San Francisco, The City by the Bay, is a laid-back, bohemian
city, with a wealth of attractions and historical sights to
experience. From interesting neighbourhoods full of laid-back
artists and musicians, to fascinating museums and attrractions, San
Francisco has plenty to offer for everyone.
San Francisco is on the northern Californian coastline, and is a
sprawling metropolitan area, that surrounds a large salt-water bay,
with a narrow inlet from the sea that is spanned by the Golden Gate
Bridge; probably the most well known bridge in the US.
Because of its location and geography, the city is surprisingly
cool, compared to Los Angeles and even a few miles inland, which
can be very hot and dry. It is famous for the sea fog that
drifts over the bay some days, making stuning photo opportunities
of the Bridge. The city temperatures tend to be around the
low-mid 20's for the Summer and Autumn seasons, with the Winters
cooler and wetter, but very rarely below freezing. This makes
San Francisco a city you can visit all year round and not be
uncomfortable with the temperatures.
San Francisco is best navigated on foot and by the public
transport system. Roads can get busy at any time of day,
one-way streets appear as if by magic and parking is expensive and
can be difficult to find. The city is built on many hills and
can be very steep in places. The famous Lombard Street is so
steep, it zig-zags back and forth 8 times to get from top to
bottom! The public transport system is very good and there
are historic cable cars, trolley buses and light rail trolley cars,
as well as normal buses, trains and the BART (Bay Area Rapid
Transit) subway system, which all make travelling around the city
very easy. Taxis can be found fairly easily in Downtown and
near large hotels.
You can walk to many of the sights around the city, including
Telegraph Hill and the Coit Tower, with views of the City and the
Bay, Golden Gate Park, with gardens, lakes, wildlife and
entertainment, Fort Point, which has great views of the
bridge, and the waterfront area which includes Fishermans' Wharf,
Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square. You can walk across the
Golden Gate Bridge, as well, and this is a wonderful excursion with
some great photo opportunities. This is quite a long walk to
go all the way across and you need to be fairly fit, but you can
just go half way across, if you don't feel up to the whole
bridge! We would suggest you hire a car for travelling to
sights and attractions outside the city, and especially to drive
across the Golden Gate Bridge on Route 1!
Famous sights to visit include Alcatraz Island, with its famous
prison (prebooking recommended) and Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 and
Girardelli Square, covering several blocks of shopping and dining
on the waterfront, with views over the bay and Alcatraz.
There are also many other worthwhile places to visit, such as
museums, galleries and parks. The coast road, Route 1, runs
north and south of the city and has stunning scenery and some
secluded beaches to explore. Most of the coastline north of
the city, for nearly 60 miles, is classified as the Golden Gate
National Recreation Area, and has many historical sites, hiking
trails, lovely beaches and numerous spots just to stop and watch
the sun set over the Pacific.
The neighbourhoods around the City also have their own spirit,
and are well worth a visit if you have the time. The Mission
District offers Latin shops and restaurants, North Beach has
Italian restaurants, Chinatowns' sights and food, and Pacific
Heights, Russian Hill and Nob Hill all have extraordinary mansions
from the rich and famous past residents and founders of the City,
railroad magnates and gold-rush tycoons, some of which have now
been turned into luxury hotels.
The California Wine Country is about an hour north of San
Francisco. Most of the wineries are in Napa Valley and Sonoma
Valley and most of them offer tours, tastings and restaurants. Napa
Valley has more wineries and is more touristy, while the Sonoma
Valley is lower key with family-run wineries and a relaxed
Overall, San Francisco is a lovely, relaxed city to spend some
time in, and well worth including in your itnerary if you can.