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San Francisco beckons everyone – 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 this city by the Bay.
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The hustle doesn’t quit downtown. From the early hours through midnight and on, this district is alive and kicking. Whether it’s the morning bustle of business commuters, the afternoon energy of urbanites or night owls flocking to the clubs, you'll get swept away by the true city feel. You can shop and eat on every corner and take the trolley to any area.Accommodations in Downtown San Francisco
High fashion meets vintage boutique. If you’re looking for a specific brand, you'll definitely find it in Union Square. Civil protests and pro-Union rallies gave the square its name – but the only politics here now are completely consumer related. Relax in the coffee shop of your choice and watch the cable cars, seagulls—plus the people—as they pass by.Accommodations in Union Square
Love a good show? The Theater District has the city’s best stages. With a dozen theaters within a few blocks, you’ll definitely 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 shops, beer gardens and hip food trucks all 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 all fight for your attention. The sea lions of Pier 39 are an all-ages affair, as is the Maritime Historical Park at Hyde Pier. Ferry your way across to the notorious Alcatraz prison.Accommodations in Fisherman's Wharf
Look up and see the skyscrapers, glance 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 neighborhoods, or head to a restaurant for lunch in SF’s financial core. Close to everything – take a moment in the urban oasis and 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 neighborhood feels a cut above the rest.Accommodations in Nob Hill
Rooted in liberal activism, The Castro has taken a turn for the chic. These days, you’re as likely to see baby strollers 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
Bookstores, bicycles and street art galore! Nothing embodies the ever-changing aura of SF like Mission. As multicultural as it gets, find mouthwatering tacos next to tropical fruit stalls, and cones of artisanal ice cream (hey there, Bi-Rite). Rent a bike and ride from hip Valencia to Dolores Park, where many a sun-kissed afternoon can be spent.Accommodations in Mission
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 chaos of Stockton Street envelope you.Accommodations in Chinatown
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 farm-fresh ingredients. Refuel with coffee at the Blue Bottle inside, then nibble on some organic cheese and sourdough for an impromptu picnic by the Bay.Accommodations in Embarcadero (North Waterfront)
Laura likes to stay in shape 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. Filled 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 nearby
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 nearby
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 nearby
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 nearby
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 bike over 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 nearby
Fatima is a fan of the laid-back atmosphere that San Francisco’s parks and restaurants exude.
Golden Gate Park Playground is just the place for your toddlers, tweens, and your 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 nearby
A San Francisco resident for 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. Located near 16th and Moraga.Accommodations nearby
Miles thrives in discovering unique wine varietals at San Francisco’s hole-in-the-wall bars.
Grab a liter 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 lines.Accommodations nearby
Laid-back 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 nearby
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 nearby
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 nearby
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 the city.Accommodations nearby
Booking.com asked travelers...Why do you recommend San Francisco for food?
Over rated, and fairly pricey! I would almost say the cost of food in San Francisco is on par with New York, without the same level of quality. The seafood in the area is also overpriced, with a certain crab shop charging upwards of $30 per crab which does not include tips or tax i.e. look to be paying upwards of +25% per meal (approx 10% tax + approx 15% tip). For some reason, all seafood shops were selling New England (East Cost) Clam Chowder in a bread bowl; I am not too sure why the west coast does not have its own soup dish, and that they have to use an east coast soup. East coast soups like this are heavy and stodgy designed for a cooler region should not be sold in a region where the average temperature is 20C and balmy! What made the New England Clam Chowder San Franciscan, was the sour dough bread that is made in the area. To be honest, the bread is not that good either, just tasted like bog standard sour dough, nothing to get excited about. What I would have which is half decent is the local vietnamese (pho was good, but nothing to write home about), chinese (decent also nothing to write home about, unless you have not had decent chinese before) and mexican (burritos are average).See all 34 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's the secret to sampling all the diverse food San Francisco has to offer?
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...How can you enjoy the sights in San Francisco while avoiding the crowds?
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...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 is it about the people in San Francisco that makes them so watchable?
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
Booking.com asked travelers...Is there more to shopping in San Francisco than just brand-name stores?
Yes, the city in general, beautiful!!See all 29 answers
Booking.com asked travelers...What seafood experience in San Francisco is still on your mind?
Joes crabSee all 22 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 about 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 take about 25 minutes.
The majority of flights out of this smaller airport are domestic flights. The most convenient way to get downtown is with the AirBART tram to Coliseum Station. These trams depart every 10 minutes and cost about USD 3 (youth rates also available). From Coliseum Station, hop on the BART to downtown San Francisco for about USD 4.
BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is one of the most reliable public transit systems in San Francisco. Four of the five high-speed commuter rail lines go through downtown San Francisco and connect to a number of other transportation systems, including the Muni Metro light rail. BART runs every 15-20 minutes, starting at 4 am (6 am on Saturdays; 8 am on Sundays and public holidays) and stopping around midnight. It’s also one of the most convenient public transportation methods 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 allows you to travel on all Muni systems (excluding cable cars) for 90 minutes, and will also serve as your proof of payment.
With so many 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 hailed 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, and the third route, California, runs on 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 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 transportation. Unless you plan on taking a day trip to the surrounding cities, avoid driving downtown. 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. Note: don’t rent a manual car unless you’re used to parking on steep hills.
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