San Francisco: seven things to do


By Anthony Arms for British Airways’ The Club magazine

Photography by Ropelato Photography; EarthScapes/Getty

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July 2016

For a city that’s only seven miles by seven miles, San Francisco can feel larger than life with its colourful neighbourhoods, thriving foodie scene and must-see museums – not to mention the fact that California’s wine country is right on its doorstep. Here are seven reasons to visit the City by the Bay

Neighbourhood watch

San Francisco is fascinating for its diversity – in culture, population and architecture. Take a couple of hours to walk around the neighbourhoods. They vary hugely, from the bustle of Union Square to the old-world elegance of the Painted Ladies (a group of colourful Victorian houses) and the calm of Golden Gate Park.

Two wheels good

If you want to explore away from the city centre, hire a bike from Blazing Saddles and cycle over Golden Gate Bridge to the pretty coastal town of Sausalito. After an ice cream on the seafront, take the ferry back to the city past Alcatraz and into Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can reward yourself with a steaming bowl of clam chowder from one of the stalls.

Market values

The Ferry Building has been redeveloped into a lively marketplace that celebrates Californian food. The farmers market is open three days a week – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The weekdays see smaller markets occupy the front of the building along the Embarcadero, while on Saturdays, the much larger market is held both in front of the Ferry Building and on the rear plaza overlooking the Bay. Up-and-coming chefs have opened restaurants here as well. Charles Phan’s The Slanted Door is a great spot for casual modern Vietnamese fare. If you’re struggling to get a table, pull up a seat at its no-reservations bar.

A number of chefs have turned to food trucks to feed the masses, with anything from Korean tacos to chocolate-covered bacon on the menu

Meals on wheels

A number of chefs have turned to food trucks to feed the masses, with anything from Korean tacos (hello, Seoul on Wheels) to chocolate-covered bacon (Bacon Bacon do wonderful things with the humble breakfast staple) on the menu. They usually turn up in different neighbourhoods on different nights, so check Off the Grid to find out who will be near you.

  • Freshly steamed crabs at a restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf © Ian Shaw / Alamy

    Dinner with a view

    Fisherman’s Grotto has been a San Fran institution since 1935. Enjoy Dungeness crab, clam chowder and lobster thermidor, as you soak up views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Book return flights from London to San Francisco, plus a 7-night hotel stay from:£822 pp

    Book flights and hotel
  • The sun rises over the vineyards in Napa Valley © Brad Perks Lightscapes / Alamy

    Gold rush

    Yountville is named after George Yount – the man who planted the first grapevines in Napa Valley in the 1830s. He began producing wine 20 years later when thirsty miners descended on the area during the Gold Rush. Book return flights from London to San Francisco, plus 7-day car hire from:£605 pp

    Book flights + car hire
  • Sample super chef Thomas Keller’s award-winning pistachio macarons at The French Laundry

    Try it for yourself…

    For $310 (£211) per person you can sample one of two menus at The French Laundry: a nine-course Chef’s Tasting Menu and a nine-course Tasting of Vegetables. Fly return from London to San Francisco from:£607 return

    Book flights to San Fran

Wine country

San Francisco is just an hour-and-a-half drive from Napa and Sonoma, home to California’s most famous vineyards. Book a tasting at the Wattle Creek Winery– the sparkling Shiraz is particularly refreshing. Nearby Yountville is home to one of America’s most famous restaurants, Thomas Keller’s TheFrench Laundry.

Museum time

Culture infuses everything about San Francisco – its diversity, focus on innovation and creation, and its famous museums. The Museum of Modern Art reopened early in 2016 following a multi-million dollar expansion. Get there at opening time (10:00) and beat the crowds to see the newly acquired Andy Warhol pieces - Silver Marlon and Triple Elvis.

  • The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was the first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th-century art

    Picture that

    With 170,000 square feet of exhibition space, SF MOMA is one of the largest museums in the world for modern and contemporary art. The current collection includes over 33,000 paintings, sculptures, photographic images and design pieces.

    Plan a trip to San Francisco

Retail therapy

San Francisco has a healthy shopping scene. There are big-name stores in Union Square, with more bohemian independent shops in the neighbourhood of Haight-Ashbury. Check out Amoeba Music, a former bowling alley that now boasts the world’s biggest CD collection. China Town is also worth a look, especially for knick-knacks and food.