San Francisco

The centerpiece of the Bay Area, San Francisco is one of the most visited cities in the world, and with good reason. The cultural center of northern California, San Francisco is renowned for its mixture of scenic beauty and unique culture that makes it one of the most vibrant and desirable cities in the nation, if not the world.

Sandwiched into a small seven-by-seven mile (11x11km) square of land between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco offers a wealth of treasures for the visitor, from the windswept and often foggy bay to the steep hills lined with Victorian homes that overlook the spectacular scenery of the city. Great ethnic and cultural diversity shows itself in the city's varied neighborhoods, from the crowded and exciting streets of Chinatown to the eclectic attitudes of the Castro and the gleaming condominium towers built on the city's more recently gained tech-savvy reputation.

And yet San Francisco is just one of the cities which makes up the entire San Francisco Bay Area. At the center of a metropolitan area of 7.6 million people, the city is a fantastic base to explore the treasures of San Francisco's neighbors to the east across the Bay Bridge, to the north past the Golden Gate Bridge, and to the south down the peninsula. There's enough to see that one could devote a lifetime to exploring the region, and it'll become clear why people continue to make their way to this special place.

Districts

Each district of San Francisco carries its own unique and distinct culture. This map is predominantly based on the 11 official governmental districts of San Francisco, but it has been adapted to suit the purposes of this travel guide. Some districts of particular interest to travelers have been broken up into popular neighborhood groupings, while others, mainly residential districts, have been merged.

San Francisco's districts
Golden Gate
Fashionable neighborhoods, e.g., the Marina District, Cow Hollow, and Pacific Heights, with extensive views and historical landmarks — Fort Mason, The Presidio, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
Fisherman's Wharf
A touristy waterfront neighborhood which encompasses Ghirardelli Square, Pier 39, and the ferry launch to Alcatraz Island, as well as a plethora of seafood restaurants and souvenir stores.
Nob Hill-Russian Hill
Two ritzy neighborhoods with upscale hotels, cable cars, panoramic views and steep inclines.
Chinatown-North Beach
Two vibrant immigrant communities; the crowded and largest Chinatown outside of Asia next to the stylish laid back 'Little Italy', as well as Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower.
Union Square-Financial District
Union Square is the center of shopping, theater and art in the city, next to the many skyscrapers of downtown and Market Street.
Civic Center-Tenderloin
The neoclassical Civic Center next to the grit of the Tenderloin. While the 'Loin' is grittier compared to its ritzier neighbors downtown, there is still plenty of interesting architecture and attractions to see here.
SoMa (South of Market)
A rapidly changing neighborhood of downtown that is the center of a lot of new construction, including new skyscrapers, some of the city's newest museums, and AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.
Western Addition
A historic neighborhood with many Victorian homes that was once a hotbed of African-American culture. Within the area is also Japantown, once the center of San Francisco's Japanese population, still populated with many Japanese stores and restaurants, and hotels that cater to Japanese travelers.
Haight
Famous for being the home of the Hippie movement, this once bohemian area is still an eclectic treasure.
The Avenues
Includes both the foggy Sunset and Richmond Districts, separated by the scenic and lush Golden Gate Park and bounded on the west by Ocean Beach.
Twin Peaks-Lake Merced
Covering most of southwestern San Francisco, this area is home to many of the taller hills of San Francisco and the large Lake Merced park, which contains the San Francisco Zoo.
Castro-Noe Valley
Colorful and cohesive, the Castro is historically known for being the cultural center of the city's LGBTQ community. Nearby Noe Valley offers excellent restaurants and shops along pleasantly walkable streets.
Mission
This vibrant area is home to a large Hispanic community as well as new urban artisans, and is a center of San Francisco night life. For visitors wishing to get off the beaten tourist paths and catch some local flavor, this is the place to go.
Bernal Heights
A charming neighborhood atop a hill on the southern side of the city and a cultural center for San Francisco's lesbian community.
Southeast San Francisco
A mostly lower income residential area, this district contains several bay-side neighborhoods and many nice parks.

Understand

History

Prior to European settlement in the area, the peninsula that now contains San Francisco was home to the Yelamu tribe, who were part of the larger Ohlone language group which stretched south from the Bay Area to the Big Sur of California. Due to San Francisco's characteristic foggy weather, the earliest European explorers completely bypassed what would later be called the Golden Gate and the San Francisco Bay. The first European settlement in the area was founded by the Spanish in 1776 as a mission community surrounding the Mission San Francisco de Asís, in what is today called the Mission Dolores in the Mission District. In addition to the mission, a military fort was built near the Golden Gate: El Presidio.

Upon gaining independence from Spain in 1821, the area became part of Mexico. Under Mexican rule, the mission system gradually came to an end and private ownership of land became a possibility. In 1835, an Englishman named William Richardson founded the town of Yerba Buena, the first significant settlement on the peninsula outside of the Mission Dolores area. As the new settlement gradually grew, Yerba Buena developed a street plan and became attractive to settlers. Following the Mexican-American War the United States claimed California, and in July of 1846 the U.S. Navy arrived to raise the American flag above Yerba Buena. Over the next couple of years, California officially became part of the United States and the name of the town was changed from Yerba Buena to San Francisco.

In 1848 the California Gold Rush started in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Prior to the opening of the Transcontinental Railroad, getting to San Francisco involved an arduous overland journey or a lengthy voyage by sea, but that didn't stop waves of fortune-seeking immigrants from making the trip, increasing the city's population from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands. Many who made their fortunes then settled in San Francisco, which at the time was the largest, most exciting city in California. Like other large cities, eventually San Francisco developed into districts by nationality or social status: the Italians in North Beach, the Chinese in Chinatown, and the wealthy mining and railroad titans on Nob Hill. During the gold rush years many major businesses were created and flourished in San Francisco (Wells Fargo Bank, Levis, Bank of America), and famous and infamous personalities alike settled in the city. Of course, with all this success came problems: the rapid growth of the city outstripped any efforts at city planning, meaning proper sanitation and infrastructure were largely undeveloped, which led to a cholera outbreak in 1855. Violence and corruption were evident, and anti-immigrant violence resulted in many race riots.

Emperor Norton

In 1859 one Joshua Abraham Norton, who had been a wealthy businessman prior to losing his fortune on Peruvian rice, proclaimed himself "Norton I, Emperor of the United States" and later "Protector of Mexico". While he was widely seen as eccentric, he was quite popular among many inhabitants of San Francisco due to his "decrees" calling for the dissolution of Congress or the construction of bridges or tunnels to cross San Francisco Bay. One of his more eccentric (though widely popular) edicts was banning use of the word "Frisco" (then as now a common shorthand for the city hated by its residents) and imposing a $25 penalty on its use. While Norton did not ever have any real authority he was beloved by many of San Francisco's inhabitants and inspired many books and newspaper articles both during and after his lifetime. When he died in 1880, some 10 000 people attended his funeral.

In the 1890s, there was a large campaign to modernize and beautify the city, the success of which led some officials to proudly call San Francisco the "Paris of the West." But in 1906, a devastating earthquake shook the city and a resulting fire leveled much of the city (in fact, almost 90% of the total damage was from the fire, and not the quake itself). Nevertheless, officials at the time immediately set out on a plan to rebuild the city, with new parks, boulevards, the current civic center complex, and landmarks such as the Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill. In 1915, San Francisco hosted the Panama-Pacific Exposition (where the Palace of Fine Arts complex is currently located) to showcase the completely rebuilt city.

In the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930s, San Francisco remained largely unscathed. In fact, it was during this time that the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge were conceived and built. It was also during this time that the federal government established a prison on Alcatraz Island, which would hold some of the most notorious criminals of the era.

After World War II, San Francisco continued to grow in population. Aggressive urban planning projects led to a changing skyline, with more highrises in the city's financial district and new freeways rimming the city's waterfront. But in some sense the years after World War II were also unique in what didn't happen; while cable cars were once commonplace throughout North America, San Francisco remains the last place to still have them in daily use as actual transportation. Sprawl and auto-centric development have also happened in San Francisco, but less so than in most other American cities and it is therefore still one of the best destinations to explore the United States without a car. In later years, the waterfront freeways were deemed an eyesore and eventually torn down and replaced with the far more pleasant Embarcadero Boulevard.

Besides being a beautiful city to visit, from the 1950s forward San Francisco became known as the city of the cool, quirky, unusual, and counterculture. There were the Beatniks of the fifties and sixties, and the hippies in the sixties and seventies. "Only in San Francisco" became part of the lexicon to describe San Francisco's counterculture and rebel population, a reputation that still exists today. The film industry also made San Francisco world-famous and instantly recognizable; the city provides a superb backdrop for a movie, regardless of genre or topic.

Since 2000, San Francisco has experienced a development boom. Even with the burst of the dot-com bubble, the economy has remained robust and the city government pushed for redevelopment of its blighted industrial section known as "South of Market". Today, the SoMa area is crowded with new condominium and office buildings, new tourist attractions, and dot-com industries. The city's efforts have shielded it somewhat from the recent recession and subsequent real estate crash, and today the financial sector is second only to tourism as San Francisco's largest industry, with the city consistently remaining at the top five of the world's most popular tourist destinations.

Climate

"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." — attributed to Mark Twain
 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 56 60 61 63 64 66 66 66 70 69 64 57
Nightly lows (°F) 46 48 49 50 51 53 54 54 56 55 51 47
Precipitation (in) 4.1 3.5 2.9 1.5 0.5 0.2 0 0 0.2 1.1 2.6 3.9

San Francisco has a mild climate, with cool, wet winters and dry summers. In most months, you can expect the high temperature to be in the upper 50s, 60s or low 70s degrees Fahrenheit (between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius). However, these mild temperature readings belie a unique climate not shared by other major cities in the state or country.

Summer days usually start out under fog, slowly burning off towards the ocean into a sunny albeit windy afternoon. Measureable precipitation during the summer months is rare, although light drizzle is possible. Humidity is very constant, but rarely uncomfortable. At late afternoon, when the fog and wind returns people generally find themselves needing a jacket (and this is summer!). There are some days when the fog lingers all day.

In the winter, the rainy season is in full swing. That being said, the chances for a calm, windless, sunny day are actually higher in the winter than in the summer! However, the overall temperatures are going to be lower in the winter.

Spring and fall are not so much seasons in themselves in San Francisco, but rather they are quick transitional periods with some days resembling summer and others the winter. Fall in particular is a good time to visit because the summer wind & fog has mostly gone, but the rainy season has not yet started. The late summer month of September, as summer transitions into fall, is the warmest and driest month of the entire year for San Francisco. Heat waves can occasionally occur around this time of year.

Within these general rules, San Francisco also has a series of microclimates created by the city's topography and maritime setting. Large hills in the city's center block much of the fog, wind, and precipitation that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean. Because of this, there can be significant weather differences in different parts of the city and the surrounding Bay Area at the same time. Generally, the more windward areas along the coast (e.g., the Outer Sunset) are cooler and foggier, while the more leeward areas in the east are warmer and drier (e.g., the Mission). Temperature differences of 10-15 degrees or so are common on days where the fog persists on the western side of the city. These differences continue as you move east, out of the city, into the East bay, and into the outer East Bay (on the other side of the hills from Berkeley and Oakland), where it can be much hotter and drier. Local meteorologists routinely have three forecasts: one for the coast, one for the bay, and one for the inland areas. In short, if you don't like the weather, perhaps travel a few miles east or west to your desired climate.

Literature

San Francisco literature finds its roots in the city's long and often tumultuous history, its diversity, and its attraction to eclectic characters; the city was a major center for the Beat poetry movement and seems to also hold an uncanny attraction for science fiction writers. Among the most famous works set in San Francisco:

Movies

San Francisco has been the backdrop for many films, due in part to the Bay Area's vibrant filmmaking community and the city's proximity to Hollywood. The production companies of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, along with the animation company Pixar are just a few of the big players who call the San Francisco area home. Among the better films set in San Francisco:

Architecture

The Palace of Fine Arts

San Francisco is known for its Victorian architecture, particularly in the central and northern neighborhoods (e.g., Haight-Ashbury, Alamo Square, Noe Valley, Castro, Nob Hill, and Pacific Heights). The city has one of the most restrictive building and planning codes in the world, which helps preserve the historical architecture in certain areas and create a severe shortage of housing stock, which drives up the price of housing. The exorbitant price of housing, both buying and renting, is a favorite topic of San Francisco locals. It helps to explain why there are so few families in San Francisco (another favorite topic).

In recent years, San Francisco has undergone high-rise construction boom centered in SoMa, just south of what was historically the center of downtown. This was one of the few areas of the city left for development (i.e. without entrenched anti-development policies). Unlike other major cities like New York and Chicago, San Francisco is not known for having buildings built by star architects. This may be due to the difficulty of getting projects approved in the city.

Culture

San Francisco prides itself on its openness to diversity in race, gender, sexual orientation and personal style. This trait is widely considered to be one of the defining features of the city, and it draws both visitors and transplants alike.

English is the dominant language spoken in San Francisco. San Francisco is home to the second largest Chinese community in the United States after New York City, and Cantonese is commonly spoken in the various Chinese-dominated neighborhoods, with an increasing Mandarin-speaking minority. Like much of California, there is also a large Latin American population, so Spanish is also commonly spoken in San Francisco, especially in the Mission District.

Tobacco smokers beware: as in the rest of California, smoking is illegal in bars, restaurants, and other public places. Additionally, the City of San Francisco has a local ordinance that require smokers to go all the way to the curb (or if there is no curb, at least 25 feet from any building - not simply the entrances). As of January 2013 enforcement is inconsistent and the odds you'll be hassled for standing and smoking outside a restaurant or bar are low. Bay Area people can be particularly vocal about personal habits, so take care and be mindful and respectful of others when smoking, even in places where it is allowed.

On the other hand, smoking marijuana is remarkably well-tolerated. If you are visiting from elsewhere in the U.S., you may be very surprised to find that marijuana is not considered to be a problem by San Franciscans, and even by the city's police. While still illegal under federal law, a law was passed in 2006 officially making marijuana the lowest priority for the SFPD. This does not mean that you should smoke marijuana just anywhere, but the rules of etiquette are difficult to navigate. You will find people smoking marijuana at large concerts, but not small concerts. You will find people smoking marijuana on a street corner in the middle of the day in some neighborhoods (e.g., Haight-Ashbury) but frowned upon in others (e.g., the Financial District).

Public nudity has been celebrated among some residents in recent decades. More recently, however, there has been some controversy surrounding public nudity in San Francisco. There is now a law banning some public nudity, with nudists actively opposing the law.

It's worth mentioning that natives tend to dislike many of the nicknames given to their city. Instead of saying "San Fran," "Frisco," or "SFO," most refer to San Francisco by its full name or just "The City."

The Bay Area has of one the most vibrant high-tech startup scenes in the world. While the venture capital firms are largely in the South Bay, many of the small startups and tech workers are in San Francisco.

Tourist information

San Francisco's visitor information centers offer maps, brochures and other information for tourists.

Get in

Map of San Francisco

By plane

Oakland and San Jose tend to offer more discount airline flights, while San Francisco Airport attracts more international flights and can be more convenient for those staying in the city. Private pilots should consider Oakland (IATA: OAK) rather than SFO, as the separate general aviation field there is more accommodating to light aircraft.

Public airport transportation

San Francisco and Oakland Airports are connected to downtown SF by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system (Oakland Airport indirectly through AirBART shuttle buses).

Passengers arriving in SFO can walk (5 minutes from United's domestic terminal) or take a free airport shuttle (AirTrain) to the BART station (which is adjacent to the G side of the International Terminal). The BART ride from SFO to San Francisco's downtown stations costs $8.65 one-way and runs frequently, every 15 or 20 minutes depending on the time of day. BART trains run through San Bruno, South San Francisco, Colma, and Daly City before reaching the city of San Francisco, from where the SF MUNI can take travelers anywhere in the city. BART operates to midnight from 4AM on weekdays, 6AM on Saturdays and 8AM on Sundays.

SFO is also connected to San Francisco by SamTrans routes 292, 397, and KX. Routes 292 and 397 are $2 to San Francisco and they are operating non-stop, while KX is $5. Large luggage is generally not permitted on the KX bus.

From Oakland Airport, passengers take a 10-15 min "AirBart" bus ride to the BART station; the cost is $3 for adults ($1 for seniors/children) exact change only; the bus runs every 10 minutes during the day. BART trains from there run directly to San Francisco and cost about $4.00.

The San Jose airport is served by a free shuttle to both VTA Light Rail and Caltrain called the Airport Flyer — VTA Route #10. Passengers arriving in San Jose can use Caltrain to reach San Francisco directly (this costs $7.50 one-way). Caltrain also links with the BART system at the Millbrae intermodal station. Be aware that public transportation within the South Bay is not as developed as around San Francisco. Also, when riding Caltrain, be sure to buy your ticket at the automated station kiosks before boarding, as they are not sold on the trains.

Private airport transportation

Taxis are considerably more expensive than the public transportation options. A taxi from SFO to the city can easily cost more than $40, and over $60 from OAK. Taxi and van prices from San Jose to San Francisco are significantly higher. Shared vans will cost around $14. If you plan to drive from a car rental area near the SFO airport to downtown San Francisco, you can take the 101 freeway. When returning a rental car to SFO, remember to take the rental car exit, otherwise you will have to wind your way slowly back to the rental car center.

By train

Amtrak, +1 800 872-7245 serves the Bay Area with long-distance and intercity trains. San Francisco's long distance station is across the bay, outside city limits, in Emeryville. Passengers can arrive in Emeryville or Oakland's Jack London Square Station in the East Bay and may take an Amtrak Thruway bus over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco's Amtrak stops at the Transbay Terminal at 200 Folsom St, the Embarcadero Center in the Financial District, Pier 39 in Fisherman's Wharf, and at several other downtown destinations (note that Amtrak passengers are not subjected to any extra charge for the bus). Travelers on some shorter distance Amtrak routes can also transfer to BART trains at the Richmond or Oakland Coliseum stations (see below). Alternatively, riders approaching the Bay Area from the south may transfer to Caltrain at San Jose's Diridon Station for a direct ride to Fourth and King Streets in San Francisco.

Amtrak routes serving the Bay Area are:

There are two regional rail systems which serve San Francisco:

Caltrain, +1 510 817-1717 operates a regional rail service from San Jose to its San Francisco terminal at Fourth and King in SoMa. The service also runs between San Jose and Gilroy during rush hour. Caltrain is very useful for travel between San Francisco and communities on the Peninsula, Silicon Valley or South Bay. On weekdays Caltrain provides two trains per hour for most of the day but run more during commute hours, including "Baby Bullet" limited services that cruise between San Francisco and San Jose in 57 minutes; on weekends and public holidays trains run hourly, except that after 10PM only one train runs, leaving at midnight. The 4th & King terminal is served by Muni Metro (see 'Get around' below) giving connections to the rest of the city. Fares vary depending on how far you go. Tickets must be purchased before boarding the train from ticket vending machines at any of the stations or from ticket clerks at staffed stations. Tickets are checked on the trains and anyone found without a ticket is liable to a substantial fine. Cyclists should use the designated car at the northern end of the train, and be aware that bike space is often limited during commute hours.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), +1 415 989-2278 provides a regional frequent rail service connecting much of the East Bay and Contra Costa County with San Francisco and the San Francisco Airport through the Transbay Tube, a tunnel underneath San Francisco Bay. BART operates five routes, of which four run through San Francisco. There are three or four trains per hour on each route; consequently trains within San Francisco are generally less than a 5-minute wait. In the East Bay, BART runs mostly on elevated track; in downtown San Francisco it runs in a subway under Market Street, and several underground stations provide easy access to downtown areas and simple transfers to the Muni Metro subway. BART also meets Caltrain at Millbrae. Bicycles are allowed on BART except between stations designated in the schedule brochure during commute hours. Fares vary depending with distance traveled, and start at $1.75 for trips within the city. You will need to insert your ticket into barriers when entering and exiting the system. Tickets hold a balance, deducting the appropriate price for each trip, so someone who plans to use the system several times can buy a $10 or $20 ticket and not worry about fares until the card is used up. Note that the BART vending machines accept any credit card only twice within any 24 hour period. BART also accepts the Clipper Card, and BART ticket machines can be used to refill Clipper Cards, although do not sell them.

By bus

The central bus depot for Amtrak Thruway (see above), Greyhound, and BoltBus service is the Transbay Temporary Terminal, located Downtown at 200 Folsom St, between Main and Beale Streets. This terminal serves as a temporary depot while construction on a new Transbay Center is ongoing. Directly adjacent to the long-distance bus depot is an open lot served by several regional Bay Area bus agencies (see below) and local MUNI buses. Other long-distance bus carriers pick-up and drop-off passengers in different locations; see below.

The above long-distance bus companies also make stops in Oakland and San Jose (and/or additional Bay Area cities) to pick up passengers on the outbound trip and drop off on the inbound trip. See the below links if you're only traveling within the Bay Area.

Several regional bus systems serve San Francisco from the surrounding areas in the greater Bay Area. 511.org compiles information from all of the Bay Area's different regional bus, train and ferry systems into one site including a handy trip planner program. The bus services share a central San Francisco terminal at the Transbay Temporary Terminal in Downtown on Howard St between Main and Beale Streets, adjacent to the Greyhound bus terminal. See this link to see the layout and the pick-up/drop-off locations for each transit agency.

By boat

San Francisco and Alcatraz from a Sausalito ferry

In many ways a boat is the ideal way to approach San Francisco. The city's spectacular skyline is best appreciated from the water, and from the deck of a boat the bay and its bridges and islands can be viewed as a whole. Cruise ships and private yachts are regular visitors to San Francisco, and passenger ferries regularly link other Bay Area cities to San Francisco.

Ferries run to San Francisco from Larkspur, Sausalito and Tiburon in Marin County, from Vallejo in Solano County and from Alameda and Oakland in the East Bay. In San Francisco, the ferries dock at one or both of the city's two ferry terminals at Fisherman's Wharf and the Ferry Building, the later of which is a very short walk from the Amtrak San Francisco bus stop as well as Embarcadero Station, where the BART and Muni trains stop, and the stop for the historic streetcars that run above ground down Market Street. For more information on boat connections:

By car

There are four major highway approaches to San Francisco. US 101 comes up the eastern side of the SF peninsula and is the most direct route from the south, although it often backs up with traffic. Interstate 280 is a more scenic route into the city from the same direction, but with poorer connections than 101. Interstate 80 approaches the city from the east over the San Francisco Bay Bridge. From the north, US 101 takes you over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Get around

Navigating

Cross streets. As San Francisco streets are numbered (100 per block) from the beginning of the street, and even and odd numbers are always on opposite sides, it is best when asking directions to ask for a cross street or neighborhood name rather than relying on the address alone. For instance, addresses on Mission Street at 18th Street are in the 2200s, but one block away on Valencia at 18th, addresses are only in the 700s. This is because Mission starts at the Embarcadero, two miles farther east than Valencia's start at Market Street. Local residents rely on cross streets.

Numbered streets and avenues. San Francisco has both numbered streets, in the Mission, the Castro, and SoMa, and numbered avenues in the largely residential Sunset and Richmond districts. Mixing numbered streets and avenues when asking directions may leave you miles from your destination. This can be confusing, as San Franciscans will not say "Street" or "Avenue" unless it is required to avoid ambiguity. Thus, they won't say "I live on Fifth Avenue," but will say "I live near Fifth and Geary." Street signs generally don't have "Street" or "Avenue" either; they just say "GEARY" or "MASONIC", although numbered streets and avenues do.

Multiple street grids. One of the most confusing aspects of driving in San Francisco is the presence of multiple street grids, particularly in the downtown area where two grids intersect at an angle along Market Street. Even more confusing are streets in the middle of the standard blocks, like New Montgomery Street.

No left turns. Several key San Francisco arterial streets, including 19th Avenue and Market Street, do not have space for dedicated left turn lanes and therefore bear NO LEFT TURN signs at most intersections. As a result, you will be frustrated when you drive for miles on these streets with no opportunity to turn left. The trick, of course, is to go around the block with multiple right turns after passing one's desired street, which requires you to stay in the right lane, not the left lane.

On foot

Walking can be an enticing option to get from one neighborhood to another, so long as you are aware of where you are and keep your street smarts. San Francisco is a city of friendly neighborhoods, but it is also a big city so be aware of your surroundings and keep in mind the dangers that commonly accompany a city of San Francisco's size.

However, streets that often go straight up and down hills may make walking challenging when attempting the uphill portions (but provide good exercise). Driving can be difficult up and down hills but have breathtaking views. There are many stairway walks scattered throughout the city when the streets are too steep. You can find maps that include hiking trails, bikeways, and the grade pitch of all streets marked in varying colors by how steep each segment is, that can help you orient to city walks suitable to your ability and temperament, such as the downloadable map issued by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Note that locals rarely use the designations "street" or "avenue," even when differentiating the numbered streets and avenues. Numbered roads designated "Street" are located on the east side of the city, south of Market in Downtown, Castro, Noe Valley, and Mission. Numbered roads designated "Avenue" put you in the Richmond and Sunset districts on the west side.

By public transit

San Francisco rail systems (click to enlarge)

San Francisco has one of the most comprehensive public transportation systems in the United States—arguably the most comprehensive system west of Chicago—and is expanding its network with a regional transportation hub in SoMa and a new subway line going under downtown. Transport services within San Francisco are provided by several agencies, but transferring between them is easy now with a Clipper Card. Clipper is accepted on essentially every transit system you'll encounter:

Information on all the Bay Area's transit agencies can be found by dialing 511 while in the Bay Area or by visiting the 511 website, which has a useful trip planner.

Public transit payment

The Clipper Card in action

Planning your public transit trip

Muni

Again, this is the main system you'll use when you're in the city. Muni consists of several types of trains and buses:

Streetcar on the Embarcadero
Cablecar at Powell & Market

Other public transit options

These are mainly used for getting in and out of the city:

A BART train

By bike

If you have strong legs and can tolerate traffic with intermittent bike lanes, bicycles can be a convenient form of transportation in San Francisco. Although it's dense, San Francisco is fairly small in land area—just 7x7 miles from north to south and east to west—so it's fairly quick to get from one end to the other. But much of the terrain is hilly and hard to pedal up. Do not be misled by maps depicting the city's strict, regular street grid, as even the straightest of San Francisco's streets might include steep hills or even staircases instead of a roadway. San Franciscans who bike frequently find ways to "wiggle" — taking winding routes to avoid hills — around the steepest hills in the city. You might try using this flat route finder. You can also put your bike on the front of the MUNI buses if you get desperate. Also beware that some maps compress the horizontal scale of the western half of the city.

A classic and relatively easy ride is from the tip of Golden Gate Park's panhandle in the Haight, along paths and JFK Drive through the park to Ocean Beach. JFK Drive is lightly trafficked, and closed to cars on Sundays.

Downtown, SoMa, and the Sunset, and Richmond districts are relatively flat. There are a number of bike paths and bike routes on city streets; the San Francisco Bike Coalition keeps a lot of information about them. There are a number of bike rental companies in town, including Dylan's Bike Rental, Bay City Bike, Bike and Roll and Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals with locations in Fisherman's Wharf, and the Bike Hut and Pacific Bicycle in SoMa. San Francisco Bicycle Rentals, with shops at Haight, Fisherman's Wharf and Ferry Building, charges $5 extra to drop off a bike at a different shop.

The Golden Gate Bridge has sectioned off pathways on each side for pedestrians and bicyclists. If you choose to ride a bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, be aware that walkers always stay on the east side of the bridge and bikes are often to ride on the west (ocean) side of the bridge. When the Bridge is closed to pedestrians during nighttime, you may continue to bicycle across by stopping to press the buzzer at the automatically closed gates to be buzzed in and out. It is a pet peeve of many locals to have to dodge bicycles while jogging or strolling.

By taxi

Taxis in San Francisco are, for a large city, surprisingly inefficient and expensive, starting at $3.10 just for getting in the door. You can get an idea of how much particular taxi trips cost in San Francisco using the SFMTA's webpage.

Except for near downtown business hotels, tourist destinations, and nightlife areas, taxis can be hard to find and hail—and calling for a cab can mean a 30-45 minute wait, if the cab shows up at all. In recent years, there has been considerable controversy in San Francisco about increasing the number of taxis, but the situation is getting better. Before coming to San Francisco, you should download apps for some popular alternatives to hailing a taxi (e.g. Uber, Sidecar, Lyft, and the taxi hailing app).

If you are heading to the airport, your best bet is to call ahead with a specific pickup time to one of the many taxi companies. You will also want to schedule your cab ahead of time because if you are going beyond 15 miles, you will end up paying 50% extra.

By car

Parking can seem like a perilous task in San Francisco

You almost certainly don't want to rent a car. Perpetually-clogged traffic, steep hills, a confusing system of one-way streets downtown, expensive parking, and a fleet of parking control officers who enforce parking laws with zeal can make driving in San Francisco extremely frustrating; visitors to the city should seriously consider alternatives to driving when possible. Car rental is expensive, registration fees are the highest of any U.S. state, and because collisions are common, rates for liability insurance (legally required) are high as well. In addition, traffic from the Golden Gate Bridge uses surface streets either along CA-1, 19th Avenue or US-101 on Lombard and Van Ness. In short, a car is really only useful for visiting destinations outside of the city, and even then you may be better off using a taxi or other car sharing service.

The most difficult problem with your car in San Francisco will be parking. Parking throughout the city is extremely scarce. Garages, where they are available, are quite expensive ($20–30/day downtown), and San Francisco has recently begun a variable-pricing scheme which makes the most popular street parking more expensive. San Francisco has some of the strictest parking laws and enforcement in the country. For day trips into the city, consider a park-and-ride at a Peninsula Caltrain station, at a Peninsula BART station, or at an East Bay BART station.

When parking on a hill (and there are many of them in San Francisco), remember to always apply that parking brake and turn your wheels so that the car will roll into the sidewalk instead of the street if the brakes give out (i.e., when facing uphill, turn toward the street; when facing downhill, turn toward the curb). Failure to park properly doesn't just run the risk of having your car roll downhill, but it is also against the law and you may be ticketed.

Motorcycles and scooters are a common sight on San Francisco streets; in fact, San Francisco is known as one of the most motorcycle-friendly places in the U.S. Street parking for motorcycles is plentiful and relatively inexpensive ($0.30 to $0.80 an hour), but note that parking on sidewalks is usually illegal. There are several motorcycle rental shops, along with many dealers, service shops, and motorcyclist hangouts. As elsewhere in California, motorcyclists must wear helmets. Motorcycle theft is a problem; always use a disk lock or secure your bike to a stationary object using a cable or chain.

Segways are somewhat popular among tourists. If you'd like to blend in, you'll definitely avoid them. So far there is only one authorized Segway dealer that rents out Segways, though various tour operators (many of whom operate from Fisherman's Wharf) offer guided trips throughout the city.

See

San Francisco has much to see — these are just the most significant sights. For more detail see the individual district sections, often linked from this entry.

Two passes are available which offer discounts to many interesting attractions:

Itineraries

There are many highlight walks you can take to really capture the feel of the city and see a whole lot of attractions at the same time. Some of the best ones are:

Looking up the Filbert Steps, just one of the city's many charming stairways

Landmarks

The Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio

Perhaps the most recognizable landmark in San Francisco and one of the most famous bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge, spanning the Golden Gate, has been called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and is the first thing you see of San Francisco if driving in from the north, as it is one of the major road routes into and out of the city. Overlooking the Golden Gate is the Presidio, a former military post with beautiful architecture and a very scenic park setting. Just outside the Presidio is the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and reminiscent of Roman and Greek architecture.

Within the center of the city, the famous cable cars run up and down the hills of San Francisco between Market Street and Fisherman's Wharf and offer quite a ride (see above under Get around for more info). Atop one of those hills, Telegraph Hill in North Beach, is Coit Tower, a gleaming white tower dedicated to the San Francisco firefighters. At 275' high, the hill is a healthy hike from the nearby neighborhoods just below. Another prominent tower nearby is the Transamerica Pyramid, the tallest and most recognizable building in the San Francisco skyline, located among the skyscrapers and highrises of the Financial District. Perhaps the most famous view of that skyline is from Alamo Square Park in the Western Addition district, home to the famous Painted Ladies row of Victorian houses, with many other pretty Victorians encircling the lovely park.

Over on Russian Hill is the famous stretch of Lombard Street between Hyde & Leavenworth, the (nearly) crookedest street in America. The city also has a twistier but less scenic stretch of street, Vermont Street on Potrero Hill. Other street oddities in San Francisco include 22nd Street between Vicksburg and Church in Noe Valley and Filbert Street between Leavenworth and Hyde on Russian Hill — At a 31.5% grade, these streets share the honor of the steepest streets in San Francisco.

Neighborhoods

Chinatown

San Francisco is also well known for its collection of unique and intriguing neighborhoods. Most tourists start with Fisherman's Wharf; although many of the locals consider it a tourist trap, it is a great place to see amazing street entertainers, watch sea lions, visit museums, or take a cruise to the infamous Alcatraz Prison or the pleasant Angel Island. Working fishing boats still come into the small harbor here, and the district is home to several excellent seafood restaurants. The fresh breeze from the bay can provide a bracing setting.

Chinatown, centered around Grant Street from Bush to Columbus, is part tourist trap, part an exhibit of local life. Good eating places abound, and the side streets especially have stores one wouldn't find in a mall. Stockton Street is where most locals do their shopping for groceries; be sure to sample some of the dim sum and other specialties offered in the many bustling shops. However, many local Chinese prefer to eat and shop in the new Chinatowns located in other neighborhoods such as on Clement Street between 2nd and 12th Avenues in the Inner Richmond neighborhood. The Muni #1 (California) and #2 (Clement, does not run at night) buses get people from one Chinatown to the other.

Closer to Downtown is the Civic Center, with its impressive Beaux Arts buildings including City Hall and the War Memorial Veterans Building, the celebrated Asian Art Museum, music and theater venues (including large concert halls and a renowned Symphony and Opera), and the main public library. Nearby, within the highrises of Downtown, Union Square is the heart of the city's main shopping and hotel district, while SoMa to the south is rapidly gentrifying, home to the city's main convention center and several new museums.

To the west of Downtown is Haight Ashbury, famous for being a center of the Hippie movement in the 60s and 70s. While tourism has softened the image of the neighborhood somewhat, the area still retains its distinct feel with small organic coffee shops and store after store selling marijuana-themed goods, tie dye tee shirts and hand bands. Nearby at the top of Market Street is the Castro, the center of San Francisco's Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Transgender (LGBT) community, with numerous theaters and small shops and restaurants. Next door is the Mission District, home to the Mission Dolores Church, one of the oldest structures in the city, and a fantastic collection of murals of all sorts on the walls of many nearby buildings, especially on alleys between Market and Valencia.

Treasure Island, an artificial island half-way between San Francisco and Oakland connected to the Bay Bridge, has excellent views of the San Francisco and Oakland skylines and quirky structures from the international fairground-turned-navy base-turned-neighborhood. Accessible by Muni bus #25 from the Transbay Terminal in SoMa.

Museums

California Palace of the Legion of Honor

When the morning is foggy, you may want to spend a few hours in one of the city's many world-class museums. Many museums offer free admission on certain days during the first week of every month. Golden Gate Park is home to the copper-clad M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, which houses an impressive collection of contemporary and indigenous art. The de Young Museum's former Asian collection is now permanently housed in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, located in the Civic Center. Across from the de Young Museum stands the California Academy of Sciences, which holds a huge array of science exhibits, including an aquarium and a natural history museum. Lincoln Park, across the Richmond district from Golden Gate Park, is the home of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, which houses an incredible collection of European art and makes for a good companion visit to de Young Museum, given that admission to either includes same-day admission to the other.

In Nob Hill, the Cable Car Museum offers exhibits on the famous moving landmarks of San Francisco and the opportunity to view the machinery that powers the cable cars. Another fun transportation museum is the small but charming San Francisco Railway Museum, on the streetcar line in the Financial District. Nearby SoMa is home to a growing number of museums, most notably the extensive and renowned San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, but also smaller specialized museums like the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Children's Creativity Museum, the Cartoon Art Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora, the California Historical Society Museum, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Down near the Castro is a recent addition to the city's museum scene, the GLBT History Museum, while a hill overlooking the Castro holds the Randall Museum, a lovely little children's museum off the beaten path.

At the Hyde Street Pier in Fisherman's Wharf you can board several historical ships, including the 1886 Balclutha clipper ship, a walking-beam ferry, a steam tug, and a coastal schooner. At Pier 45 just to the east, the World War II submarine USS Pampanito and the World War II Liberty Ship SS Jeremiah O'Brien can be visited. Nearby is the Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 and the Wax Museum. Just down the Embarcadero from the Wharf is the Exploratorium at Pier 15, which will keep your kids busy for an entire day with their science and perception exhibits. And just outside the Wharf in the Marina district is Fort Mason, home to a few cultural museums.

Parks and outdoors

Temple of Music Golden Gate Park

San Francisco has numerous parks, ranging from the tiny to the huge. The most famous of them is Golden Gate Park in The Avenues, a massive (roughly 1/2 mile-by-four mile) urban oasis with windmills, bison, museums, a carousel and much more hidden among its charms. The park contains the antique palatial greenhouse of the Conservatory of Flowers, the modern and ethnic art focused de Young Museum, the large Japanese Tea Garden, the new California Academy of Sciences building designed by Renzo Piano and the Strybing Arboretum, a collection of plants from across the temperate world. Defining the extreme northwestern corner of the city is Lands End in Richmond, which provides majestic views of the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge from the ocean side, and the Pacific Ocean itself. At the extreme western end the well known Cliff House provides both semi-casual and a more formal eating and drinking place overlooking the intriguing ruins of Sutro Baths.

Near the physical center of the city is the Twin Peaks, one of San Francisco's highest points (875' above sea level); providing spectacular views in all directions. Tour buses can get backed up here during the day, but it's a great place to really appreciate the city from above, especially at and after sunset. Temperatures up there can be quite a bit lower than in the rest of the city, so bring a jacket. Nearby in the Lake Merced area is the San Francisco Zoo, a large and well maintained zoo which is a great place to go if you are traveling with children or have a fondness for penguins, primates, lions or llamas.

While not particularly well known for its beaches, San Francisco has a couple of good ones along the Pacific Ocean — but the water is brisk, the winds can be rough, and due to strong rip currents swimming at any of them is not recommended. Ocean Beach along the Sunset district is the largest and most famous beach, with plenty of sand and people enjoying themselves. China Beach in Richmond and Baker Beach in Golden Gate are smaller, rather secluded beaches with lovely views.

Off the coast of San Francisco is one of the most productive marine environments on Earth, which attracts abundant marine life including blue whales, gray whales, humpback whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions, leatherback sea turtles, and many species of seabirds. The rocky Farallon Islands, located roughly 30 miles offshore from San Francisco, are part of a National Marine Sanctuary and provide nesting habitat for tens of thousands of seabirds. The islands are also known for attracting large numbers of great white sharks from September through November. It is possible to take boat tours to the Farallon Islands throughout most of the year and go whale watching, departing from Fisherman's Wharf or the Marina in San Francisco.

On sunny days hipsters flock to Mission Dolores Park, so named due to its location across the street from the Mission Dolores Basilica. The park often comes to resemble a large party, with music, coolers of beer and, er, uh...medical marijuana treatment. Mission Dolores Park is situated on a slight slope on the edge of the Mission neighborhood, just a few blocks from the district's many restaurants and bars. The east side of the park is bounded by Dolores Street, a hilly and scenic drive lined with palm trees and Victorians.

In the southern half of the city is the often overlooked but wonderful Bernal Heights Park, a small park on top of a hill overlooking the entire eastern half of the city, with excellent views of the skyscrapers in the Financial District, the Mission District, and the hills in the southeastern corner of the city. A wide trail runs around the base of the park below the peak which can be walked in ten to fifteen minutes. Bernal Heights Park is dog friendly, so much so that a coyote is often observed there.

Do

Harbor tours

Approaching the Island of Alcatraz

One of the best ways to see San Francisco is from the waters of San Francisco Bay. There are many companies offering harbor tours of varying durations and prices but they all provide marvelous views of the bay, the bridges, the island of Alcatraz and the city.

Only specific island tours are allowed to land at Alcatraz, but the typical harbor tour will circle the island at a slow crawl, giving you plenty of opportunity to photograph the now-inactive prison from the water.

Also consider taking a ferry from San Francisco across the bay to Tiburon, Sausalito, or Alameda. Same views for a fraction of the price.

Most tours leave from docks at Fisherman's Wharf near Pier 39. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks along the waterfront walk. Buy tickets a day or two in advance during the summer high season.

Boats usually leave roughly hourly starting around 10AM and ending around 5PM. Multi-lingual guides are available on some tours. Prices range from $20–$40, more for sunset, dinner, or whale watching tours.

Performing arts

Davies Symphony Hall

Events

There is an incredible array of events going on in San Francisco — virtually every day there will be something of interest to anyone going on, and San Francisco's mild climate ensures that practically every weekend will bring another major festival or some sort of large event. Listed here are just some of the really big events going on:

Cultural events

Holidays

LGBT community events

San Francisco is famous for its exuberant and visible lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, who always put together some very festive events:

Outdoor and recreational events

Sports

AT&T Park

The Bay Area has several professional sports teams, although most of those teams play in nearby San Jose and Oakland rather than San Francisco itself. The National Football League's San Francisco 49ers moved from Candlestick Park (which has since been demolished) in San Francisco to Santa Clara in 2014.

The San Francisco Giants are the city's Major League Baseball team, playing their home games at the lovely AT&T Park in SoMa and commanding a large and devoted fan base. With the Niners' move to Santa Clara, the Giants are the only team in America's major sports leagues playing in the city itself. As far as college sports go in San Francisco, the only NCAA Division I program in the city itself is the San Francisco Dons, representing the University of San Francisco and playing various college sports including baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball at their campus in Western Addition. The San Francisco State Gators, an NCAA Division II program, play various college sports including baseball, basketball and soccer at their campus near Lake Merced.

Local music

San Francisco is a hotbed for underground music; a highly diverse array of musical styles is represented (e.g., rock, pop, experimental, weird folk, and avant-jazz). Shows occur every night, with as many as fifteen small shows occurring each Thursday through Saturday night. Much of this activity is not always well covered in the mainstream media; useful community-driven resources for finding about local shows include Dar Dar Dar and the Transbay Calendar.

Learn

There are three world-class research universities in the Bay Area: University of California, San Francisco with two large campuses in San Francisco focused on biomedical research and training; University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley; and Stanford University in Palo Alto. Many of the major businesses in the area have a connection to one of these universities.

The University of California, San Francisco is one of the city's largest employers and is dedicated solely to the education of health and the biomedical sciences. Unlike many other universities, it does not have undergraduate programs and only admits graduate students. Also in the University of California system is the Hastings College of the Law, a major law school located in downtown San Francisco. The San Francisco State University is another major public university that offers a broader range of studies than the UC colleges in the city. Rounding off the city's public colleges is the City College of San Francisco, a two-year community college.

San Francisco also has numerous private colleges and universities, some of them large, such as the University of San Francisco located in the Richmond district, and Academy of Art with properties throughout the city.

Work

While San Franciso's economy is linked to it being a world-class tourist attraction, its economy is diversified. The largest employment sectors are professional services, government, finance, trade, and tourism. Its frequent portrayal in music, films, literature and popular culture has helped make the city and its landmarks known throughout the world. San Francisco has developed a large tourist infrastructure with numerous hotels, restaurants, and top-notch convention facilities.

While it's been a long time since people considered Montgomery Street in the Financial District to be the "Wall Street of the West", San Francisco remains the principal banking and finance center of the west coast of the United States, with the regional headquarters of the United States Federal Reserve being based here. Many major financial institutions and banks are based in the city or have set up regional headquarters here.

San Francisco's proximity to Silicon Valley has made the city increasingly attractive for high-tech companies. While most of the large technology companies are in the valley, many tech workers live in San Francisco and commute to work. In recent years, San Francisco has also been making itself a center of biotechnology.

Buy

Individual listings can be found in San Francisco's district articles

If you want it, chances are likely you can get it in San Francisco. There are a wide range of small and locally owned businesses throughout the city's neighborhoods; in fact, San Francisco has for the most part repelled the development of large chain retailers and big box stores that are common across America.

If it's tourist trinkets you're looking for, Fisherman's Wharf has the typical souvenir, T-shirt, and camera shops, along with plenty of specialty stores. However, San Francisco's most popular shopping area is Union Square, which has all the big national department stores (Macy's, Saks, Nordstrom, etc.) and plenty of fancy boutique stores, as well as a few shopping centers thrown in.

For small, upscale boutiques, Union Street, Fillmore Street, and Chestnut Street in the Golden Gate area are lined with unique and trendy places, and all three streets are among the best spots in the city to window shop. Nob Hill is also full of specialty places.

But if you don't have a luxury dollar to spend and still want to walk away with something unique, there are plenty of shops in Chinatown for you, selling Oriental handicrafts of all descriptions, and no chain stores in sight. Japantown also offers plenty of great shops selling authentic souvenirs, including the excellent Kinokuniya Stationery/Bookstore. The Haight is full of excellent independent record and book stores, with Amoeba Music dominating the scene.

Eat

Crabs at Fisherman's Wharf
Individual listings can be found in San Francisco's district articles

San Francisco is a "foodie" city with a vast array of restaurants. In fact, San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than any major city in North America, with 1 restaurant for every 250 residents (in comparison, New York City has 1 restaurant for every 940 residents). The price range is huge, of course, and you can spend anywhere from a small fortune to a couple bucks for every type of cuisine. In addition to the range of ethnic restaurants you'd expect to find, bay area food culture focuses on "artisinal" food (see the Ferry Building) and fresh fruits and vegetables (see Alice Waters), drawing from the nearby farms in California.

In San Francisco, you would be well-served by using an online restaurant rating website to find the best restaurants. Yelp.com, for example, is actively maintained by San Franciscans. All the best restaurants (and bars) are mobbed on the weekends, so you'll do well to check out the availability on opentable.com or similar websites.

Ethnic food and neighborhoods:

San Francisco restaurants are also very corkage friendly. Average corkage fee appears to be in the $15 range, with some of the more pricey places charging $25–35.

Vegetarians and vegans will find SF a paradise, however contrary to popular belief the city has one of the lowest rates of vegetarian consumers in the nation.

Drink

Individual listings can be found in San Francisco's district articles

Bars and clubs

The best way to find a good bar or club is to ask the advice of a local; but barring that a copy of The SF Bay Guardian or the SF Weekly or a quick search on yelp/google will help you find something suited to your personal taste.

The great diversity of nightlife in San Francisco, sometimes within one neighborhood, reflects the diversity of cultures there. Here's a sampling:

Beer

San Francisco, despite being much smaller than New York City, sports more microbreweries. Anchor Brewing Company (makers of Anchor Steam, found throughout the US) is brewed on Potrero Hill, though it is generally not open to the public (tours are available Friday afternoons by reservation). Similarly, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers opens its doors on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, though its location in Hunter's Point makes it a long Muni ride if you're traveling without a car. The other microbreweries are housed in brewpubs:

Other destinations for beer drinkers include the City Beer Store and Tasting Bar on Folsom St in SoMa (your best bet for beer to go), the Mission's Monk's Kettle, and the famous Toronado Pub on lower Haight Street, which specializes in Belgian ales.

The surrounding Alameda, San Mateo, and Marin Counties also host many microbreweries worth trying. Many of these are accessible by BART. And although Santa Rosa is 45 minutes north of San Francisco, no beer lovers should skip the renowned Russian River Brewing Company in downtown Santa Rosa.

Sleep

Individual listings can be found in San Francisco's district articles

San Francisco offers a wide range of accommodations, from a healthy supply of hostels and budget hotels to the lavish, luxurious hotels in the city center, as well as just about everything in-between. The majority of accommodations are in the northeastern portion of the city, in and around the popular areas of Downtown, Chinatown, and Fisherman's Wharf. As one moves into the mostly residential neighborhoods to the west, the sleeping options filter down to small inns and bed and breakfasts.

Decide if you want to be in walking distance of your destinations, or are up to driving and parking (which can be quite an undertaking in some of the busier areas of San Francisco) or taking public transit. If you have a specific destination in mind, look also in the Districts sections.

If you'd rather stay closer to the San Francisco International Airport, there are plenty of standard airport accommodations in the cities surrounding the airport — Brisbane, Burlingame, Millbrae, San Bruno and South San Francisco. From there, you can drive or take BART or Caltrain into San Francisco.

Connect

The area codes for San Francisco are 415 and 628. You need to dial 1+area code+number for all calls within the city. For calls within the US or Canada, dial 1+area code+number, and for international calls, dial 011+country code+city code(if applicable)+number. Pay phones are getting less and less commonplace as nearly everyone in San Francisco has a mobile phone. When you do find one, keep in mind that they only take coins and phone cards with a dial-to-use number. Local calls start at $0.50.

To get online, internet cafes are available at a sprinkling of city center locations. Many coffee houses and cafes also offer wireless connection for free or a small fee. Free access is available in Union Square. For a more scenic place to check your email try the Apple Store on Stockton at Ellis near Market in Union Square or any of the many public libraries, especially the main branch on Market near Civic Center station.

Additionally, those traveling with laptop computers will often find an open free signal across the city which is being deployed by a company called Meraki. The "Free the Net" signal is unlocked and free to use.

Blue mailboxes for mail such as letters and postcards are on many street corners. USPS post offices sell stamps and ship packages, and several private companies provide additional services.

Stay safe

A look at Stanley Robert's People Behaving Badly series will give you an inside look of usually petty crime in the city. However, it is very unlikely you'll encounter any violent or petty crime as long as you use your common sense and are vigilant.

The areas that one should be most cautious are in the neighborhoods of Bayview-Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, Sunnydale, Ingleside, and Potrero Hill in Southeast San Francisco, as well as the Tenderloin, parts of Western Addition (including the Fillmore District), and parts of the Mission. San Francisco is still susceptible to violent crime, and most of these murders occur in the southeast, less economically fortunate, neighborhoods of the city. Gang violence touches even busy and thriving areas such as the Mission Street retail corridor, although most instances of violent crime are directed to specific targets and are not random acts. The SoMa district used to be somewhat dangerous; however, recent gentrification (something that has become fairly common and a social issue in SF) has transformed it into a rather hip and much safer neighborhood with plenty of art galleries and clubs. However, it is best to be careful even now.

San Francisco also has the largest homeless population per capita in the United States. If someone begs from you, you may either politely say you do not have any change or just keep walking, and he or she will generally leave you alone. The main homeless area is around 6th and Market, heading towards the Civic Center, and in the Tenderloin. Haight Ashbury also has lots of panhandlers, and the area near Golden Gate Park at the end of Haight Street near McDonalds is notorious for junkies and should be avoided at night.

Pickpocketing, purse snatching, and other forms of petty crime are common as with any other large city. Be especially cautious on crowded Muni trains and buses, in heavily touristed areas such as Fisherman's Wharf, and during the busy holiday shopping season.

Do not leave valuables in your vehicle, especially when parking on public streets. Car break-ins are very common in San Francisco, and any valuables in plain sight are in danger of being stolen. During your visit, you will probably see small piles of broken glass on sidewalks throughout the city, which are the result of such crimes. If you cannot carry all valuables with you, try to keep them in the trunk and park your vehicle in secure parking garages, which are slightly safer than street parking but are not completely free from crime either. Bicycle theft is extremely common so bikes should be securely locked to a sturdy surface, even if you're going to only be gone a minute.

Be careful to check for ticks after hiking in fields in the Bay Area. There is a high rate of lyme disease transmission in the Bay Area. If a bulls' eye rash develops at the tick bite site, immediately seek medical help and treatment with antibiotics.

Cope

Publications

Consulates

Go next

Bikes can be rented from around the northern waterfront (Pier 41/Fisherman's Wharf/Aquatic Park area) or near Golden Gate Park for trips to Marin County via the Golden Gate Bridge. Stanyan near Haight at the end of the park has several good shops. Golden Gate Transit also sporadically serves the North Bay from San Francisco, and has bike racks on most buses.

Nearby destinations suitable for day trips include:

Routes through San Francisco

END  W  E  Oakland Sacramento
END  N  S  Daly City San Jose
Santa Rosa Sausalito  N  S  Brisbane San Jose
Fort Bragg Sausalito ← Merges with  N  S  Daly City Santa Cruz


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 24, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.