San Francisco, USA
Airport: San Francisco International (SFO)
Served by: American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, JAL Japan Airlines, LAN
Getting There By Air
Oakland International Airport (OAK)
Tel: (510) 563 3300.
Oakland International Airport is located 8km (5 miles) southeast of Oakland.
ATMs can be found throughout Oakland International Airport.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Tel: 1 800 435 9736 or (650) 821 8211.
San Francisco International Airport is located 22km (14 miles) south of San Francisco.
ATMs are available in all terminals and boarding lounges. There is a full service bank in Terminal 3. Bureaux de change and automated currency exchange machines are located throughout the International Terminal.
San Francisco has many different types of above-ground vehicles covering the same routes. Buses, trolleys (with wire cable) and streetcars all cover the same routes and command the same fare. These operate citywide, with the name, destination and line number displayed on the front of the bus. Pole signs and curb and street markings designate stops. Tickets are available upon boarding and exact change is required. Historic streetcars run similar routes, every six to 15 minutes. The cars come from as far away as Italy and date back to 1928, with US$14 million spent on restoring and maintaining them. Tickets are available upon boarding.
Cable cars run on three routes and provide some of the best views in the city. Passengers can buy tickets on board (exact change is required) or from kiosks located at the cable car turnarounds. One-day cable car passes are available, although the Muni Passport (see below) is a better deal if you plan to ride other Muni vehicles. Expect higher prices than regular public transport.
Muni light rail travels along Market Street to the Mission District and Noe Valley (J line), the Ingleside district (K line), the Sunset District (L, M, and N lines), and the Castro, Embarcadero and Fisherman's Wharf (F line). Transfers are issued and are good for bus-to-rail or rail-to-bus connections within 90 minutes.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system (tel: (415) 989 2278; www.bart.gov) operates San Francisco's subway, which runs along Market Street stopping at The Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell and Civic Centre, and links San Francisco with East Bay and Daly City. It operates from early morning (exact hours of service depend on the line: some Muni lines begin at 0430 on weekdays; others at 0730, others claim to be 24 hours) until 2400. Tickets are available from machines located in the stations.
Muni Passports are available for one day, three days or seven days and allow unlimited travel on Muni services. These passes are sold at a number of venues, including the ticket booth at the cable car turnaround at Powell Street and Market Street, as well as the Visitor Information Centre, lower level, Hallidie Plaza, Powell Street and Market Street. A comprehensive map of all Muni routes is available from local bookstores, newspaper stands and corner shops.
Ferries depart from the Ferry Building, The Embarcadero, located at the east end of Market Street - once the world's second busiest passenger terminal, handling 100,000 daily ferry commuters. Regular crossings go to and from Bay communities. Sausalito and Larkspur are served by the Golden Gate Ferry (tel: (415) 455 2000; www.goldengateferry.org), which leaves from the south wing of the Ferry Building and makes frequent crossings, taking 30 to 45 minutes. Tickets are sold on board and near the boarding gate. Blue and Gold Fleet (tel: (415) 705 8200; www.blueandgoldfleet.com), Red and White Fleet (tel: (415) 673 2900; www.redandwhite.com) and Baylink (tel: (707) 643 3779; www.baylinkferry.com) run daily services from the Ferry Building (weekdays only for Tiburon) and Pier 41, Fisherman's Wharf, serving Oakland, Alameda, Vallejo, Tiburon and Sausalito.
The Fifth and Mission Parking Garage (tel: (415) 982 8522; www.fifthandmission.com), located where Fifth Street and Mission Street meet, is the biggest in the city. Other car parks include Union Square Garage (tel: (415) 397 0631; www.unionsquareshop.com) and the Ellis-O'Farrell Garage (tel: (415) 986 4800; www.eofgarage.com), located where these two streets meet. The cheapest parking lots charge around US$2.50 per hour and are, of course, the first to fill up.
Alamo (tel: 1 800 462 5266; www.alamo.com), Avis (tel: (415) 929 2555 or 1 800 331 1212; www.avis.com), Budget (tel: (415) 433 3717 or 1 800 527 0700; www.budget.com), Dollar (tel: 1 800 800 3665; www.dollar.com) or Thrifty (tel: (415) 788 8111 or 1 800 847 4389; www.thrifty.com) offer competitive rates.
The San Francisco hotels below have been divided into three pricing categories:
Luxury (over US$200)
Moderate (US$100 to US$199)
Cheap (under US$100)
The prices quoted here are the starting prices for a double room, excluding room tax and breakfast, unless otherwise specified. Hotel prices in San Francisco are subject to a room tax of 14%. This is not normally included in the listed or quoted prices but added to the bill upon checkout. Note that the room tariffs given here are likely to fluctuate with the economy and special packages and discounts are often available. Check rates with each establishment prior to booking.
Travellers who associate contemporary hotels with stark white décor and a surgical air may be surprised by the Hotel Diva. Rooms have the hotel's signature cobalt carpeting and such furnishings as stainless-steel accent tables and headboards. For the romantically inclined, the hotel will shower the bed in rose petals and provide a range of specially made alluring bath products. It also maintains a listing of all the hottest entertainment and dining establishments in town. The California Pizza Kitchen provides room service. Valet and self-parking are optional.
440 Geary Street
Tel: (415) 885 0200 or 1 800 553 1900.
This popular American motel chain caters to travellers who want clean, comfortable accommodation but are not concerned with personalised hotel services. All rooms and suites are furnished in a simple style and have the same basic facilities, including complimentary local telephone calls, coffee maker and hairdryer, the difference being the suites are larger. Jacuzzi rooms are available. A continental breakfast is included in the price, as well as in-room tea and coffee. Situated a short walk from the Presidio and Fisherman's Wharf, the hotel is close to dozens of restaurants. Parking is free on a first come first served basis.
2440 Lombard Street/Fisherman's Wharf
Tel: (415) 922 0244.
Located in historic Fort Baker on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge, near Sausalito, Cavallo Point seamlessly incorporates luxury and historic preservation within natural surrounds. Sixty-eight rooms are in National Historic Landmark buildings, formerly officers' quarters. The remaining 74 rooms and suites are contemporary with high wood ceilings and panoramic vistas of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. All rooms have organic bedding and linen, flatscreen TVs, Internet, a fireplace and daybed for reading or relaxing. The Healing Arts Center & Spa has 11 treatment rooms, a heated outdoor basking pool and Tea Bar. Murray Circle restaurant specialises in Bay Area cuisine.
Tel: (415) 339 4700.
Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
Guests here, in the city's third tallest building, stay for work and pleasure. All rooms have panoramic views of San Francisco (in-room binoculars for cable-car spotting are provided), modern décor with sophisticated Asian touches, 260-thread-count Frette Egyptian cotton sheets, and marble bathrooms with deep soaking tubs. Business facilities include a personal computer workstation and modem point, as well as a business centre and conference facilities. Guests may also rent laptops or cellular phones. The health club has flatscreen TVs with headphones for those who wish to work while they exercise. There is also an upscale California-Asian restaurant, Silks .
222 Sansome Street
Tel: (415) 276 9888 or 1 800 622 0404.
Nearly a century old, the Clift is a quintessentially local landmark set amid the characteristic theatre district. Once known for its striking red panelled interior, it is now adored for its Philippe Starck makeover. The designer waved his creative wand in 2001 and turned the Clift into one of the must-see hotels in San Francisco. Proof lies in the Redwood Room bar where locals fond of a little luxury gather after work. The 363 guest rooms are small but elegantly decorated in shades of violet and grey. Egyptian cotton sheets, Internet and an in-room massage and spa service add to the luxury. Union Square is nearby.
495 Geary Street
Tel: (415) 775 4700 or 1 800 697 1791.
In the heart of northern California's Sonoma and Napa Valleys, MacArthur Place Inn is a charming and luxurious getaway. Originally built in the 1850s, the estate was transformed into a romantic country inn in 1997, and today features 64 spacious guest rooms, cottages and suites on 2.4 hectares (6 acres) of lush garden. Every room is individually decorated with custom fabrics, furniture and local artworks. Four-poster beds, open fireplaces, whirlpool baths and locally produced organic grape seed bath products complement the on-site Garden Spa treatments. Saddles Restaurant , a superb steakhouse in the estate's century-old barn, also serves complimentary buffet breakfast.
29 East MacArthur Street
Tel: (707) 938 2929 or 1 800 722 1866.
Doubletree Hotel - San Francisco Airport
Just 10 minutes from San Francisco Airport with views of scenic San Francisco Bay, this Hilton hotel is popular for business travellers and conventions. Complimentary 24-hour airport shuttles link travellers with the airport BART station for direct transport to Downtown. The spacious European-style rooms and suites have coffee makers, cable TV, CD players and Wi-Fi. Guests have complimentary use of the business facilities and neighbouring pool and fitness centre, and can enjoy the Chutney Lounge and Bay jogging trail. The meeting and banquet space will accommodate 10 to 250, with an outdoor courtyard popular for receptions. The hotel is pet friendly.
835 Airport Boulevard
Tel: (650) 344 5500.
Harbor Court Hotel
Perched on the city's eastern coastline, the Harbor Court offers an unrivalled view of the Bay Bridge. Its 131 rooms contain an entertainment centre, a fax machine, a two-line telephone, a modem point and a moderately sized sitting room with a small table. Rooms combine traditional and contemporary furnishings, and some beds are canopied. Windows are double-glazed to block out traffic noise. Guests receive complimentary use of the adjoining athletic facilities. Two local convention and business venues can be reserved through the hotel. The Ozumo Japanese restaurant next door offers room service. Valet parking is recommended.
165 Steuart Street
Tel: (415) 882 1300 or 1 866 792 6283.
The epitome of romantic indulgence, Hotel Monaco features hand-painted ceiling domes, a marble staircase, a soaring two-storey fireplace and a front desk reminiscent of an old steamer trunk. The 201 guest rooms (including 24 luxury suites) are lavishly decorated and include plasma screen TVs, whirlpool baths, luxury toiletries, bathrobes, DVD and CD players, Internet and bar fridges. The hotel's spa is fully equipped. Meals are served in the Petit Café , or the adjacent Parisian Grand Café . Alternatively, indulge in cheese and wine by the fireside in the cosy living room. The Monaco is pet friendly.
Downtown/Theatre District/Union Square
501 Geary Street
Tel: (415) 292 0100 or 1 866 622 5284.
One of San Francisco's smaller boutique hotels, the Orchard has 104 guest rooms, including nine suites. Luxuries include quality linens and toiletries, Balinese wood, black granite bathroom countertops, plush bathrobes, surround-sound DVD and CD players, Internet and mini-bars. Complimentary European breakfast buffet is served downstairs. Vaulted ceilings, arched windows and a marble lobby are enhanced by the doorman's friendly welcome. Owner Mrs SC Huang also owns the Orchard Garden, a few doors down on Bush Street. This is a true 'green' hotel, the third in the USA to be awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
Union Square/Nob Hill
665 Bush Street
Tel: (415) 362 8878 or 1 888 717 2881.
White Swan Inn
A crackling fireplace in each of the 26 guestrooms and suites adds to the warmth and charm of this English-style B&B. Complete with dark wood panelling, rich floral carpets, plush furniture and enchanting art and collectibles, the White Swan offers many extras that encourage guests to relax and let the world go by. Complimentary treats include home-cooked gourmet breakfast buffet in the dining room, evening wine and hors d'oeuvres served fireside in the cosy parlour, library, mini-bar with complimentary drinks, bathrobes and coffee maker. Breakfast in bed is an option, and valet parking is available. Plan on at least a couple of nights.
Nob Hill/Union Square
845 Bush Street
Tel: (415) 775 1755 or 1 800 999 9570.
‘Power’ breakfasts, catered lunches and coffee meetings are common, while dinners at private homes are more rare. Fashionable restaurants or wine bars are the more likely settings for financial types. When making a private visit, gifts of wine, sweets from home or flowers are a good bet.
But it is where mankind and nature meets that this implausibly diverse city comes into its own. A visit to the Golden Gate Bridge, which used enough wire to go around the earth several times over and was hailed as impossible to build, is a must. Golden Gate Park covers 412 hectares (1,017 acres) and is the one of the largest manmade parks in the world, thanks to Scotsman John McLaren, the extraordinary gardener who tamed the sands of San Francisco and created the magnificent park.
Then there is Alcatraz, the stuff of legend, Grant Street, the city's oldest, running the length of Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, which rekindles memories of Flower Power and the Beat Generation, and Fisherman's Wharf, at the edge of the Bay, offering hundreds of resident sea lions, cheap souvenirs and, always, something to eat. At the other end of The Embarcadero the landmark Ferry Building has become a foodie haven where visitors get an eyeful as well as a belly-full.
900 Market Street
Tel: (415) 391 2000.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sat-Sun 0900-1500.
Looming menacingly in the Bay, near Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz (known simply as 'The Rock') was the site of the USA's toughest maximum-security prison, from 1934 until 1963. Al Capone lodged there, as did birdman Robert Stroud, although his infamy is based more on Hollywood legend than fact - he never did keep birds here. Alcatraz, which imprisoned convicts as much with the Bay estuary's lethal currents as with manmade bars, opened to a curious public in 1973. Now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, its on-island activities include trail walks, audio tours narrated by former inmates and guards and ranger-led tours. The frustration of being able to witness the natural beauty and bright lights of the Bay communities from just a mile away, which must have been felt by many an inmate, is palpable. Alcatraz Island was also the site of the first lighthouse built on the Pacific Coast. Visitors are advised to book early and wear warm clothes.
Alcatraz Island (ferries depart from Pier 33)
Tel: (415) 705 5555.
Opening hours: Departures daily 0900-1830 (summer), 0930-1630 (all other seasons). Night tours also available.
Admission Fee: Yes
One of San Francisco's principal attractions is its network of century-old cable cars, America's only mobile National Historic Landmark. The system was opened in 1873, when Andrew Hallidie guided the first car down Clay Street, near Portsmouth Square, to replace horse-drawn streetcars. It was refurbished in the 1980s. The ride and the views can best be enjoyed standing on one of the outside platforms but travellers should hold on tight and watch out for traffic. The cars operate along three routes. The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines, beginning at Powell Street and Market Street, run roughly north-south between Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square. The California Street line runs east-west from California Street and Market Street, near the Embarcadero to Van Ness Avenue. The cars are turned by hand on turntables at the end of the line - all part of the experience. A visit to the free Cable Car Museum (www.cablecarmuseum.org) completes the experience. Here, located in the city's only remaining cable car barn and powerhouse, visitors can view the cable-winding machinery as it reels 17km (11 miles) of steel at a steady pace of 15km (9.5 miles) per hour. The mechanism is much more interesting than you might think and a video, historical memorabilia and gift shop make the museum a compelling stop.
Powell Street, Market Street and California Street, San Francisco
Tel: (415) 701 2311.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0600-0130.
Admission Fee: Yes
Cartoon Art Museum
The Cartoon Art Museum, the only one of its kind on the West Coast, displays rotating exhibitions of art, from underground cartoons to popular comic books and animation. An enormous permanent collection and a CD-Rom gallery explore every facet of cartoon art. Saturday afternoon cartooning classes are offered regularly.
South of Market
655 Mission Street
Tel: (415) 227 8666.
Opening hours: Tues-Sun 1100-1700.
Admission Fee: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Contemporary Jewish Museum
Under the creative direction of architect Daniel Libeskind, The Contemporary Jewish Museum reopened in June 2008 in the landmark 1907 Jessie Street Power Substation, recognised by the 3,000 blue steel panels that clad the exterior. With a 'no permanent exhibitions' policy, the museum hopes to earn kudos as a 'dynamic and ever-changing' art hub representing the highest level of artistic achievement.
736 Mission Street (between Third and Fourth Streets)
Tel: (415) 655 7800.
Opening hours: Fri-Tues 1100-1730, Thurs 1300-2030.
Admission Fee: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Standing regally on the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street, the iconic Ferry Building has long been a San Francisco landmark. It opened in 1898 as the transportation hub for ferry commuters and train travellers. At its peak it saw as many as 50,000 ferry commuters a day. However, in the 1930s, when commuters preferred vehicular routes, few people darkened its door. In the 1950s the interior was converted into unsightly office space and was further obscured by the double-deck Embarcadero Freeway, which ran past the front entry. Though ferry commuters returned in the 1970s it wasn't until the freeway was eventually damaged by earthquake in 1989, then torn down in 1991, that the Ferry Building's potential was harnessed. Today the repeating interior arches and overhead skylights in the grandiose central nave provide a home for purveyors of the finest cuisine from the Bay Area and around the world. A simple stroll can uncover epicurean delights such as truffles and caviar, organic fruit and vegetables, Italian delicatessens, artisan cheeses, fresh local fish, patisseries, a bakery, wine bar and tea shop, coffee shops and restaurants. The Book Passage bookstore hosts author events, seminars and legendary Mystery Writers' & Travel Writers' conferences. A farmers' market is held on Tuesdays and Saturdays around the main building with small, local outfitters selling seasonal and organically grown produce. A Thursday night market is open during summer only.
One Ferry Building
Tel: (415) 693 0996.
Disabled Access: Yes
Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39
In the daytime, visitors throng the sidewalks and piers of Fisherman's Wharf - a centre for tacky souvenirs, Bay-view restaurants, shops, attractions and the spectacle of some 500 resident sea lions crowded onto pontoons to sunbathe. The sea lions appeared soon after the 1989 earthquake and have made this area home, leaving only briefly during the spring to breed in the Channel Islands. But in the early hours of the morning, from dawn until 0900, the ambitious visitor can get quite another view - that of a busy fish distribution centre sending out seafood both locally and further afield. Dylan Thomas once waxed lyrical to his wife, Caitlin, about the quality of the lobsters, clams and crabs here and small wonder - oysters, chowder, crab and shrimp cocktail are sold in disposable cartons on the wharf, for eating while strolling. Pier 39, where Beach Street meets The Embarcadero, is actually one of 29 curiously numbered piers on the waterfront and is now the city's biggest attraction. Not only is it home to the sea lions but also many other attractions, such as the Aquarium of the Bay, where moving sidewalks are surrounded on three sides by water. Sightseeing boats leave from Pier 39 and the neighbouring Pier 41. The Cannery houses 30 speciality shops, while Ghirardelli Square, a former chocolate factory turned chic shopping centre, close by at the west end of Fisherman's Wharf, can also be approached from the wharf. Hyde Street Pier, which displays historic ships (including the Eureka, an 1890 paddle wheeler, and the schooner CA Thayer) and the art deco Maritime Museum, show how life in the city a century ago was much more entwined with the marine industry.
The Embarcadero, San Francisco
Tel: (415) 674 7503.
Disabled Access: Yes
Golden Gate Bridge
The beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Marin County, is not gold, of course, but a vivid rusty orange that stands out even through the frequent thick fogs. Spanning 2.7km (1.7 miles), the bridge is one of the wonders of the modern world and one of five bridges that span the Bay. The best views of the Golden Gate Bridge are from Fort Point in the Presidio (Long Avenue and Marine Drive) and Visa Point, on the Marin side at the north end of the bridge. A walk or, at least, a drive across the bridge is essential (walking takes approximately half an hour and walkers should dress warmly). The two pivotal cables contain enough steel wire to encircle the equator three times, while the concrete alone would provide enough material for a pavement from San Francisco to New York.
Highway 101 (Lincoln Boulevard)
Tel: (415) 921 5858.
Opening hours: Daily 24 hours (roadway and bicycle access); daily 0500-2100 (pedestrian sidewalk).
Admission Fee: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Golden Gate Park
The 412 hectares (1,017 acres) of Golden Gate Park encompass meadows, lakes, myriad gardens, an open-air music concourse, a children's playground and vintage carousel, a buffalo paddock and the tallest artificial waterfall in the West. The park fronts Ocean Beach, which affords spectacular sunset views. Some 10,000 plant species flourish in the San Francisco Botanical Garden, while the must-see Japanese Tea Garden is an absolute haven. The Conservatory of Flowers is a living museum of rare and tropical plants. Founded in 1895, the de Young Museum has moved twice due to earthquakes, but but its feet are now firmly planted at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), which includes the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor. The new de Young, rebuilt in 2005 and largely supported with private money, holds many surprises, not least the textured copper facade and spiralling tower rising like a beacon in Golden Gate Park. Galleries flow from one to the next, each an experience that touches the senses. Gaze at fifth-century Peruvian artefacts and prized Maori sculptures from New Zealand, then wander through the Rockefeller Collection of American Paintings to dangling collages of modern art.
Tel: (415) 831 2700.
Disabled Access: Yes
It may only be a few miles away but Japantown (bounded by Laguna Street, Geary Street, Post Street and Fillmore Street) could not be more different to the Mission. The city's growing Japanese population has a home here but the area also is a commercial centre. Walking up Geary Street or Post Street from Union Square brings the five-tier Peace Pagoda into view. The pagoda and the Japan Centre are the focal point of the community's cultural and business life, as well as the site of several seasonal festivals. Visitors can partake in a Japanese communal bath or one of the many massages offered at the essential Kabuki Springs and Spa (www.kabukisprings.com). Tuesdays are mixed gender and swimming suits are required.
Laguna Street, Geary Street, Post Street and Fillmore Street, San Francisco
Disabled Access: Yes
The Curran Theatre
Hosts touring Broadway musicals,
445 Geary Street
Tel: (415) 551 2000.
The Geary Theatre
Is home to the American Conservatory Theatre (ACT), one of the nation's largest resident companies and a Tony Award winner.
415 Geary Street
Tel: (415) 749 2228.
War Memorial Opera House
The San Francisco Opera has established itself as one of the world's great opera companies, re-invigorated by director David Gockley. Its home is the War Memorial Opera House, a gorgeous building dating from 1932. The season is September to January and June to July. Same-day tickets, mostly for standing room only, are usually available. The San Francisco Ballet also peforms here.
301 Van Ness Avenue
Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
There are a number of innovative dance troupes dotted around town. The Ethnic Dance Festival takes place at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre over four weekends in June.
Davies Symphony Hall
Concerts of the Grammy-Award winning San Francisco Symphony are often sold out. Performances are held at the ultra-modern Davies Symphony Hall. The full-length glass windows overlook the restored City Hall, like Washington DC's Capitol Building, only with a gilt dome 12m (40ft) taller.
201 Van Ness Avenue
Tel: (415) 864 6000.
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