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San Francisco is often dubbed ‘Everybody’s Favorite City,” and it’s a very fitting term for this outrageously likable cosmopolis. San Francisco boasts oodles of top-notch attractions, including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, world-class cuisine (there are more than 60 Michelin-starred restaurants in the Bay Area alone!), a thriving sports scene, colorful and charming neighborhoods, unique experiences like whale-watching within the city, flourishing art and culture landscape, and a welcoming attitude towards all people. To explore in comfort and style, book your car rental in advance with Enjoy Travel for a seamless trip across the Bay Area.
Guide to San Francisco
San Francisco is located on the tip of a peninsula halfway up the northern Californian coast. It is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Strait, and San Francisco Bay on three sides, and flanked by the suburbs of San Mateo County to its south. Although San Francisco itself isn’t on a mountain, it is surrounded by numerous hills and mountains, the tallest of which is Mt. Davidson, rising to 938 feet above sea level.
San Francisco has a year-round mild to moderate climate, characterized by dry summers and moist winters. The best time to visit the city, however, is during the fall season from late August to early November, when clear skies enable you to enjoy outdoor activities and festivals. Average temperatures range between 21°C to 10°C during that time, and you can also beat the summer tourist crowds to get better deals on flights and accommodation.
Culture in San Francisco
The city was founded in 1776 by Spanish colonists when they established the Presidio of San Francisco at the Golden Gate and the Mission San Francisco de Asis some miles away. Both were named after Saint Francis of Assisi. The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid prosperity to San Francisco and it became the largest city on the West Coast at the time. It became a city-county in 1856 and the birthplace of the United Nations in 1945.
Today San Francisco is one of America’s most diverse cities with respect to arts and culture, cuisine, music, festivals, and architecture. It is also one of the United State’s foremost financial and economic power hubs.
Things To Do in San Francisco
Awe at an engineering marvel
Connecting San Francisco and Marin County stands the phenomenal Golden Gate Bridge. Its vaulting orange arches against the rocky seascape of San Francisco Bay is a spectacular sight and attracts droves of tourists throughout the year. Constructed in 1937, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at that time. Capture memorable and Insta-worthy shots of the bridge from many vantage points including the Golden Gate Vista Point, which is situated on Nob Hill, overlooking San Francisco. If you wish to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, you need to take US Hwy 101 or SR 1. There are 6 lanes of traffic on the bridge and walkways on either side are open for pedestrians and cyclists during the daytime. If you have some time on hand, be sure to explore the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Peek into a penitentiary
A small rocky island located 1.5 miles off the shore of San Francisco, Alcatraz Island was first developed as a military prison and later operated as a federal prison. The Alcatraz Penitentiary was operational for almost 30 years before closing in 1963 and reopening as a tourist attraction in 1973. It has housed some of America’s most notorious criminals, including the infamous mob boss Al Capone and Robert Stroud aka ‘The Birdman of Alcatraz,’ on whom a fictionalized namesake movie was made. Take a ferry over to the island and tour the site while listening to a narration by former inmates and guards. This informative audio recording provides a glimpse into life in prison here. Although Alcatraz mainly attracts tourists looking to indulge in the novelty of visiting a former prison, the island is a nesting ground for seabirds and hence an important research site for ornithologists.
Seek a different perspective over the city
San Francisco’s charming cable car system is the last manually-operated system in the world and is the only public transport system that has been titled a National Historic Landmark in 1964. The first cable car started its journey in 1873 to help locals navigate the many steep hills embracing the city. At its peak, there were 23 cable car lines in the city. Today, only 3 remain. These tram-like vehicles offer tourists a unique way to explore the city. The most scenic routes are the Powell-Mason and the Powell-Hyde lines and you can reach many tourist destinations like Ghirardelli Square, the Ferry Building, Nob Hill, Lombard Street, and Fisherman’s Wharf. Tickets can be bought on board or you can buy passes for several days’ sightseeing.
Stroll through a first-class urban park
Golden Gate Park is another top attraction in San Francisco. This beautiful urban park sprawls across 1017 acres and welcomes around 13 million visitors annually. Its abundant recreational offerings include lakes, picnic benches, museums, monuments, playgrounds, and gardens. Often called the ‘lungs’ of the city, it also has a network of walking trails and cycling paths adorned with over 5000 different species of plants and trees. Bike rentals are available and it is advisable to opt for those instead of trying to cover the entire length of the park on foot. The chief interests here include the De Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences Museum with Steinhart Aquarium, Japanese Tea Garden, and the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Golden Gate Park also hosts many events and festivals throughout the year.
Eating Out in San Francisco
San Francisco is definitely a culinary Mecca for foodies. It offers excellent options for dining out, from modern and innovative to old-school and comforting. Here are some of our top recommendations:
The tuna poke on nori crackers and kimchi fried rice with egg yolk at Baked Hawaii are absolutely drool-worthy. The restaurant is located within Liholiho Yacht Club. Aziza serves classic Moroccan fare like basteeya and cured ocean trout with citrus, avocado and marash chile, prepared by Michelin-starred chef, Mourad Lahlou. At another three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Benu, savor the lobster coral soup dumplings and abalone stuffed chicken wings. Acquerello serves a deliciously hearty and innovative Italian cuisine, such as decadent Dungeness crab risotto with asparagus and oxalis. San Francisco has a significant Indian population and we cannot recommend Campton Place Bar and Bistro (located within Taj Campton Place Hotel, one of the city’s most prominent landmarks) enough for their slow-cooked lamb served over basmati rice and cumin-lime yogurt.
San Francisco Transport
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) serves the Bay Area and is located 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco. It is the second-largest airport in California and the seventh-largest in the United States. It operates flights to nearly 100 destinations throughout North America and is a major gateway to Europe and Asia.
Getting Around San Francisco
Muni is San Francisco’s main public transportation provider and they operate buses, trains, cable cars, and the F-line heritage streetcar. If you are planning on a lot of sightseeing, consider buying a MUNI passport which offers unlimited rides for 1, 3, or 7-day periods. To get around the Bay Area to other near cities like San Jose or Berkeley, take the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) commuter rail or a taxi.
Although the public transit system in the San Francisco Bay Area is decent, many visitors still prefer to hire a car as it offers them increased comfort, flexibility, and convenience. The highway system in the United States makes it a breeze to get from place to place via car and, if you’re traveling in a large group, a 7 seater or a 9 seater van would actually work out to be more cost-effective than taking the train. You can also do a one-way hire, which means that you can pick up your vehicle in one city – say San Francisco – and drop it off in another – like San Francisco – before flying out, saving you the hassle of driving it back.
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