*This is a collaborative post
San Francisco is a place like no other. Described by President William Howard Taft as ‘the city that knows how’, it has a little bit of everything; history, culture and plenty of character. But with so much packed in, what does the intrepid traveller do first?
Discover the view from the bridge
Obviously, the Golden Gate Bridge, in all its architectural glory, has got to be your first stop. 746 feet high and 1.7 miles long, the bridge is San Francisco’s most famous landmark, not to mention the backdrop for many a nail-biting scene in such classic movies as Vertigo,Saturday Night Fever and err, Monsters Vs Aliens. Hike, cycle or take a bus all the way across, or join a free walking tour for loads of interesting background and history of this iconic bridge.
Uncover creatures of the deep
San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay is located along the city’s waterfront at Pier 39, and is home to around 20,000 creatures, including jelly fish, otters and sharks. A conservation establishment as well as a tourist attraction, you’re bound to discover something new on the exciting underwater walk or from one of their many daily talks.
Image by Robert Couse-Baker, shared under a Creative Commons Licence
Visit ‘The Rock’
Although the last prisoners were transferred off Alcatraz Island in 1963, this infamous maximum security prison remains very much in-tact and is a fascinating place to visit. From Fisherman’s Wharf, hop on one of the award-winning Alcatraz Cruises and be ferried 1.5 miles out whilst listening to an audio tour to give you all the lurid detail. Once there, you’re free to wander around the eerie island that Al Capone once called home.
Photograph the ‘Painted Ladies’
The most documented streets in the city, Alamo Square’s ‘Painted Ladies’ are beautiful rows of Victorian Houses set against a background of city skyscrapers. Sit back on the grassy verge opposite, take in the views and snap away. This is a perfect morning activity, to be followed swiftly by a hot coffee and one of San Francisco’s legendary bagels.
Of course, there are plenty of other sites and landmarks, not to mention quirky neighbourhoods which are definitely worth strolling around, such as Haight-Ashbury, where the Hippy movement first emerged in the 1960s. As US cities go, San Francisco is pretty compact, covering a modest 49 square miles. So grab a guidebook, take a relaxed wander, and above all, enjoy.