San Francisco Holidays
Beguiling San Francisco, with its myriad hills, spectacular bay and crimson bridge, is undeniably one of the world's great cities. Full of history, vibrant neighbourhoods, elegant Victorian homes, parks, beaches, museums and a whole host of entertainment options.
With towers soaring into the sky, its two mile span arcing across the San Francisco Bay, and all of it painted bright red-orange, the Golden Gate Bridge is, quite simply, amazing. It's pretty easy (and free) to walk across the bridge itself, or to explore the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Centre, which offers a look at the bridge's history. Another option is to book a bike tour and enjoy the view as you cycle across this majestic landmark before reaching the charming town of Sausilito.
Sitting in San Francisco Bay itself is Alcatraz Island, home to the historic and notorious prison. Take the ferry from Fisherman's Wharf (be sure to book well in advance) and enjoy one of the excellent audio tours, which feature recorded comments from former inmates and offer a chilling and fascinating glimpse into life here. Walk around to take in views of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge and dramatic Bay Bridge.
Fisherman's Wharf is a popular waterfront tourist area known for its fishing boats, historic ships, seafood stalls, bakeries and souvenir shops. Stroll to Pier 39 for more seafood eateries, shops, street performers and the area's noisiest residents, a bellowing throng of sea lions. Other attractions in the vicinity include the National Maritime Museum, The Exploratorium, Aquarium of the Bay and Ferry Building Marketplace.
Downtown San Francisco is where you'll find the retail and cultural hub of the city, Union Square. This elegant square circled by tall palm trees boasts a large collection of luxury, department store and boutique shopping. Just south of the square, on Market Street, you'll find Westfield San Francisco Centre, the city's upmarket, indoor shopping centre. Also close by is San Francisco's Chinatown, with crowded pavements filled with Cantonese and Mandarin chatter, overflowing food stalls and mysterious-looking shops, it's the largest Chinatown outside of Asia.
Wrapping around the north end of the city, is The Presido, a 14,491 acre park with beaches, restaurants, hiking and mountain-biking trails. More green space can be found at Golden Gate Park, a classic city park with gardens, glades and quiet lakes. It's also home to the de Young Museum which showcases a world-class collection of art; the impressive California Academy of Sciences with its planetarium, aquarium, 4-storey rainforest and natural history museum; and the Japanese Tea Garden, which is always lovely, but especially so in spring.
If time allows, don't miss Lombard Street, often called the 'crookedest street in the world'; elegant Nob Hill area with its hotels and residences, Grace Cathedral and some of the best bay views; and Ghirardelli Square, a restored factory area surrounded by shops, galleries and restaurants. Of course, no visit to the city would be complete without a ride on one of the city's iconic cable cars - the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde offer the most scenic routes.
Just an hour northeast of San Francisco, city lights give way to the glorious vistas of the Napa Valley, where world class wines, Michelin-star dining, a vibrant arts community, miles of nature preserves and a spirit of wellness set a slower pace. With more than 500 wineries, it is the epicentre of wine production in the USA and with scenic beauty all around, visitors can experience the region in many ways: by train (the Napa Valley Wine Train), by hot air balloon, on a bike tour or a wine trolley.
- Iconic landmarks
- Easy to get around
- Alcatraz Island
- Lots of green space
- Fascinating museums
- Eclectic neighbourhoods
- Nearby Napa Valley