Discovering San Francisco

Discovering San Francisco is one of the most legendary cities in the United States. From Jack Kerouac and Alcatraz to the birthplace of flower power in the Haight-Ashbury district, nowhere else in America has inspired writers, poets and artists quite like San Francisco.

Known for its steep hills, cable cars, its eclectic, exuberant blend of architecture, and for its entry across the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is a city to explore and discover for oneself. It is packed with treasures that mean different things to different people and a skyline that seems to constantly redefine itself in the characteristic San Francisco mist.

Things to do in San Francisco – a selection

Golden Gate Bridge is a landmark known across the globe. Built in 1937, this beautiful suspension bridge has been featured in too many photographs and movies to count, and walking or cycling across its 1.7 miles is a pleasure.

Discovering San Francisco has many great parks and green spaces to explore, but the best known of them must be Golden Gate Park: some 1,017 acres of gardens, lakes, picnic spots, statues, footpaths and playgrounds that regularly play host to a slew of open-air events and activities.

Enjoyed by tourists and sea lions alike, Fisherman’s Wharf is a lively quay filled with things to see and taste, including the ubiquitous clam chowder served in a bowl. Even here there are hidden gems to be discovered, such as the antique penny arcade Musée Mécanique on Pier 45, home of the family-owned Zelinksy Collection, which dates back to the 1930s.

Alcatraz Island is situated 1.5 miles out in San Francisco Bay. Since the notorious prison closed in the early 1960s, ‘The Rock’ has become a popular tourist attraction reached by ferry from Pier 33.

Try climbing the 400 steps of Coit Tower, accompanied by chirping green parrots, or take the elevator; either way, the hike is rewarded by great views from the top of Telegraph Hill. Built in 1933, it was funded by a bequest from Lillie Hitchcock Coit to the city she ‘always loved’. The murals on the ground floor depict scenes of the Great Depression.

Sometimes said to be the world’s most crooked street, the steep, one-block section of Lombard Street on Russian Hill has no less than eight hairpin turns. Dating from 1922, this stretch is lined with flowerbeds that explode with colour in the springtime.

Discovering San Francisco’s Chinatown district is the city’s busiest: some 24 blocks of shops, markets and restaurants throng with life and activity. Check out the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, where thousands of fortune cookies are manufactured on the premises daily.

The Summer of Love has never ended in SF’s Haight-Ashbury district, with its charming old architecture and general hippy vibe, as evidenced in the many vintage clothing stores, second-hand book and record shops of the area; there are also great views to be had from Buena Vista Park, the oldest public park in the city.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to no less than 30 beaches, some inland on the bay and others located right on the Pacific Ocean. Some of the closest of the latter are the half-mile-long Baker Beach, of which the northern section is popular with nude bathers; surfer’s paradise Ocean Beach, adjacent to Golden Gate Park; and the less visited Mile Rock Beach, a secret spot for great views and quiet contemplation.

Northern California’s biggest flea market is the Alameda Point Antiques Faire, located at the former Alameda Naval Air Station on SF’s eastern bay – it is held on the first Sunday of every month. All merchandise must be at least 20 years old to be sold here, and there are literally hundreds of booths.

Whether hitching a ride with nothing but a rucksack or arriving business class, there are hotels in San Francisco to suit all budgets.

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