San Francisco city breaks

Picturesque, multi-ethnic, colorful. Vibrant, dynamic, charming. San Francisco is a real gem. Situated on the West Coast of the United States and built on more than 50 hills, the “Golden Gate City” is a triumph of art and architecture, a harmonious multitude of different races and cultures. Although the city was almost entirely destroyed by the earthquake in 1906, San Fran kept shining bright and still does.

From Union Square and North Beach to Japantown, you’ll discover fascinating neighborhoods at every turn, each with their own distinct atmosphere. Jump on one of the cable cars and get ready for an adventure like no other. Whatever you’re hoping to find, a holiday in the “City by the Bay” is a real breath of fresh air.  

 

Things to do & sightseeing

‘San Fran’ is famous for its mixture of Victorian and modern architecture, its steep climbs, the diversity of its neighborhoods and its iconic culinary scene. When the sun reflects on the ocean, the city lights up in vibrant colour and the spectacle begins.

The Golden Gate

There is no San Francisco without the Golden Gate. Built to facilitate the travels between the city and Marin County, the bridge is today its most iconic landmark. At the time of its construction in 1937, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, measuring two miles in length. You simply cannot visit San Francisco without witnessing this breathtaking feature. And if you want to breathe in San Francisco’s vibrant energy, ride across the bridge to the nearby waterfront town of Sausalito for an unforgettable view.  

Alcatraz

Make sure you set aside some time for this one-of-a-kind experience. Alcatraz penitentiary is one of America’s most notorious prisons. Located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz opened in 1933 and operated for 30 years before re-opening in 1973 as a tourist site. You can reach the island by boat as it’s only 1.5 miles off the shore of San Francisco.

The Fisherman’s Wharf

This waterfront neighborhood is a must-see. It features many places to visit – from the Madame Tussauds museum to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, as well as the Ghirardelli Square and the Aquarium of the Bay. Take a walk around Pier 39, home to more than 130 shops and restaurants. Here, it’s time for some well-deserved retail therapy!

The Museums

San Francisco is home to some of America’s most exquisite museums. A visit to the Legion of Honor is almost imperative: this museum hosts a superb collection of European decorative arts, sculptures and paintings. If you prefer modern art instead, then save some time for the San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art and you will not be disappointed. Fancy a bit of science? The Academy of Sciences is your best bet. And if you head west, you will bump into Alamo Square and its Painted Ladies – a set of unique Victorian row houses, also known as “Postcard Row”.

 

Areas to visit

“The City by the Bay” is famous for the many different neighborhoods it brings together. A holiday to San Francisco will feel like going on a trip around the world.

If you want to keep exploring the city, don’t miss out on China Town. San Francisco’s China Town is the largest outside of Asia and the oldest of its kind in North America. With its temples, theatres, antique souvenir shops and teahouses, China Town attracts more tourists than the Golden Gate itself. As one of the least hilly neighborhoods, it’s a real joy for the legs, too!

If you’d rather experience something a bit more “hippie”, there is no better place than Haight-Ashbury. Flamboyant clothing shops, piercing and tattoos studios and upscale boutiques all contribute to the electric atmosphere here.

When walking San Fran’s boulevards, the chances you will bump into the Financial District are very high. This is the city’s biggest agglomeration of corporate headquarters, law firms, insurance companies and other financial institutions.  

While the city might be beautiful, its outskirts are astonishing. There is no better place to start than the Napa Valley. Less than two hours from the city, be ready to dive into hundreds of hillside vineyards. There are plenty of wine tours and tastings to make the most of your time in the Valley. But don’t worry if you are not a lover of wine - San Fran caters for all tastes. Why not take a 25-minute ferry ride to Angel Island Park and experience the city from one of its most beautiful perspectives? It will simply take your breath away.

On the subject of views and where to find them – save some time for Twin Peaks! These adjacent hills provide postcard views and are home to hundreds of different plants and animals.

 

Nightlife

Smooth jazz, all-night parties, stand-up comedy shows and live music. This is what San Francisco’s nightlife looks like. Just like in the daytime, the city has something for everyone when the sun sets.

If you are in the mood for fancy cocktails, head to Union Square for some inspiration. Try Bourbon & Branch for something lowkey, and Riddle and Hawthorn for some impossibly stylish alcoholic beverages. And if you don’t suffer from vertigo, enjoy a meal at Nob Hill Top of the Mark, one of San Francisco’s legendary rooftop restaurants.  

Would you rather dance the night away? San Francisco has you covered. Some say that jazz is old-fashioned, but the Haight’s Club Deluxe begs to differ. Other recommended venues include the Cat Club, the DNA Lounge and Oasis. The city also offers plenty of options for amazing live music performances, like Sweetwater Music Hall in Marin County, The Fillmore and Slim’s.  

 

Food & Drinks

One important piece of advice for a holiday in San Francisco: bring some stretchy pants with you. Why? The city’s culinary scene is one of the best in the world and you definitely don’t want to miss out. From its sourdough, a wonder-like type of bread, to the outstanding Mission burrito - the food in San Fran is simply a dream!

The seafood here is especially delicious. Make sure to try the Swan Oyster Depot for some of the best oysters, crabs and sourdough bread in town. And don’t forget Cioppino at Sotto Mare! Usually portioned for two, this tomato-based broth filled with crab parts, mussels, calamari and many other wonders is a delight for the palate.

And to round off your stay, pay a visit to the Anchor Brewing Company to taste the iconic anchor steamed beer. Fancy alcohol and coffee at the same time? Then Buena Vista Café is for you: experience the perfect combination of whiskey and whipped cream in one of San Francisco’s most popular venues.

Map of San Francisco

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21 ℃

Best time to visit: Late spring and early autumn.

11 hours

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is the largest and busiest of airports in the Bay Area and approximately 22 km south of the city centre. Oakland International Airport (OAK) is about 40 km from downtown.

San Francisco is best for...

Explorers: Tick the city’s famous landmarks off your list during San Francisco holidays; don’t miss the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island prison, and Muir Woods National Monument.

Wine buffs: This place is the gateway to California’s stunning wine country. Take a tour of the famous Napa Valley and experience the region’s best vineyards (and their fruits) for yourself.

Families: It’s a child-friendly city with all kinds of fun-filled attractions for kids of all ages, including The Walt Disney Family Museum, where you can discover the origins of Mickey Mouse.

Fast facts for San Francisco

Language: The language spoken in San Francisco is English.

Currency: The currency used in San Francisco is the US Dollar (USD).

Local time: San Francisco is 8 hours behind GMT/UK time.

Fly to: San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is the largest and busiest of airports in the Bay Area and approximately 22 km south of the city centre. Oakland International Airport (OAK) is about 40 km from downtown.

Flight time from UK: 11 hours.

Tourist information: Further San Francisco tourist information can be found at www.sanfrancisco.travel.

 

Getting around San Francisco

By trolley: Tickets for the iconic trolleys can be purchased onboard (exact change) or at cable-car kiosks.

By light rail or bus: Transfer between bus and light rail for districts such as Mission, Castro and Fisherman's Wharf.

By BART: The Bay Area Rapid Transit runs along Market Street. The commuter metro is useful for speedy travel between downtown and other parts of the Bay Area.

By taxi: Taxis are plentiful in San Francisco. Tipping (15%) is customary.

Events in San Francisco

Chinese tradition: With its sizable Chinese community, San Francisco hosts the nation's largest Chinese New Year party. The first day in the Chinese lunar calendar is celebrated with parade floats and an 82-meter dragon winding through Chinatown.

LGBT Pride: One of the biggest gay pride events in the world runs the last weekend in June. The city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities celebrate with a colourful parade on Sunday morning.

Jazz spectacular: Summer kicks off each year with the 10-day San Francisco Jazz Festival. The greatest in jazz, Latin and world music perform in venues across the city.

San Francisco safety and security

Visa / health: Before your city break to San Francisco, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/usa for recommendations and advice on visas and health.

San Francisco weather

Temperature: Averages 15 (°C) in summer, 10 (°C) in the winter.

Best time to visit: Late spring and early autumn.

San Francisco has mild temperatures year-round, though winter can be rainy and windy. September and October are often warmer than summer months, and autumn is less crowded.

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