San Francisco is famous for several things: be it the famous ex-prison Alcatraz, the Victoria-style houses (Victorians), its steep slopes, and several more. Whatever your main highlight, you'll leave satisfied.
San Francisco's centre is pretty compact. The centre is surrounded by the bay on the north and east. Much of the northern part of the centre consists of upscale residential districts- such as the Marina, Nob Hill and Cow Hollow. Slightly south is North Beach as well as the true downtown with the famous Union Sq, and around are Chinatown, the Financial District and the Western Addition. Slightly west is the Golden Gate Park. South of Downtown is the SoMa (South of Market St) and South Beach.
San Francisco's airport (SFO) lies around 14 miles to the south of the centre.
UNION SQ and around
Union Sq, bordered by Powell St (west), Geary St (south), Stockton St (east) and Post St (north), is a popular public place in this part of town. It is frequented by office folk during lunch time, as well as shoppers taking a break and tourists. Indeed, this area is now a popular shopping area, with department stores right next door. Saks Fifth Avenue is on the northern side, Macy's is on the southern, Neiman Marcus is closeby, and only slightly away are many individual stores and other shopping centres.
To view a history of the square, check out the granite on the south-western side.
There are often exhibitions in the square. There are 2 cafes, and some good seating. Sit and watch the world go by!
|Union Sq at night|
Powell St is one road where the famous cable cars drive by. Sitting on the square, watching the cable cars go by, while listening to the cables running steadily below, is a typical San Francisco experience. The cable car is generally very crowded when going north- as it gets full from its southerly end at Powell and Market, so waiting at the cable car stop opposite Union Sq is probably going to be fruitless in the mornings and evenings- better to line up and wait at Powell and Market.
|Cable car on Powell St|
(However the same process takes place at the other ends, for example at Taylor and Bay streets, the other end of the Powell-Mason line, where crowds are much lower.)
Market Street is one long road, and a major thoroughfare, which runs from the southern part of the city all the way to the Ferry Building on the seaside (the seaside road from Fisherman's Wharf in the north to South Beach is called the Embarcadero; the Ferry Building is roughly somewhere in between). This section will concentrate on the stretch of Market Street mainly in the Downtown district. Along the road run the vintage streetcars (line F) and buses. There are also stations for the streetcars from underground for lines J, K, L, M, N and T.
The Ferry Building is a landmark, from where some ferries depart (for example, to the town of Sausalito). It also is home to several restaurants. From this area, you can enjoy a nice view of the Bay Bridge and nearby skyscrapers.
|Ferry Building with its clock tower, |
note the streetcar along the
Going south-west on Market St, you will enter the Financial District with its myriad skyscrapers. Some nice buildings here include the Hobart Building (582 Market St). On the junction of Market, Geary and Kearney is the Lotta's Fountain. Nearby is the Phelan Building, the largest flat-iron structure in the city.
Continuing south-west, the road becomes increasingly lined with shops- fashion as well as stores such as CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens, which are convenient for supermarket supplies. The road, however, becomes less interesting, as you enter the Tenderloin area.
|Residences of Nob Hill|
|Washington Sq with the Peter and Paul Parish church|
As said, the views are legendary.
|View of the Financial District from Coit|
Tower. The Transamerica Pyramid
The views are stunning too (unfortunately I don't have a good photo).
Nearby, the district of Marina is another posh residential area. It is home to the Palace of Fine Arts.
|Palace of Fine Arts|
Alamo Square itself is a nice garden, offering good views not only of these 'Painted Ladies' but also of other parts of the city. To get here from around Union Sq, take Bus 5 from the junction of Market and Powell. Get down at McAllister and Pierce and walk one block south.
|The Victorians with the Financial District|
CITY HALL and around
Also around are the Symphony Hall and the Opera House.
TOUR TO ALCATRAZ
|Perfect views from the ferry|
Picture Gallery of Alcatraz
Before entering the main cellhouse, you'll come across a small building with old photos of Alcatraz when it was a prison.
|Photo of prisoners at work|
HOTEL REVIEW: WESTIN ST FRANCIS
Rooms: 8/10 Very spacious given the downtown location and they come with the usual amenities.
Staff: 8/10 Most of the staff are pretty helpful and friendly.
Location: 10/10 Bang opposite Union Sq and close to many restaurants and transportation, you really can't ask for more.
Breakfast: 8/10 It is pricey and the spread is rather limited but quality is excellent.
Total: 34/40 Recommended.
MUNI runs three cable car lines. One runs on California St, from Van Ness to Market. Then there are two lines, with one end at the Powell-Market junction. The Powell-Mason line ends at Bay and Taylor, while the Powell-Hyde line ends at Beach and Hyde. The latter is better to appreciate the city's steep inclines but both are good experiences.
Walk down Market St all the way to the Ferry Building. From there take the streetcar to the Embarcadero and take in the views of the Golden Gate bridge at Beach St, at the end of the Powell-Hyde cable car. Then take the cable car till Union Sq, appreciating San Francisco's steep inclines and end at Union Sq, and sit and relax, and watch the world (and the cable cars) go by. In the evening, go to the Golden Gate bridge.
Do Day 1 as above, getting a brief overview of the city. On the second day, visit Chinatown in the morning, followed by Washington Sq and roam around North Beach. Visit the Coit Tower and then in the afternoon, get to the Financial District- check out the Transamerica Pyramid from close. In the evening, take a stroll through Nob Hill and visit Grace Cathedral.
Do the Day 2 Itinerary as above. On the third day, visit Alcatraz (book in advance!). Depending on the time of the tour, adjust in a stroll through Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiradelli Sq.
For more about the city, check out this report (also by me).
Last visit- Apr 2013
No of visits- 1