>> San Francisco <<

Introduction

San Francisco, situated on the West Coast of the USA, is probably most renowned for her majestic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay and the island prison of Alcatraz. While it is believed that San Francisco was inhabited from at least the 1500's she really came into her own when gold was discovered in the mid 1800's enticing prospectors - marking the start of what she is today - a truly vibrant and happening city.

San Francisco has its fair share of sky scrapers in the city and boasts Victorian architecture in the hilly sprawling suburbs which border the sapphire blue waters of the Pacific Ocean making San Francisco a beautiful and interesting city to experience.
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What to See


The Districts
San Francisco comprises a number of districts including North Beach, the Financial District, Nob Hill, Haight Ashbury, the Mission, the Tenderloin, the Castro and the Richmond each with its own attractions. Pick up a tourist map and get ready to walk those hills since this is the best way to see and really feel this city.

Alcatraz
Alcatraz - Federal Penitentiary
The island of Alcatraz has a strategic military importance in the San Francisco Bay. In 1853, construction of a fort, with perfect views of incoming ships was begun. It served a military purpose from there on until 1934 when Alcatraz was re-invented as a federal penitentiary.

Alcatraz is best known as a high security prison where only the most troublesome prisoners including Al Capone and Robert Stroud were held captive. It is now a massively popular tourist attraction under the control of the Golden Gate National Conservancy. The Rock, as Alcatraz is also known, is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean's deadly currents and ice cold waters. It is theoretically inescapable or just about since a few actually tried to break free! No one knows whether or not the escapees actually made it to freedom. Take a short boat ride from Pier 34 to the island for a memorable visit.

Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937 and is over two miles long. The famous suspension bridge, once the largest in the world, is clearly visible from certain points but is in fact a distance from the city and is best reached by car or bus. It is possible to walk, drive or cycle across the bridge. A toll fee is payable one way when entering into the city of San Francisco.

Bay Bridge
The Bay Bridge leads from San Francisco to Oakland and was opened in 1936. The Bridge is lit up at night providing an impressive view towards Oakland from San Francisco.

Coit Tower
Coit Tower is a great vantage point atop Goat Hill that every one should visit. It was built in 1934 and provides 180 degree panoramic views of the entire city and of San Francisco Bay. A small fee is payable to go to the top of the tower and enjoy the views.

Fisherman's Wharf
Once purely a base for fisherman, it has over time transformed itself with restaurants, bars and shops being built along the wharf frequented mainly by tourists. Pier 39 in particular has a number of shops and places to eat and is open day and night.

Chinatown
Most cities have a China Town and San Francisco's is amongst the largest in North America with plenty of eateries and stores to find just about anything you're looking for.

Washington Square and Union Street
The impressive St Peter and St Paul Catholic church looks over Washington Square Park. The area around the park is trendy and happening with a number of appealing restaurants and bars. Washington Square is a good part of your visit to the city to take a breather!

Grace Cathedral
Grace Cathedral
Grace Cathedral began as a small chapel in 1849 with enlargements until the fire of 1906 destroyed the structure. The new Cathedral lies on a plot donated by the Crocker family and was begun in 1928 only to be finished in 1964. The Cathedral sits majestically on top of the Nob Hill district and is decorated with stained glass windows and intricate Ghiberti Doors at the entrance.

Lombard Street
The crookedest street in the world is located in the Russian Hill district. It was built with all it's zigzags in the 1920s to ease the steep decline of the hills.

Market Street
Market Street is one of the main roads running through the city. You'll find department stores, malls and other stores all along Market Street.

Yerba Buena Gardens
The lovely Yerba Buena Gardens were designed as an Urban Redevelopment plan with the Martin Luther King Memorial, the Center for the Arts and the Charles Loof Carousel as special points of interest.

Transamerica Pyramid
The Transamerica Pyramid at night
This architectural wonder, the tallest building in San Francisco, is in the shape of a pyramid and is a significant feature of the San Franciscan Financial district skyline since 1972. The pyramid and skyline is particularly nice at night from a good vantage point atop one of the many hills.

Mission Dolores
The Mission Dolores is over 2 centuries old making it one of the oldest structures in San Francisco. The little chapel has the beautiful and impressive Mission Basilica dating from 1916 as a neighbour.

California Wine Country
California Wine Country
The famous California Winelands begin within a mere hour's drive of the city and are comprised of the famous Napa and Sonoma Valleys amongst others. The vineyards stretch for miles and the scenery is spectacular. Wine drinker or not we would definitely suggest a visit to California wine country.


What to Do


Catch a Cable Car
The Cable Car
Why not make your venture up one of those hills less exhausting and definitely more interesting by taking a historic cable car? There are three routes still in operation in San Francisco. To really appreciate the intricacies of the mechanics visit the Cable Car museum on Mason St. Entrance is free.

Entertainment
San Francisco is a good venue for professional sports, live concerts and theatre. The San Francisco 49ers, the Oakland Raiders, the Oakland Athletics all play nearby. Live concerts featuring popular artists visit the city regularly and excellent plays are shown in town.

Museums
There are a number of museums including the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco MOMA, the Cable Car Museum and the Railway Museum. As with any other city we suggest you check their daily hours. Entrance fees are payable.

Twin Peaks
Drive out of the city to the top of twin peaks and take in that view of the city! The best vantage points are not sign posted so keep a good look out for the best place to stop.

Pacific Coast Highway
Drive along the famous Pacific coastline and look out for surfers who frequent these cold waters to catch a wave.

Golden Gate Park
This recreational park is a favourite for locals to bike, walk, picnic or simply take in the beautiful surroundings.

Wine Tasting / Picnic
Head out to Napa Valley and visit a wine estate or two to savour some Californian Wine. In between Oakville and Napa there is wonderful deli allowing you to provide for that perfect picnic!

Visit Alcatraz
Boat excursions from Fishermans Wharf, not far from Pier 39, take you to Alcatraz. You are free to roam the grounds for as long as you please. Pick up a set of earphones and visit the cellblock for a narrated tour of how it was back then.

Shop
Find all your favourite designer labels in the lavish boutiques around Union Square or for the mere mortals, shop along Market Street.


What to Eat


Beer
All the international brands are available in addition to your local brews. Support the local breweries when you can, some of the stuff is pretty darn nice!

Wine
The California wine country produces some award winning wines. Reds, whites, rosÚs and bubblies are all widely available for you to enjoy.

California
California cuisine is well regarded around the world as an alternative or adaptation to old world cuisine with a twist. Avocado, fish, olives, olive oil and tomatoes are widely used.

Chinese
China town has all the chinese restaurants and dim sum joints you're looking for.

Hispanic
California has a stong hispanic history and hispanic cuisine is widely available. We're not talking about Taco Bell either!


Where to Sleep


Hotels
You can find a hotel to meet your budgetary needs by using any one of the main online hotel booking sites. Find Hotels.

Hostels
For the budget traveler, find yourself that affordable place to stay by searching and booking a San Francisco Hostel.

Apartments
Short term let apartments can be very convenient while visiting San Francisco. Search for San Francisco apartments for rent.


How to Move


Airport
San Francisco Airport is a large well organised airport just outside the city. Give yourself about an hour to get there just in case traffic from town is heavy. Find out more about San Francisco Airport.

Car
San Francisco's hills and road network make renting a car an easy option. Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge is easy, cruising down the highway is fine, despite the amount of cars and seeing wine country is a great little road trip.

It's always a good idea to have insurance while on holiday. Travel insurance is essential, you never know what could happen.

Cable Car
The cable car was first used in 1873 by Andrew Hallidie to take the burden off the horses used in the day and to ease the strain of walking up the extremely steep and long hills. Today, the cable car is a historic icon and tourist attraction for San Francisco. The ride is fun, the technology interesting and worth learning more about at the Cable Car Museum on Mason Street.

Streetcars
The old street cars cover the central city well and are affordable with tickets remaining valid over several hours and re-usable for transfers.

Bus
The bus system is well developed and affordable. You can find out more about the public transportation system in San Francisco by visiting www.sfmuni.com.

Taxi
A good way around town obviously but watch your fares and distances as they can become quite expensive.

Walk
Walking is a great way to see the city. It's also very tiring, especially with all the hills in town. Bring a good pair of walking shoes and take in the sights.


Locals


Language
English but Spanish is also widely spoken all over California.

Currency
US Dollar divided into 100 cents.

Time Zone
San Francisco is in the Pacific Standard time zone which is GMT - 8.





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