If you're dreaming of a California adventure, San Francisco has it all: a bohemian city on the bay with ocean beaches, great bars, refined dining inspired by Asia and the Pacific, plus hiking and the celebrated Napa Valley a short trip up Highway 1.
1/6Exciting San Francisco has been the birthplace of social revolutions and technological innovations and is known for its sophisticated dining scene and cosmopolitan culture
2/6Get a photograph of San Francisco’s ‘Painted Ladies’, its iconic colourful Victorian and Edwardian houses Photo: Getty Images
3/6Discover San Francisco’s pretty, undulating streets with a cable car ride
4/6Stroll down San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, browsing for souvenirs and taking in the incredible bay views
5/6Take a tour of San Francisco’s infamous Alcatraz Fortress
6/6Snack your way through San Francisco’s Chinatown, brimming with dim sum restaurants and delicious Asian eateries
Exciting San Francisco has been the birthplace of social revolutions and technological innovations and is known for its sophisticated dining scene and cosmopolitan culture
Get a photograph of San Francisco’s ‘Painted Ladies’, its iconic colourful Victorian and Edwardian houses
Photo: Getty Images
Discover San Francisco’s pretty, undulating streets with a cable car ride
Stroll down San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, browsing for souvenirs and taking in the incredible bay views
Take a tour of San Francisco’s infamous Alcatraz Fortress
Snack your way through San Francisco’s Chinatown, brimming with dim sum restaurants and delicious Asian eateries
Things to do
We've chosen the must-see highlights of this fantastic city.
We've chosen the must-see highlights of this fantastic city.
The ferry ride to the seaside town of Sausalito is a must for many visitors, but what makes it even more appealing for shoppers is the promise of Heath Ceramics at the end. One of foremost makers of contemporary ceramics in the United States, its workshop is housed in a modernist studio. Rows of colourful, neatly stacked crockery, pottery, glassware and accessories, as well as tiles, make it a delight to browse, and factory tours are offered. It also has stores in the city.
The queues form early at this beloved Mission District eatery – join them and be rewarded with the city's most acclaimed bread. If you have room to spare, the legendary morning buns, and an array of sandwiches and banana and lemon cream tarts won't disappoint.
Lovers of avant-garde American and international home design should make a beeline for The Future Perfect, in the city's Pacific Heights neighbourhood. Hailing from the Brooklyn borough of New York, the store is a treasure trove of inspired furniture, lighting, décor and a host of knick-knacks that would make perfect souvenirs.
Michael Mina's eponymous restaurant stands as a beacon of refined dining in San Francisco's sea of casual eateries. Warm gold tones, high ceilings and glamorous patrons set the scene for a reliable big night out. Order à la carte, or place your meal in the hands of the chef, who will send out a parade of French, Japanese and Asian flavours that parlay into New American cuisine. Examples are abalone with miso cream, slow-cooked suckling pig with Tokyo turnip and his signature, lobster pot pie.
The crown jewel of Golden Gate Park, this sleek glass-and-concrete building is a showcase of green architecture. It houses an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and a four-storey rainforest dome all under a "living roof" covered with native California plants.
To choose a single watering hole in a city that mixes some of the world's best cocktails is a tall order, but at this pan-Latin bar the Pisco Punch – an authentic version of the famed 19th-century local invention – is an excellent start.
It's even better up close. Start your walk across the city's iconic landmark at Crissy Field, an outstanding waterfront promenade and natural estuary below the bridge. The Golden Gate's visitor centre has been renovated and the west side has acquired two dramatic overlooks.
Claiming to be the country’s first stand-alone, purpose-built jazz performance hall, the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco's cultural Hayes Valley neighbourhood is a temple to all things jazz and home to the SFJAZZ Collective, one of the country's premier jazz ensembles. The 700-seat Robert N. Miner Auditorium is lauded for its acoustics, and, having opened this year, the centre has already hosted greats such as pianist Chick Corea, singer Tony Bennett and theatre actress Ute Lemper.
Blue Bottle Coffee elevates the status of chain operations with its consistently good coffee at all its branches. What started as a boutique roaster and café in nearby Oakland now has several locations around the city, each one adhering to its principles of freshly ground and exactingly made coffee. Avoid asking for a skim latte Frappuccino, or risk the barista's wrath.
To fully appreciate San Francisco Bay, you need to get out on the water. From the Embarcadero, hop on a ferry bound for Sausalito. It will pass Alcatraz en route to the charming waterfront village where you can browse galleries and have lunch.
The vintage paper presses have stopped rolling, but the top-drawer libations keep coming at this subterranean cocktail den in the historic Hearst building downtown. Décor and drinks nod to the past, but the crowd and live music place it firmly in San Francisco today. Order a Bloody Mary or Gibson, or work your way through the list of American whiskies.
This industrial space is where the Hayes Valley neighbourhood's hipness first emanated from. Edgy, funky styles and new labels – the store also has a well-curated selection of jeans. Eager staff help complete your entire look and there's also an in-house nail spa.
San Francisco's flagship non-profit theatre company is one of the country's leading regional theatres, staging classics to contemporary works from the likes of David Mamet. A performance here puts you right in heart of the Union Square district, where diversions abound.
San Francisco's waterfront revitalisation, brought on by the America's Cup yacht race, has included the opening of a host of bars and restaurants, and one of the hottest tables in town is Coqueta. Celebrity chef Michael Chiarello, best known for his cooking shows and Napa Valley Italian restaurant Bottega, has turned to Spain for his latest venture. Think sherry, pincho snacks, tapas and paella, served in a buzzing rustic-industrial dining room and bar on Pier 5.
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