With great weather, beautiful scenery and one of the most liberal cities – it is no wonder that San Francisco is one of the most ‘livable’ cities in the USA. It is fortuitously positioned between the ocean and Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east and west and redwood forests and the California desert to the north and south. On its doorstep, the Bay, which fits neatly between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, is not only tantalizingly beautiful, it’s home to 14 small islands, including Alcatraz. Not far away, the glorious vineyards of the Napa and Sonoma wine regions ensure weekend escapes are part of the San Francisco experience.
Public Transport – The city’s transport authority, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency or Muni in short operates trolley cars, buses, streetcars, cable cars and a light rail system, for a 24-hour service to all areas of the city. In fact, the San Francisco public transport has been rated one of the best in the country. San Francisco has many different types of above-ground vehicles covering the same routes with buses, trolleys (with wire cable) and streetcars charging the same fare.
Taxis – Taxis are plentiful and, despite reports to the contrary, hailing them is not difficult, although the wise passenger will book in advance. Tipping is customary, almost obligatory, and drivers expect about 15%. Yellow Cab Cooperative Inc and Veterans National & United Taxicab Company are both reputable providers
Golden Gate Bridge
Spanning 2.7km, the bridge is one of the wonders of the modern world and one of five bridges that span the Bay. With its rust-coloured towers, graceful suspension and cables, the Golden Gate Bridge is the symbol of the city and can be viewed from almost anywhere. The best views of the Golden Gate Bridge are from Fort Point in the Presidio (Long Avenue and Marine Drive) and Visa Point, on the Marin side at the north end of the bridge.
Golden Gate Park
Of the many open green spaces in San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is the biggest and the loveliest stretching from The Haight to the Pacific Ocean. The 1,017 acres of Golden Gate Park encompass meadows, lakes, myriad gardens, an open-air music concourse, a children’s playground and vintage carousel, a buffalo paddock and the tallest artificial waterfall in the West.
Destined to become a self-sufficient national park in its own right, the land and buildings of Presidio surround the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was formerly one of the oldest military installations in the country and now houses a forest, a Civil War brick fortress and a museum.
Looming menacingly in the Bay, near Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz (known simply as ‘The Rock’) was the site of the USA’s toughest maximum-security prison, from 1934 until 1963. Now, its on island activities include trail walks, audio tours narrated by former inmates and guards and ranger-led tours.
In the daytime, visitors throng the sidewalks and piers of Fisherman’s Wharf – a place for souvenirs, Bay-view restaurants, shops, attractions and the spectacle of some 500 resident sea lions crowded onto pontoons to sunbathe. Pier 39, where Beach Street meets The Embarcadero, is the biggest attraction here. Not only is it home to the sea lions but also many other attractions, such as the Aquarium of the Bay, where moving sidewalks are surrounded on three sides by water. Sightseeing boats leave from Pier 39 and the neighbouring Pier 41. The Cannery houses 30 speciality shops, while Ghirardelli Square, a former chocolate factory turned chic shopping centre, close by at the west end of Fisherman’s Wharf, can also be approached from the wharf.
Mission Dolores Church
Located in the district of the same name, it is one of the oldest buildings in the city and offers great views from Dolores Park. The walls of many buildings near are painted with a great collection of murals.
The ‘Crookedest Street in the World’ winds down the steep eastern side of Russian Hill, the angle so steep that Lombard Street has to zigzag down with eight sharp turns to make any descent possible. Tourists are known to literally queue to drive down this famous road, making it a definite must-see when visiting San Francisco.
Others: The Ferry Building, Cable Cars, Cartoon Art Museum, Aquarium of the Bay, Legion of Honors Museum, Japantown, Ocean Beach, San Francisco Zoo