San Francisco

Vibrancy, history, culture, cuisine, and hills….a whole lot of hills

Overview

If there is one time to avoid the city on the Bay it is the summer. Not only are attractions swamped by vacationing American families, the weather can be plagued by wind and fog. As Mark Twain so infamously acclaimed, the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. Instead opt for the shoulder seasons of April to May or September to November when conditions are fine, skies are (for the most part) clear and crowds are few. Or, for the really low season, try January to March. Temperatures are cooler and there is a good chance of rainfall, but you’ll have many sites to yourself, prices will be the lowest you’ll find all year, and when the sun does come out, the views are simply glorious.

Contrasting Districts

You might be forgiven for thinking this is one city with a personality crisis. Each neighbourhood is so utterly distinct from the last that you can practically enjoy a different holiday each day. Fisherman’s Wharf is a great place to start. See (and hear) the sealions at Pier 39 and stop by the Ferry Building, not only an architectural wonder, but a fabulous place to buy local artisanal delicacies. Take a boat out to Alcatraz, the legendary ‘Rock’, which once held notorious criminals such as Al Capone. Head to North Beach, SF’s Little Italy, home to Joe DiMaggio and the Beat Generation of the 1950s. Here you can visit Telegraph Hill and climb the 64 metre Coit Tower, emblem of the city’s skyline since 1933. Visit the thriving brewery scene in SoMa, south of Market Street, and check out Castro, the famously gay district with its rainbow crosswalk and iconic camera shop of gay rights’ campaigner Harvey Milk. Don’t miss bustling Union Square, the cultural Civic Centre of the green oasis of Golden Gate Park which houses the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Fine Arts Museum, and the Japanese Tea Garden where cherry blossoms bloom each spring.

Getting Around

Conveniently stuffed into its own seven mile wide peninsula, San Francisco enjoys a compact layout that is really easy to get around without a car, and there are lots of different ways to do just that. One of the best ways is to walk or hire a bicycle. Not only will you see loads while getting your bearings, you’ll work off all those extra large portions of cioppino and fish tacos while you’re at it. The only drawback is the hills. Towering, terrifying and downright very steep hills. Maybe consider then, the public transport options. Buses and trams under the Muni system are very regular and travel across the Bay area. Likewise the BART subway is popular and very efficient. You can pay for an individual ticket when you hop on or obtain a Clipper Card which work out cheaper per ride. Then of course there are the iconic cable cars. Pricy but lots of fun, it just has to be done! It’s the world’s last manually operated cable car system, running since 1873 after being saved from extinction by campaigners and aren’t we glad it was!


Low Season Saving

From 45% versus Peak Season


Tourist:Local Ratio

Peak Season

Low Season

26:1
12:1


Major Airport

San Francisco International Airport SFO

Low Season Months

Jan
10°C
119mm
7hrs
Feb
11°C
97mm
7hrs
Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
14°C
25mm
9hrs
Nov
13°C
64mm
8hrs
Dec
10°C
112mm
6hrs

Hotels

Coming online very soon

Top Experiences

Alcatraz

Take a ferry to the Rock but beware that tickets sell out weeks in advance. You can enjoy a night tour, behind the scenes tour, or fabulous combo with Angel Island, a hidden gem among the bay’s beauty.

Cross the Golden Gate Bridge

Iconic from afar, you can’t beat crossing on foot. Allow a couple of hours for the round trip, and stop for the stunning views. Continue on the north side to the beautiful Marin Headland vistapoint.

China Town

One of the nation’s oldest Chinese communities, it covers 24 blocks. Come for the atmospheric red lanterns, the architecture of Dragon Gate, the herb and tea shops and tuck into some deliciously authentic Chinese food.

Insider Tips

  • Events can be fab opportunities but beware prices can skyrocket. Examples are the Opera in Sharon Meadow in September and Fleetweek and the Bluegrass Hellman Hollow, both in October.
  • Download the Nextbus or Routesy apps. Although MUNI buses turn up eventually, they rarely run to schedule and these apps offer realtime info. Routesy works for CalTrain and BART too.
  • Irish coffee was imported by Stanton Delaplane who perfected the floating cream at Hyde Street’s Buena Vista Bar, after passing out on the cable car tracks from too many failed attempts.

Good To Know

  • Food lovers can follow British presenter Liam Mayclem who showcases the Bay’s restaurants and wineries. Check him out for inspiration https://kcbsradio.radio.com/categories/foodie-chap
  • Fort Baker, a former Naval Base turned hotel and spa, is where the locals go for uninterrupted views of the Golden Gate Bridge with food and drinks served on an outdoor patio.
  • Seek out the secret decorated stairways such as the Hidden Garden Steps project, a community based public art project to create mosaic steps, a garden and a wall mural on 16th Avenue.

Food & Drink

Boudin Bakery at Fisherman’s Wharf

££

Our top pick for Clam Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Boudin’s bread is what makes this dish truly magnificent, soaking up the chowder while you dine before you eat the deliciously gooey bowl itself.

Perry’s, Union Street

£££

Going strong since 1969, this great classic American bistro is always busy with locals and international visitors alike, serving fabulous burgers, prime steaks, and delicious salads. It is the place to brunch at weekends.

Dungeness Crab

££

Locally caught November to June this regional speciality is served up as whole or half potions with a mountain of sides. Or choose Dungeness crabcakes or the mouth-watering Italian-American cioppino fish stew with its medley of seafood.

Reviews

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