cities

Getting to Know San Francisco

Getting to Know San Francisco

Los Angeles and Hollywood are not the only major attractions in California. If you're willing to travel up north, you can enjoy the brisk and lively atmosphere of San Francisco, nestled in the heart of the Bay Area. This city was the home of Beat poets and gold miners, a friendly port for people of every class and creed. Even walking the streets here can be an adventure by itself.

Dressing Tips

First up, dress in layers, regardless of what time of the year you're visiting. The city can get very chilly, even in the middle of summer. If you need to get around, it's easier to use public transit than to try to navigate the city by car. Municipal transit passes allow you to use the Muni buses and the BART railway. Smoking is widely prohibited in most restaurants, bars, parks, office buildings, stadiums, and shops. If you're looking for the best food in Chinatown, go to the smaller restaurants where you're less likely to hear or read anything in English. You can still get by with ordering and you won't be disappointed with the cuisine. As for what to see while you're in town, it's hard to know where to start. There's so much to choose from the variety of parks, theaters, festivals, shopping centers, and restaurants.

Top attractions

Union Square

This one-block plaza in downtown San Francisco is surrounded by numerous department stores, boutiques, hotels, and art galleries. Unofficially, it's the real heart of the city, hosting parties around Christmas and New Year's Eve, as well as major festivals throughout the year. There are so many stores around this area that it's easy to get lost, although the biggest names include Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom. And if you've got the money, you might try the Westin St. Francis hotel for top-rated accommodations.

Fisherman's Wharf

For excellent seafood and shopping, you can't do worse than the Fisherman's Wharf on the northern seafront. You can shop at Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square, enjoy crab and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, see incredible marine life at the Aquarium of the Bay, or marvel at what's inside the Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf. This is also an ideal spot to see the air shows that take place during Fleet Week or the fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Cable Cars

San Francisco is home to the last manually operated cable cars in the world. Do yourself a favor and hop on one for a thrilling ride along the steep hills along Powell Street. If you want to learn more about the history of this classic city transit, you can visit the San Francisco Cable Car Museum in Nob Hill.

City Lights Bookstore

Since 1953, this progressive bookstore has been a cultural keystone of the city. It grew in popularity during the Sixties, hosting the poetry of Allen Ginsburg and other writers of the Beat Generation. Today, City Lights carries titles in fiction, poetry, cultural texts, world history, and politics. You'll find great poetry in the upstairs section or more political and colorful literature on the underground floor.

The Embarcadero

The eastern waterfront of San Francisco is always busy, serving as the terminal for every ferry that moves through the Bay. If you're looking for good food or some souvenirs, the Ferry Building has several restaurants inside, as well as a marketplace for all kinds of vendors. If you're more of a baseball fan, just down the street is AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.

More From cities

Subscribe Newsletters