If you’re spending a few days in San Francisco and want to see as much of the city as possible, then the best way to get around is on foot. The highlights of San Francisco are all within walking distance and walking around the city really allows you to get to know each neighborhood and also to experience the friendly and relaxed vibe that this famous city offers visitors. The only problem is that it is also famous for being hilly – so make sure you’ve got a good pair of walking boots!
(1) Start at the top of the Nob Hill Area and then wander downhill (much better than going the other way around!) Make your way over to the intersection of California and Mason Street where you can go in and enjoy the stunning Grace Cathedral and a moment of quiet contemplation. From there, stroll along Mason Street taking in the gorgeous architecture of the townhouses (worth a picture or two with your camera) before finally arriving in the world-famous Chinatown area.
(2) Spend a couple of hours wandering around Chinatown itself, one of the most famous downtown Chinatown areas in the USA and packed with all the incredible sights and sounds (not to mention smells) you would expect. Try to do this around lunch or dinner time and to work up an appetite – then stop in for a meal. You will be amazed by the food which is known to be the best Chinese food in the world outside of China.
(3) Walk the Golden Gate Bridge. To enjoy a walk across the fabled Golden Gate you should probably start in Marin over on the North Side where you will find free parking (or a bus top that will drop you there). It takes an hour to walk across the bridge (and an hour to walk back to your car) but it is a thrilling walk and guaranteed to offer changing views as the microclimate of the bay area offers ever-changing weather. Whatever you do, remember your camera!
(4) Take the air in the Botanical Gardens. These offer over 50 acres of gorgeous plant life, topiary, bird watching and other delights. Put an afternoon aside for this and try to take advantage of the free guided walk.
(5) Go for an Organized Nature Walk. If you plan ahead you can go on guided walks around Golden Gate National Park. Simply look them up on the Golden Gate Parks website and make a note of the place and time of day that they start.
(6) Take a self-guided nature walk. Head over to the magnificent Presidio Park area which is packed with all kinds of trails that will lead you to museums, old houses and some of the city’s best views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Start out at the Presidio Visitors Center where you will be given a walking trails map.
(7) Shoppers Delight! Take a long walk around the city’s fantastic shopping districts. Start out in Union Square, San Francisco’s beating heart, and from the Union Square Plaza take some time to explore all of the world-famous department stores as well as the hundreds of eclectic smaller shops, boutiques, galleries and cafes. Should it start to rain down on you duck into the impressive Westfield Shopping Mall for some indoor shopping and a bite to eat.
(8) The most famous street in San Francisco. Everybody who goes to the movies knows Lombard Street, the wonderfully photogenic crooked street. It is no coincidence that it is famous for car chases as it is very much for cars rather than walker, so be careful. Head to the top via Filbert Street and take photos from there as the cars zig-zag below you.
(9) Wander around San Francisco Zoo. This is a massive zoo, so you’ll need to put aside a whole afternoon and be prepared for a lot of walking. The exhibits and animals in the zoo are world-class.
(10) Fisherman’s Wharf. You could spend hours strolling around Fisherman’s Wharf, with its wonderful views of the bay and the restaurants, cafes and shops that are buzzing and brimming with activity and noise. Grab a hot dog and watch the sea lions lounging in the sun, or walk around the seafront and take in a bay. If you’ve got the time jump on a boat and take a trip to Alcatraz.
Esther is a travel blogger and writer who loves to explore the world’s best cities. She writes about everything from hitching around Europe, to backpacking in Asia. She also writes a blog for www.kefalonia.co.uk.
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