When you’re itching to get away fast, go for a no-brainer holiday. San Francisco is home to some of America’s most brilliant technological minds, but let’s be real—we’re here for the party. Known for its breezy waterfront vibes, international eats and one of the biggest Pride festivals in the world, the “City by the Bay” has a little somethin’-somethin’ for everyone.
Whether you want to spend your time sipping high tea or you’re ready to get in touch with your inner hippie, you’re in for a treat—and we’re not talking about Rice-A-Roni. Oh yeah, there’s that little thing called the Golden Gate Bridge here, too. Not that we’re bragging.
If you’re thinking, “I wanna get in on this”, you’re not alone. When you’re on the hunt for accommodation in San Francisco, you’ll find great places all over the city. Wanna dip down to warmer SoCal? Book hotels in California’s other golden cities for the quintessential West Coast road trip.
Things to Do in San Francisco
Get yourself to Fort Point for that must-have pic of the Golden Gate Bridge, then head to the park of the same name, where you can stop and smell the roses in the Botanical Garden. Follow in the footsteps of flower children everywhere with a walk east to the Haight-Ashbury. With a history of counter-culture and free spirits, the Haight is all about the love.
Climb to the top of Russian Hill for the best views of the sun setting over the bay. Coincidentally, this is also a great spot to sit and watch as locals drive the eight hairpin turns down crooked Lombard Street. From there, head straight to the Castro District for a nightlife that won’t quit. Book one of our San Francisco hotels here while you’re at it. You’re gonna need it.
Next day, it’s time to cure that hangover (or at least attempt to) with some of the best food in San Francisco. Stop in the Mission District for a classic Mission burrito or go fusion with a sushirrito—yes, the sushi burrito is a thing, and it’s a meal to remember.
Getting To & Around San Francisco
Flights to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) will touch down 22km south of the city centre. From there, you can easily access the entire Bay Area, including popular sights and hotels in San Francisco, with BART and Muni, two of the city’s favourite four-letter words. You can zip around via rail, subway, cable cars and buses, so you could say it’s pretty comprehensive.
Always know the latest craft cocktail bar, newest indie bookstore and best moustache oil? If you’re that guy (or girl, minus the moustache), you’re definitely in the right place. Book San Francisco accommodation from 9 to 24 September for the Fringe Festival, a celebration of all things involving the words “grassroots” and “theatre”, or 30 September to 2 October for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Better yet, go full hipster and attend both!
Perhaps you’re more of a Rolls-Royce than a Lamborghini (read: you’re classy). The International Festival of Short Films in October might be your thing. But wait, you still like to get off your face, don’t you? Enjoy a pint or six at Oktoberfest by the Bay from 23 to 25 September, or practice your sea legs during Fleet Week from 3 to 10 October. What’s better than getting drunk with sailors? Not much!
Sure, you’re on holiday, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to blow off some steam. From the fabulous Castro to the all-white party that is Fleet Week, it should be pretty clear by now that San Francisco knows how to have fun. But there’s more to SF nightlife than rainbows and sailors.
Even the name “Tenderloin” feels sort of…unpolished, making it totally appropriate for the neighbourhood just north of City Hall. This is where Frisco comes to get down, so be prepared for rocking indie acts, darkened dive bars and plenty of shenanigans. Catch a show at Great American Music Hall if you want to feel at least a little cultured.
After a night in the Tenderloin, you may be wondering where your life has gone. Don’t worry, this is normal. The jazz lounges and historic music venues of the Fillmore District will give you some classier pics to post on your social media.
Wondering how you’ll see it all if you’ve got barely more than one day in San Francisco? Also, how do you get the sightseeing out of the way so you can start drinking, already? Jump on the Bridge to Bridge Cruise and you can see all of the city’s iconic landmarks in one go: the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Transamerica Pyramid and Alcatraz.
You’ll land at Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can wave hello to the famous sea lions, then nosh on a delicious lunch of chowder—in a bread bowl, obviously. Work it off running up and down the musical stairs like an 8-year-old, then convince yourself you actually are an adult with a quick craft cocktail.
Next up, hop on the cable car (yes, you have to—it’s a rite of passage on San Francisco holidays) to Nob Hill. Hop off at Huntington Park for a selfie with one of the weirdest fountains around, then continue to down to Powell/Market Station and consider your next move. Shopaholics are in brand-name heaven around Union Square, while those who like things a little more unique can walk over to the Museum of Modern Art.
Finally, Uber your way down to SoMa (that’s “South of Market” for those not in the know) for a night of dancing, drinking and late-night eats: All of the things this city is the best at.
It’s time to stop googling pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and asking your friends what “hella” means, and start making your Northern California holiday dreams a reality. lastminute.com.au makes it easy with our awesome selection of places to stay in San Francisco. Once you do figure out what “hella” means, you’ll know our deals are hella sweet.
The city's story
However, delve into San Francisco's history and you'll find that, unlike the movies, the city has a real story to tell. San Francisco's population exploded with the Gold Rush of the 1840s, making it the largest city on the West Coast during that era. Banks, merchants (including the now famous Ghriadelli chocolatier), and the arrival of the first transcontinental railroad, brought enough wealth to build churches, theaters, and the first cable cars. San Francisco flourished, becoming a beacon of culture and lavishness in the otherwise underdeveloped American West. Prosperity during this period led to the construction of the city's countless Victorian-style homes and buildings, which have become a contemporary attraction among tourists and locals alike.
San Francisco has often been referred to as a hub of liberal thinking and mixing of cultures; it's well known as the site of the Summer of Love and an early leader in the United States' gay rights movement. Almost 40 per cent of the city's population was born overseas, creating a diverse mixture of people and neighborhoods, including one of the largest Chinatowns in America, Little Italy, and the Latin America-flavored Mission District. The city saw an influx of writers and artists in the 1950s, hippies in the 1960s, and another financial boom in the 1990s with the advent of the Internet - all of which have made San Francisco a wealthy city with a high standard of living and a robust entertainment and arts scene.
Something for everyone
San Francisco is home to many iconic sites, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the Coit Tower. Try a cruise for a great tour of the harbor or get a city pass to visit all the famous sights.
Numerous, undulating hills crisscrossed by cable cars are also characteristic of the city. A tight collection of distinct neighborhoods, San Francisco is easy to explore on foot (with a little help from the cable cars or a double-decker bus for the steeper hills). Find department-store shopping and entertainment in Union Square and the Financial District; souvenirs and tourists at Fisherman's Wharf; luxurious hotels and views on Nob/Russian Hill; and remnants of hippy bohemia in the Haight.
As the United States' second most densely populated (and highly visited) city, San Francisco offers new sights and treasures around every corner and something for almost every type of traveller. Hide