In DestinationsNorth America on 30/09/18
A hilly street with tramlines, and a street railcar driving along. Beautiful gnarly old trees line the streets with old buildings, and skyscrapers in the distance

San Francisco, California, USA

Wealth is like sea-water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become". Arthur Schopenhauer

San Francisco is known for its delightful blend of bohemia, culture and class, however the exponential growth of Silicon Valley has made its mark.

Quirky artist studios have been refurbished into multi-million dollar apartments snapped up by 20-something app developers. Independent cafes are now demographically chic and expensive restaurants. Although San Francisco is now much less ‘hippie’ and a bit more ‘hipster’, it remains a city well worth visiting.

Wander to the outskirts of downtown and you’ll find tree lined streets with beautiful old houses and fabulous bay views.

This is where you’ll find independent retailers and live music with the culture and atmosphere San Francisco is famous for. Old trams still roll past, taking the leg work out of the iconic hilly streets up to the ocean fresh air.

A 5 mile wander goes by in a blink, and if you’re hungry for more, this oceanside city delivers in abundance.

Muir Woods
Across the Golden Gate Bridge is Muir Woods National Park. Famous for its Redwood trees up to 258 foot tall, it has winding paths through the woods.

If you’re time limited, a short walk into the woods is definitely worth the trip. For avid walkers there’s even a beach to discover along the shoreline. You’ve got to love a city with such intense nature right on the doorstep.


Just over a mile offshore, Alcatraz Island famously housed a high security prison. Although tantalisingly close to the city, sharks, frigid waters and strong currents made escape almost impossible.

As further punishment, inmates could hear the sounds of nightlife drifting across the water.

Now decommissioned, it’s open as an attraction for visitors curious about the many famous former residents and their escapades.



Back in the city, the waterfront is a long strip of activity. The Ferry Building Marketplace houses independent traders selling gorgeous food, crafts and toiletries produced in the surrounding counties. A bottle of shampoo costs $20 so only rich locals can afford to shop there, and tourists. Bloody good shampoo though!

Pier 51 is a compact shopping precinct by the water. Targeted to tourists, but lovely all the same, this is a great one stop shop for a splurge. New England style eateries sell fresh fish, pizza and ice cream.


The wharf offers numerous waterside restaurants with the latest and greatest in fabulous food and great service. The view from here is fantastic, so it’s worth a visit one evening.

Explore the side streets above the business district for bars and eateries on a budget, with many representing the strong Irish and Asian presence. This is where you’ll find the hidden heart and soul of the city.

And finally…

San Francisco is a city of two halves. The thousands of homeless are growing in number at the same rate as the nouveau riche, while the bohemian culture is slowly being whitewashed by eye-wateringly expensive design.

But San Francisco’s individualism is what attracted its new residents in the first place, so I have faith its character will remain.

Getting there

San Francisco is a direct flight from most major cities

Getting around

The BART public transport system will get you from the airport to the city centre in under half an hour, costing around $10. A taxi ride takes about the same time for $50.

Cable car rides start from $7 for a one way ride. They only run on certain roads but are a good way of taking the leg work out of hills.


Where to stay

San Francisco is the home of Airbnb, and would have been my first choice were I not limited to company approved hotels. I stayed in Hotel Triton, right by Dragon’s gate on the edge of the Chinese district with high end shops and independent pubs and restaurants nearby. A great location.


Slanted Door is a great oceanfront eatery. The food and location are great.

Sam’s Diner was a highlight for me, a formal restaurant with a menu to match, the food and service were perfect.

B44 is a great example of what you can find off the beaten path. Worth taking a wander to find it and explore the side streets.



Walk or tram around the city to make the most of the new and old elements of the city.

Alcatraz is worth a look, and the ferry ride over is a treat too.

Muir Woods is a real delight, just a short hop over the Golden Gate bridge, which is worth the trip in itself. Take half a day to enjoy another aspect of the city.