“The City by the Bay”, “Fog City”, “The Paris of the West”
20th to 24th of September, 2012
So we are in our last city in our tour, and the farthest one. Also up to this day (September 2012), it’s the farthest to the west I have ever been in the world! And the very first time by the Pacific Ocean. A must visit in the USA is this beautifully elegant city, with plenty of things to do and see. Don’t underestimate the time you will need here as it happened to us. Even with a rental car as we had, the time played against us the three days and a bit of the 4th we spent here.
Basically, calculate that distances although not too big as some other cities, it takes really ages to reach the places, specially if you count with public transportation. The whole of the city is up and down the hills. And if you plan really to walk around, you should better rethink about it and plan again something involving transportation. You can get “killed” of going up and down the many hills. The city is well divided in clear areas, each of them having it’s own sights, therefore pretty simple to follow a route and know what to do.
The chances to be foggy in the mornings and again afternoons are pretty high, this is a climate fact which cannot be avoided. Also, even in summer, it’s pretty cold here. You will need for sure long sleeve and jacket, not to mention when you go up Twin Peaks, where the temperature difference from the top respect the below one is steep.
The best views of course are from the Twin Peaks, another great view, and also for free, is the Coit Tower (not inside where you need to pay, but around it on the free viewing points). Even Lombard Street offers great views from the top. But anyway, any hill from the top offers fantastic views of the city below.
As for architecture every style mix here. The predominant is the Victorian, where I’m it will not be possible for you to avoid the temptation of making many pictures to those cute houses everywhere. There is also Colonial Spanish churches, and around the financial district, the skyscrapers.
And what can be more “real” than taking the cable cars! This is one of the wonders of the city. Currently 3 lines remain, and talks are for the recreation and reopening of some more. 100 years ago there were many more lines. The downside of them are the super long waiting queues. You can easily be waiting for 2 hours at the beginning of the Powell-Hyde line on Fisherman’s Wharf. Therefore plan with time, and don’t get frustrated. The wait will pay off!
What to see and do in San Francisco:
- Golden Gate Bridge Perhaps the most recognisable bridge in the world is this Art Deco masterpiece. The best way to reach it is by car, but you will get to see it from many parts of the city like the many hills, or from Alcatraz.
- Palace of Fine Arts Located on the east side of Golden Gate and on direction towards the wharfs. The peaceful park is a great sight together with the beautiful museum.
- Alcatraz From pier 33 you can get the tickets and boat. But it’s highly advisable to book tickets in advance and avoid the queue. You will still need to queue to get into the boat, so plan ahead and get here well before your ticket is valid. You might need to let 2 boats in front of you go before you can board.
- Chinatown Centered around Grant Street from Bush to Columbus. It’s one of the largest in the USA.
- Twin Peaks The views from the top are with difference, the best you will get of the city and beyond. You can get here by Muni bus 37 from the Haight-Ashbury or Castro and Market streets.
- Telegraph Hill Is one of the main tourist areas in the city, where you will find:
-Coit Tower There is really no need to pay to get to top, from it’s base you will get the same view. You need to circle it around and will see great viewing spots.
-Lombard Street On Russian Hill, is the world famous zigzag street. It’s regarded as the most crooked street in the world.
-Nob Hill Where Grace Cathedral is between California and Powell Streets.
-Fisherman’s Wharf Where at the world famous Pier 39 you can see Sea Lion’s.
-Old Mason Street for nice views of the Golden Gate.
-Cable car museum Free, at intersection of Washington Street with Mason.
- Civic Centre This is the city centre itself, among the buildings are:
-City Hall and War Memorial Great Beaux Arts buildings.
-Asian Art Museum
-Symphony and Opera
- Union Square-Financial District
-Powell Street (You get incredible views with the cable car, buildings, Bay Bridge and the sea. One of the cable cars turntable is located at the end on Market Street.
-Ferry Building Embarcadero. A nice picture is with a F tram coach at the front.
-Transamerica Pyramid Pretty much the most iconic building representing the city itself. Seen in every movie shot in San Francisco.
- Western Addition
-Alamo Square Park This is the symbol of the city. It’s the square representing the city to everyone in the world. Where the incredible Victorian houses and background skyline view combine together.
- Mission District and Castro
-Mission Dolores Church
-Market Street The very main street in the city.
-Castro Street This is the famous Gay district, with many trendy bars and cafes.
- The Avenues
-Golden Gate Park It’s a huge park leading to the Pacific, where the famous Japanese Tea Gardens are.
-Ocean Beach This is where the Golden Gate Park meets the ocean, and also all the avenues. A very nice and long sandy beach with great views, where unfortunately it’s forbidden to swim. Beware that if you break the rule and go into the water, it’s at your own risk. The currents are such that many people a year loose their lives only to think they are brave enough and nothing will happen.
-Baker Beach Where the most dramatic view of the sandy beach, the mountains and the Golden Gate is found.
From the airport walk or take the free airport shuttle (AirTrain) to the BART station adjacent to the G side of the International Terminal. The BART train ride to San Francisco costs about $8 one way.
Another option is by bus, SamTrans routes 292, 397, for $2 to San Francisco.
The best way to explore the city is by getting a transport pass. This is a “Clipper” card. And it’s valid on all Muni services, including Cable Cars for $14 one day or $21 for 3 days.
-Muni Metro Lines. J, K, L, M, N, S and T
-Historic Streetcar F Line. From Castro and Fisherman’s Wharf
-Cable Cars. Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf: the north-south Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines and the east-west California Street line.
It is quite pricey to stay at hotels in the city. The best will be if you look for an apartment. It will save you lots of money, and you will see plenty of people renting rooms.
We were at a very nice 2 rooms apartment owned by a Spanish couple living at their flat upstairs. This was at 971 Alabama St #B, 94110. The nearest BART station is Mission.