San Francisco's golden gate bridge

There’s something about San Francisco that’s all its own – the hum of a city that’s somehow still a laid-back hippie town by the bay despite its emergence as a global ‘technorati’ hotspot. The tension between old and new runs high in San Francisco, but it’s also what makes this hilly northern California city so charming. From faded skyscrapers hiding behind pastel- coloured houses, to local farm-to-table produce paid for with your iPhone, the juxtaposition of handcraft and technology is the heart and soul of San Francisco today.

A visit to this city will have you instagramming the beauty of an urban place where mountains, ocean, and fog meet, and nature and civilisation are constantly coming together. You’ll also enjoy some of the freshest food in the States thanks to San Francisco’s proximity to fertile farmland and focus on local, sustainable produce.  Each cup of coffee is a work of art, each glass of wine tells a story about the climate and family that produced it.

You will quickly realise that there’s something for everyone here. And with plenty of day-trip escapes in any direction (Lake Tahoe for the weekend? Napa for the afternoon?) it’s easy to see why so many people from all around the world decide to call San Francisco home – over 60 per cent of residents are California transplants and more than a third were born outside the US. You’ll meet tie-dyed hippies in the Haight, hipster foodies in the Mission, Lululemon- clad yuppies in the Marina, suited professionals downtown and seasoned surfers along Ocean Beach. So slip on your sneakers, tie on a scarf for the wind and get ready to explore like a local.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Download the Uber and Lyft apps before you land. They’re the local ride-sharing apps, both started in SF, and are relatively affordable alternatives to taxis. A local driver will pick you up in his or her own car (or even an SUV if you choose an Uber) and take you to your destination for less than the cost of a taxi. Public transportation in SF isn’t always the most efficient since many areas of the city only have buses (and traffic). Check the transit directions on your Google Maps app, which are very reliable in Google’s home state. The NextBus app will tell you when your bus or cable car is arriving.

Choose your lodging location wisely as you may be able to see a lot of the city by foot.

If you’re planning to travel outside the city, rent a car. Within the city, Zipcar members can rent cars starting at around $10 an hour – although parking can be tricky.

HOW TO GET THERE

Both San Francisco and Oakland International Airports (SFO and OAK) offer easy access to downtown SF by taxi or by train.

LOCAL EVENTS

San Franciscans love any excuse to celebrate, and any excuse to don a costume. The annual Valentine’s Day pillow fight in front of City Hall, the crazy costumes of the Bay-to-Breakers run in May and handfuls of summer street fairs and festivals in between mean there’s always an event happening in the city. Check out Sosh.com for tips on what’s happening when you visit.

CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS

Some love this, others hate it, but it’s hard to call SF a party town. Bars are required to close at 2am, though there are a few clubs open later. Locals tend to wake up early for their coffee, spinning classes and commutes. But it’s definitely a city that takes advantage of everything offered during the daytime, so it’s worth falling into the local pattern.

To Stay

Mandarin Oriental Financial District

Enjoy spectacular views of San Francisco from the third-tallest building in the city. Its location in the heart of the financial district and its efficient service make it the ideal base for the business traveller. It seems to be the ultimate spot for a morning meeting, offering an excellent array of foods for breakfast including many gluten-free treats. Rooms from £231 per night.

Hotel Zetta

Settled right in the middle of some of the biggest tech companies’ offices (including Twitter and Hotel Tonight), you could be forgiven for mistaking this hotel for the office of a successful start-up. As you walk in, you come face-to-face with a very lively bar and a two-storey gaming area with every activity your inner child could desire. The rooms are decked out with a variety of gadgets and there is a gym with yoga classes if you want to unplug for an hour. One of Hotel Tonight co-founder Jared Simon’s top picks. Rooms from £118 per night.

730 Clayton Street (AirBnb Apartment) Haight / Ashbury

A recently-renovated, top-level Victorian apartment hidden behind a bright yellow door in the hippie, now yuppie district of Haight-Ashbury. With three bedrooms, a dining room and a living room it is perfect for a family or a group of friends travelling together and the price is outrageously reasonable. Just remember to take off your shoes!
TIP: If you’re a big group, there is also the option to rent out the other half of the maisonette next door. Apartment from £271 per night.

  • 730 Clayton Street
    San Francisco
    94117

Hotel Vitale Embarcadero

While the décor is nothing to write home about, you will struggle to find a hotel in a better location. Sitting directly across from the water, you can bike, run or walk along the bay in the mornings or pop across the road to the Ferry Building for breakfast. On warmer days, the outdoor beer garden is a popular place for guests and locals alike. Rooms from £147 per night.

The Ritz Carlton Chinatown

Perching on top of Nob Hill, the Ritz Carlton offers a haven of calm after a day spent exploring. A solid choice for a families, business travellers or someone who seeks consistency – the food, service and amenities are all flawless. Book the Club Level for unlimited snacks, afternoon drinks and tea and coffee. Make sure you also quiz the very knowledgeable concierge about the surrounding area. Rooms from £293 per night.

Kensington Park Hotel

A great hotel, which is in a prime location to explore the city. Located within a Moorish/Gothic style building which was built in 1925, the Kensington Park’s lobby is grand, with hand-painted ceilings, Queen Anne antiques and crystal chandeliers all accessorising the entrance. Best for small families, not smart couples. Rooms from $189 per night

Auberge du Soleil Napa Valley

If you find yourself in Napa Valley having had one too many glasses of vino, make sure you check in to Auberge du Soleil. This is just one of those places that makes you feel happy as soon as you step over the threshold. Relax by the beautiful pool with a view of the Valley, eat delicious Mediterranean food at the Michelin-starred restaurant or get a treatment at the spa. You will come back a different person. Rooms from £397 per night.

  • +1 800 348 5406
  • Go to Website
  • 180 Rutherford Hill Road
    Napa Valley
    94573

Mandarin Oriental

Hotel Zetta

730 Clayton (AirBnb)

Hotel Vitale

The Ritz Carlton

Kensington Park Hotel

Auberge du Soleil

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1 Comment

  • Melissa de Mata 4 hours ago

    You missed one of the bigger neighborhoods — The Sunset. It’s home to many amazing Asian restaurants and adjacent to Golden Gate Park. It’s definitely one of my more frequented neighborhoods in the city!

    P.S. I had to sign up for Disqus, AND verify an e-mail to leave this comment which ultimately led me out of your website to register my Disqus account. Not the best user experience.

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