Overview of San Francisco

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

With its beautiful bay, an incredible mix of different cultures, and some of the United States' best dining opportunities, it's no surprise that San Francisco is one of the world's most popular tourism spots. The Californian city is the state's second-most popular vacation spot, receiving most visitors per year than any other city in the Golden State, with the exception of Los Angeles.

From its gorgeous architecture to its wide range of historical locations, San Francisco is a city that has something to offer any visitor. Adventure gurus will enjoy exploring Alcatraz, culinary experts will enjoy the city's hundreds of international restaurants and food markets, while history buffs can enjoy constant visual reminders of the city's important in US and international events.

Getting into and out of San Francisco is relatively simple. Flights connect the city to most places in the United States, and the city's primary San Francisco International Airport is linked to the BART public transport system. With its dense urban center and stunning waterfront, getting to and from the city's best attractions and locations can be a unique adventure in itself.

San Francisco itself is situated at the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, occupying a small piece of land that juts out into the San Francisco Bay. While most people think of the entire city as the home of townhouses and harbor side attractions, San Francisco is home to a varied and eclectic range of different neighborhoods, districts, and places to see.

Market Street, the city's main commercial street, cuts diagonally across San Francisco, dividing the city's central districts into different areas. The street extends down from the Financial District all the way to Twin Peaks, making it an important landmark for visitors. South of Market is an area called SoMa, which is bordered by the famous Mission District, one of the city's immigration hotspots.

From its gorgeous architecture to its wide range of historical locations, San Francisco is a city that has something to offer any visitor.
From its gorgeous architecture to its wide range of historical locations, San Francisco is a city that has something to offer any visitor.

For the most part, visitors will find themselves in the Financial District, home of San Francisco's tallest buildings, biggest shopping malls, and most exclusive boutiques. The Financial District is home to most of San Francisco's major hotels, particularly higher-end accommodation. It's also a key transit hub for the Bay Area as a whole, making it a great place for visitors to base themselves.

Areas like Union Square, which is San Francisco's luxury shopping district, are found within the downtown Financial District. This is the best district in San Francisco for all-purpose shopping, with mega-malls and department stores lining most of its roads. The action is based around Market Street, although side streets in the area are often home to interesting small stores and eateries.

To the north of the Financial District you'll find two of San Francisco's biggest tourist hotspots – the city's unique Chinatown district, and Fisherman's wharf. Home to San Francisco's large population of Chinese immigrants, the Chinatown district is a great place to eat out in the city. Fisherman's Wharf, accessible using the Market Street street car, is the city's main hub for ferry transportation.

East of here, you'll find the Golden Gate area, which, as the name suggests, is located close to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. If you're visiting San Francisco for its great views, it's worth visiting this area in the early morning or evening and enjoying the ambiance. Great photos can be taken from the hill, and the bridge itself is easily accessible for on-foot travelers.

For an even more picturesque San Francisco experience, make your way to the Russian Hills area, which is connected to the city by cable car. Scenic, expensive, and luxurious, it's one of the city's most exclusive neighborhoods. It's also home to many of San Francisco's mega-steep streets and curvy roadways, making it a great place to snap pictures and capture the city's atmosphere.

South of Market Street you'll find many of San Francisco's most culturally interesting areas, such as the Mission District, San Francisco's early immigrant district and now a great indie dining area; the Castro neighborhood, San Francisco's famous gay neighborhood and a popular place for indie film fans; and Haight, the city's historical hippie hangout and radical political neighborhood.

Aside from its eclectic mix of different neighborhoods, San Francisco is widely regarded as one of the United States' best cities for dining out, having fun, and enjoying a cool drink. Districts such as SoMa and The Mission are great for drinks and clubbing, with the first offering high-end dance and the latter offering low-cost indie drinks.

Other great nightlife spots include North Beach, which is found to the north of the Financial District and slightly north of Chinatown. Home to some of the city's biggest bars and nightclubs, this part of San Francisco is a great place to enjoy yourself with the city's local partygoers. Chinatown is nearby to the south, allowing for a great night out enjoying authentic Chinese food and tasty drinks.

San Francisco is an eventful city, and there's always some type of festival or event going on at one point or another. If you're dining out in one of the city's many cafes, grab a local event guide to see if anything interesting is occurring during your trip. From marathons to local art festivals and food markets, there's always something to see during your time in San Francisco.

One of the biggest attractions in San Francisco is the city itself, and browsing its many interesting neighborhoods can be a fantastic experience. If you'd like to see the city's beautiful scenery away from the noise and traffic of the city itself, hop aboard a tour boat and navigate the city's waterways, or spend a few hours on Alcatraz and enjoy a very scenic trip back to the city at sunset.

From its incredible cultural significance to its beautiful inner city neighborhoods, San Francisco is a unique gem amongst the cities of the United States. Dense, packed with activity, and accessible for both locals and tourists alike, it's easy to see why this city is one of the most visited in the country.