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What do you think about when San Francisco comes to mind? Some people might say old fashion trolleys, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz prison, tech companies, the San Francisco Giants, hills galore, and of course the classic sitcom Full House. Now talk to someone who has visited there and they will likely brag about the little restaurant they stumbled into expecting some gross greasy food and had the gourmet meal of a lifetime.
I’ve been lucky enough to have spent a few weeks in San Francisco over the last few years. My employer’s headquarters is based there along with tons of amazing high-tech and start-up companies including the likes of Apple, Google, Oracle, Uber, Salesforce and more. Over time I’ve discovered a lot of great places to visit and recently I had the chance to take my wife along and explore the city more as a tourist and not on a business trip.
Since it’s in my title, let’s tackle this first. There are a multitude of fantastic restaurants in the city. Stay away from the big chain stores and take a risk on that shady looking pub, you’d be surprised what you can find inside. With rent costs so high, most of these places either churn out amazing food and get great return visitors, or they simmer out and close from the fierce competition.
There’s too many to list so I’ll highlight three great places that had a unique experience and stuck out in my head.
Have you ever eaten on a floating island with a light house, a fully operation motor and surrounded by a bunch of sea lions? Probably not. And don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just a gimmick, this place served up some amazing food too!
An iconic image in plenty of San Francisco cityscape photography, this building is the home of multiple little shops and restaurants, plenty of which are local farm-to-table.
But the real highlight here is Blue Bottle Coffee Company. Probably some of the best coffee I’ve had, made fresh using the pour-over method. And if you go early morning, you can get the caramelized Belgian waffles made using their custom design waffle maker. I’m drooling just remembering this!
Not really a restaurant but more of a cocktail lounge, this hip spot is on the top floor of the Mark Hopkins hotel, perfectly on the top of a hill in the middle of the city. The views here are stunning and the drinks are top notch. Try to aim for a clear night, San Francisco is notorious for its fog which can hide the scenic views. I’ve only had drinks and enjoyed the view here, so I can’t speak for the food but the experience was awesome.
Now that I’m hungry, what else is there to do in the city of San Francisco? Since you can’t exactly be eating all day long, you need to work up an appetite so you can eat later!
There’s plenty of shops littered throughout the city stretching from the touristy area of Fisherman’s Wharf to the upper class boutiques and big box stores in Union Square. Union Square is where most people end up to shop in the massive locations of Macy’s, Tiffany’s, Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and tons more. It’s easy to break the bank here! Not too far away you can also find Westfield Mall for lots more selection and pretty much every street has some interesting shops to get lost in.
There’s plenty to see and do all over the city and plenty more just outside the city. I’ll keep this article focused within the city and maybe we’ll see a follow-up for all the fun surrounding areas.
Fisherman’s Wharf is the classic touristy area of San Francisco. As you might guess, it’s an old wharf where fishing vessels used to land (some still do). There are plenty of shops and restaurants here as well as evening events.
From Fisherman’s Wharf, you can walk along the water past all the piers. Some are still used for shipping by boat while others have been converted into stores, restaurants and more. Eventually you’ll come upon the Ferry Building which is worth a quick visit for its shops. You can also catch a Ferry here across the bay to places like Sausalito.
Alcatraz is a pretty popular staple for tourism here as well. I enjoyed the tour and listening to all the history of the building and it’s inmate. It’s worth a visit and you get a spectacular view of the city and Golden Gate bridge from here as well.
Golden Gate park, Aquarium of the Bay, Walt Disney Museum, Coit Tower, Chinatown, Lombard Street, the Painted Ladies… The list goes on and on and I don’t have enough space here to cover it all! For a city that spans only 7 miles by 7 miles, there is a lot to do!
Let me know if you’re interested in hearing more about what to do outside the city. I’d be happy to write about the adventures we had after leaving and what we did on our way to the wonderful wineries in Napa Valley.
So have you been to San Francisco? Would you go back? What was your favorite thing to do?
If you’re planning to do, what’s on the bucket list to see and do?