Located on the west coast of the United States, San Francisco, popularly abbreviated Frisco, is the fourth largest city in California after Los Angeles, San Diego , and San Jose. The city is located on a spit of land that separates the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco Bay. Frisco is built on no less than 43 hills. The most famous symbols of the city are the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Transamerica Pyramid and the cable cars.
According to Transporthint, San Francisco is one of the most famous cities in the world. With the temperate climate and daily fog that lingers in the bay, the temperature in and around San Francisco is a welcome change for travelers entering the city from the interior. On this page you will find an overview of the most important sights in San Francisco, the best activities and some tips for nightlife. Text Martin Schäfer & Harald Kolkman Photography Harald Kolkman
Highlights in San Francisco
Alcatraz is an island in San Francisco Harbor. From 1934 to 1963 it was used as a maximum security prison. As many as 1545 prisoners have had the island as a temporary residence. The most famous inmate was Alphonse “Al” Capone. Several escape attempts have been made, but officially no one has ever managed to escape. Alcatraz is now one of many National Parks managed by the National Park Service.
Alcatraz is also home to the oldest working lighthouse on the West Coast. Several tour boats pass by Alcatraz, often in combination with a ‘visit’ of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is also possible to visit the island. However, due to high demand, these tickets must be requested months in advance.
California Palace of the Legion of Honor
One of San Francisco’s finest museums, located in Lincoln Park. With a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and a collection of 80 works by Rodin, the museum is popular with tourists. The building is a replica of the Palais de la Legion d’Honneur in Paris, where Napoleon established his first military force. The building was built by Mr. and Mrs. Adolph B. Spreckels given to the residents of San Francisco on Armistice Day in 1924, to honor the Californians who died in World War I. The collection is varied (statues, objects and paintings) and offers works from all over the world from the Middle Ages. Some big names that hang in the museum: El Greco, Le Brun, Rubens, Rembrandt, David, Courbet, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Manet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Gaugin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali, Matisse and so on.
San Francisco has one of the largest Chinatowns in the United States. It’s a nice neighborhood to explore. For those who decide not to take the famous trams to Fisherman’s Wharf from the center, but want to take a nice walk, you can walk through Chinatown to the harbor.
San Francisco has a love-hate relationship with one of its biggest tourist attractions. Fisherman’s Wharf is a motley, somewhat chewed-up slice of hospitality and neon on San Francisco Bay, where restaurants and food outlets compete fiercely for customers. Despite this, this historic and world-famous place attracts millions of visitors from all over the world every year.
Since the last half of the nineteenth century, countless fishing boats have moored early in the morning with their catch of the day. Way back when it was still called Meigg’s Wharf here – it was mainly Italian immigrants who brought nets full of seafood ashore in green boats, often accompanied by a singing captain. That Italian influence can be seen in the names of many eateries here, such as Alioto’s and Castangola’s, two of the oldest restaurants on the Wharf.
Most of those days started as sidewalks and became big with the construction of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge, and the influx of people that accompanied the frenzied growth of the Port of San Francisco. Every restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf has its own story, often with the same theme: from fish stand to gastronomic marvel. Reportedly, Fishermen’s Grotto No9 was the first restaurant on the Wharf.
On the spot where Domingo Ghirardelli opened his own chocolate factory at the end of the nineteenth century, there is now a block of historically renovated brick buildings. Ghirardelli Square was already converted into a shopping center in the 1960s – with the irresistible Ghirardelli Icecream & Chocolate Shop as its flagship – and is now on the verge of another major high-end renovation.
Golden Gate Bridge
This is perhaps the most famous bridge in the United States, if not the world. Several excursions to the bridge are organized from Fisherman’s Wharf. You can of course also drive over it yourself with your (rental) car or camper. Please note that tolls must be paid. The bridge was designed by the American Joseph B. Strauss at the time and construction took about four years. The Golden Gate Bridge was opened to the public on May 27, 1937.
Hike & bike door San Francisco
America has a car culture. They hardly go for a walk, stroll or sit on a terrace. You will not see the hustle and bustle that you see in any major European city. If you still want to walk, take a look at the most characteristic neighborhoods (Chinatown, Little Italy, The Wharf and Golden Gate Park) and finish with a walk across the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Are you looking for a nature hike or rather an urban hike? Then you are in the right place in San Francisco. Popular in town is the Telegraph Hill Hike, which starts in North Beach at Stockton Street and heads downtown to Coit Tower.
Just outside the city past the Golden Gate Bridge in the Marin Headlands, the so-called Coastal Trail starts on the hills around San Francisco. Do you want more routes? There are several hiking clubs where you can obtain information. Of course you can always go on the bonnetip. San Francisco is not exactly bike-friendly. There are some cycle paths, but the Americans are not always used to cyclists. Still, you can enjoy cycling there. Keep in mind that the city has many hills and therefore steep parts.
San Franciso Maritime National Historic Park
The San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park is home to eight old ships and a collection of smaller craft, all of which are open to the general public. Of the fleet, the steel, 91 meter long sailing ship Balclutha (1886) and the submarine USS Pampanito are the most interesting. For a unique perspective on the Bay, a sailing trip on the wooden schooner Alma (1891) is also highly recommended.
Around Union Square (PHOTO ABOVE) are all the luxury department stores and the high-end brand stores (Yves Saint Laurent, Armani, Louis Vuitton, Cartier), while dozens of fashion shops along Castro Street offer the best trendy choice for men. Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights, in addition to many beautiful fashion, shoe, and design stores, also offers a variety of thrift stores with racks full of discarded vintage from Chanel, Dior and other names names names.