• May A

San Francisco - Highlights & Tips

I knew that San Francisco was going to be my favourite spot in California before even stepping foot in there.

Three words describe this cutie of a city: quirky, alive and laid-back.

Having said that, the first myth I would like to bust is that San Francisco's weather is absolutely AWFUL. It is unpredictable, one minute it is gorgeous, sunny and warm, the next it is freezing. It is impossible to pick an outfit for a whole day which is a disaster when you love exploring cities. Whatever the weather though, San Fran stole my heart.

Without any further ado - I present to you San Francisco's highlights:

1) The Golden Gate Bridge

Since I was a child I had a fascination with specific structures, mainly castles, trains and bridges - especially bridges. One of the first things I wanted to see when I landed in NYC was Brooklyn Bridge and I of course fell in love with that beautiful structure. When we arrived to San Francisco after a long drive from Lake Tahoe, which by the way I very much recommend, a dangerously beautiful drive where you see the most gorgeous mountains and trees, the first thing I wanted to see is the Golden Gate Bridge.

Not surprisingly, the cable cords of the Golden Gate Bridge were built by the same company that built the Brooklyn Bridge. It stretches from San Francisco bay across the Pacific Ocean to the absolutely gorgeous Sausalito - more on this below.

While on the bridge, the wind is so strong you wouldn't be able to enjoy the view. Additionally, the bridge is so long and straight that the view from it is not all that. Your best bet is to get a view of the gorgeous construction and I didn't rest until I found the best spot - Battery Spencer. I shot all my Golden Gate Bridge photos from up there.

This battery used to be a protection point of San Fran's harbour and was manned by military - don't be alarmed when you see abandoned military homes here. Being up on Battery Spencer is like being in the clouds - quite literally. The fog actually passes through you and the bridge.

Tip 1: Don't attempt to drive up here, parking space is extremely limited.

Tip 2: Battery Spencer is technically in Sausalito - it is a little out of the way from the rest of San Francisco. It is best to plan a day in Sausalito followed by this gorgeous view if you are limited on time.

2) Sausalito

This is the Amalfi coast of San Francisco.

Quite a few tourists and explorers miss out on this little picturesque seaside town. An eight minute drive from Battery Spencer is the perfect sunny day out, taking strolls around beautiful little lanes and homes with an ice-cream in your hand. This is what California is all about.

Mango and vanilla - what else?

In Sausalito, there's nothing to do, yet there's so much to do. The little town is perfect if you want to kick back, relax in a park, explore a few nice coffee shops, souvenir shops, jewelry stores and admire beautiful homes. It is not a terrible idea to also schedule in a nice massage while you're at it - especially if your trip is as hectic as mine was.

3) Mama's on Washington Square

Love a brunch? Look no further. Mama's on Washington Square is well worth the wait.

At the bottom of this hill you'll find Mama's

This is a teeny tiny diner with long queues outside it for a good reason. It is delicious, fresh and did I mention, mouth-watering?

Notice the Italian flag on light poles - a sign to represent San Francisco's Little Italy

If you are a fan of the Breakfast Club Cafe in London - this is the fresh homemade version of it. The restaurant is so successful that it had various branches, one on Macy's rooftop where the Cheesecake Factory is now located. Mama Frances, the amazing chef behind Mama's, would set a homely atmosphere at every branch she opened with her hubby, unfortunately her health deteriorated and the only branch left was the original one on Washington Square. It is now run by Mama's eldest son and his wife.

4) Lombard Street

Tip 3: Don't spend more than 20 minutes here, it is not worth it.

GoCar Tour on Lombard Street - Let me know if you've been on it!

Having said that, it is a pretty and historic little spot that is a must see in San Francisco. It is not far from Mama's so you can head here after a nice brunch.

5) Tony's Pizza

By the slice pizza is tastier than the actual restaurant one!

Not far from Lombard Street and Mama's - when you're ready for a quick lunch that stays on your hips for the next ten years, is amazingly delicious Tony's on Stockton Street.

Strolling around these areas will give you wonderful, unforgettable views of San Francisco.

6) The Mission Murals

There's no sugar-coating this. The mission is San Francisco's urban district. When we first attempted going there we ended up on the very wrong side of the Mission where we saw things that we would like to un-see. Having said that, the murals at the Mission are beautiful. It has an up and coming feel to it much like Shoreditch in London or Brooklyn in NYC before they were gentrified, although I do believe that the Mission District is being gentrified which has caused an uproar among the communities there.

Another cool fact if you are a fan of Will Smith - quite a few shooting locations were in the Mission District and are easily noticeable when you see them.

7) Cheesecake Factory - Macy's

Cliche - yes. A chain - yes.

Is the cheesecake amazingly delicious? Yes.

Are the view of San Francisco's financial district gorgeous? Yes.

I rest my case.

Do expect to wait in line between 45 minutes to two hours. In the meantime you can do some shopping in Macy's!

Sister Cities

In a world of walls and separation, San Francisco established sisterhood with cities across the world to promote partnership and celebration of what these cities have in common. For example Amman was a city built on hills and so was San Francisco - they are now in sisterhood!

Sister cities sign in Union Square

8) Fisherman's Wharf

An absolutely fun day out. From here a lot of trips to the famous Alcatraz prison start. We did not step foot there as we weren't overly keen on visiting it and the tickets were sold out for another two months! If you are keen, make sure you buy your tickets early on before your trip.

The Wharf itself is a lot of fun, there are acts, there are cute little shops everywhere, nice restaurants, a perfect day out especially if you have a child.

Tip: If you want to experience San Francisco's cable cars in full, queue up to hop onboard from Fisherman's Wharf, it costs $7 whether you are travelling the whole line or just one stop. If you take it from any other stop it will be extremely overcrowded.

The West Coast's NYC

9) The Museum of Ice-cream

Goes without saying, I don't need to explain this one do I?

It just not a museum, it is a little house of endless fun! It is a must see.

10) Super Duper Burgers

A minute walk from the Museum of Ice-cream. Best. Burgers. Ever. Better than In-N-Out Burger.

11) China Town

I put this last on my list because I do think it is over-rated - sorry China Town!

It is a nice place to go for a walk and do a little exploring, but it is not as amazing as everyone makes it out to be. Maybe it is because London isn't short of China Towns that I was underwhelmed, maybe because when we went to China Town it was absolutely freezing (in August!) - but overall I wasn't blown away. Worth a visit though!

And that's a wrap - peace!

Are you going to San Francisco? Have you been? Let me know what your favourite places are/which places you are most looking forward to.