San Francisco, United States

Settled by seafaring Spaniards in the 18th century, populated by gold-rush dreamers in the 19th century, and rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in the 20th century, San Francisco has a rich history of reinventing itself. It’s been home to some of America’s most liberal, forward-thinking citizens – the Beat Generation, the Summer of Love hippies and the dot-com boomers. Its youthful, hip social scene is still carefree and on the pulse. Just don’t call it Frisco unless you want everyone to know you’re from outta town.

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Areas in San Francisco

When to go

There’s never a bad time to go to San Francisco, but June and July are the peak tourist months. However, mid-summer brings with it the city’s distinctive fogs, so you may miss out on some of the bigger views. March to May and September to early November provide mild, sunny days. The rains can be torrential from late November to February, so if you’re going then, bring layers and suitably waterproof outerwear. Between storms you’ll be rewarded with crisp, bright sunshine.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    San Francisco International Airport lies 13 miles south of the city. Most major airlines operate direct, daily flights in and out of SFO. Other options are Oakland International Airport – 25 miles away – or San Jose – 60 miles to the south.
  • Boats

    It ain’t known as the Bay Area for nothing. Various ferry companies run services from the San Francisco Ferry Building to several drop-offs around the bay, including Sausalito and Marin County. See sanfranciscobayferry.com for details.
  • Trains

    The BART metro system connects the city with the East Bay and the airport’s domestic and international terminals; visit www.bart.gov for details. The journey from the airport takes around half an hour; get off at Montgomery Station for the Financial District. For short hops around town, the Muni system’s trams, cable cars and buses are handy; visit www.sfmta.com for route information. For a longer trip, Amtrak’s wonderfully scenic Coast Starlight train route (www.amtrak.com) connects San Francisco to LA and Seattle via Oakland; there’s a bus connection from the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
  • Automobiles

    Grab a taxi from the designated zone in Arrivals; it’ll cost about $40 to get downtown from the airport. There are plenty of car-hire companies if you want to head on to the wine region for a few days; be warned though | parking in San Francisco can be a headache | and the cost is almost as steep as the streets. By law | you must point your wheels at the curb when you park to prevent runaway disasters.
  • Taxis

    You can hail taxis anywhere on the street, although they’re less numerous outside the downtown area. San Franciscan cabbies are a fascinating bunch, and they can’t refuse you for short rides, either.