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Overview

With a skyline like Manhattan in miniature, the City by the Bay occupies a series of hills on the tip of a peninsula with the headlands of Marin a mile away across the Golden Gate, an immensely dramatic setting for a city. It is packed with museums, nightclubs, and fine restaurants that reflect the city's cosmopolitan potpourri of nationalities — its origins thanks to San Francisco's birth as a result of the California Gold Rush in 1848.

The Chinese population alone numbers more than 120,000, reflected in an authentic Chinatown. North Beach is a mini-Italy vibrant with lively cafes. The Castro district is famously gay. And ...

With a skyline like Manhattan in miniature, the City by the Bay occupies a series of hills on the tip of a peninsula with the headlands of Marin a mile away across the Golden Gate, an immensely dramatic setting for a city. It is packed with museums, nightclubs, and fine restaurants that reflect the city's cosmopolitan potpourri of nationalities — its origins thanks to San Francisco's birth as a result of the California Gold Rush in 1848.

The Chinese population alone numbers more than 120,000, reflected in an authentic Chinatown. North Beach is a mini-Italy vibrant with lively cafes. The Castro district is famously gay. And remnants of the Hippie era that was born here linger in the Haight-Ashbury district. Getting around is easy on the city's world-famous historic cable cars, historic streetcars, and extensive mass transit system, with Union Square — in the heart of the shopping district — a great starting point.

Downtown, elegant skyscrapers tower over buildings dating back to the 1850s. Grandiose mansions atop Nob Hill recall the days of the railroad magnates, while Grace Cathedral is one of America's finest ecclesiastical structures. Down by the water, Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 draw tourists for their seafood markets, sea lions and tourist shops. Offshore (and reached by ferry) lies Alcatraz — an erstwhile prison, now a museum. Two of the best museums, the de Young and the California Academy of Sciences, are found in Golden Gate Park.

Christopher Baker
About the Expert

Christopher P. Baker has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, California, and various Caribbean islands for Frommer's, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic, among others.

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Christopher Baker for Triporati

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Now Happening in San Francisco

Facts at a Glance

  • Location: San Francisco is located on a small seven-by-seven mile (11x11km) square of land at the tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast.
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring and fall are best. June-August can be foggy and cold.