Known for its friendly inhabitants and liberal vibes as much as its iconic sites, San Francisco is the cultural and commercial hub of Northern California and is instantly one of the most recognisable destinations in the world.
This beautiful city showcases a perfect blend of out-of-this-world dining, shopping, and entertainment, together with an abundance of nature and a rich history. There is so much to pack in here, and you could easily stay for weeks or even months, as many do. San Francisco’s great location on America’s Pacific coast affords amazing multi centre holidays combined with fantastic destinations such as Los Angeles and San Diego in southern California, Las Vegas in Nevada, as well as the Hawaiian Islands with a splash of tropical paradise to top it all off.
San Francisco Highlights
San Francisco is known for many things and lends itself to several nicknames including ‘The Golden Gate City’, ‘The City of Fog’, and ‘The City by the Bay’. And with its welcoming locals and wonderful laid-back vibes, this is the city that has it all.
Whether you’re after some quirky one-off clothing items or some high-end designer gear, San Francisco has it all. Head to Union Square if you’re in the mood for a spending spree – or perhaps just some window shopping if you’ve understandably spent all your money on burritos. And for a splash of 60s nostalgia, take a trip to the colourful streets of Haight-Ashbury and purchase a pair of those flares you’ve always wanted!
Amazing Food Scene
San Francisco is a foodie’s paradise and known worldwide for its culinary creativity and delicious food innovations, which have been influenced by the cultures and flavours of the waves of immigrants settling in the city over the decades. Give your tastebuds a party and try classic dishes like Mission-style burritos, clam chowder and the delectable ‘cioppino’, a mouthwatering Italian-American fish stew that typically includes Dungeness crab, shrimp, mussels, scallops, squid and more.
San Francisco showcases its pride and progress through its many must-see historic landmarks. From wandering the former island prison of Alcatraz to cycling amongst the clouds along the Golden Gate Bridge and riding the old-charm cable cars that glide through the streets - your days in San Francisco will be equally unique and magical.
It might not be the best place to swim on California’s Pacific Coast, but San Francisco’s beaches are beautiful, brisk, and built for walks, paddling, sunbathing, and soaking up casual city vibes during your downtime. Dotted around the Bay are swathes of pretty sands, hiking trails, historic ruins and secluded coves for breathing in that crisp ocean air – and with stunning Golden Gate Bridge views, there are few more enticing spots to spend your days.
San Francisco Multi Centre Combinations
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Our San Francisco Favourites
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco’s number one attraction is the Golden Gate Bridge, a landmark of epic proportions and one of the seven wonders of the modern world, attracting more than 10 million visitors each year. This imposing orange structure is often surrounded by the famous fog that clouds the Bay during summer, making it even more breathtaking.
Spanning 1.7 miles across, the bridge is accessible to cars, with sidewalks for pedestrians, cyclists, and wheelchair users, allowing everyone an opportunity to get up-close to this engineering marvel. Visit the Welcome Center to learn about its history, science, and construction through interactive exhibits, or book a guided walking tour for on-the-go discovery!
Alcatraz Island Perhaps the world’s most high-profile former prison, Alcatraz was originally the home of the first lighthouse in the US and became a maximum-security federal penitentiary in 1934 for almost 30 years, housing inmates such as Al Capone and George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly. Many may also remember it being featured in Hollywood films such as Escape from Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood and The Rock, starring Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage.
Nowadays it is a national park and one of the most popular attractions to visit in San Francisco. Take a ferry across and explore the building’s claustrophobic cell houses, mess hall, library and ‘dark holes’ for a few hours or the whole day and absorb this incredible piece of modern history.
This wonderful city hotspot in Fisherman’s Wharf appeals to everyone including solo travellers, couples, groups, and families because it offers heaps of entertainment, excellent dining, and plenty of shopping – enough to fill more than a day during your multi-centre holidays in San Francisco.
Built in the 1970s, this oceanfront destination is always bustling with life and remains a firm favourite with locals and tourists alike. Keep an eye out for the pod of famous and lovable sea lions playing and basking here. After a major earthquake in 1989 these cheeky creatures took up residence on Pier 39’s K-Dock, and to this day scientists are still puzzled as to why they stayed!
Famous Streets & Cable Cars
Known as the ‘Crookedest Street in the World’, the windy, steep section of Lombard Street features eight hairpin turns amid beautifully tended gardens. It’s a fun spot to drive or walk down (or up if you’re feeling energetic) and boasts stunning city and bay views from its highest point.
You can’t come on San Francisco twin-centre holidays without hopping onto one of its iconic cable cars. The carriages of this timeless, manually-operated tramway system traverse the city’s hilly avenues and provide a unique and fun way to explore – jump on and sit down or hang on for a brilliant ride while the traffic rushes past you and the bell rings to signal the next stop!
Golden Gate Park
One of San Francisco’s most memorable places to visit is the urban haven of Golden Gate Park, which hosts more than 24 million visitors each year. Not only does it feature miles of grassy lawns, walking and cycling paths and beautiful shimmering lakes, it’s also home to several of the city’s top attractions such as the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young Museum, and the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
And no San Francisco multi-centre holidays would be complete without a whizz on the park’s SkyStar Wheel. Soar 150 ft above the trees and take in incredible views over the park, the city skyline and out to the Pacific Ocean!
This striking tower was built in 1933 after San Francisco local, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, left a sum of money in her will to create something beautiful for the city she adored. The tapered tower sits atop Telegraph Hills within the five-acre Pioneer Park and displays colourful lights each evening, adding to the impressive collection of iconic sites in the city.
Take an elevator ride to the top and marvel at the 360-degree panoramic views over San Francisco and the Bay then head down to Fisherman’s Wharf for a slap-up dinner, which is only a short bus, tram, or cable car ride away.
This is San Francisco’s longest beach, located on the western side of the city in the Outer Sunset neighbourhood. With chillier waters and strong currents, it’s not ideal for swimming but it offers a splendid stretch of sand on which to lay out your towel, have a picnic and relax or play some beach-based sports.
If your multi-centre holidays in California don’t allow for much time here, combine a few hours at the beach with some time at the adjacent Golden Gate Park or San Francisco Zoo, which is towards the southern end of the beach in the Lakeshore area.
Baker Beach is set on the western edge of The Presidio, boasting a mile-long swathe of sand and spectacular unmatched views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands beyond. Its waters are a little choppy and swimming isn’t advised here, but for a windy walk and to admire its rugged beauty, Baker Beach is well worth a trip. Keep your eyes peeled for harbour porpoises cavorting around in the surf, and be mindful that North Baker Beach is clothing optional!
This gorgeous beach also enjoys fabulous sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands and is set between two rock walls, which give it a more secluded, cove-like feel. Its shallow waters make it safer and more suitable for families with younger children who wish to paddle or swim, so pack up a lunch and head down for some beachside fun. During low tide you can also walk across to Baker Beach and search the cliffs for starfish, mussels, and anemones to observe!
Lands End is a hidden treasure and one of San Francisco’s lesser-known beaches, situated in the Golden Gate Recreation Area. It’s a bit more difficult to get down the rocky, steep trail to the sands – you will need hard-wearing shoes or boots – but your efforts will be rewarded with stunning cliffside views at every turn.
Swimming is prohibited here due to the dangerous conditions but hiking out this way allows you to still sunbathe and picnic to your heart’s content. Meander the ruins of the old Sutro Baths – originally built in 1890 – and absorb the scenery of pretty wildflowers and cypress and eucalyptus trees on the trail.
The Ferry Building Marketplace
Overlooking the waterfront on the prominent Embarcadero roadway, The Ferry Building is a city landmark – built in 1898 – and home of the huge Ferry Marketplace, a vibrant shopping and gourmet food emporium, as well as a destination full of culture and history.
If you’re in search of locally made crafts and artisanal fare, this is the place to be. Also, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a thriving hub of activity on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Loved for its high-quality produce and fresh goods from environmental California growers, it’s the place many renowned San Francisco chefs come to select their ingredients and worth a visit for the buzzing atmosphere alone.
Any 1960s enthusiasts or former hippies out there will adore the offbeat, vivid neighbourhood of Haight-Ashbury. A place where flower power flourished and some of the most prominent musicians and artists of the era hung out, including Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix - who is said to have bought his first bell bottoms here.
The corner of Haight and Ashbury remains a popular photo spot, and from there wander amid the area’s multi-coloured shops, Victorian houses and graffitied pavements to absorb the pure joy that radiates from this district. Check out the boutique and vintage shops, record stores, tattoo and piercing parlours, dive bars and trendy eateries for an extraordinary day out!
Over on Union Square, shopping is a decidedly different affair, with dozens of world-famous designer labels within just a few blocks, this is THE place for a luxury retail experience in San Francisco. Here you’ll find iconic American department stores like Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nordstrom, together with much-coveted brands like Tiffany & Co., Valentino, and Luis Vuitton.
When you’ve shopped and are ready to drop, grab a coffee or some lunch at one of the many restaurants and cafes around Union Square. To get here, simply take an iconic cable car and stop at Powell or Market Streets, but there are plenty of high-end hotels nearby if you want to stay in the thick of the action.
The Mission District
This is San Francisco’s oldest neighbourhood and also one of its trendiest. With deep Latino roots that influence everything from the vibrant wall murals – particularly on Clarion Alley and Balmy Alley – to the artistic shops selling clothing, trinkets, and jewellery, this is a beautiful area in which to soak up the diverse arts and culture scene that makes this city so special.
Amble down Mission Street for a little shopping before grabbing a coffee on one of Valencia Street’s profusion of bars and cafés, then nip over to 20th Street and splash out on a cheeky cocktail or two, finishing with a sit down in the historic Dolores Park and enjoy enviable panoramic city views.
Set on the northwest of the San Francisco Peninsula, The Presidio is a former military base that now forms part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
New to the park are the delightful Presidio Tunnel Tops covering 14 acres of parkland, which offer a wonderful space for picnicking and playing in front of a striking backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge. Below by the shoreline is Crissy Fields, a popular area with trails for walking and cycling, and loads of opportunities for bird watching and taking in the glorious bay views.
Multi-centre holidays in California aren’t complete without Instagram-worthy pics of awe-inspiring views, and San Francisco has plenty. Its Twin Peaks area sits high atop the city – right in its geographical centre – and offers 360-degree panoramic views that span the streets below, the surrounding bay and sparkling Pacific Ocean.
You may have to compete for a prime position to capture the perfect shot as it gets quite busy, especially at sunrise and sundown, but the effort is worth it. Be prepared for a challenging walk up and ensure you have sturdy footwear, but once you’re at the top, those views from Ocean Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge and down across the city are unforgettable
A perfect example of how urban and nature can cohabit, Salesforce Park is a rooftop wonder four storeys high and stretches for almost four blocks. Spanning five-and-a-half acres, the park flaunts hundreds of trees and thousands of plants, plus the impressive Bus Fountain, one of the world’s longest water artwork installations with interactive features to coincide with the bus terminal traffic below.
Families with kids will love the children’s playground and walking trail, and there are frequent events in the Main Plaza throughout the day including immersive fairytale storytelling and craft activities. Once the sun goes down, the park plays host to a range of music performances and live events, making this an all-day destination and one not to miss for an extraordinary dose of nature in downtown San Francisco.
San Francisco Zoo & Gardens
This 100-acre urban oasis is located on the southwestern corner of the city along the Great Highway and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Attracting visitors from all over the world, this is one of San Francisco’s top attractions and is home to more than 2,000 exotic and endangered animals, including rare Mexican Gray Wolves, which are almost entirely extinct in the wild.
Little ones will love watching the zoo’s two resident grizzly bears having their breakfast before heading to the giraffe habitat to watch the keepers feed them healthy snacks for lunch. And don’t miss the adorable Penguin Island and learn about the world’s most successful captive breeding colony, right here at San Francisco Zoo!
Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf
If your San Francisco twin-centre holiday plans revolve around eating your way through the city, then Fisherman’s Wharf should be at the top of your list, especially for the seafood at Pier 39. The sights, sounds and smells of this iconic neighbourhood epitomise San Francisco, from its rambling old fashioned cable cars on the F-Line to the curb-side food stalls serving steaming crab pots, it’s an unmissable destination.
Many of its greatest seafood restaurants feature sustainable farming, locally caught ingredients and a family-orientated environment. Try the lip-smacking Dungeness crab melt sandwich or the seafood fettuccine at the Franciscan Crab Restaurant, or Scoma’s for the wild gulf shrimp and scallops and unmatched waterfront dining.
This hearty concoction is the signature San Francisco dish and has been since the mid-nineteenth century. A classic clam chowder features a soft, warm sourdough bread bowl hollowed out and filled with a steaming rich and creamy soup of shellfish, bacon, and potatoes. And the result? Pure magic.
The award-winning Fog Harbour Fish House in Fisherman’s Wharf is said to deliver the best clam chowder in the city, but there’s only one way to find out!
San Francisco is widely thought to be the birthplace of the famous martini cocktail in the 1860s by bartender Jerry Thomas, who worked at the Occidental Hotel. The classic combination of gin and vermouth garnished with an olive has been adapted over the years, but the original recipe is still going strong to this day.
There are countless bars to quench your martini cravings like John’s Grill, a legendary establishment by Union Square, with an old-world feel and famous clientele. Zam Zam is another cool spot – located in Haight-Ashbury – exuding a retro vibe and laid-back atmosphere as well as expertly-mixed cocktails.
San Francisco has a reputation as one of the premier fine dining destinations in the world and is home to over 60 Michelin-starred restaurants, which is more than any other city in the Americas. Your San Francisco twin-centre holidays may only afford you a few days here, so if you’re keen on experiencing some mind-blowing, award-winning cuisine, where do you start?
Setting the bar high is Quince, a three-Michelin-starred establishment on Jackson Square delivering local, seasonal dishes with Italian and French influences. Splash out and sample the 8-10-course tasting menu for a little holiday indulgence. And for contemporary American fare head to Saison, a two-starred restaurant in South Beach known for its innovative cooking methods and seasonal, locally produced ingredients, consistently creating out-of-this-world dishes.
The city is also said to be the birthplace of the burrito and the ones in San Francisco are considered the best in the whole country. The historic Mission district is primarily where to find these enveloped helpings of heaven, whether it’s a classic chicken or beef burrito or a modern style wrap with a twist.
Dare to be different and try burritos filled with rockfish and duck confit, or even a Korean Mexican fusion with kimchi and a side of pineapple tacos. Mission Street’s rustic-style El Farolito restaurant usually tops the ‘best of’ lists for San Francisco burritos – a queue often forms when it opens but it’s well worth the wait.
San Francisco FAQs
San Francisco FAQs
San Francisco FAQs
We don’t just recommend it, we encourage it. California is a vast state with much to offer, and San Francisco is just the beginning. Domestic flights between major cities are frequent and are a great option for the time-conscious traveller, while driving some of the world’s most scenic coastal roads is also a big draw.
Consider blending your San Francisco trip with the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, the perfect beachside city of San Diego or the rugged beauty of California’s deserts and national parks – or perhaps all the above!
San Francisco is generally a year-round destination and enjoys consistently mild weather, but the city’s warmest time of year falls between September and November when there is the least amount of fog and clearer skies.
It is the summer months that produce this blanket of fog – lovingly known as Karl – due to a mixture of hot sun and cold ocean air that forms a cool Easterly wind. So, make sure to pack a couple of extra layers if you visit between June and August.
The city is located on California’s Pacific coastline and is 8 hours behind the UK. Flights usually take just over 11 hours to San Francisco International Airport (SFO), with many direct options available with Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and United Airlines from London, while in-direct flights from Manchester also exist.
While staying in San Francisco it may not be necessary to hire a car as parking can be costly and sometimes difficult to find. The city is also one of America’s most transit-friendly, with buses, ferries, light rail trains and, of course, the famed cable cars to get you about. However, if you are booking multi-centre holidays in California then consider road-tripping down to Los Angeles and take the scenic option rather than flying.
It takes around six hours to drive directly, but Highway 101 takes you through incredible places like San Jose, Santa Maria, and Santa Barbara before merging onto the famous Pacific Coast Highway that runs through Malibu all the way to Santa Monica.