San Francisco has been on my wish list of places to visit for a while, and a perfect place to end my study abroad year. Whether you want history at Alcatraz, an active day cycling the Golden Gate Bridge, or sampling the food from near enough all over the world, San Francisco is perhaps the perfect place to end a section of travel or as a city break.
No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a trip to Alcatraz, just make sure you book at least a week in advance to make sure you can get over to the historical prison island. Although you need is a few hours, to enjoy the history and mystery of the island you have probably all heard about. A quick 15 minute boat ride will take you from San Francisco harbour, to Alcatraz. Take advantage of the free walking tours to learn more about the island, rather than just simply learning about the prison and it’s famous inmates. Who knew that Native Americans were not only prisoners in the early days, but after the prison shut down they claimed their land right to the island. Have a wonder, and take photos of the San Francisco skyline, before heading back to the mainland.
When you get back to the famous piers, head further up to Pier 39, where you can tuck into lunch from the numerous restaurants and try the famous claim choulder in a soughdough roll. Or, if fish isn’t your thing then tuck into ice cream or perhaps buy some fresh fruit from the market stall. The pier also provides stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the San Francisco Bay. Don’t forget to head to the pier’s most famous attraction: seals, where perhaps you will see most of the crows capturing the normal day-to-day life of the San Francisco seals.
Fisherman’s Wharf is perhaps where most tourists head too, again with lots of places to eat. Head up the road to San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park where you can catch the famous San Francisco Cable Car (Beach & Hyde) all the way to Powell Street. However, if you don’t want to spend $7 or $14 for a round trip, then take the walk back. Although it maybe a bit steep, and your legs may not thank you in the morning, take a stop off at Lombard Street and have a wonder through Nob Hill on your way back to the Powell and Pine Street area.
Another great way to see what the city of San Francisco has to offer is to jump onto a walking tour (or, one of them sight seeing buses). I went on a walking tour with the hostel I was staying at. Three hours walking around San Francisco allowed me to see the historic and biggest Chinatown in North America, a wonder through ‘Little Italy’ or North Beach for proper Italian coffee in … You can then enjoy pizza in Washington Square Park, before heading up to the Colt Tower. However, there is no need to pay the entry to Colt Tower, the views from outside are just as stunning and your bank account happier.
Now when most Brits head to America we all like to do a bit of shopping for clothes, make up, or food that we either can’t get at home, or the items are a lot cheaper. Therefore, the best place for an afternoon, or a day of shopping, head to San Francisco Westfields which you may get lost in. After Westfields has scared you, there are plenty of other shops in the area from Macy’s, Sephora, Tiffany’s, Urban Outfitters, Target, and Trader Joe’s to name a few. After all you can’t go to America and not bring back overly sugared treats that are probably illegal back at home.
If there is only thing you do when you go to San Francisco, then it has to be to go and see the Golden Gate Bridge – drive it, walk it, see it, or cycle it. Cycling is perhaps the most rewarding. Ride from Pier 39, through Fort Mason and the Palace of Fine Arts, and along the Marine. Stop off at various points to take photos of the bridge. The good thing about cycling from San Francisco over the bridge to Sausalito is that it is nearly all downhill, until you get to the bridge where your quads and calves will probably start to ache just a bit more than usual. Cycle the bridge and then head down to Saualito where you can get the ferry back to either Pier 39 or Market Place Ferry Terminal.
If you have one more day remaining then head out of your own walking tour of the city. Just try to avoid the dodgy area’s and keep to the main roads, even if you are in a group, as the homeless population is huge and they can sometimes approach you. This didn’t happen to me, but at some points I was nearly running. Anyway my itnerary included:
* Mr Holmes Bakehouse
* Painted Ladies
* San Francisco Golden Gate Park for the Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Garden, and the California Academy of Sciences
* Ulta Beauty / Target on Geary
* Lyon Street Steps
* Mrs Doubtfire House
* Ghirardelli Square
* In & Out Burger
Have you ever been to San Francisco?