San Francisco rose from the Californian gold rush to consistently rank as North America's 'Favorite City'. The boom-or-bust nature of the place, twinned with the stunning location and relaxed, liberal locals, make it one of the world's most exciting destinations. From the rolling hills of the city to the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, the city is home to many of the West Coast's most iconic landmarks. The city is also a mecca for second-hand clothes enthusiasts and with Central Valley home to some of the most fertile land in the country, the local food scene is as buzzing as it is diverse. San Francisco is also famous for it's wild and growing internet business culture, commonly refered to as 'start-ups'.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
San Francisco is a collection of intriguing neighborhoods - largely born from industrialization, urban rebirths, and reformulations after earthquakes. Each contain their own unique characteristics and staunch, loyalist locals, who wouldn't dream of living anywhere else in the city. Picking a neighborhood from which to base yourself in is a fun, if not daunting task, given each of their attractions and individual merits. Sourcing a San Francisco apartment or vacation rental for your trip to The Golden Gate City is as easy as browsing the wide and diverse selection on Wimdu.
Hayes Valley rose after the Central Freeway was torn down following the 1989 earthquake. The new space that was opened up quickly filled with shops, new bars, and restaurants. New green spaces were also utilized and there are now some of the city's most exciting, experimental shipping container food pop-ups at Octavia and Hayes Street. Also in the neighborhood is the new San Francisco Jazz Center and there are also regular symphony, ballet, and opera performances. Wimdu has an array of family-friendly and short term rental options in this buzzing corner of the city.
The Mission District is probably San Francisco's most famous neighborhood. A hipster hotspot infused with Latin roots, this is a popular area to explore San Francisco's eclectic food scene and late-night drinking dens. The rich Spanish history is still prominent in the district, with traditional taquerias and Mexican groceries set amongst the independent store fronts.
Russian Hill is one of San Francisco's oldest established residential districts. Since a recent renaissance began of the main thoroughfare, new residents have ignited new energy into the neighborhood. New bars, restaurants, and shops continue to infiltrate the small narrow streets. Wimdu has a vast array of bed and breakfast and short term rental options in each of these neighborhoods, the perfect bases from which to explore everything one of North America's most iconic cities has to offer.
The Sights of San Francisco
Fort Point, located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, was built in the late 1850s to protect the Bay from naval attacks. Though never utilized in a battle scenario, the site still holds strong historical and architectural merit. From here, there is only one way to go. Up. Make sure you bring a warm jacket, as navigating across the giant red bridge, even in the warmer months of summer, will make you remember Bob Hope's famous line: "San Francisco has four seasons – in one day”
When California first struck gold, over 300,000 fortune hunters invaded the state - many arriving by boats quickly abandoned when they hit the gold-rich lands of California. The Old Ship Saloon, built from the remains of The Arkansas, a boat that ran aground on Alcatraz in 1849, has operated under many guises - from saloon, brothel, rooming house, then back to the saloon it is today. Worth a visit, especially for the Pisco Punch and entertaining locals.
The Cable Car Museum pays homage to San Francisco's iconic transportation system. Before jumping on one of the three lines still in operation, brush up on the mechanics of the cable car at this intimate museum.
The City Lights Bookstore is a pilgrimage site for those fond of the 50s beat generation. Since the owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti was charged with obscenity for publishing Allen Ginsberg's Howl, the bookshop wrote itself into folklore. Today, the three-story shop continually buzzes with local browsers and tourists. Follow a tour of the bookshop with an espresso at Cafe Trieste, the place where Frances Ford Coppola apparently wrote The Godfather screenplay.
For those of us who missed out on the Summer of Love, Upper Haight Ashburyis the place to reminisce about the so-called birthplace of American counterculture. Grab a beer at the Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery - formerly owned by Magnolia Thunderpussy, a 1960s burlesque performer - and try and harness your inner-hippy. Then head over to the site of the first Human Be-in at the iconic Golden Gate Park.
The Castro Theater, one of the few remaining 1920s-era movie theatres, is located in the hub of the 1970s gay community. The Twin Peaks Tavern is another historic landmark, believed to be the nation's first gay bar. Note the full-length, plate-glass windows that allow the patrons to see out and passers-by to see in.
Where to Eat in San Francisco
The eclectic array of restaurants in San Francisco challenges your prejudices about food and re-aligns many conventional preconceptions.
The Cavalier strides over San Francisco minimalism to deliver the bold steps of British design. The restaurant, spread over four diverse rooms, pays homage to classical British interiors, without feeling gimmicky. Scotch eggs with a twist – duck eggs and duck confit instead of chicken eggs and sausage meat, and Welsh rarebit which harks at a traditional English ploughman's lunch showcase the British touch. While other traditional English meals have been given a San Francisco dusting – such as the light fish and chips which utilizes locally-caught Puccio instead of the traditional cod or haddock found in the North Sea.
Uncle Brother's Chicken is the creation of burger enthusiast Wes Rowe. Since building his name for stunning burgers in San Francisco, he has now turned his considerable reputation to birds. A new weekly pop-up, ran with his brother Walker Rowe, delivers fried chicken, side dishes, and snacks to salivating locals. The chickcharrones, fried chicken skin chips served with a hot sauce is as delicious as it sounds.
Piattini, formerly known as Specchion, has undergone a re-branding exercise aimed at making the restaurant more casual, more accessible, and driving down the prices. The risotto, delicate beet carpaccio, and the memorable cauliflower cheese all sing from the menu.
Anar attacks one of the main grievances of the San Francisco foodie – a visible shortage of Persian restaurants. Since opening its doors, this has become the place for kebabs, stews, and rice dishes in the Bay area. The name Anar means pomegranate - a fruit that is utilized in many of the dishes, including the Persian take on fried chicken.
Getting Around San Francisco
If arriving by air: San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland are the major local airports in the Bay area. If arriving in San Jose or Oakland, factor in the time and cost to get to San Francisco. If possible, take the scenic route along the West Coast by train.
San Francisco's iconic public transportation system is most famous for its cable cars. However, the Muni system operates 100 bus lines and the street car system, too. Tickets can be bought on board buses and street cars, or at the underground Muni stations. A one-day Muni pass can be bought for unlimited travel on all services.