San Francisco, California, United States
- Local Time
Despite all the world–disrupting tech start–ups based here, San Francisco’s character is far from futuristic. Pastel–painted Victorians dot quaint neighbourhoods, cable cars ramble up notoriously steep streets and a hippie–to–hipster vibe endures in the Mission District. The natural beauty – sand, surf and sequoias – reminds you to start your digital detox already.
WHERE TO STAY
- Hotel-Kabuki-San-FranciscoHotel KabukiFor a budget-friendly stay
- Phoenix HotelFor the cool factor
- Cavallo Point LodgeFor the peaceful setting
- Fairmont San FranciscoFor a luxurious stay
- Kimpton Sir Francis DrakeFor the proximity to shopping
- Inn at the PresidioFor a family-friendly getaway
EAT & DRINK
Brunch and housemade bread at Tartine Manufactory The owners of local favourite Tartine Bakery recently opened this all–day dining hub that features a café, bakery, coffee kiosk and wine bar. The brunch features new twists on classics, like coddled eggs with dashes of trout roe and horseradish, porridge topped with ricotta and apple butter, and a yogurt bowl with a hit of bee pollen. Don’t leave without a loaf of housemade bread, available after 10:30 a.m. until it’s sold out.
Tomales Bay oysters at Swan Oyster Depot The wait times for a seat at the bar of this 100–year–old seafood institution can be long (especially at lunchtime), but fresh Tomales Bay oysters and Dungeness crabs are more than worth it. Kitschy decor lines the walls of the low–key restaurant, from tributes to bygone sporting legends to hand–painted menus.
Inventive seafood and vegetable dishes at AL's Place AL’s Place is the brainchild of chef Aaron London, formerly of Napa Valley’s well–regarded (now closed) Ubuntu. Located at the southern end of the Mission, the restaurant offers mostly vegetable–and–seafood cuisine that is so inventive even diehard meat lovers leave satisfied. The menu is seasonal, but the brine–pickled French fries with smoked applesauce are a mainstay, thank goodness.
Roasted chicken at Zuni Café Located in a flatiron–shaped building and featuring exposed brick throughout its multistorey space, Zuni is a Bay Area landmark. (Chef Judy Rodgers was one of the founders of the fresh–and–simple California cuisine movement.) The roasted chicken for two is one of the city’s must–have dishes.
Michelin–starred dumplings at Mister Jiu's In the heart of old Chinatown, chef Brandon Jew serves up reinvented Chinese classics that have earned him a Michelin star. The dining room looks like the set of a film noir, complete with views of the city. Start with a choose–your–own–fortune cocktail (Happiness, Tranquillity, Wealth and Luck are all on offer), and be sure to try the dumplings with squid–ink–infused wrappers and pork stuffing.
Mexican staples at La Taqueria Named one of America’s Classics by the James Beard Foundation in 2017, this casual Mission restaurant serves traditional Mexican fare in the heart of the city’s Latino enclave. The place draws lines for its soft–shelled tacos and burritos stuffed with chorizo, beef, chicken or pork – upgrade to a “super” for cheese, sour cream and avocado.
Espresso and pastries at Provender Coffee & Food A required stop on Potrero Hill’s food–obsessed 18th Street, this 300–square–foot café offers espresso drinks, pastries and simple dishes like the Prosciutto and Cheese Toast. The signature Maplewood drink – a blend of cold brew, milk, maple syrup and smoky maple extract – is a must–try and a concentrate is also available to go in 64–ounce growlers.
WHAT TO DO
City views from Twin Peaks The drive up the steep switchback road to this hilltop park is an experience in its own right. On fog–free days, San Francisco’s main landmarks are visible from the top: the Golden Gate Bridge; domed City Hall; the city’s former tallest building, the Transamerica Pyramid Center; and its current one, the new Salesforce Tower.
Contemporary art at SFMOMA After a three–year renovation, the gallery reopened in 2016 with almost three times more space to showcase contemporary art. Check out portraits by Henri Matisse and Frida Kahlo, Alexander Calder’s mobiles and local hero Richard Diebenkorn’s streetscapes. Recharge with lunch or a cup of coffee at Cafe 5.
Vintage finds in Oakland Visit the Temescal Alleys – former stables converted into small, funky stores – and shop locally made clothing, jewellery and leather goods. For a post–shopping snack, dig into chilaquiles and other Oaxacan fare on the patio at Doña Tomás.
All–ages fun at Exploratorium Founded in 1969 by physicist Frank Oppenheimer, this “learning laboratory” features hundreds of interactive exhibits and activities that inspire visitors to explore art, science and human perception. Visit the Tinkering Studio – an on–site research and development lab – to see the latest projects and ideas from the museum’s collaborators, including artists, designers, engineers and scientists.
Gourmet offerings at Ferry Building This old beaux–arts ferry terminal houses local makers of cheese, bread and chocolate, and a farmers’ market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Grab a latte from Blue Bottle Coffee or ice cream from Humphry Slocombe as you browse. Sit–down dining options range from Mijita, Traci Des Jardins’ cheap–and–cheerful Mexican eatery, to the Slanted Door, Charles Phan’s justly celebrated high–end Asian–fusion restaurant.
History lessons at GLBT Historical Society Browse the GLBT Historical Society’s exhibits or attend a talk to learn more about the storied past of San Francisco’s queer community. The Main Gallery features long–term exhibits about the assassination of Harvey Milk and the Bay Area GLBTQQ youth activists from the 1970s to the present, while the Front and Community galleries house temporary exhibits.
Legendary tableware at Heath Ceramics Founded in 1948 by Edith and Brian Heath in nearby Sausalito, this local brand is known for simple, modernist pieces that never go out of style (chances are fairly good that when you’re dining at a San Francisco restaurant, you’re eating off Heath plates and bowls). The showroom in the Mission features a comprehensive selection of kitchenware and ceramic tiles, with windows onto the factory where they’re made.
Fashionable finds at Azalea Azalea retails men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and accessories, much of which is made in California. Shop for a trendy souvenir from brands like Welcome Stranger, Stance socks and the store’s eponymous line of women’s basics. Make the shop one of the stops on a leisurely walk from City Hall up hilly Hayes Street to Alamo Square, the park lined by the much–photographed collection of Victorian homes known as Postcard Row.