San Francisco offers so much more than the popular attractions of Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Alcatraz. Although these spots are great, make sure your travel is not just a tour. In this list, you will find neighbourhoods, restaurants, shops, markets and hotels from which you can see this beautiful city through the lens of a local.
Local Tips: What to do in San Francisco
Tuck into the best tacos and burritos in the Mission District
CC BY-ND 2.0 / torbakhopper
The Mission District has been the heart of San Francisco’s Latin community since 1770 when the Spanish first settled there. However, like many of the city’s neighbourhoods, this one has seen an increase in rent and an influx of techies and yuppies. You can still find some of Mission’s gems when you know where to go, especially when it comes to food.
For the best tacos in town, visit Tacolicious. Although it’s a chain, the food here is fantastic with tempting tacos like Butternut Squash & Poblano Rajas and Fried Avocado. Wash it all down with great libations like the Cambio de Juego which comes with fig-infused Evan William Bourbon, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, lime, agave and Angostura bitters.
For perfect burritos that barely fit in your hand, visit Papalote Mexican Grill for honest-to-goodness classics like Pollo Asado and Carne Asada.
Connect to your inner hippie at Haight Ashbury
CC BY-ND 2.0 / Anthony G. Reyes
The heart of the hippie movement of the sixties is Haight Ashbury, a crossing of Haight and Ashbury Street east of the Golden Gate Park. This area is iconic when it comes to all things free-spirited and alternative. Although several decades have passed, the area still brings in bohemian-types and keeps them there with its offering of vegetarian restaurants, thrift shops and unique stores.
For tasty vegetarian fare, try Love N’ Haight Deli, a simple eatery that serves plant-based meals like salads and sandwiches.
Find the coolest vintage duds at Wasteland, a famous thrift store on Haight Street.
Also on Haight is Amoeba Music, an indie music wonderland that often offers free live shows and an all-around cool vibe.
Explore one of the world’s largest Chinatowns
CC0 1.0 Universal / Stefan Woidig
San Francisco’s Chinatown will have you do a double take as it looks, feels and smells just like any busy city centre in China. This Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia and was founded in 1949 when the first Chinese immigrants arrived in the city. Today it’s an area that covers 3.5 square kilometres and is filled with restaurants, shops and attractions such as the Bank of Canton and Sing Chong Building. Here you’ll find a plethora of narrow streets lined with herbal shops, dim sum hole-in-the-walls, bubble tea stalls and more.
Don’t miss Good Mong Kok for Chinese-style cakes and pastries like chiffon rolls and fruit tarts.
For authentic dim sum and piping hot tea, look no further than Hang Ah Dim Sum Tea House.
Check out California’s farm-fresh fare at the Ferry Building Marketplace
Photo: Marisse Gabrielle Reyes
Located right on the water is the Ferry Building Marketplace, a must-visit for food lovers when in San Francisco. The historic building houses 50 retailers of delicious artisanal food and drink, such as cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, craft beers from Fort Point and freshly-shucked oysters from Hog Island. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, however, the farmer’s market comes to town.
Operated by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, the market offers gorgeous produce ripened by the generous Californian sun. Offered here are beautiful heirloom and organic fruits, vegetables and flowers. Come hungry as there are ready-to-eat items on sale like wood-fired pizzas and grilled meats to sink your teeth into as well.
Best Places to Stay in San Francisco
Go Eco-Friendly at The Good Hotel
If you’re feeling a little guilty for all the fossil fuel you used for your trip across the seas, try to balance out your carbon footprint by staying in The Good Hotel.
This quirky hotel raises the green standard with reclaimed and recycled furnishings, water-saving toilets and free bike usage. Make sure to check out the blankets made from recycled water bottles, reclaimed wood bed frames and light fixtures made from recycled glass bottles. You’ll be inspired by your stay here, that’s for sure!
Stay in the lap of luxury in Pacific Heights
Known as the most expensive neighborhood in San Francisco, if not the entire United States, Pacific Heights is truly a real estate gem. Pacific Heights Elegance is a two-bedroom residence that you can rent and feel just like American royalty – even if just for a day. The home features elegant and plush touches, light-filled bay windows, a lavish dining room and an outdoor patio.
Keep your eyes peeled as famous neighbours include United States House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as well as author Danielle Steel.
San Francisco is a melting pot of cultures, with rich history and with interesting sub-cultures. The next time you’re in the Golden City, go off the beaten path to explore it a little deeper. As the song by Tony Bennett goes, you just might just leave your heart in San Francisco.
Feature photo: Marisse Gabrielle Reyes