San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities on the west coast. Famed for its steep rolling hills, iconic bridges, unique architecture, and its wonderful location on the Pacific Coast Highway. Cosmopolitan and diverse, the stunning Bay Area just gets better with time.
From hippies to hipsters, gold rush to dot coms – San Francisco has had a colourful history. Art, culture and past glories intertwine – such as the vintage cable cars criss-crossing the city, or the counterculture roots of Haight-Ashbury – ‘Frisco’ is a city of constant change. San Francisco’s capacity to embrace social change and subcultures creates an intriguing place. The Victorian splendour of the ‘Painted Ladies’ of Alamo Square contest with the high-rise megaliths of the Financial District. Museums and galleries vie for your attention against sports and shopping. Add to this world-class restaurants, great bars and idyllic parks and you have the makings of a fantastic holiday.
Holidays in San Francisco
Combine your flight + hotel with British Airways to create an unforgettable break in California. See the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, the iconic cable cars and much more on holidays in San Francisco.
Our flexible car hire, in partnership with Avis, gives you the freedom to create your own itinerary around San Francisco’s rolling hills and iconic bridges. Don’t miss a chance to visit the beautiful vineyards of Napa Valley, just north of the city.
One of the most diverse cities in the USA, San Francisco has it all. Since the 60s and the height of counter-culture, San Fran has been a musical and cultural hotspot. The SF Outsidelands Festival at the Golden Gate Park has some of the biggest names in music and food. Watch Radiohead or Lana Del Rey whilst drinking craft ale and eating gastronomic hot dogs from 5 to 7 August. Another great festival happens in October (TBC) on the wonderfully-named Treasure Island, just near San Francisco Bay. Small but inspiring, the eponymous Treasure Island Festival provides two days of music and mayhem.
The cosmopolitan and chic Union Square is a haven for shopaholics, with its abundant shopping opportunities. They range from well-known department stores, like Macy’s, to exclusive designer boutiques and lesser celebrated emporiums. Union Square is a one-block plaza boasting a 97-foot Corinthian column, with flower stands, palm trees and a great atmosphere. You will also find some great food options, from high-end restaurants to food stands selling hot dogs and pizza – it caters for everyone looking for a bite to eat after shopping.
Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most famous attractions in the USA, and a must-see spot in San Francisco. Home to Pier 39, where sea lions bask and bathe, Ghirardelli Square, and ‘Fish Alley’. Enjoy the boardwalk entertainment, then sample a fantastic local delicacy – try the famous clam chowder and sour dough bowl or the Dungeness crab. There’s plenty of fun to be had at the museums and shops along the pier. You can take a trip to the infamous island-prison of Alcatraz from Pier 33, not to be missed.
As in all major cities, the Financial District is home to the biggest skyscrapers in San Francisco. From the ultra-modern monuments to the clusters of less imposing art-deco structures. ‘Wall Street of the West’ is the concentrated centre of commerce and business. There is plenty to do in the area, with popular bars and fashionable restaurants lining the streets. Located in the hub of the district, The Crocker Galleria Shops are high-end boutiques, and the nearby Embarcadero Center, will cater to your other retail needs.
The ‘Dragon’s Gate’ entrance to San Francisco’s Chinatown welcomes you to the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. This tightly-packed warren of restaurants, temples, shops and street vendors is the oldest ‘Chinatown’ enclave in North America. Become immersed in Asian culture, find exotic gifts in the wonderful stores, search for herbal remedies and become mesmerised while watching a dragon parade. Chinese New Year is an especially fun time to visit, with many parades and festivities to watch, and of course awe-inspiring firework displays.
The predominantly Latino neighbourhood of ‘The Mission’ lies at the heart of San Francisco and contains the oldest building in the city – Mission Dolores. You will find authentic restaurants serving delectable Spanish and Mexican food, alongside specialty bakeries and markets. Nearby Dolores Park has subtle flavours of Barcelona’s public parks, especially the colourful and eye-catching art. There is a Chicano (Mexican American) pride present in the area, with galleries, murals and music suggesting this all over the district. Check out Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley for the stunning murals.
If San Francisco is unofficially the LGBT capital of the world, then the Castro District is its headquarters. Neon-lit bars, chic shops and superb restaurants compete for your attention in what could be the cleanest and friendliest part of town. Karaoke nights are booze-fuelled and hilarious, with duets that would put Elton and George Michael to shame. Head to Orphan Andy’s for 24-hour food, ideal for after-hours snacks and maybe a nightcap. Don’t miss the Castro Theatre, a baroque-deco cinema in the centre of town.
San Francisco: an insider’s guide
High Life Magazine
Local travel writer Gary Diedrichs reveals his favouite places to eat, drink and shop in America’s quintessential culinary city.
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