Get to know this world-renowned West Coast city that’s as bold and beautiful as it is dynamic, eclectic and individualistic
Once home to Gold Rush fortune seekers, then Haight-Ashbury hippies, beat poets and high-tech innovators, San Francisco is California’s famous City by the Bay that’s constantly reinventing itself. A liberal outpost with a nation-leading culinary scene, this metropolis of dozens distinctive neighborhoods is always in motion.
Stroll the picturesque neighborhoods of Victorians lining steep hills with ocean views, ride the signature cable cars and watch the Golden Gate Bridge emerging from the fog. Try clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Boudin Bakery and authentic Mexican tacos in The Mission. Tour Chinatown and Golden Gate Park, infamous Alcatraz island and world-renowned museums. See the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf and watch the sunset at Ocean Beach. No matter how many times you visit, San Francisco, surprises, delights and intrigues.
NOB HILL NEIGHBORHOOD
Exclusive and cultured, Nob Hill is one of the city’s best addresses. The neighborhood is the former stomping grounds of railroad magnates and silver kings, and that history is evident in the magnificent heritage mansions lining its steep, well-manicured streets. Located near the Financial District, Nob Hill is known for its 360-degree views, Michelin-starred restaurants and classic cocktail lounges. Also here are luxury hotels and the Gothic Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal cathedral modeled after Paris’ Notre Dame. Step outside Fairmont San Francisco for a look at the Cable Car Museum and Russian Hill’s crooked Lombard Street. See an art show at Huntington Park and relax by a replica of a famed 16th century fountain, or enjoy a musical performance at the architecturally stunning Masonic Center.
BAY AREA DAY TRIPS
Go wine tasting, hike or mountain bike the Marin Headlands, spend an afternoon at the beach or learn how to surf — San Francisco has quintessentially California experiences all within easy reach by car. Some of the most popular are Napa and Sonoma Valleys’ 250 wineries in the state’s famed Wine Country, 46 miles to the north, including Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa; and football at Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, in Santa Clara 45 miles south (during the football season from September through December). In the city, consider the Ferry Building Marketplace where you can meet local farmers and independent producers, taste wine, do a foodie tour or create your own culinary itinerary. Take an architectural walking tour of the graceful Edwardians and Victorians or ride the cable car to North Beach for a day perusing the Italian district’s shops, eateries and cafes, theater and music venues. Ask the hotel concierge for the latest top shows.
Retail therapy in the City by the Bay is fun, flirty and ever-changing. Shop from flagship brands at Union Square near the hotel to multicultural boutiques in The Mission. The gamut ranges from one-of-a-kind ateliers and neighborhood shops to department stores and malls; sophisticated to funky. Hunt for ceramics and gifts, books and sports apparel, trendy footwear, custom jewelry and the latest fashions. Just two blocks from the hotel, Westfield San Francisco Centre with 170 outlets is an iconic destination for sophisticated fashion and the latest global collections. Union and Fillmore Streets are best for boutiques and galleries. In Fairmont San Francisco are: Christine Foley Knitwear, Ornamento, Robin Woolard Jewelers, Charisma, Vendetta men’s apparel and cigars, Fairmont Logo, Viva la Mode and S. Bernstein & Co Jade and Oriental Art.
TOUR FROM THE HISTORICAL CABLE CARS
Fairmont San Francisco is the only place in the city where each of the famed cable car lines meet. Riding on San Francisco’s only moving historic landmarks up and down the steep hills is an exhilarating and unusual way to sightsee — it’s also a chance to tour on the last manually operated cable cars in the world. Hop on in the morning to begin your day, or enjoy a twilight spin and watch the sun slip into the Bay.
STROLL ACROSS GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
The red suspension bridge with its Art Deco detailing is known across the world as a San Francisco icon. Watch the sun illuminate its arched trusses from many of the hotel’s guest rooms or join locals and visitors walking or cycling across it for outstanding views over the city, Pacific Ocean and Marin Headlands. One of the most photographed bridges on earth and an engineering Wonder of the Modern World, the Golden Gate marks the entrance to the San Francisco Bay and is one mile across.
PICNIC AND MUSEUM-HOP AT GOLDEN GATE PARK
Green, lush and leafy, this urban oasis ranks as one of the largest man-made parks around the globe at 1,017 acres. Of course there are plenty of manicured lawns, aromatic eucalyptus groves, lakes and inviting green spaces, biking, blading and walking paths, but there are also numerous attractions — including several critically acclaimed museums, botanical gardens, an aquarium, planetarium and a Japanese Tea Garden. Picnic, walk, rent a pedalboat, play tennis or handball, fly-fish, watch a sporting event or see a concert.
JOIN A CITY WALKING TOUR
Hear about the 1906 earthquake and fires or get to know the Nob Hill neighborhood locals’ favorite haunts. See Chinatown’s alleys or bustling Fisherman’s Wharf and the site of its beloved Ghirardelli Square, home to the namesake former chocolate factory. Take a best-of tour or a themed walk; for example, Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco, to see spots where the master filmed classics such as “Vertigo.” An urban walking tour is a wonderful way to stretch your legs and get educated about the city’s culture and heritage
GO TO JAIL AND RETURN FROM ALCATRAZ
Alcatraz Island was once one of the country’s most infamous maximum-security penitentiaries, because it was virtually impossible to escape. Today it is among San Francisco’s most popular attractions. Take a scenic ferry ride to the island, then join the self-guided tour through the cell blocks and prisoner work areas, which gives an eerie and fascinating look into inmate life. Allow at least a half-day for this compelling adventure.
EAT DIM SUM IN CHINATOWN
This legendary and historical district is still home to the largest Chinese population outside China and is the oldest in North America. Browse the exotic wares at the unusual shops, produce markets and herbalist apothecaries. Visit a temple, stroll the alleys, shop jade jewelry, and sit down to a traditional Szechuan dinner or brunch banquet-style on dim sum. Chinatown’s 24 square blocks are teeming with activity round the clock.
DINE, SHOP AND EAT FRESH SEAFOOD AT FISHERMAN’S WHARF
Italian immigrants once worked the Dungeness crab fishery at Fisherman’s Wharf, today a popular commercial area and still a working pier reaping tons of fresh fish and crab annually. Travel via cable car to and from this bustling destination where you can dine, shop, depart on a Bay cruise, see the wax museum figures, watch the frolicking sea lions and sample sweets at the city’s homegrown Ghirardelli chocolatier. Also here is The Buena Vista, a famed café and bar serving its requisite Irish coffee. Watch fishermen bring in the catch of the day early each morning at Pier 47, AKA Fish Alley.
Don’t miss San Francisco’s elegant Victorian homes, known as the Painted Ladies, lining “Postcard Row” framed by the city skyline backdrop. You’ve most likely already seen them with their bay windows, turrets and stained glass, starring on well-known TV shows and movies — but seeing them in person is truly something special. Take a self-guided stroll of the Historic District Neighborhood and its period architecture or join a guided walking tour for a detailed background and history.