Information & Facts
The weather in San Francisco is cool to mild throughout the
year, with foggy summers and wet winters. The climate is influenced
by the cold currents of the Pacific Ocean surrounding the city,
which in conflict with the California mainland summer heat, creates
foggy conditions that blanket the city during summer and early
autumn. This ensures summers in San Francisco are cooler than
inland California. Winters are mild during the day, temperatures
seldom dropping below 60°F (15°C), but nights are cold and rain is
common. Rain in summer is rare.
No doubt about it, San Francisco is a fabulous food city. In
fact, those in the know rate this as the restaurant capital of the
country. There are over 3,000 eateries to sample, some of them home
to the best chefs and finest ingredients in the land.
Local dishes are typically ingredient driven, incorporating farm
fresh produce and the best of regional wineries, dairies and
organic produce suppliers. No one cuisine dominates, there is
rather a wonderful variety to experience. Asian fusion food is well
represented, with a strong emphasis on fresh local seafood. For
Italian dishes head over to North Beach; for Chinese and other
Asian dishes, make a beeline for Chinatown. The Mission district is
home to a huge variety of Mexican and Latino restaurants.
San Francisco is a health-conscious city, and vegetarians and
vegans will find more options than they had ever dreamed possible.
The city is notorious for clamping down on unhealthy kids' meals as
well, so parents will be happy with the healthy choices
Every January is declared 'Dine About Town' month when you can
enjoy a fixed-price three-course meal at over 100 top restaurants
for $21.95 per person (lunch) and $31.95 per person for dinner.
Tips of 15 to 20% are expected for good service. Make
reservations well in advance as impromptu fine dining just doesn't
Travelling around San Francisco is a fun and fairly
straightforward experience. By using a combination of buses, trams
and cable cars you can get to just about attraction in the city.
The main roads and public transport routes lead off Market Street,
which runs the length of the city from Pier 1 to Castro; and
Stockton and Powell Streets, which intersect with Market and link
the Union Square area with Chinatown, North Beach and Fisherman's
Wharf. An essential purchase when getting around the city is the
San Francisco CityPass. From date of validation it is good for 9
days on unlimited passage on all trams, trains and cable cars. (The
CityPass also provides free entrance to six key attractions.)
Another vital accessory is the free and ubiquitous printed San
Francisco City Map branded by Baycityguide.com It shows all the
major transport routes with relevant numbers.
The public transport system in San Francisco is known as MUNI
and operates buses, electric trolley buses and the famous cable
cars as well as metro streetcars (underground trains that become
street cars when they emerge above ground). MUNI is sometimes late
and crowded, but San Francisco is one of the few cities in America
in which residents make good use of public transport. Driving is
extremely difficult, due to traffic, an unconventional street
layout, impossible parking and, of course, very steep streets -
though a rental car may be necessary for trips farther afield. MUNI
offers access to all parts of the city; exact change is required,
and the same fare applies to all services except the cable cars,
which are more expensive (but well worth at least one ride - the
Powell-Hyde route is the most scenic). Note that the cable cars are
a moving National Monument and hence are very popular and crowded.
They can be tough to get onto, and slow in getting to your
destination. If you want less scenery and more efficiency the buses
and trams are the way to go. Passengers can ask for a free transfer
with each ticket bought, which allows another two rides on a bus or
train and gives a 50 percent discount on cable cars within 90
MUNI trains and buses run 24 hours a day, with a more limited
service after midnight; buses late at night are not always safe to
use. MUNI Passports are available for one, three and seven days,
allowing unlimited use of public transport within the city limits.
The other transport system, known as BART, is a fast and economical
subway/rail network that connects the city to the East Bay as well
as the airport. Taxis are also available in the city but can be
hard to find, especially during peak hours. During the day, perhaps
the best option is to walk; lots of locals do. However, be prepared
to climb a few hills.
California is a great place for families and children, and San
Francisco is one its most child-friendly cities. Not only is there
great weather, but there's also a plethora of fantastic attractions
and activities to keep the little ones busy.
When the sun is out, visit world-renowned landmark Golden Gate
Bridge and enjoy the sights, or even take an electric bike tour
over the bridge. Not your typical theme park, the Gilroy Gardens
are great for a picnic or a stroll and there is loads of space for
kids to run around and let off some steam. There are also
breathtaking views from the Panoramic Wheel and there are even a
few rides for the younger ones to enjoy, but don't forget the hats
and sunscreen. Fisherman's Wharf is also a great day out and be
sure to head to Pier 39 where there is plenty for kids to see and
When the weather is bad and children's outdoor activities in San
Francisco are not an option, head out to some of the exciting
museums such as the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, or for
something more educational, the Randall Museum is a great place to
learn about animals and science.
English is the most common language but Spanish is often
spoken in south-western states.
The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into
100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are
widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely
accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid
hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.
The San Francisco nightlife is diverse and enticing. Each
neighbourhood's bars, clubs and lounges have a unique atmosphere,
and there are also plenty of cafés and performance arts venues to
enjoy. The San Francisco Weekly and the San Francisco Bay Guardian
have nightlife listings and are available free from bars,
restaurants and street-corner boxes.
For electronic music clubs, hip hop and art lounges try the SOMA
area, while the Mission and Marina districts are good for bars.
Gay-friendly bars and clubs are prevalent in the Castro area, and
North Beach boasts neon strip joints and bars. Hemlock Tavern in
the seedy Tenderloin district hosts live upcoming bands, and Amber
is a grungy lounge bar where smokers are welcome. Rockit Room
features rock bands, and has pool tables and a laid-back lounge
area. Red Devil Lounge is an elegant club with red lanterns and
comfortable seating, while Hush Hush offers excellent deejays,
tasteful décor and lovely booths.
The San Francisco Opera stages a free performance of Opera in
the Park, followed by occasional free performances throughout the
city. Ballet and modern dance can be seen at the Cowell Theater and
Marina Boulevard. Other live performances can be caught at San
Francisco Performances in the Bay Area.
If there is one live performance to see in San Francisco it has
to Beach Blanket Babylon, the longest running musical revue in
history. It's a unique show that has achieved cult status with its
witty spoofs of popular culture and show-stopping tunes. The
costumes are outrageous, especially the enormous hats which grow in
stature as the show progresses. The finale features a hat that
takes up half the stage. Beach Blanket Babylon was founded by the
late Steve Silver and has become a San Francisco institution, as
popular with locals as the astounded and delighted visitors. The
venue is at Club Fugazi in North Beach.
Shopping in San Francisco is a delightful experience with varied
shopping centres, charming districts and wonderful malls to keep
Some of the city's best shopping is at its museums. The San
Francisco Museum of Modern Art store has an incredible selection of
art books, posters, DVDs and other beautiful curios, while the
Exploratorium offers an irresistible range of interactive toys,
robots, experiment kits and other science themed media and curios.
The Asian Art Museum has the city's best collection of books,
fabrics, statues, bowls and jewellery in theme with its expansive
exhibits on Asian art through the centuries.
For an authentic experience of Japanese culture with all the
weird and wonderful shops that go along with it, visit Japan Center
on Geary Street. This center, which meanders through several
buildings on a second-storey skyway, contains dozens of stores
selling everything from manga to traditional medicine. Coupled with
the excellent sushi restaurants it's like being transplanted into
Tokyo for the afternoon.
The prime shopping area is probably Union Square, home to
boutiques and top labels. Haight and Ashbury Streets may have shed
much of its hippy heritage in favour of steady gentrification but
has still retained an eclectic selection of stores that makes this
area one of the most interesting to shop in. In a similar vein,
Hayes Valley is also a good bet for a galleries, boutiques and
studios. Don't miss Chinatown for a fascinating stir-fry of Asian
products, while Alemany Market and San Jose flea market - on the
edge of town - offer a hugely varied range of goods.
The best of the many shopping malls are probably Embarcadero
Centre and Westfield San Francisco Centre, both packed with retail
brands and decent value stores.
Top purchases while in the city include music CDs and books,
wine from the Napa Valley, and invariably, miniature reproductions
of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The price of all goods includes a non-refundable state sales tax
of 8.25%. This tax can be refunded if goods are shipped outside
California; keep your receipts and enquire when departing at the
San Francisco sightseeing is a hugely rewarding experience and,
if you enjoy walking between the sights, a physically demanding
one, too. Few cities have hills as steep as this, but mercifully
the cable cars are a practical and fun way to travel up and down
There are a number of world class sights: take a stroll around
Golden Gate Park, while enjoying glimpses of the iconic Golden Gate
Bridge; then catch a cable car up the steep hills to Chinatown, and
the stunning Aquarium, before taking a long lunch at Fisherman's
Wharf, the city's most popular attraction.
Perhaps the best of sightseeing in San Francisco is simply being
in the city and experiencing its welcoming atmosphere while
enjoying the charming architecture and splendid natural
If you're planning a very full day of sightseeing, consider the
Go San Francisco card which provides a range of discounts and
preferential access to attractions. Prices start from $20 per day: