From the Summer of Love in the ’60s to today’s tech boom in Silicon Valley, the city of San Francisco is constantly at the forefront of cultural revolutions. It’s a multi-cultural melting pot where museums of fine art sit side-by-side with political murals. While it’s a wonderful trip on its own, it also makes an ideal stop-over destination on the way to Heavenly. Here are some of the sights you could pack into 48 hours in San Francisco.
Start with a stroll around Fisherman’s Wharf, a historic waterfront neighbourhood with street performers and food stands. Watch the sea lion colony larking about at Pier 39 before heading to Pier 33 for the boat tour to Alcatraz, a former prison on a rocky island. Said to be completely inescapable, the prison was home to some of America’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone.
After returning to the mainland, head to the old chocolate factory on Ghirardelli Square and treat yourself to a sundae at the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. Their spectacular Espresso Escape sundae makes an indulgent alternative to a restorative cappuccino after your spooky experience at the prison.
Hire a bicycle at Fisherman’s Wharf and cycle across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. The views are spectacular, and it’s a great way to get up close and personal with the famous attraction. The route starts with a 5km trail along the waterfront and through Presidio park, passing the Palace of Fine Arts and Crissy Field, a popular scenic spot for local joggers.
After dropping your bike off, hop onto an iconic tram for a ride to Union Square, San Francisco’s premier shopping destination. A must-visit boutique is Italian menswear shop Isaia. Their luxury clothing is worth a browse, but the real attraction is the building, with a spiral interior designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Lose yourself in the labyrinth that is Chinatown, one of the oldest and largest outside Asia. After walking through Dragon’s Gate, you’ll discover a maze of steaming dim-sum restaurants, herbal pharmacies and karaoke bars. Join the line outside The House of Nanking and order a plate of their famous sesame chicken and sizzling rice soup.
Finish your day with a digestif at Rickhouse, an upscale whisky bar in the Financial District. Decorated with old barrels and pre-earthquake charred bricks, it’s a cosy place to sip on an expertly mixed cocktail and mull over tomorrow’s adventures.
Start your day the local way with brunch at Outerlands. San Franciscans flock to this laid-back beach restaurant for its home-baked sourdough bread and delicious brunch. The Dutch pancakes baked in a cast iron pan, with sweet roasted apples or savoury smoked bacon, are well worth the wait.
Walk them off by exploring Golden Gate Park, a sprawling green space dotted with attractions including a Dutch windmill, the San Francisco Botanical Garden and a bison pasture where you can watch herds of North American bison grazing peacefully.
Stroll uphill to the Painted Ladies, a row of Victorian homes in an array of pretty pastel colours. The best ones can be found on Alamo Square, at the junction of Hayes and Steiner.
Afterwards, wander over to San Francisco’s hippest neighbourhood, The Mission District. This cultural melting pot is packed with quirky cafés, boutique stores and buzzing bars. It’s also famous for its colourful murals referencing local politics and the diverse culture of the neighbourhood.
Each of the open-air art galleries focuses on different things. You’ll find human rights-focused work on Balmy Alley, while Clarion Alley features artwork about social inclusiveness. The Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitor Centre is a good place to start learning about the murals and their history.
Dining and drinking in the Mission District is a real joy, so stick around for the evening. If you can, snap up a ticket for dinner at Lazy Bear. With its roots in the pop-up dining scene, this restaurant has the feel of a convivial dinner party. Guests sit together around a long dining table as they sample the delights of the “modern American” 15-course tasting menu.
Afterwards, amble around the corner to Amnesia Beer and Music Hall. This cult venue hosts an eclectic array of live acts across genres, from Bluegrass to Bossa Nova. It also has an impressive array of American craft beers to sample.
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