North America Sightseeing

San Francisco: The Road Less Travelled

San Francisco is undoubtedly one of the most loved cities in the world, and it’s clear why. A year-round temperate climate and the stunning setting on the Northern California coastline combined with striking architecture and a laid back anything-goes attitude, meaning that whatever you do in the city, you leave with a real sense of satisfaction.

The city’s bucket-list experiences are awesome; riding the cable car, visiting Alcatraz and wandering around Pier 39 are all amazing, but the real heart of San Francisco can be found in its neighbourhoods. Every famous tourist trail has an equally fascinating alternative which is off the beaten track. As we say, it’s not always about going to new places, but looking with new eyes. Here are three of our top picks to get you inspired.

An artist's impression of an alley in Mission District

An artist’s impression of an alley in Mission District (Image: Curtis Cronn)

Mission District is an edgy neighbourhood where artists and cool youth blend with the resident working class Hispanic community resulting in a vibrant atmosphere. Although one of the oldest parts of the city, the recent influx of fashionable boutiques, cool galleries and hip eateries has made Mission District one of the hottest spots in town. Add to that it’s reputation as one of the least foggy parts of the city, and it’s little wonder that the locals love it. Incredible street art and murals can be found on buildings, walls and fences throughout the area. In fact, they have become so well loved that it’s been mapped out. You can pick up your map at the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Visitors Centre.

A night at the Castro Theatre is an experience unlike any other

A night at the Castro Theatre is an experience unlike any other (Image: Steve Rhodes)

Castro is great for walking, with a collection of beautiful homes set back on meandering streets. Home to San Fran’s large gay and lesbian community, the flamboyant Castro Theatre is a ideal spot to watch a movie if you’re looking for a live-like-a-local experience.

If you’re in need of a moment’s peace, then there is no better place to lie on the grass than in Dolores Park. Take a bottle of wine and some snacks and watch the world go by. If you’re more of a dine-in kind of person, then head to Frances on 17th Street. With a focus on excellent food shared in great company, this gem of a place has become famous because of it’s daily changing menu that brings fine dining down to earth. Add to that the use of fresh local ingredients from the nearby farmer’s market and it’s little wonder that it has such a loyal following.

Haight-Ashbury is one of the more famous neighbourhoods, bringing together die-hard hippies and stylish fashionistas in a way that embodies the very essence of San Francisco; a daily reminder how easily different people can come together and live in harmony if we would just treat everyone with respect. On the edge of Golden Gate Park, the streets are lined with antique clothing and record stores as well as high end boutiques. It’s here at Alamo Square that you’ll find the famous ‘postcard row’. One of the most photographed places in the city, it is a collection of colourful Victorian houses standing side by side, against a backdrop of the city’s modern skyscrapers. Wander through Buena Vista Park’s large trees or head up Tank Hill for what many locals believe to be the best view of the city.

Downtown San Francisco at night from Tank Hill. No wonder locals love it!

Downtown San Francisco at night from Tank Hill. No wonder locals love it! (Image: Christopher Berry)


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