- an essential introduction
- Explore California ►
- Things to do
- And other places
If you're going to San
there's no need to wear flowers in your hair.
Not these days.
California's second city has long attracted visitors, immigrants and
tourists from further east, and from further west; but it was in the
1960s, at the height of the Hippy and alternative movement that modern
San Francisco established itself firmly as a world-class tourist
| Art museums
And why not ? On any list of cities in North America with a
distinctive character, San Francisco has to feature in the top three or
four, along with New
Boston or Quebec
many people put it top of
the list .
In many ways it is the antithesis of Los
Angeles; while LA spreads over miles and miles, San Francisco is a city
with an easily visitable compact and vibrant historic center.
As the Hippies discovered half a century ago, San
Francisco has it all... of at least a good deal going for it. A
distinctive character, lots of history (in spite of its historic
earthquakes), a mild climate, lots of sunshine, and plenty to see an
do. And with its historic streetcars, its a city that is fun to travel
can spend a week visiting San Francisco, and you won't have a bored
moment. Ride the cable cars, visit a submarine at Pier 45, visit
America's original Chinatown, enjoy the markets and attractions at
Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, wander slowly down (or up) the twisting
and turning Lombard Street and past the characteristic wooden houses of
old San Francisco... and that's just for starters, without leaving the
A bit further and there's Alcatraz, the historic prison set
in a fortress in San Francisco Bay, accessible by boat trip; and of
course the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge, which you can either travel
across, or else just view from the Presidio, a two mile walk from the
city center or a short trip by car.
The heart of San Francisco is the area in the top right corner of the
San Francisco peninsula, between Market
and the wharfs alonside the Embarcadero. This is
historic San Francisco, an area that can be visited on foot, by
hop-on-hop-off bus, by cable-car, streetcar or by tour bus.
Perhaps the most interesting way to start your visit of San
Francisco is to take the Powell-Hyde
from Powell Market as far as the top end of Lombard Street:
street is one of the iconic parts of old San Francisco, where
the slope is so steep that the road snakes downhill in a series of
S-bends, between attractive town-houses on either side. You can pick up
the Mason-Powell cable-car four blocks down, on Columbus Avenue, to
return to Powell Market
or make your way down from there to the Embarcadero
, half a
mile further on.
Once the port where hundreds of ships would be tied up, the
Embarcadero is now a wide pedestrian area along the waterfront, popular
with San Franciscans and tourists alike.
The main section of the Embarcadero runs from
the Ferry building marketplace in the southeast, to
Fisherman's wharf in the north. Beside the Ferry Building marketplace,
farmers' market, is the free San
Francisco Railway museum
, with its collection of historic
cable cars. Heading northwest along the Embarcadero one then comes to
hands-on museum of science, art and human perception. Further up, as
the Embarcadero swings round to the west, comes Pier 39,
busy and attractive shopping area but also a place to watch the sea-lions
take up residence in this part of San Francisco's old port. Just beyond
Pier 39 you come to the heart of Fisherman's
where the attractions include the USS Pampanito
decommissioned World War 2 submarine, and the Musée
museum of historic arcade game machines. Entry to the museum is free,
and visitors can play, using their own money, on the historic machines.
Almost opposite the Musée Mécanique is Madame Tussaud's.
Just beyond Fisherman's Wharf is is the Hyde Street Pier and
the Aquatic Park. This area is home to the San
Francisco Maritime National Historical Park,
collection of historic
and maritime museum.
The length of the Embarcadero is served by the historic F Market and Wharves Streetcar
line. This heritage line, while part of the San Francisco urban transit
system, operates a fleet of historic streetcars from San Francisco,
other US cities, and other cities as far away as Blackpool (UK), Osaka
(Japan) and Melbourne (Australia).
A visit to central San Francisco would not be
complete without a trip to the historic Chinatown
San Francisco was the first US city to have a Chinatown,
being not only a major Pacific trading port, but also the port of entry
for tens of thousands of Chinese laborers who came in the late
nineteenth century to work on the new railroads that were opening
California up to the rest of the USA. Today, the San
Francisco Chinatown is the most well-established, and the second
biggest Chinese quarter in any North American city. With 15,000
inhabitants in an area of about an eighth of a square mile, it is also
the most densely populated part of the United States after Manhattan.
Chinatown lies some 700 metres west of the Ferry building
market; the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason cable-car lines run along
Powell Street, which marks the western edge of Chinatown. The
on Mason St. is also on the edge of Chinatown.
Beaches and swimming.
The ocean off San Francisco is not
for swimming. The water is too cold, and there are dangerous
currents.The west coast of the USA is bathed by a south-bound ocean
current coming down from the Arctic. Beaches
in Northern California are for walking, fishing and admiring.... but
rarely for sunbathing or swimming.
Other San Francisco attractions
on Telegraph Hill, just south of Pier 35 on the Embarcadero. Stunning
360° panorama around San Francisco and the bay. A must for
The Golden Gate bridge
historic jail (boat trips from Pier 33 on the Embarcadero)
The San Francisco Museum
of Modern Art
, on 3rd St. (see art
great modern art
museum with a collection of European and American artists from the 20th
century onwards. Tickets (normal rate) 25$
The Legion of Honor
A world-class collection of art and artefacts, including works by El
Greco, Rembrandt, Monet, Dali and collections from all over the world.
The building is a permanent copy of the temporary French pavillion
built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific World Fair in San Francisco, which
was a three-quarters scale copy of the Palais de la
d'honneur building in Paris.
The De Young museum
- one of the 10 most visited in the US - specializes in the arts and
crafts of the Americas, Africa and Oceania
Between San Mateo and San José, to the south of San
Francisco. There's not a lot to do in Silicon Valley apart from viewing
the stunning HQ buildings of Google, Apple, Netflix, Ebay and other
hi-tech giants. However some will want to visit the Computer History
in Mountain view
Click then zoom out on the map
Mondays and Tuesdays), near the Googleplex, There's also the
Tech Interactive museum of innovation, with exhibits that kids can
enjoy, as well as an IMAX cinema.
Visiting the USA as a tourist?
Discover some of the background to this fascinating
Background to modern America
is a paperback or e-book profiling some of the key and iconic
people, places and events that have helped make America what it is
today. Martin Luther
King, Elvis Presley, Route 66, Lazs Vegas, J-F Kennedy
more. With its 22 self-contained chapters, this book, written in
C1-level Advanced English, makes fascinating reading for anyone with a
good command of English, whether a native speaker or not..