I’ve been wanting to visit San Francisco in years, and finally got to go on a beautiful January weekend with sun, clear skies and zero fog – what are the chances!!
Here are my favourite spots to see and a few I missed. What would you recommend seeing next time?
We started our tour of SF here. It’s a nice old building, and there’s a covered market inside, with bakeries, sweet shops and restaurants. If you walk up the palm-lined avenue from here to Pier 39, you get a good flavour of the city: downtown skyscrapers on your left and the bay on your right.
Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39
This area is a little touristy and the shops are kind of cliché. But it’s fun to walk around, soak up the vibe, buy a postcard and a Golden Gate fridge magnet. If you’re lucky, you might see some sea lions hanging out in one of the harbour areas, fighting each other and smelling gross.
This is a short walk away from Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a small square up a hill where there’s an old chocolate factory and its shop, some cute boutiquey shops, and a relatively cool view of the ocean. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it, but if you want to buy some nice chocolate or you’re passing by then go for it! The old factory vibe really reminds me of certain parts of South London, so I felt at home.
Chinatown is right in the middle of the downtown area. Stepping into the main hub around Grant Avenue genuinely feels like being teleported to a different country. Suddenly all the signage is in Chinese, the lampposts are embellished with dragons and the smell of crispy duck wafts through your nostrils …
The downtown area is cool, business-y, exciting – like a cross between London & New York. It has a few standout buildings, like the famous Transamerica Pyramid and this fun green ‘flatiron’-type block, called the Sentinel Building.
Lombard Street has a famously windy section that goes down a hill past some incredible houses. In a car, you have to take it at about 1 mile an hour. My picture is a little underwhelming, but it looks incredible when the flowers are out.
Notice how the cable car stops right at the top so the tourists can get out and take photos!
The view over the city from the top of the street (next to the cable car) is amazing too:
This area (centring on the intersection of those two streets) is like the Camden of San Francisco: it still has the charming colourful historical houses, but is noticeably grottier and more hippie. There are people wearing tie-dye and provocative street art reminds you this is where the ‘summer of love’ started.
Twin Peaks is the highest point in the city, with an amazing view over the downtown area and the bay. You could see the Golden Gate on the left (out of the picture), Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Park (green mound in the left middle ground), and Market Street going all that way from the middle ground through the skyscrapers and right to the seafront. Definitely worth it for probably the best view of the city.
Alamo Square & the Painted Ladies
I’m ashamed to admit I only visited this square because of Instagram. The ‘Painted Ladies’ are one of the city’s most ‘grammed spots. This row of similar, multicoloured houses is very cute, and the park in the middle of the square is on a hill, so you can see past the houses to the skyscrapers behind. However, the whole city is full of houses in this style, some even more quaint & cute. You don’t have to make the pilgrimage to this particular spot to get the vibe.
Golden Gate Bridge
Last but certainly not least … pretty much my sole reason for visiting the city was to see this absolute icon, and it did not disappoint. It’s huge, and very long, and can be viewed to great advantage from a number of vantage points in the city and on the other side of the bay. Luckily a friend was able to drive us to a few of these.The picture above is taken from Land’s End and below is from a viewpoint on the north side. If you don’t have a car, you can rent a bike, cycle over the bridge and then get the ferry back, but I’ve heard it’s quite strenuous.
Hills, quaint houses, sea views, skyscrapers … San Francisco is unique and beautiful. I loved it and can’t wait to go back!
Here are some of my favourite SF houses:
And you can see more beauties on this Instagram account:
743-745 Capp St, Inner Mission🦋3,259 sq ft Stick Eastlake Victorian triplex built in 1889. One of an imposing row of predominantly Eastlake Victorians which have undergone varying degrees of alteration. Market value is about $1.6 million. #sf #sanfranciscohouses #sanfrancisco #architecture #streetsofsf #sflove #sfguide #sfgate #sf_insta #onlyinsf #oldhouselove #oldhousecharm #oldhouse #nowrongwaysf #mysanfrancisco #ilovesanfrancisco #igerssf #housestalker #houseportrait #archiporn #archilovers #archidaily #archi_ologie #alwayssf #sf_daily_photo #beautifulhouse #sanfran #sinfrancisco
Next time I would hit up:
- Golden Gate Park
- Civic Center
- Nob Hill
- SF MoMA (modern art museum)
- Palace of Fine Arts
And I would try to drive to these places outside the city:
- Silicon Valley
- Napa Valley
- Muir Woods (to see the amazing redwoods)