City Guide: San Francisco

San Francisco Basics

Language: English

Visa: Visa is not required for U.S. citizens visiting for under 90 days

Currency: US Dollar

Time Zone: Pacific Standard Time (UTC -8:00)

Population: 309,349,689 (As per 2010 census)

Recommended Hotels in San Francisco

The Fairmont
Nob Hill 
The world-renowned Fairmont San Francisco presents an awe-inspiring picture of historic San Francisco. The grandeur of the luxury hotel atop Nob Hill coupled with its reputation for impeccable service promises a truly memorable experience during your San Francisco vacation.

Loews Regency San Francisco
Financial District
Set on the top 11 floors of a 48-floor high-rise in the Financial District, this is a contemporary, high-end hotel.  Sophisticated, modern rooms feature Italian linens and picture windows offering views ranging from the city to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Clift Hotel
Union Square
This boutique hotel is perfect for guests looking to stay in style at a modern accommodation in the heart of Union Square. The common areas of the hotel are filled with Artsy décor and give off a trendy vibe. The rooms are comfortable and modern. Clift Hotel is a fitting accommodation for the progressive city by the bay.

The Westin St. Francis
Union Square
Opened in 1904, The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square is a landmark among the city’s hotels. Near upscale shopping and dining options, this iconic building combines a rich history and top location with modern luxury, innovation, and design.

Things to Do in San Francisco

North Beach
North Beach is San Francisco’s “Little Italy” which developed as an ethnic Italian enclave following the 1906 earthquake. Though there are many cultural groups living there today, it is still filled with Italian restaurants and specialty shops. For the essential Italian stores visit Café Trieste, where Francis Ford Coppola wrote The Godfather, and The Stinking Rose, a restaurant made famous for its use of garlic. Visit City Lights Bookstore, one of the best independent bookstores in the world, and Vesuvio Café, a favorite stop of famous authors. Other highlights in this neighborhood include the crooked Lombard Street and Washington Square Park.

Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito and Tiburon
There is no better way to explore the glory of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge than by riding a bicycle across it. Rent a bicycle at one of the many shops in the city and easily make your way across the bridge passing the rust-colored cables with the pacific waters below. Go onwards to the picturesque seaside community of Sausalito to enjoy some lunch in town. Go further following well-marked trails to Tiburon, another famous town in Marin County, and stop by Sam’s Place for a coffee. Afterwards put your bike on the ferry and cross the bay back to San Francisco to round out an essential Bay Area experience.

Haight Ashbury
This street was made famous by the 1960s counterculture movement. It was the hub for musicians and bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix, who along with a generation of free-spirited hippies helped to change the American cultural landscape forever. The street is filled with boutique stores and restaurants. There are very eclectic people along the sidewalks, great murals, and artwork. Don’t miss the sculpture of Giant Fishnet Stocking Legs sticking out of the 2ndstory window of Piedmont Boutique, for great food and drink visit Magnolia Pub, and search through the vinyl records at Amoeba Music.

Golden Gate Park
This is one of the largest and most beautiful urban parks in the United States. It is 20 percent larger than Central Park in New York and offers a great deal of attractions. See everything in the park is by traveling its three-mile length via bicycle. Some of the main sites are the Conservatory of FlowersThe Japanese Tea Garden, the De Young MuseumCalifornia Academy of Sciencesthe Bison Paddock, and Windmills. You can traverse the park and head all the way to Ocean Beach (the Pacific Ocean).

Ferry Building + Embarcadero
The San Francisco Ferry Building is an indoor market and food hall featuring vendors that sell artisan goods of really high quality. You will find a wine bar, specialty mushroom purveyors, an oyster bar, and other great places to shop and eat. It’s located along the Embarcadero, so afterwards you can stroll along the boardwalk with great views of the bay, both bridges, and the cities across the water.
Insider Tip: the Ferry Building has a tremendous farmers market on Saturday that’s definitely worth checking out.

Music + Concerts
San Francisco is a great music city. If you can, try to catch a performance. Some of the world class venues include the Fillmore, a venerable institution of Rock and Roll, San Francisco Symphony Hallthe Opera HouseSF Jazz Center, and the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. From classical to contemporary, there is sure to be something great in town for every music lover.

Ocean + Baker Beach
The City by the Bay is surrounded by water on three sides. Even though the water is relatively cold and the current is strong, the beaches of the city are definitely worth checking out. Ocean Beach is the largest and faces the Pacific Ocean. Check out the surfers braving the cold waters; visit the historic Cliff House for ocean views, a Ramos Fizz, and homemade popovers; and then walk around the very beautiful natural landscape of Lands’ End nearby. The other great beach is Baker Beach, set underneath the high-end neighborhood of Sea Cliff, it is a smaller beach and favorite photo location with a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge. Have a picnic at either location especially when the weather is right!

The Mission District
The Mission District is an enigmatic destination with layers of character that await discovery. Explore the local art scene by taking in the many colorful urban murals, and look forward to great authentic Mexican food at Taqueria El Farolito or Taqueria Cancun and fun-filled cavorting in Dolores Park.

Twin Peaks
This is the highest point in the city. Take a drive up, or for the ambitious cyclist take a bike to the top. You will have unparalleled views of the city below. Twin Peaks is a great romantic viewpoint or just a momentous spot to enjoy the expanse of San Francisco and the bay.

There are three fine arts museums in San Francisco: the serenely located Legion of Honor, the De Young, and the recently reopened Museum of Modern Art. All of them are worth visiting if you’re interested in art. Other museums worth visiting are the Asian Art Museum, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the Museum of African Diaspora. It could be daunting to see them all in one visit, but they are located throughout the city, so it is possible to incorporate these with other activities throughout your ventures.

Recommended Restaurants in San Francisco

This is a staple restaurant in San Francisco and an institution of fine dining. It offers refined American fare from renowned Chef Nancy Oakes at a chic Embarcadero spot boasting bay views.

Gary Danko
Gary Danko has come to epitomize sophisticated contemporary cuisine. His 75-seat restaurant is the culmination of his dream to create one of America’s great restaurants. The restaurant has received its Five Star rating from Mobil Travel Guide as well as a Relais & Chateaux designation. Danko’s cooking centers on lively, seasonal dishes prepared with a careful eye toward classical technique. The prix-fixe menu offers three-, four-, or five-course meals, and wines can also be paired with each course for a set price. The ever-expanding cellar now holds over 1,500 wines and includes an exceptional selection of grand vintages as well as coveted wines from small producers.

State Bird Provisions
This restaurant has an avant-garde but most importantly delicious approach to cuisine. Set inside of a simply decorated storefront in the Fillmore district, the restaurant has both a set menu of dishes, including the namesake state bird (fried quail), and carts of ever-changing American style dim sum dishes passed through the restaurant that guests may freely pick and choose from. It is an honest approach to cooking that has brought the restaurant two James Beards Awards.

Nopa is a San Francisco gathering place north of the Panhandle serving urban rustic food and specializing in organic wood-fired cuisine. They serve simple food created with seasonal ingredients sourced from local purveyors.

About the author

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