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The country’s most liberal city is also one of its prettiest
San Francisco beckons everyman - from beatniks to business barons. Whether you’re the next software sensation, an activist waving the flag of tomorrow’s crusade, or a book-loving tourist in search of city lights, you’ll find an eclectic experience in the city by the Bay.
Locals have polarising views about Coit Tower’s appearance. It was inspired by the Art deco movement and actually started as a city beautification project. Funnily enough, this attempt to pretty the city was constructed from reinforced concrete. Looking for panoramic views and wild parrots? Trek to the tower via the Filbert Steps, where many a lunch is worked off.Accommodations near Coit Tower
Stadiums or Arenas
Root for the home team here. Home to the San Francisco Giants, this ballpark gives baseball games an exquisite Bay backdrop. Of course foodie-centric San Fran brings its love of locally sourced, organic-food fusions to the stadium. Dig into grilled Gruyère, curry-dusted sweet potatoes or even something from the edible garden as you wait for a home run.Accommodations near AT&T Park
The world’s “crookedist” street zigs and zags and zigs again. If you’re prone to motion sickness, Lombard Street might be better seen from outside an automobile. Car traffic is downhill only and the speed limit is 5mph. These 27-degree turns swerve through a picturesque, albeit steep, area. Instead of driving, take an urban hike to the top to watch the cars descending.Accommodations near Lombard Street
Go ahead and spoil your lunch! Cacao nibs, gourmet sea salt crunch, medicinal chocolate, hot cocoa, white, dark and milk – every member of the chocolate family can be found in the marketplace. It was once the site of a chocolate factory, but the plaza hasn’t lost its sweet touch. Just don’t expect to see Willy Wonka anywhere around this chocolate-inspired retail hub.Accommodations near Ghirardelli Square
Remember the Summer of Love? 1967 Haight-Ashbury does. The centre of hippie culture protested against ‘Nam with peace fingers. Once a village of tie-dye, Tibetan prayer flags, and purple haze, the district has made room for new neighbours (hello, expensive yoga studio). Take your pick of fringe-friendly teashops, vintage boutiques, epic record shops and recycled clothes.Accommodations near Haight-Ashbury District
Ready for a jailbreak? Ferry to this floating penitentiary where history and voyeurism collide during chilling tours of the cells where convicts like Al Capone and Robert Stroud did time. In 1962, three prisoners escaped and were never found. Whether the rip tides took them or they made it land, no one knows. Today thousands of birds nest near the crumbling prison walls.Accommodations near Alcatraz
Urban green space, take two. This military-base-turned-national-park beats Golden Gate Park in terms of acreage – and oddities. Pick up ghosts at the pet cemetery where the descending fog gives new meaning to the word “spooky”. Devotees of the great outdoors will love the network of trails through the shade of eucalyptus trees onto coastal bluffs.Accommodations near Presidio of San Francisco
Nothing signifies San Francisco like the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a ‘ride of passage’ into a city you won’t forget. Finished in 1937, this bright orange structure brings a daily stream of cars and spandex-clad cyclists across the Bay. On a fog-free day, take in the rock, water, and Alcatraz views as you walk or jog across. Vertigo junkies will feel right at home on top.Accommodations near Golden Gate Bridge
Bison roaming near the Pacific? Dutch windmills? San Francisco has it all. An oasis for urbanites, Golden Gate Park is home to more than picnics and guitar strumming. There are also indoor rainforests, botanical gardens, aquariums, golf courses and Japanese pagodas. Amid the flora and fauna, museum curators throw frisbees and the literati pen their poems in the sun.Accommodations near Golden Gate Park
Ever seen a grizzly? Rescued bear sisters Kachina and Kiona are happy to say hello. Native plants of the Pacific nestle next to 1,000 plus animals. Rescued, endangered, and representing 250 unique species, the SF Zoo imports wildness from around the world. From Penguin Island to the African Savannah, there’s a chance to discover something new in this urban wilderness.Accommodations near San Francisco Zoo
The hustle doesn’t quit in Downtown. From the wee small hours to midnight, this district is alive and kicking. Whether it’s the morning bustle of business commuters, the afternoon energy of urbanites or night owls plumbing the clubs, get swept away in a true city feel. You can shop and eat on every corner – and take the tram to any area.Accommodations in Downtown San Francisco
High fashion meets vintage boutique. If you’re looking for a specific brand, it certainly lives in Union Square. Civil protests and pro-Union rallies gave the square its name – but the only politics here now are consumer related. Relax in the café of your choice and watch the cable cars, seagulls – and the people – as they pass.Accommodations in Union Square
Love a good show? The Theater District has the city’s best stages. With a dozen theatres within a few blocks, you’ll surely cross paths with thespians. Head to Farmerbrown for a pre-performance feast (try the fried pickle chips and kale Caesar). Then see what’s new at the San Francisco Playhouse or the ACT Conservatory for the city’s class acts.Accommodations in Theater District
SoMa – or South of Market – mixes grit with innovation. Coffee houses, beer gardens, and hip food trucks signal this as the heart of urban revival. Illustrators, entrepreneurs, and tech-savvy types file out of chic converted warehouses. Check out the must-see modern art at Yerba Buena gardens and SF MOMA.Accommodations in South of Market (SOMA)
You’ll have plenty of company as you pick through the sights and sounds of the family-friendly Fisherman’s Wharf. Street performers, eclectic cafes and bowls of chowder fight for your attention. The sea lions of Pier 39 are an all-age affair, as is the maritime museum of historic ships at Hyde Pier. Ferry across to the notorious Alcatraz prison.Accommodations in Fisherman's Wharf
Look up and see the skyscrapers, look around and see the suits. Nine-to-fivers play here. As shiny and polished as an iPad, this is where important decisions are made. Pass through on your way to other places or head to a restaurant for lunch at SF’s financial core. Close to everything – take a moment in the urban oasis to map out what’s next.Accommodations in Financial District
Ride a cable car to Nob Hill, where Bay views are endless. Victorian houses, designer boutiques and organic bakeries set the tone. The “Painted Ladies” and Gothic Grace Cathedral bring architectural charm from the past. Regardless of its hilltop heights, this neighbourhood feels a cut above the rest.Accommodations in Nob Hill
Bookshops, bicycles and street art galore! Nothing embodies the ever-changing aura of SF like the Mission. As multicultural as it gets, find mouth-watering tacos, next to tropical fruit stalls, and cones of artisanal ice cream (hello, Bi-Rite). Rent a bicycle and ride from hip Valencia to Dolores Park, where many a sun-kissed afternoon is spent.Accommodations in Mission
This waterside walk takes you past the Bay Bridge to the trolleys of Market Street. Find the Ferry Building and explore the farmers’ market where celebrity chefs buy their organic ingredients. Refuel with coffee at the Blue Bottle inside, then buy some organic cheese and sourdough for an impromptu picnic by the Bay.Accommodations in Embarcadero (North Waterfront)
The oldest Chinatown in North America – and the largest Chinese community in the US – blends tradition with tourism. Look around and see what you find. Indulge in dim sum, shop exotic balms, and inspect the live chickens. Stop to smell the Chinese five spices (fennel, cloves and ginger anyone?), and let the discord of Stockton Street entreat.Accommodations in Chinatown
Rooted in liberal activism, The Castro has taken a turn for the posh. These days, you’re as likely to see baby buggies as you are racy window displays. But don’t worry – pink triangles and rainbow flags still mark the spot. Catch a classic film or a sing-a-long musical at the historic Castro Theater then grab a hot cookie from … Hot Cookie.Accommodations in The Castro
Laura likes to stay fit by swimming, hiking and running her way through delicious San Francisco.
Maiden Lane is a short pedestrian street just one block east of Union Square. Dotted with shops and a number of eateries, the terrace seating gives the place a tinge of a European feel. Definitely pop into Xanadu Gallery located inside a building designed by the great Frank Lloyd Wright!Accommodations near Maiden Lane Union Square
Adventurous Katrina enjoys hiking through the city to discover hidden vistas.
Everyone knows that Golden Gate Park’s Academy of Sciences is awesome, but do they know about the Thursday night parties? Learn about sharks, stars or cats while sipping on artisanal cocktails and dancing! For planetarium tickets, arrive early, otherwise buy them online. Over 21s only.Accommodations near Nightlife in Golden Gate Park
The Union Square area is Esther’s go-to place for up-to-the-minute shopping and dining.
Smitten Ice Cream makes simple yet rich and creamy ice cream – using liquid nitrogen. A scoop is a little steep at USD 5, but where else are you going to find ice cream made using liquid nitrogen? Oh, and did I mention that it’s made using liquid nitrogen? Order, wait 5 minutes and voila!Accommodations near Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream
Kaitlin loves to explore everything from hiking trails to the city’s newest restaurants and bars.
If you’re not big on stairs, then stop reading. No wait, keep reading because the vista from the top will be worth all the pain and agony! Clamber up 288 gruesomely steep steps, and have a celebratory Rocky moment, before admiring the crazy beautiful bay view. Note: beware of joggers.Accommodations near Epic Stair Views
A Marina District resident, Meghan can’t get enough of San Francisco’s beautiful coastlines.
On a Sunday afternoon, rent a bike from Dylan’s Tours on Columbus Avenue and cycle to Presidio’s weekly Off the Grid Picnic (AKA street food heaven). Sink your teeth into The Chairman’s Steamed Pork Belly Bun and wash it down with some beer. The lawn can be damp, so bring a thick blanket.Accommodations near Bike to Food Trucks & Golden Gate Bridge
Fatima is a fan of the laidback atmosphere that San Francisco’s parks and restaurants exude.
Golden Gate Park Playground is just the place for your toddlers, tweens and inner child. Revamped in 2007 as Koret Children’s Quarter, the park has everything from sandpits and swings to a vintage carousel. Throw in a few blisters and scrapes and you have yourself a fun-packed day.Accommodations near Playground in Golden Gate PArk
A San Francisco resident of 20 years, Tiffany knows all the city’s latest happy hour spots.
I love it! Similar to the famous steps in Rio, each of the steps here are covered with a zillion tiles that make up a brilliant work of art. Not only will you get to enjoy the stunning view from the top, you’ll have all 163 steps to admire as you climb up. Situated near 16th and Moraga.Accommodations near Mosaic Steps
Miles thrives in discovering unique wine varietals at San Francisco’s hole-in-the-wall bars.
Grab a litre of Belgian beer, a brät and an authentic German pretzel at Biergarten. Operated out of converted shipping containers, this Hayes Valley beer garden is the perfect place for a relaxing time with friends – especially on a warm afternoon. Arrive early to avoid the long queue.Accommodations near Biergarten in SF
Laidback Lee enjoys relaxing at Ocean Beach and walking through the nearby Golden Gate Park.
Featuring posters of past shows covering the walls, a trip to the historic Fillmore can’t be beaten. The world’s top talents including Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and the Grateful Dead have all performed at this intimate venue back in the psychedelic ‘60s. Come and see where it all began.Accommodations near Fillmore Music
Born and bred in San Francisco, Nadia is an avid fan of the artsy Mission District.
Nestled between Mission and Valencia streets, Clarion Alley is a one-block alley covered in bold pop culture art. If you’re looking to get a taste of profound historical art, then walk over to Balmy Street. Both alleys feature vibrant, ever-changing pieces that evoke emotions and feelings.Accommodations near Clarion Alley and Balmy Street Murals
Having lived in San Francisco for 3 years, Cassie enjoys rooting for the Giants at AT&T Park.
Even just walking a few miles along the cliff of the 11-mile Coastal Trail will give you a taste of Lands End’s stunning wildlife. End your rocky hike at Eagle’s Point from where you’ll have yet another million-dollar view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Farallon Islands.Accommodations near Hike to the Beach
Rachel loves to sit on Hippie Hill by Golden Gate Park with a book and a bottle of local wine/beer.
If you’re heading towards Haight-Ashbury, stop by Buena Vista Park. It’s a bit of a hike to the top but you’ll have sweeping views of the entire bay area waiting for you. Surrounded by lush foliage, you’ll forget that you’re still in city.Accommodations near Hike to City Views
Booking.com asked travelers...How can you enjoy the sights in San Francisco while avoiding the crowds?
United States of America
Venture outside the most touristy areas like Pier 39 and Union Square - go to Hayes Valley, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, Cow Hollow, the Marina. It's much less crowded and you can even forget you're in the citySee all 70 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...Why do you recommend San Francisco for food?
The Mission district offered some of the best food we've ever eaten, period. Lunch burritos at La Cumbre were incredible, I had the falafal, it was huge and delicious. Dinner at Dosa on Valencia was also amazing - fun place, exciting menu, and fantastic food! Likely hard to go wrong eating in the Mission, so many great choices/cuisines. We also enjoyed Codmother's fish and chips near Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39.See all 34 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...Is there more to shopping in San Francisco than just brand-name stores?
United States of America
Yes, the city in general, beautiful!!See all 29 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...Where should people go if they don't want to eat in a tourist trap?
Financial district alleyway restaurants, Tiramisu and Claude were very good. As well as the Ferry Building restaurantsSee all 29 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...What seafood experience in San Francisco is still on your mind?
Joes crabSee all 22 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...What's the secret to sampling all the diverse food San Francisco has to offer?
United States of America
The secret for me to sampling the diverse foods would be, going to the farmers market and seeking out restaurants that are not chains and that serve something that you could never find at home. For some people that might mean an easy find like say Clam Chowder in a bread bowl at Boudin Bakery on Fishermans Wharf or something like a Vietnamese restaurant near China Town. For others it might be something really different like The Stinking Rose (a garlic restaurant) in Little Italy. Think of something you've always wanted to try and can't really get wherever it is that you live.See all 21 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...Why do people say San Francisco can be seen best by foot?
San Francisco is only 7 by 7 miles. It's a very small city, but feels like a big one, since it's very dense. It's a fantastic experience to walk around the city, climbing up hills to reach stunning views, finding yourself moving from Chinatown, where hardly anyone is speaking English and dim sum is available at every step, to North Beach with delicious Italian restaurants, to Pier 39 and tourist attractions to the Marina with hip boutiques and bars, through the Presidio, etc. Those aren't even half of San Francisco's neighborhoods, but every part of the city has so much food, shopping, art and life to offer, and you can't see it quite right from a car. There are so many little gems to discover, and it's realistic to get from neighborhood to neighborhood on foot.See all 18 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...What is it about the people in San Francisco that makes them so watchable?
United States of America
not living in the city, i love watching everyone enjoying being part of the citySee all 17 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...Was it cheap, fast, or easy to use? What made it so simple to get around in San Francisco?
Certainly public transports; getting bikes or using taxis.See all 15 answers
From San Francisco’s international airport (SFO), the BART to Downtown San Francisco's Powell Street, Montgomery Street or Embarcadero (terminal) stations departs every 20 minutes. It takes approx. 30 minutes and costs around USD 9. If you’re not in a hurry, follow the signs for the shared SuperShuttle service for USD 17, which takes 25-45 minutes – depending on the number of stops it makes. Taxis are readily available, costing USD 40-60 (excluding tip) and taking 25 minutes.
The majority of flights out of this smaller airport are domestic flights. The most convenient way to reach the centre is by taking the AirBART tram to Coliseum Station. These trams depart every 10 minutes and cost approx. USD 3 (youth rates also available). From Coliseum Station, hop on the BART to downtown San Francisco for approx. USD 4.
BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is one of the most reliable public transits in San Francisco. Four of the five high-speed commuter rail lines go through downtown San Francisco and connect to a number of transport systems, including the Muni Metro light rail. BART runs every 15/20 minutes, starting at 4:00 (6:00 on Saturdays; 8:00 on Sundays and public holidays) and stopping around midnight. It’s also one of the most convenient transports to take from the airport.
Operated by Muni, San Francisco’s buses cover most of the areas that the light rail trains and cable cars don’t – but they're often delayed or irregular. If you’re paying by cash (exact change only), board from the front and make sure to get a transfer ticket from the driver. The ticket will allow you to travel on all Muni systems (excluding cable cars) for 90 minutes, and will also serve as your proof-of-payment.
With the omnipresent hills, taxis will make your life easier. Fares start at USD 3.50 and each mile costs an additional USD 2.75 – but don’t forget to add a 10-15% tip. Taxis can easily be flagged down near popular tourist areas and major hotels, but you might need to call if you’re outside the downtown area. If you need to call one, plan ahead – taxis can take up to 30 minutes to arrive. Many taxis take credit cards, but ask the driver before getting in.
The iconic cable cars are a fun way to get around. Two of the three lines, Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde, begin downtown and head north towards Fisherman’s Wharf, while the third route, California, travels along California Street through Chinatown. At USD 5 a ride, it’s best to purchase a 1-, 3- or 7-day Muni Passport if you plan on taking it a couple of times. The passport will allow you to travel on all Muni services an unlimited number of times and costs between USD 9 and 20.
The Muni Metro, one of Muni’s many transport systems, features six regular light rail lines that run underground in downtown San Francisco and above ground on the outskirts. Popular Muni stops include SF Zoo, Castro, Powell, Montgomery and Embarcadero stations. Best to purchase a Muni Passport to avoid the hassle of buying tickets or preparing exact change. For schedules and route maps for each line, check their website.
San Francisco is a very walkable city, with good public transport. Unless you plan on taking a day trip to the surrounding cities, avoid driving within the city. Not only are parking spaces extremely hard to find, they also cost an arm and a leg. (Some hotels will charge USD 60 per day!) If you absolutely have to drive somewhere, rent a car for just the days you need to. Note: don’t rent a manual gear car unless you’re used to parking on steep hills.
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