One of the most iconic and affluent cities in the USA, San Francisco is usually bathed in sunshine all year round, looking all the better for it. A mix of old and new sit side by side in this gorgeous coastal metropolis, from the bustling centre to the peaceful yet individualistic suburbs that share borders with wine country.
San Francisco has numerous communities with roots in China, Italy, Latin America and other parts of the world, making it more cosmopolitan than other parts of the West Coast. It’s also a great place to catch a few rays, go surfing or learn a little about the region’s history in a variety of museums, galleries and visitor centres.
San Francisco is an environmentally-conscious city, so driving a small, cheap super-mini will make locals appreciate your choice of vehicle. It would also help with navigating the gridded road system.
The Palace of Fine Arts in the Presidio, a former military post, should be the first port of call for any art aficionado. The building itself is impressive, as are the views of the nearby Golden Gate Bridge, but the collections on show are equally breath-taking.
If you want to see something a little different, there are regular cruises to Alcatraz Prison, one of the most infamous penitentiaries in the country. You can learn about some of the most notorious criminals who served time there as well as look at the San Francisco Bay area from afar.
Alamo Square Park is the best place to see some of San Francisco’s Victorian architecture. Here, you can see the famous Painted Ladies row of houses as well as the San Francisco skyline, including some of the tallest buildings in the city such as the Transamerica Pyramid.
San Francisco’s LGBT Pride event is one of the biggest and most colourful in the world. Taking place every summer, it features live music, speeches from gay rights activists and family-friendly spaces such as the family garden.
San Francisco has a pretty comprehensive public transport network. If you’re driving, trams, trolleybuses and buses get right of way, so make sure to stop for them.
Like neighbouring Los Angeles, San Francisco suffers from extremely heavy rush hour traffic. However, driving at any time except early mornings and evenings should be fine.
San Francisco’s main tourist office is at 900 Market Street. Opening time are 9am-5pm on weekdays and 9am-3pm on weekends. Between November and April, it’s closed on Sundays.
San Francisco International Airport is the main airport serving the city, located 13 miles south of the city centre. One of the world‚Äôs largest, it has four terminals, including one just for international flights. Over 44 million passengers were served here in 2012.
Connections by road to the airport are pretty impressive. To get to and from the airport by car, you need to drive onto Route 101, which heads northwards towards Downtown San Francisco as well as in the opposite direction towards San Jose.