San Francisco sits on a peninsula, surrounded by San Francisco Bay on the east side and the Pacific Ocean on the west, a compact city composed of several distinct neighbourhoods. Millions of travellers take cheap flights to San Francisco each year to see its iconic landmarks – the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Haight-Ashbury, Alcatraz – ride a cable car along California Street or saunter through the colourful Chinatowns (there are two).
North Beach is one of San Francisco’s best-loved neighbourhoods. Famous for its cafe culture, it has everything that has made the city famous – cable cars, corkscrew-like streets and bohemian bars.
Pacific Heights boasts those elegant mansions and Nob Hill and Russian Hill are ritzy. The Castro is renowned worldwide as a gay hotspot. Chinatown is a riot of colours, sights, sounds and mouthwatering food.
Haight-Ashbury may no longer be the hippie culture capital, but it has kept its laidback vibe even if its stores are more high-end than tie-dyed.
San Francisco has a Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters, but, as it’s surrounded by water on three sides, it’s cooler than you’d expect a Californian city to be. Average summer temps are 21 degrees Celsius and the winter temps hover about the 15-degree mark. March-May is spring; June through August summer; September to November autumn (San Francisco gets a wonderful late burst of sun) and December to February is winter when most rain falls.
Most travellers jet in on their cheap flights to San Francisco during the summer months. Summer days can be chilly and foggy however. Thank the city’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean for the fog.
December to February is the “rainy season” when you can expect light rain showers, torrential downpours and everything in between.
April, September-November. are shoulder season months.
San Francisco has its share of hills, but the best way to see it is to walk it.
Driving around San Francisco can be a frustrating business and parking spaces seem to be in extremely high demand too. Public transport is fantastic. San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) extends across most of the tourist areas. BART is the regional metro and Caltrain offers fast commuter rail service.
The historic street cars and cable cars are a tourist must-do. Cable cars go to the most popular tourist destinations. The city bus system (Muni) is comprehensive but avoid rush-hours when the buses are packed.
If you’re bound for Fisherman’s Wharf, the Ferry Building or Union Square, take the “F” Line Trolley. It runs on Market Street and The Embarcadero from the Castro district to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Renting a bike is a wonderful way to see San Francisco. Bike rentals start about $20 per day.