San Francisco Tourism | San Francisco Attractions | San Francisco Hotels
Today, San Francisco is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, ranking 35th out of the 100 most visited cities worldwide, and is renowned for its chilly summer fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and its famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Chinatown. The city is also a principal banking and finance center, and the home to more than 30 international financial institutions, helping to make San Francisco rank 18th in the world's top producing cities, eighth in the United States, and ninth place in the top twenty global financial centers.
San Francisco Geography
San Francisco is famous for its hills. There are more than 50 hills within city limits. Some neighborhoods are named after the hill on which they are situated, including Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, and Russian Hill. Near the geographic center of the city, southwest of the downtown area, are a series of less densely populated hills. Twin Peaks, a pair of hills resting at one of the city's highest points, forms a popular overlook spot. San Francisco's tallest hill, Mount Davidson, is 925 feet (282 m) high and is capped with a 103-foot (31 m) tall cross built in 1934. Dominating this area is Sutro Tower, a large red and white radio and television transmission tower.
San Francisco's shoreline has grown beyond its natural limits. Entire neighborhoods such as the Marina and Hunters Point, as well as large sections of the Embarcadero, sit on areas of landfill. Treasure Island was constructed from material dredged from the bay as well as material resulting from tunneling through Yerba Buena Island during the construction of the Bay Bridge. Such land tends to be unstable during earthquakes; the resultant liquefaction causes extensive damage to property built upon it, as was evidenced in the Marina district during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
San Francisco Climate
Because of its sharp topography and maritime influences, San Francisco exhibits a multitude of distinct microclimates. The high hills in the geographic center of the city are responsible for a 20% variance in annual rainfall between different parts of the city. They also protect neighborhoods directly to their east from the foggy and sometimes very cold and windy conditions experienced in the Sunset District; for those who live on the eastern side of the city, San Francisco is sunnier, with an average of 260 clear days, and only 105 cloudy days per year.
The highest recorded temperature at the official National Weather Service office was 103 °F (39 °C) on July 17, 1988, and June 14, 2000. The lowest recorded temperature was 27 °F (-3 °C) on December 11, 1932. The U.S. National Weather Service provides a helpful visual aid graphing the information in the table below to display visually by month the annual typical temperatures, the past year's temperatures, and record temperatures.
San Francisco Weather
San Francisco Attractions
Golden Gate Bridge
Before the bridge was built, the only practical short route between San Francisco and what is now Marin County was by boat across a section of San Francisco Bay. Ferry service began as early as 1820, with regularly scheduled service beginning in the 1840s for purposes of transporting water to San Francisco. The Sausalito Land and Ferry Company service, launched in 1867, eventually became the Golden Gate Ferry Company, a Southern Pacific Railroad subsidiary, the largest ferry operation in the world by the late 1920s. Once for railroad passengers and customers only, Southern Pacific's automobile ferries became very profitable and important to the regional economy. The ferry crossing between the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco and Sausalito in Marin County took approximately 20 minutes and cost US$1.00 per vehicle, a price later reduced to compete with the new bridge. The trip from the San Francisco Ferry Building took 27 minutes.
Lombard Street begins at Presidio Boulevard inside The Presidio and runs east through the Cow Hollow neighborhood. For 12 blocks between Broderick Street and Van Ness Avenue, it is a principal arterial road that is co-signed as U.S. Route 101. Lombard Street then continues through the Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill neighborhoods, breaks off at a point becoming Telegraph Hill Boulevard. That leads to Pioneer Park and Coit Tower. Lombard Street starts again at Winthrop Street and finally terminates at The Embarcadero as a collector road.
Lombard Street is best known for the one-way section on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, in which the roadway has eight sharp turns (or switchbacks) that have earned the street the distinction of being the crookedest [most winding] street in the world. The switchback's design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henry and instituted in 1922, was born out of necessity in order to reduce the hill's natural 27% grade, which was too steep for most vehicles. It is also a serious hazard to pedestrians, who are accustomed to a more reasonable sixteen-degree incline. The crooked section of the street, which is about 1/4 mile (400 m) long, is reserved for one-way traffic traveling east (downhill) and is paved with red bricks. The speed limit in this section is 5 mph (8 km/h).
The Powell-Hyde cable car line stops at the top of this block.
Famous past residents of Lombard Street include Rowena Meeks Abdy, an early California painter who worked in the style of Impressionism.
The art deco tower, made of unpainted reinforced concrete, was designed by architects Arthur Brown, Jr. and Henry Howard, with fresco murals by 27 different on-site artists and their numerous assistants, plus two additional paintings installed after creation off-site.
The tower was not designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle, despite Coit's affinity with the San Francisco firefighters of the day, in particular with Knickerbocker Engine Company Number 5.
One of the busiest and well known tourist attractions in the western United States, Fisherman's Wharf is best known for being the location of Pier 39, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, a Ripley's Believe it or Not museum, the Musée Mécanique, the Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf, Forbes Island and restaurants and stands that serve fresh seafood, most notably Dungeness crab and clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl. Some of the restaurants, like Pompei's Grotto and Alioto's #8, go back for three generations of the same family ownership. Nearby Pier 45 has a chapel in memory of the "Lost Fishermen" of San Francisco and Northern California.
Fisherman's Wharf plays host to many San Francisco events, including a world-class fireworks display for Fourth of July, and some of the best views of the Fleet Week air shows.
One of the city's most popular figures is a harmless but controversial resident of Fisherman's Wharf called the World Famous Bushman, a local street performer who sits behind some branches and startles people who walk by. He has gained notoriety during the 30 years he has been doing this.
In 1985, the wharf was used as a filming location in the James Bond film A View to a Kill, where Bond (played for the last time by Roger Moore) met with CIA agent Chuck Lee (David Yip) in his quest to eliminate the villain of the film, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken).
Mission San Francisco de Asís
Today, the island's facilities are operated by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area; it is open to tours. Visitors can reach the island by ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. In 2008 the nation's first hybrid propulsion ferry started serving the island.
Golden Gate Park
Major Attractions in Golden Gate Park
Conservatory of Flowers
Japanese Tea Garden
The oldest public Japanese garden in the United States, this complex of many paths, ponds and a teahouse features native Japanese and Chinese plants. The gardens 5 acres (2.0 ha) contain many sculptures and bridges.
San Francisco Botanical Garden
Collections of Plants:
The gardens are organized into several specialized collections:
- California native plants
- John Muir Nature Trai
- Redwood Trail
- Cape Province (South Africa)
- Mediterranean Basin Region
- New Zealand
- Moon-viewing Garden - a Japanese design
- Takamine Garden - Asian plants
- Temperate Asia Garden
- Mesoamerican cloud forest
- Southeast Asian cloud forest (opening date TBD)
- Andean cloud forest (in development)
- Ancient Plant Garden - cycads, etc.
- Succulent garden
- Dwarf Conifer garden
- Demonstration Garden
- Garden of Fragrance
- Zellerbach Garden of Perennials
- Dry Mexico
- Rhododendron Garden
- Magnolias & Camellias
The mild Mediterranean climate is ideal for plants from surprisingly many parts of the world; the arboretum does not include greenhouses for species requiring other climate types.
M. H. de Young Memorial Museum
The M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, commonly called simply the de Young Museum, is a fine arts museum located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. It is named for early San Francisco newspaperman M. H. de Young.
The Transamerica Pyramid is the tallest skyscraper in the San Francisco skyline and one of its most iconic. Although the building no longer houses the headquarters of the Transamerica Corporation, it is still strongly associated with the company and is depicted in the company's logo. Designed by architect William Pereira and built by Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company, at 260 m (850 ft), upon completion in 1972 it was among the five tallest buildings in the world.
The tower has no public access except for the first floor lobby, thus visitors cannot ascend to the top for a panoramic view.
San Francisco City Hall
The principal architect was Arthur Brown, Jr., of Bakewell & Brown, whose attention to the finishing details extended to the doorknobs and the typeface to be used in signage. Brown's blueprints of the building are preserved at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. Brown also designed the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, Veterans Building, Temple Emanuel, Coit Tower and the Federal office building at 50 United Nations Plaza.
The pier is located at the edge of the Fisherman's Wharf district and is close to North Beach, Chinatown, and the Embarcadero. The area is easily accessible via the historic F Market streetcars.
From the pier one can see Angel Island, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bay Bridge. Blue & Gold Fleet's bay cruises leave from Pier 39.
Pier 39 was first developed by entrepreneur Warren Simmons and opened October 4, 1978.
Haight-Ashbury is a district of San Francisco, California, named for the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets. It is also called The Haight and The Upper Haight.
The district generally encompasses the neighborhood surrounding Haight Street, bounded by Stanyan Street and Golden Gate Park on the west, Oak Street and the Golden Gate Park Panhandle on the north, Baker Street and Buena Vista Park to the east and Frederick Street and Ashbury Heights and Cole Valley neighborhoods to the south.
The street names commemorate two early San Francisco leaders: Pioneer and exchange banker Henry Haight and Munroe Ashbury, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1864 to 1870. Both Haight and his nephew as well as Ashbury had a hand in the planning of the neighborhood, and, more importantly, nearby Golden Gate Park at its inception. The name "Upper Haight", used by locals, is in contrast to the Haight-Fillmore or Lower Haight district; the latter being lower in elevation and part of what was previously the principal African-American and Japanese neighborhoods in San Francisco's early years.
The Haight-Ashbury district is noted for its role as a center of the 1960s hippie movement. The earlier bohemians of the beat movement had congregated around San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood from the late 1950s. Many who could not find accommodation there turned to the quaint, relatively cheap and underpopulated Haight-Ashbury. The Summer of Love (1967), the 1960s era as a whole, and much of modern American counterculture have been synonymous with San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood ever since.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is a modern art museum located in San Francisco, California. A nonprofit organization, SFMOMA holds an internationally recognized collection of modern and contemporary art and was the first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th century art. The museum’s current collection includes over 26,000 works of painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design, and media arts. The building complex was designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta.
SFMOMA's Research Library was established in 1935 and contains extensive resources pertaining to modern and contemporary art, including books, periodicals, artists’ files, and lecture recordings. The museum also houses a restaurant, Caffè Museo, and a coffee bar run by the Blue Bottle Coffee Company.
The North and South Twin Peaks are about 660 ft (200 m) apart; Twin Peaks Boulevard runs a figure eight around them. The peaks form a divide for the summer coastal fog pushed in from the Pacific Ocean. Their west-facing slopes often get fog and strong winds, while the east-facing slopes receive more sun and warmth. Elevation at each summit is just over 900 feet (270 m). Thin, sandy soil is commonplace on Twin Peaks, making them susceptible to erosion.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, the native Ohlone people may have used Twin Peaks as a lookout or hunting ground. The ecological diversity of Twin Peaks provided medicinal or ceremonial plants, grains and berries. When the Spanish conquistadors and settlers arrived at the beginning of the 18th century, they called the area "Los Pechos de la Chola" or "Breasts of the Indian Maiden" and devoted the area to ranching. When San Francisco passed under American control during the 19th century, it was renamed "Twin Peaks".
5 Star hotels in San Francisco
- Hotel Vitale
- Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square
- Mandarin Oriental San Francisco
- The St. Regis San Francisco
- The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
- Four Seasons San Francisco
Budget San Francisco Hotels
- Grant Plaza Hotel
- Best Western Grosvenor Hotel
- Travelodge Central
- Alexis Park San Francisco
- Ramada Limited San Francisco Lombard Street
- Alpine Inn And Suites
- Monarch Hotel
- Hotel Boheme