Start-up central, the “Painted Ladies”, basketball great Steph Curry: all things that embody San Francisco. The Californian city is known for its can-do attitude amongst the fog and fascinating history. Before you head to one of the top travel destinations in the United States, you’ll want to check out this handy guide on what the city can offer you.

Top 3 Districts

1. Fisherman’s Wharf

One of the must-see stops on every tourist’s list. While the area is filled with your typical souvenir shops and chain restaurants, there are numerous museums (Maritime Museum and Aquarium of the Bay), boutique shops, and the chance to take ferry tours around the bay. Even getting in that perfect view of Alcatraz up close.

2. Chinatown

San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the oldest and largest in the US. Grant Ave is the main street with the famous Dragon’s Gate on the corner of Grant and Bush St. Little family run shops line the roads. Head to the Chinese Historical Society to learn the history of the area or stop at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory to eat a freshly made cookie.

3. Union Square

Union Square is set in the heart of downtown and filled with everything you could need in the neighborhood. The physical square features ice skating in the winter or entertainment in the summer. Hop on the cable car when you are done which will take you to both of the districts already named.

Top 3 Attractions

1. Alcatraz 

Head to the old military fort and former federal prison that once housed Robert “The Birdman” Stroud, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Al Capone. Learn about the history of the island through the exhibits and tours. Opening times and tickets change so be sure to check out their website for the most up-to-date information.

2. Golden Gate Bridge 

It wouldn’t be a trip to SF without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. Easily the most recognized symbol of the city, the bridge first opened in 1937 and at the time was the longest (4200 feet) and tallest (746 feet) suspension bridge in the world.

3. The Painted Ladies

The Victoria and Edwardian homes that have been restored to their former glory are known for being painted in three or more colors. Pack a picnic or throw a frisbee around in Alamo Square Park in front of the homes. To get that perfect Instagram shot, wait until golden hour when the houses glow in the sunlight.

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Top 3 Restaurants

1. KAIYŌ Cow Hollow

Price Range: $

This lively restaurant plays off Peruvian & Japanese flavors and is known for its lengthy cocktail menu. The decor and the menu are Instagram worthy, but it isn’t all for show. Everything tastes as good as it looks. The dining room serves lunch and dinner from ceviche to specialty rolls, while the rooftop patio sets the scene for date night. Be sure to try the Prince Of The Sun cocktail!

2. Mourad

Price Range: $$$

This Michelin star establishment puts a California spin on Moroccan cuisine. Chef Mourad Lahlou “pays homage” to his roots through the flavors and colors of the restaurant, utilizing local ingredients for the freshest meal. Dine in the main room, make new friends at the communal table, or rent out the alcove for a special occasion.

3. The Stinking Rose

Price Range: $$

Better bring a mint along to The Stinking Rose. This restaurant’s menu is based around the love of garlic. From a 40 Clove Chicken to a Garlic Crab Alfredo Fondue, your cravings are sure to be matched. They do also offer dishes “sans garlic for vampires” or those that don’t like the plant.

Best Ways To Get Around

Not much of a need to rent a car when staying in San Francisco unless you plan on doing a day trip outside the city.

SF’s Bat Area Rapid Transit, aka BART’s, all-electric trains are quick and easy. Once arriving at the airport, take the Red or Blue AirTrain line to the Garage G and BART stop in International Terminal G to take BART. The Clipper Multi-transit cards are your best bet and can be used on the Muni buses and streetcars as well. You can purchase them at the machines in BART stations.

The Muni buses reach throughout the city and offer free access to those under 18-years-old. The streetcar, which is different than the famous cable cars in the city, runs on the F Line and goes through Union Square, SoMa, Embarcadero/Financial District, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

The boxy cable cars run on three lines: the California Line, the Powell-Mason, and Powell-Hyde.

Uber and Lyft are both popular in the city, after all, this is where Uber started.

Best Time Of The Year To Visit & Weather

The changing leaves make fall one of the best times to see San Francisco. Temperatures around 70°F (21°C) mean you can beat the summer crowds all while enjoying the nice weather. Even in the winter, while fog may plague the city, temperatures don’t drop too much with an average winter coming in at 56°F (13°C). It can be fairly rainy though from late November to February.

The summer months are actually cooler than September, with July and August around 66°F (19°C).

Language

While English is the official language in the United States, over 44 percent of San Franciscans speak another language. Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Russian are the most popular.

Currency & Tipping Customs

Tipping is expected when dining out, at a bar, or even on a tour. The standard range is between 15-20 percent depending on how you feel the service was.

San Francisco uses US currency and most places accept major credit cards.

Emergency Info & Local Pharmacies

Police, fire, and ambulance can all be contacted by calling 911.

Walgreens is the most popular pharmacy while in San Francisco, followed by CVS and local spots. The aforementioned pharmacies sell rapid COVID-19 tests should you need one.

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