip Bohemian culture, San Francisco is the nexus where all vacation dreams are met and fulfilled.
Things to do
Walk the city to discover its curious mixture of Victorian and Modern architecture, a place thick with memories and as old as America herself. And San Francisco’s cultural diversity is depicted in murals that revitalise ethnic neighbourhoods.
Downtown’s San Francisco Museum of Modern Art showcases dramatic and surreal pieces enhanced by natural light entering the building’s 38m diameter roof skylight. Nearby is the Theatre District to enjoy off-Broadway shows.
Avoid the climb by taking a cable car up to Chinatown, a sprawling area of temples, alleys, vegetable & fish markets, shops and museums. A visit to the Fortune Cookie Factory is worthwhile. Pause at the Chinatown Gateway for a selfie.
Take a trip to Alcatraz Island on the Hornblower Hybrid – an eco-friendly ferry powered by solar panels and wind turbines – for a tour of the Alcatraz maximum security prison.
Visit Fisherman's Wharf to sample the Dungenes crab and watch the street performers on Pier 39.
Bohemian, lively and unconventional best describes the area of Haight Ashbury where residents seem to have been trapped in the 60s Hippie era.
If you love to surf, San Francisco has a number of beaches for primo surfing such as Fort Point and Sharp Park. For the novice, waves at Ocean beach are gentle.
One of the world’s largest urban parks, the Golden Gate Park is worth a visit to stroll the Japanese Tea, Shakespearean and Tulip gardens and the opportunity to see an American Bison in the Buffalo Paddock.
The small town of Tiburon in the Bay area is a fascinating, upmarket waterfront town. The colourful shops and restaurants in Ark Row are housed in ‘arks’, refurbished old houseboats pulled ashore and converted.
The attractions north of San Francisco such as the Napa wine valley and Redwood forests as well as Hollywood and Malibu beach in the south could fill a book, however, the city of San Francisco is blessed with sufficient attractions to keep you excited for weeks.
Where to Eat
Located at the landmark Sheraton Palace Hotel, the Garden Court Restaurant where celebrities regularly frequent, serves spectacular meals under a gigantic glass atrium and lit by 20 Austrian crystal chandeliers.
Okoze Sushi offers superbly inventive sushi dishes. Nice romantic ambience, try the omakase dish which is well priced for the large quantities of sushi and shrimp tempura presented.
For 20 years, San Francisco locals and visitors have been flocking to Scala's Bistro for their exceptional Italian and French dishes. Branzino Saltimbocca made like they do in the old country.
Visiting an American city without sampling their traditional cuisine would be criminal and American Kitchen in Lafayette is just the place! Dishes are classic American, enjoy a shrimp scampi on grits or the delicious aged NY strip steak and fries.
Cajun Pacific offers a tasty combination of Cajun and Creole dishes. Expect there to be spice! The andouille sausage & chicken gumbo with a side order of fried green tomatoes is a must.
The pizzas (and other dishes) at Capo's Chicago Pizza & Fine Italian Dinners in North Beach gets the thumbs up from diners. The pizzas are cooked in 4 different ways: cracker thin, cast iron pan, deep dish or stuffed. Wow.
Fill your wallet for a culinary treat at the Michelin star Keiko à Nob Hill in Nob Hill where each dish is an absolute work of art. The A5 wagyu is a stellar dish.
Temple Nightclub on South Beach is a swank multi-level club offering different music vibes on each level. Open until late on weekends.
The Cat Club in the SOMA district (south of Market) features 2 dance floors and themed evenings from Throwback 80s to Strangelove: electro, new wave and Goth. Closed on Mondays.
Party it up at Ruby Skye where many famous DJs once began their careers. Top dance club with several VIP lounges.
Mezzanine is billed as a live music venue where new talent is hosted, from DJs to up and coming bands. Three lounges are spread around the main dance floor.
The small Hemlock Tavern is wildly popular for its off-the-wall entertainment such as raunchy rock acts, strange vaudeville evenings and punk rock sideshows.
Teatro Zinzanni on the Embarcadero in North Beach is a dinner/theatre venue showcasing an assortment of cirque, comedy and cabaret acts to engage and tantalise the diners. Fresh and inviting meals are served.
Where to Stay
The vast number of gorgeous accommodation facilities available in San Francisco leaves one spoilt for choice. Whether you choose a villa, hotel room, a condo, B&B, apartment or private home, your vacation in this beautiful part of the world can only be heightened.
Air The San Francisco International Airport lies 20km south of downtown San Francisco. This is one of the world’s busiest airports offering non-stop flights to close on 40 international cities.
Car Hire a vehicle online.
Taxi Hail a traditional cab from anywhere when its rooftop sign is illuminated or use the mobile app to request an Uber drive.
Bus A bus service is available throughout the city.
Other Rent a bicycle for a day. If you find yourself in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, hop on a pedicab or tone it down for a gentle ride on a horse-drawn carriage.
Did you know?
The University of San Francisco dates back to 1855 and is still a Jesuit-run institution.
The Great French Wine Blight occurred in the 1850s when all of Europe’s vineyards were infected by a bug known as Phylloxera, resulting in the complete collapse of the wine industry. It was thanks to the Californian resistant vines that a rootstock was obtained, then grafted onto existing European vines to re-establish the centuries-old industry.
Francis Ford Coppola is one of San Francisco’s favourite sons. He owns the Cafe Zoetrope restaurant in the city and Inglenook Winery in the Napa valley.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.