San Francisco is a city that offers a little something for every kind of traveller. For the foodie, there are world renowned Michelin Star restaurants aplenty along with a diverse variety of hole-in-the-wall eateries favoured by locals. The city is also a hub for arts and culture so there are plenty of museums to immerse yourself in classic and contemporary art. And, if you fancy yourself a history buff, the city is also home to over 200 historic landmark buildings.
Of course, with just no much to see, where do you begin? Here’s our guide with insider tips from a San Francisco local who highlights all the best spots.
The city is known as a food paradise, and the diverse options in the Bay Area range from Michelin-star restaurants to food trucks. Many new-age chefs have opened eateries with unique menus here. The top-rated ones include Boulevard and Scoma’s Restaurant, which serves fresh seafood.
For a taste of traditional San Francisco, try a Dungeness crab cocktail from the sidewalk seafood stalls along the Embarcadero (the eastern waterfront and roadway) at Fisherman’s Wharf. Dungeness crab is the sweet, fleshy local crustacean caught along the California and Pacific Northwest waters. While at the wharf, look out for Boudin Bakery, home of the famous San Francisco sourdough bread. The frequently cool, damp climate allows for the proper enzymes in yeast to be cultivated. Want something ethnic? Order the foo yong egg (omelette filled with vegetables and seafood) at Far East Cafe in Chinatown.
As a local, I never get tired of showing off my picturesque city to visitors. You can take in expansive views of San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island from Coit Tower, which was built in 1933. Or sit in bayside park, the Presidio, and watch sail boats drift along near the bridge. Also in the park is The Walt Disney Family Museum, which was opened by the artist’s daughter. The hilly Alamo Square park has vistas of the famous row of Painted Ladies – the fond term for the city’s pastel-coloured Victorian houses. If you’re an animal lover, take the 17-Mile Drive along the coast between Monterey and Carmel to watch marine mammals frolicking in the Pacific Ocean, and seabirds nesting among offshore rocks.
I love the diversity of this region and living in close proximity to the coast (of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay). Within a three-hour drive, I can enjoy snow in the mountains during winter while, in about five hours, I can travel to beautiful Lake Tahoe. The crystal-clear, deep volcanic lake in Yosemite National Park is a natural wonder. From here, take in stunning views of mountains. There are also hiking trails and waterfalls in the park. A visit to Half Dome, a granite-rock formation, will take your breath away.
To see the city, go on a motorised bike tour by Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours and Dylan’s Tours. They can take you to iconic spots like Golden Gate Park and across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.
San Francisco offers many cultural and artistic entertainment choices and is home to institutions such as the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony and American Conservatory Theater. Often, new Broadway shows hold their soft-opening runs in the city. You’ll also find several good museums here, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and De Young.
A three-hour drive from the city, Monterey Bay Aquarium is another must-see. Its marine exhibits are some of the best in the world. Marine life is beautifully displayed here. There is even a large educational area with lots of hands-on experiences for little ones. For summer 2022, the aquarium is also offering extended hours till 7pm on special Saturdays. If you are captivated by the tech industry, then a tour of Silicon Valley may be interesting. The Tech Museum of Innovation gives you a great introduction to the tech pioneers and their accomplishments. Another notable place is the Computer History Museum, which features interactive exhibits of various inventions by famous tech innovators.
Also worth exploring is the Napa-Sonoma wine region, which is two hours from San Francisco by car. Many young vintners have opened wineries and are developing new blends here. The climate between the hills and valleys promotes great grape growth. Most wineries have public tasting rooms and patios. V. Sattui Winery and Long Meadow Ranch, both in St Helena, make great stops. Just remember to have a designated driver. Along Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail from Napa to Calistoga, you’ll encounter many quaint towns, restaurants serving local fare and wineries.
You can find almost everything you desire in the metro Bay Area, from designer labels like Chanel and Armani to locally established brands such as Levi’s, Shreve and Co. Jewelers and Gump’s, where you can find upscale gifts and souvenirs. These stores are located in and around Union Square, in downtown San Francisco.
Visiting malls is a way of life in America, and a large one is Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street. It offers floors of shops and restaurants, as well as a movie theatre and food court. If you’re looking for a deal, several outlet malls in the surrounding cities can be accessed by the Bay Area Rapid Transit, Caltrain or car. Gilroy Premium Outlets, a one-hour-and-15-minute drive from San Francisco, is popular.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.