Tony Bennett famously left his heart here – and so will you. This city knows how to win your affections and keep you faithful to the last.
Everyone has a favourite picture of San Francisco. Historic trams, known locally as cable cars, rattling up impossibly steep hills; the iconic pillars of the Golden Gate Bridge rising romantically through the mist; hedonistic hippies preaching peace and love in Golden Gate Park; flamboyant street entertainers strutting their stuff along the Embarcadero … the list goes on.
This historic metropolis situated between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean is famously tourist-friendly. Its multicultural heritage and laid-back vibe makes visitors feel immediately at home. Whether you’re heading for the shopping nirvana of Union Square or soaking up the sunshine on Baker Beach, learning about American art in the de Young Museum or making friends with the sea lions on Pier 39, San Francisco will worm its way into your heart.
Take a trip across the bay to fashionable Sausalito, where the bohemian legacy of the artists’ community that thrived here in the 1950s and 1960s lives on in the gaily painted houseboats. Another popular ferry trip will deliver you to Alcatraz Island, site of the notorious maximum security prison where America’s most dangerous criminals were incarcerated. Tour the prison cells of murders and gangsters and feel the claustrophobia of the exercise yard with its tantalising views of the city across the bay.
Back on the mainland, celebrate your freedom with a feast of freshly caught seafood in one of the upmarket restaurants on Fisherman’s Wharf. This historic area, once the hub of the local fishing industry, is still proud of its heritage. Wander along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building, a famous local landmark dating from the Spanish Colonial era, where the farmers’ market sells home-grown fruit and vegetables and freshly baked bread and cakes.
San Francisco has an unpredictable climate thanks to its proximity to the ocean. It can be scorching hot one minute and blowing a chill wind the next. September to November is usually pleasantly sunny, and winter is a good time to enjoy the superb cultural facilities and benefit from cheaper accommodation. At festival times the city is particularly busy, especially during the famous Pride Celebration and Parade in June, one of the largest events of its kind in the US.