Trolley San Francisco
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San Francisco City Guide

San Francisco, CA

Having lived in San Francisco for a total of a year, I got to play tour guide for friends and family visiting. This big but literally small city have a lot to offer and a year is definitely still short to explore every corner. I decided to curate this city guide based on my experience living as a transplant in the City. Besides, it’s only fitting to start this guide series to the places I’ve been, no?


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See

Ghirardelli Square – Start here and get ice cream or free chocolate bar. Head east by the water and you’ll see small shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels then you’ll hit…

Fisherman’s Wharf – very crowded and touristy. Fresh soup and seafood all around.

Pier 39 – just a short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf. A lot of people just stay and watch sea lions sunbathing. Food and merchandise here are pretty steep. I recommended yelping for other places to eat. You’re already in North Beach neighborhood where a lot of restaurants and bars are all around.

Lombard Street – the crookedest street in the world. Personal note: I lived in it, but not on that most crooked part. If you want to drive down, you can take 101 then turn right on Lombard – it will be uphill and steep and cars maybe stop and go so if you are not familiar with driving a shift stick, don’t do it. Driving down isn’t as scary as I thought. The street is wide enough for you to maneuver the car. Just watch out for a lot of pedestrians.

Golden Gate Bridge – pretty obvious. I have walked, ran and driven on the bridge itself. If you’re coming from The City, exit at the first sign for viewpoint and you can walk around the park. Coming from the Marin County, you can exit right before the bridge and see it from above and get this view.

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Painted Ladies – across from Alamo Square Park. Address: 710-720 Steiner Street.

Haight – Ashbury – a neighborhood with hippie California vibe. Massive Amoeba Records store but you will also see lovely Victorian houses in the area.

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Coit Tower – This is that lonely white tower separated from all the other buildings you’ll see in the SF skyline. Not on top of my list but if you’re a sucker for views, you should consider it. Parking is very minimal and street parking is a steep hike. Take the Muni #39 bus from Pier 39 or better yet Uber it.

Palace of Fine Arts – I always drive by it, but you have to stop and see it’s massiveness. It reminded of Europe but what I liked most is that every time I went to visit, it was pretty serene. Fewer tourists and more locals come here.

Twin Peaks – best views of the city. You’re welcome.

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Eat

Tartine Bakery –  One of the best bakeries in the US. There’s always a line but worth the wait. Try morning bun, pain au chocolat and the quiche. Haven’t tried the gluten-free chocolate pudding but I heard it’s TDF. 600 Guerrero St in the Mission District.

La Boulange – a chain of bakeshop around SF serving really good pastries. So good, Starbucks decided to buy the company. There’s one about 3 blocks from where I used to live and it’s hard to walk past and not get the macarons.

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Boudin Bakery – sourdough bread. I’m a sucker for clam chowder in a bread bowl. The one by Fisherman’s Wharf is a good stop – watch how they make their pastries from the window and see it baked to form into turtles, lobsters, and even teddy bears. 160 Jefferson St.

Tacolicious – marina girl salad and braised beef taco with complimentary chips and salsa. Oh and add frozen margarita. 741 Valencia St.

Burma Superstar – Get the coconut rice or tea leaf salad. 309 Clement St. in Inner Richmond.

Cliff House – Be sure to get reservations. I never, ever find parking here. Great location for a date but also a good spot to grab lunch before hiking around Land’s End and walking around Sutro Baths. 1090 Point Lobos Ave.

Off The Grid – Food truck Fridays at Fort Mason. Best that I’ve been to, hands down.

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Osha Thai Restaurant – My go-to for Pad Thai. The ambiance is more dressy than casual, but I can’t help coming back as it was the nearest Thai place to my apartment.  2033 Union. St.

Bar Tartine – If you loved breakfast at the bakeshop, try having dinner here. Everything seems to be good. 561 Valencia St.

Bi-Rite Creamery – Earl Grey and Salted Caramel + Cream Brulee ice cream! 550 Divisadero St.

Do

Shopping: San Francisco is one of my favorite cities to shop. Everything is everywhere, I loved it. Best neighborhood shopping areas are Union Street, Chestnut Street, Filmore Street. If you’re on a shopping mission, head down to Union Square area. A big H&M, Uniqlo, and two Zara stores are within walking distance of each other. High-end stores include Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and the first and one of the two free-standing Goyard Store in US.

Leisure: Rent a bike or run or walk along Chrissy Field for Golden Gate views or hike around Land’s End.

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Day Trips: Cross the Golden Gate bridge and stop by the lovely town of Sausalito. If you have a day to spare, Napa Valley is only an hour and a half away.

Tips

Check the weather. Lots of people come here and think since it’s in California, it’s warm. Well, it’s not. Karl the Fog is always lurking around. (I used to work in the East Bay and coming home there will sometimes be 15-degree difference)

Stay central. Lots of hotel options along Lombard and Van Ness – sorry no recommendations from me as I was a temporary local.

Stay away from Tenderloin district. Even at day time, I wouldn’t walk around here.

Be a temporary local and take public transportation. Parking is expensive if you can find one.

San Francisco is a small city – 7 x 7. Walk.

If you have a short stay and thinking about a hotel in the South or the East Bay, plan extra time for travel. Traffic is real bad, especially during rush hours.

Crossing Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge going into the City will cost you $6.00 Toll. $5.00 on weekends.

Have you been to the City? What other areas do you think I should check when I come back?

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About Sarah

A perpetual dreamer, an eternal nomad and a Francophile at heart.

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  • I haven’t been yet but your post is perfect timing. My partner and I have just spent the past three hours working on our California trip and San Francisco is our first stop. We were looking at parking options since we will likely end up staying in Oakland to find an Airbnb place and it’s looking more and more like we should try and find one on the bus like to get us into the city for the day.
    I see your post “Sun Diego” in the “you may also like” area…off now to check that one out as we’ll be finishing our trip there. Thanks for the tips!

    • Hi, Stacey! Glad to be of help. Coming on a weekday after everyone has gone to work may give you better chances of finding parking spot. From Oakland, I suggest taking the Bart to Union Square to avoid paying for toll and parking. Some tips: From Union Square, you can take Muni or Uber and start off in North Beach area making your way down to Ghirardelli Square or further to Golden Gate Bridge. Or from Fort Mason/Crissy Field where you can find free street parking, walk to Pier 39 and back then you can drive to Palace of Fine Arts, Twin Peaks, Haight-Ashbury, Outer Sunset areas and cross Golden Gate by car. Hope you’ll have fun!