San Francisco
San Francisco

San Francisco

California, United States
When packing for San Francisco, bring a hoodie and ditch all conventional wisdom. Here you can launch cutting-edge tech startups over organic cocktails in a Gold Rush saloon, skateboard past Mission murals and through Golden Gate Park all the way into middle age, and escape from Alcatraz in time for reservations at America's next best restaurant.
Getting Around San Francisco
The best way to get around San Francisco is by walking, taxi and public transit. Parking can be expensive ($20-$40 depending on location). Street parking can be difficult to find and is often limited to two hours or less. San Francisco's MUNI operates trolleys, cable cars, and buses throughout the city. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) serves as a major artery of San Francisco as well as several surrounding cities.
Nearby Airports
  • San Francisco International Airport-SFO
  • Oakland International Airport-OAK
  • Mineta San Jose International Airport-SJC
Airport Taxis
  • From SFO-$37
  • From OAK-$50
  • From SJC-$145
Things to Do and See in San Francisco
The SunsetHayes ValleySouth Of MarketFillmoreThe CastroNorth Beach and Telegraph HillFinancial DistrictChinatownFisherman's WharfThe MarinaUnion SquareRussian HillMissionThe HaightNob Hill
Golden Gate Park occupies a 3-mile-long stretch of land in the city, and it encompasses a huge variety of attractions aside from its beautiful open spaces. Among them are the Conservatory of Flowers, de Young Museum, the Academy of Sciences and a bison paddock. The western end of the park abuts Ocean Beach, and there you'll find the Beach Chalet, now a brewery restaurant and home to elaborate murals commissioned by the WPA in the 1930s. Aside from the park, the Sunset features the San Francisco Zoo, the private Olympic Club golf course, and Stern Grove, a wooded amphitheater that hosts free concerts in the summer.
Reborn after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake toppled the Central Freeway overpass, sunny Hayes Valley is now better known for its cafes, boutiques, urban gardens, and the largest Zen center outside Asia. Line up at the garage door for Blue Bottle coffee, and you're practically local already. Six blocks uphill is Alamo Square, a hilltop park framed by "painted ladies"—the gingerbread-trimmed Victorian row houses that signify San Francisco in movies.
SoMa is home to many of the city's tech companies (including Hipmunk), particularly around tiny South Park—but the area isn't all business. By day, SoMa's arts district offers high culture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and Contemporary Jewish Museum. But SoMa also offers night entertainment: Giants baseball, drag venues, dance clubs, and live music at bars around 11th St. Day and night, be aware in sketchy areas, particularly between the blocks bounded by 5th and 10th Streets.
During WWII Fillmore was considered the "Harlem of the West," where African American culture thrived. It's still got blues bars, barbecue joints, and live jazz at Yoshi's. Another highlight is Fillmore Auditorium, home to psychedelic rock acts of the 1960s and still a major music venue. Head to the bar upstairs, where trippy 1960s concert posters cover the walls.
The most famous gay neighborhood in the U.S. was home to America's first openly gay elected official (Harvey Milk). As the enormous rainbow flag at the corner of 18th and Market signals, this district remains an important center of gay rights. It also hosts the LGBT History Museum and the bar called Twin Peaks, one of the first establishments in the country to openly advertise as a gay bar. The Castro is also a draw for straight visitors, with trendy stores, its eponymous and grand movie theater, and a couple of notable restaurants.
North Beach and Telegraph Hillmore on North Beach and Telegraph Hill »
In the Gold Rush days, this notorious neighborhood was called the Barbary Coast. Saloons and strip joints still line Broadway, but the area is better known for Italian restaurants, cafes, and bars that were home to the poets of the Beat Generation. City Lights bookstore won a landmark free-speech case over the publication of Allen Ginsberg's poetry in 1956, and today it remains a literary mecca. Summit Telegraph Hill to reach Coit Tower for giddy bay views and 1930s WPA murals that were once considered dangerously revolutionary. South of North Beach, Jackson Square is dotted with design boutiques, antique shops, and galleries.
The Financial District is notable for its iconic buildings and stupefying sculpture. Plopped in front of the former headquarters of the Bank of America at 555 California is a 200-ton black granite block officially titled Transcendance, but better known locally as "The Banker's Heart." A few blocks over, the iconic, skyline-defining Transamerica Pyramid looms over a tiny urban redwood grove populated by bronze frogs. The Ferry Building was restored after the 1989 earthquake and reinvented as San Francisco's gourmet central, with boutique food shops, award-winning restaurants and, a pioneering local, organic farmer's market. Near the Ferry Building is the 1971 brutalist Vallaincourt Fountain that locals often debate: does it look more like plumbing or entrails? When U2's Bono graffitied "Rock and roll stops the traffic" on it, even the artist Armand Vaillancourt approved it as an improvement.
The Gold Rush left San Francisco with seedy docks and muddy streets -- but just across the bay, 1860s Oakland offered an orderly, elegant alternative. Alongside a snug harbor, tidy streets were soon flanked with Victorian mansions for the nouveau riche. Today downtown skyscrapers abruptly stop just south of Oakland Convention Center, bowing to the stately Victorians and historic brick storefronts of Old Oakland. The city's best happy-hour spots keep a low profile in well-preserved buildings west of Broadway, and the Pardee Home Museum offers tea and tours of an 1869 mansion with all the Victorian trimmings, from billiards to corsetry. By the 1870s, Chinatown had put down roots east of Broadway, where ramshackle Victorians hunker behind modern storefronts selling authentic Cantonese dim sum, Vietnamese pho, and Cambodian spicy papaya salad.
This district was once the city's main fishing dock, but it's now mostly a commercial tourist center shunned by locals. Historic ships and active fishing boats still dock here, and local kiosks serve a respectable fried fish sandwich. Sunbathing sea lions, candy shops and street performers around Pier 39 also make the area family-friendly. Ferries to Alcatraz island depart from Pier 33.
The Marina is known among locals as a haven for straight singles, who flirt at trendy bars, restaurants and shops on Chestnut Street. But there are also family-friendly attractions here: Marina Green is lined with kite flyers and stroller-joggers, and offers sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. The Palace of Fine Arts rotunda and duck pond are popular wedding photo backdrops, and Crissy Field and Fort Mason are former military outposts converted to civilian use as parks and cultural centers.
Union Square's most prominent feature is a 97-foot monument commemorating the Spanish American War's Battle of Manila Bay, but it's named after the pro-Union rallies held here before and during the Civil War. Today Union Square is a shopping hub, with Macy's, Saks, Neiman Marcus, Barneys and Bloomingdale's on or just off the square and two cable car lines running through the area. But the best deal around is right on Union Square: the half-price ticket booth offers last-minute discount tickets to Broadway-bound first-run shows at the Geary or Curran theaters, just west of the square.
This district is named after a long-gone 19th century Russian cemetery, but today its most famous attraction is the block of Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth. Here Lombard is steep and switches back eight times, making a worthy challenge for photographers and illicit skateboarders. The steep hill is traced with landscaped pedestrian-only paths and staircases, including Macondray Lane, the setting for Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. Stalwart hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of the city and the bay at hilltop Sterling Park.
The Mission is a colorful, youthful district filled with good cheap eats, locavore restaurants, legendary coffee roasters and more than 400 murals. The neighborhood gets its name from the Spanish outpost Mission Dolores, around which the original town of San Francisco grew. Today the neighborhood is ethnically and economically diverse, with hipsters and techies putting down roots alongside working-class families. On sunny days Dolores Park becomes packed with suntanners, Frisbee-tossers, protesters and picnickers. Two of the best ice cream shops in the city are also in the Mission: Bi-Rite Creamery and Humphry Slocombe. Some parts of the area are sketchy, particularly around the 16th Street and 24th Street BART stations at night.
The Haight is the spiritual home of the Summer of Love. Today the neighborhood clings to its long-haired roots, with plenty of head shops on Haight and stoners paying respects to the former Grateful Dead house on Ashbury. Upper Haight to the west is a prime vintage shopping destination, though scruffy around the edges. Skateboarders take the downhill slide to Lower Haight, for seasonal brews on tap at Toranado and Burning Man planning at NocNoc.
Historically, Nob Hill was the site of the extravagant residences built by the 19th century tycoons. The 1906 earthquake and fire changed all that. Except for the James Flood Mansion, the fancy homes have been replaced by high-rise apartments. All the cable car lines converge on the hill. At the top are Grace Cathedral, Masonic Auditorium, Huntington Park and five-star hotels with spectacular views of the bay.
Our friends at pick the city's best restaurants each quarter, and we trust their opinion. See full list »
Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
Adam Keough has revived this bustling Hayes Valley fixture. Its lively, yet comforting brasserie scene is still on, but now there’s an energized bar food program, and the menu has a new soul.
Rich Table
Alums of Bouley in New York and Coi in SF, husband-and-wife team Sarah and Evan Rich spent months fine-tuning the menu for Rich Table with a pop-up. Now their Hayes Valley restaurant is fully formed, serving refined riffs on comfort fare such as pork belly panzanella, and a wicked market-fresh cocktail list.
Zuni Cafe
Besides "the" chicken, Zuni's burger, Caesar salad and bloody Mary have all been called the best in the city.
AQ Restaurant & Bar
Chef-partner Mark Liberman's inspired flavor combinations—think 'bbq pork' with cornbread, mustard ash and licorice root—join a cocktail program and interior design that are best in their San Francisco class, bringing unprecedented energy and food quality to an unlikely stretch of Mission Street.