I was recently in San Francisco for four days, and it was barely enough time to explore this quirky city. It quickly became one of my favorites in America.
Where to go:
There’s a lot to see and do in Union Square, especially if you’ve got some money to burn, and I managed to do an impressive amount of window-shopping on my backpacker budget. All the biggies are here, including Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and much more. There’s also a huge Westfield mall nearby, as well as enough department stores to satisfy even the most avid shopaholic.
You can catch a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf from Union Square, and the Museum of Modern Art is here as well.
The Golden Gate Bridge:
We took a hop-on hop-off bus tour around San Francisco with the Big Bus Company, since we wanted transportation around the city, with the freedom to go where we wanted. I definitely recommend walking across the bridge towards the city, since you’re treated to gorgeous views of the bay, as well as Alcatraz and the city. It took us about 40 minutes, stopping regularly for photos.
The Golden Gate Bridge was the “bridge that could never be built”, due to high currents and cold water. It cost $35 million to build, and was actually under-budget. The color of the bridge is called “international orange”, and it was originally supposed to be the primer color, since the bridge was going to be painted gray. The navy wasn’t too fond of that idea since it gets pretty foggy around the bridge and they wanted it to be painted black with yellow stripes. I’m glad it wasn’t!
We were lucky to get such a clear day, since June to August is the foggy season. We also took the 90 minute Escape from the Rock bay cruise, which took us under the bridge, although that day we had the more typical foggy pictures:
Haight-Ashbury was the place to be for hippies in the 1960’s. It was actually the center of the hippie movement with it’s “Summer of Love”, and this is still evident in neighborhood today. Stroll down Haight street, and you’ll see shops selling scarves from Tibet, cute boutiques, and tons of second hand clothing stores. You’ll want to spend at least a couple of hours here, so grab a coffee at one of the many coffee shops, and people watch for awhile. It’s definitely worth a look.
I did get to see Alcatraz from afar on the Escape from the Rock bay cruise, and this cruise includes a recorded narration as we circled the prison, which was still very interesting, so if you can’t get tickets, consider doing the cruise which was well worth the time and money.
When to visit
If you’re planning to visit San Francisco during the “summer” you’ll need to bring more layers than you think. I wasn’t prepared for the weather, and the wind is freezing, especially going over the golden gate bridge. Apparently a lot of the time winter is actually warmer than summer, with San Francisco often experiencing an “Indian Summer” in September and October.
I found the public transport system in San Francisco to be both frequent and reliable. The MUNI system is cheap and covers most of the city, and you can also catch the Bart from the airport into the city and back, for around $8.40.
It costs $4 to take the cable car from Market Street to the famous Pier 39 (Fisherman’s wharf), and if you buy the San Francisco CityPass, (more on this later) you get seven days of MUNI and Cable Car travel included.
Is there anything I’ve left out that I should see next time? Leave a comment in the box below.