San Francisco in California is located on a small square of land at the tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast. Its population is around 800,000, but being just one of a number of cities that makes up the San Francisco bay area it can seem like there are more.
San Francisco has a very varied mix of cultures, and as you move through the various districts and regions within it, you’ll find the cultures change. We aren’t talking Florida or Vegas here — this is about great culture.
The Golden Gate region is where you’ll find the most fashionable areas, the Marina district and Pacific Heights. There are lots of historical landmarks here, Fort Mason, the Presidio and of course the iconic Golden Gate bridge itself.
Chinatown and North beach are two communities both of which are predominantly immigrant. Little Italy is here, as is Telegraph hill. Union Square is the home of shopping, theatre and art in the city. It is a 2.6 acre plaza surrounded by streets, and is where you’ll find a wide variety of department stores, boutiques, art galleries, and salons. There are also a number of hotels and theatres here, and the area seems to be alive with activity 24 hours a day.
Alcatraz Island is a popular destination for many visitors to San Francisco. Here you can get a close up look at the infamous prison which was home to people such as Al Capone, the Birdman and Machine Gun Kelly. Ferries travel from Fishermans Wharf out to the island regularly, but reserving your place in advance is worth doing as they do get fairly heavily booked up.
The Barbary Coast Trail is a self guided 3.8 mile walking tour that is very interesting to take. It’s marked by a series of bronze medallions in the sidewalk and begins at the Old Mint at the corner of 5th and Mission, and leads you out to Aquatic park in Fishermans Wharf. The trail connects twenty historic sites including the birthplace of the gold rush, the oldest Asian temple in north America, the western terminus of the Pony Express, six museums and America’s largest collection of historic ships. The Powell-Hyde cable car line connects each end of the trail, and maps can be found at the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau at 900 Market street.
Golden Gate Bridge is probably the best known landmark within San Francisco, and is one of the most photographed bridges in the world. It connects San Francisco with Marin County, and is visible from many places within the city. It spans two miles across the mouth of the bay, and was built to withstand winds of over 100mph. It’s hard to appreciate the height of this amazing bridge without walking out onto it. At the south end of the bridge on Long Avenue is Fort Point. This is a civil war era fort, and standing here, you’ll get the same view of the bridge as can be seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘Vertigo’. There is also a military museum here which is quite fascinating.