- One of the most densely populated cities in the U.S. (800,000 people packed into just 47 square miles!)
- Unofficial capital of Silicon Valley, the startup and tech center of the world
- Known worldwide as a hotbed for liberal values, good food, counter-culture – and the gold rush!
- Nicknames: SF, The City by the Bay, Frisco, Fog City (not “San Fran”)
- Currency: US Dollar (USD)
- Spoken languages: predominantly English
- Best time to visit: from March to November (Mediterranean climate)
- Arriving via airport: public transport (BART) is $8.25 (directions), taxi is $50
(note: Uber and/or Lyft are often 30-40% cheaper than a taxi)
WHERE TO STAY
Area around Union Square is ideal for all-around convenience. Chinatown and North Beach are more affordable, while Market Street and SOMA (South of Market) are more upscale.
- The systems for getting around town include Muni (light rail, buses, streetcars, cable cars) and BART (subway). Muni (official site) rides are $2.00 one-way, and transfers are available. While Muni will get you around town, BART can quickly get you to other points of interests in the Bay Area, such as Oakland and Berkeley. BART fares are calculated based on distance. You can buy a “Clipper” added-value card at most BART stations that will work on most of the transportation in SF.
- Taxis can be called at 415-333-3333 (Yellow Cab) or 415-282-4141 (Luxor Cab). Fares start at around $3.50, with an additional $2.5 for every mile. Many locals prefer Uber or Lyft.
- If you plan to travel out of the city (e.g. for a day trip out to Napa Valley), considering renting a ZipCar.
SAN FRANCISCO NIGHTLIFE
- Drinking age is 21, last call is 1:30 AM.
- Hipster scene: bars in the Mission (16th Street, between Hoff and Guerrero)
- Preppy scene: the Marina.
- All the best clubs are found near Union Square or SoMa (South of Market).
- A mix of tourists and locals: bars in North Beach (walking directions).
- Mixed local crowd: bars along Polk Street (between Sutter and Pacific)
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Golden Gate Bridge is a world-famous suspension bridge that opens up the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. Great to walk or bike across.
- The historic Ferry Building is an active ferry terminal that doubles as a farmer’s market in the mornings.
- Built in the 1930s, Coit Tower is a great vantage point for cityscape viewing.
- Take a ferry to Alcatraz for a tour of what used to be one of America’s highest security prisons. Tickets sell out fast, so book a few days in advance.
- Spend a day in Golden Gate Park. Recommended spots include the de Young Museum, Japanese Tea Garden, the SF Botanical Garden and the Academy of Sciences.
- Other notable museums include: Asian Art Museum, SFMOMA, Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the Exploratorium.
- Walk along the waterfront to from the Ferry Building to Fort Mason Green
- Check out Valencia, Guerrero, Dolores streets in the Mission District. Be sure to check out the street murals on Clarion Alley.
- Grand tour: Union Square, Chinatown, and North Beach/Telegraph Hill
- Walk along Hayes Street to Alamo Square Park, and then to Japantown
- San Francisco is one of the food capitals of North America. Try out some great meals while you’re in town – there’s something from every major world cuisine. Get the Yelp app for restaurant reviews and opening hours.
- SF is crazy about street festivals and concerts. Popular events include: Bay to Breakers, the Folsom Street Fair, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Check local listings to see what’s going on.
- San Francisco is often referred to as “America’s most beautiful city.” Each neighbourhood offers a unique flair, and the year-round mild Mediterranean climate makes walking tours a pleasant experience.
- Bring a light jacket (it can get windy in the evenings). Don’t forget to pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes – hills in SF can get very steep.
- Weirdness and diversity are embraced in SF. The city is best enjoyed with an open mind.
- If you want to check out the cable cars, try the (east-west) California Street Line. You won’t have to wait in line nearly as long. Rides are $6 one way ($12 round-trip).
- Where to find good cheap eats: all over town! Use Yelp to check out what’s near you. For cheap (authentic) Chinese food, try Jackson St. (between Kearny and Grant) in Chinatown.
- Dangerous areas: SF is generally very safe. Areas to avoid at night: the Tenderloin (bordered roughly by Geary, Van Ness and Market), and parts of SOMA (South of Market, between 6th and 9th).
RECOMMENDED SAN FRANCISCO GUIDE BOOKS
- 111 Places in San Francisco That You Must Not Miss
- Lonely Planet Pocket San Francisco
- Fodor’s San Francisco: with the Best of Napa & Sonoma (Full-color Travel Guide)
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days