One of the most magnificent and beloved cities in the world, San Francisco is perched on over 50 hills overlooking the bay with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. With its steep hills, cable cars, and breathtaking views around every corner, just walking around San Francisco will delight you!
Stroll around Fisherman Wharf to see the street performers, watch the fishing boats come in, and to visit the fresh seafood restaurants. Take a turn through Chinatown and pick up some fortune cookies or wander through North Beach for Italian delicacies. Window shop in Union Square. You will definitely leave your heart in San Francisco!
1. The Golden Gate Bridge is synonymous with San Francisco and this iconic landmark should be your first stop. It is 1.7 miles long and you can cross it on foot or on a bike free of charge to get a feel of its massive size and take the best photographs.
2. While down at sea level, hop on a ferry to Alcatraz Island, or The Rock, as the locals call it. A prison in times gone by, it housed such notorious criminals as Al Capone and was the setting for the movies Escape from Alcatraz and The Rock.
3. On your return from Alcatraz, head for Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square, one great area for shopping and dining. Indulge in a bowl of ubiquitous clam chowder while watching the street entertainers; and the sea lions to the west.
4. Sausalito is located across San Francisco Bay and is accessed either by ferry (which is like a shortened Bay cruise) or across the Golden Gate Bridge. Shop, wander the streets and enjoy good food. The views of the mainland are wonderful.
5. Although Lombard Street is only the length of one city block, it twists and turns through eight hair pin bends from the top to the bottom, offering stunning views on the way. There is also a convenient cable car. Lombard Street is bordered by colourful flowers and shops.
6. The most popular form of tourist transportation in San Francisco is the trolley. Hop on one of these colourful trolleys and trundle around the city, but make sure you get an outside seat so that you do not miss any of the sights along the way.
7. The most densely populated and fascinating area of the city is its huge Chinatown, one of the largest outside of mainland China. Although touristy, the atmosphere is amazing and you should explore the many tea shops, herbalists and food shops. It is a good place to buy souvenirs and eat authentic food.
8. For a little bit of culture, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor is a wonderful art museum built in the Neo Classical style, which houses a collection of pictures from primitive times to the Impressionists, including an original cast of Rodin’s The Thinker.
9. The Exploratorium is a part of the Palace of Fine Arts which was built in the Roman Style for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. A hands-on modern science museum, it has an outside rotunda and lagoon which are iconic sights of the city.
10. For some 1960s nostalgia, check out the Haight-Ashbury Intersection which was central during those revolutionary times. It still retains much of its hippie charm; and you can see the homes of The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin and take a Flower Power Tour on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Visitors to San Francisco often look for the famous street cars that transport people up and down the steep hills of the city. Locals advise that instead of looking where to pay for a ticket, think instead about how you are going to ride the car as you can go inside or sit on the outside and if you are feeling adventurous hang on to the straps and go. Someone will find you for the fare as you enjoy the classic journey and the San Francisco experience.
San Francisco is a truly multi cultural city with diverse communities that all come together in one way or another. Most visitors head for Pier 39 in search of something to eat and indeed there are some excellent well established fish restaurants. One of the best things about San Francisco are the family run businesses and small local restaurants that offer excellent dining at a reasonable price. Locals will recommend you try freshly caught Dungeness crab which is a specialty of the area. The Italian area of North Beach is full of trattorias and small cafes, some within a short distance of where the baseball legend Joe Di Maggio went to school and married Marilyn Munro. Bustling Chinatown is another good area to eat Chinese and for some quiet reflection try joining in with the daily T’ai Chi in Washington Square. For Latin culture and great coffee bars head to the Mission district in San Francisco. In the city of San Francisco as with any American city portions of food can be huge. Waiters are used to people sharing a dish and taking a doggie bag away to finish later so do not be afraid to ask.
One of the great ways to spend a day in San Francisco is in the Golden Gate Park. A smell of eucalyptus greets visitors and there are choices of walks through the various trees, segway lessons, cycling and even a visit to some of the museums in the area. The Japanese Garden is a particularly beautiful place to walk around with orchids and beautifully manicured bonsai. On Sundays it is car free and the perfect place to spend a sunny day.
San Francisco is a busy city with many visitors, but it is possible to escape the crowds and mingle with the locals to enjoy this great destination at its best.
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