Well-known for its liberal community, hilly terrain, Victorian architecture, scenic beauty, summer fog, and great ethnic and cultural diversity. San Francisco is the financial, cultural, and transportation centre of the San Francisco Bay Area. It is the second-most densely populated city in the United States after New York City.
Colonists from Spain established a fort at the Golden Gate and a mission named for Francis of Assisi on the site in 1776. The California Gold Rush in 1848 propelled the city into a period of rapid growth, transforming it into the largest city on the West Coast at the time.
After three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later.
During World War II, San Francisco was the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a centre of liberal activism in the United States.
Located on the West Coast of the United States at the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula. Several islands – Alcatraz, Treasure Island, and the adjacent Yerba Buena Island, and a small portion of Alameda Island, Red Rock Island, and Angel Island are part of the city.
San Francisco is famous for its hills, more than 50 hills within city limits. Some neighbourhoods are named after the hill on which they are situated, including Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, and Russian Hill. Twin Peaks, a pair of hills resting at one of the city’s highest points, forms a popular overlook spot. San Francisco‘s tallest hill, Mount Davidson, dominating this area is Sutro Tower, a large red and white radio and television transmission tower.
The nearby San Andreas and Hayward Faults are responsible for much earthquake activity, although neither physically passes through the city itself, minor earthquakes occur on a regular basis.
The weather is strongly influenced by the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean, which moderates temperature swings and produces a remarkably mild year-round climate with little seasonal temperature variation.
The world-famous Cable Cars run on three lines in the steep streets between Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf. These cars are a fun ride, especially if you get to stand on the running board. The cable car is such an attraction that, especially on weekends, it takes longer to wait in line to ride up Powell Street than it does to walk the short but sloping distance.
San Francisco is a colourful city to walk and discover. The architecture is stunning with its victorian houses that at times appear to be built on stilts into the hillside, long stairs leading up to the entrances. It is very green, with impressive views. The city is not particularly large, in fact, it can be done in about 3-4 days at a leisurely pace.
Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge is something you may have to try on more than one occasion, as I experienced, where the sun may be shining in the city, the bridge itself is shrouded by a low cloud of fog, it wasn’t till my 4th attempt I finally got a good glimpse of it, though not from a close distance since I was restricted to time on my last day there.
It is a very liberal city, so much so that walking naked is not illegal, nor was it uncommon. The party starts early in San Francisco so don’t plan on waiting too late to out for fun, start dinner early and start the night early, don’t expect late outings, or get ready to wait in long ques of lines to enter.
The one thing that becomes very evident is the number of homeless people in the city, regardless of the neighbourhood, living in cardboard boxes, shopping trollies and buggies filled with life possessions. This is possibly the worst thing about San Francisco, it may make you feel uncomfortable at times.
The city centre is dull, high rises, concrete edifices, which at night become less welcoming. Staying in one of the neighbourhoods is a much better option where cafes, restaurants and bars are alive at night. San Francisco is a strange climate, where one moment you may be patting off the sweat, and the next reaching for a sweater or jacket. I wouldn’t recommend too much time in the city, a few days enough to explore it all.
If your here for one of the many festivals of the year, including Folsom Festival, which is an eye-opener, and not for conservative thinkers, is great fun and a must-see.