San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in America. It is not only home to many globally famous landmarks and sights but it is also famous for its tolerance, culture, cuisine and nightlife. It’s a perfect city, really. Read on to learn more about its life and sights. San Francisco’s world famous landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge, has become one of the symbols of America. Rightfully so. It is not only one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, but it is a manifestation of American history in the 20th Century, too. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the famous New Deal provided funds for large-scale construction projects all over the country. This included funding for the Golden Gate Bridge. At that time, the West underwent an enormous development and urbanization, keeping many employed in construction and projects like the Golden Gate Bridge came into existence.
Additionally, the Golden Gate Bridge was a major architectural and engineering achievement at the time of its conception and execution. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge that had ever been built and it remained such up until 1964. The American Society of Civil Engineers declared the bridge as one of the Wonders of the Modern World. The design of the Bridge includes Art Deco elements (i.e. the tower decorations, lights, railings and walkways). Its color is also special. It is painted with a special orange color called International Orange, which became a signature feature of the bridge. The Bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County on the San Francisco Peninsula. I recommend driving to the Vista Point, at the first exit at the Marin County side, as the view over the bridge, the skyline of the city and Alcatraz is magnificent. If it is not too windy, it is a good idea to walk over the bridge, too. After having seen the magnificent views over San Francisco, I would recommend spending a few days in the city, exploring it on foot. It has an exceptionally pleasant architecture. It is worth wandering across its pleasant streets and alleys. However, be prepared to some uphill treks, as the city is really steep. Nevertheless, its hilly location gives the city a unique character. I would recommend visiting Union Square, the main square of the city. It is quite commercial, with high-end shops around the square. Nonetheless, it is a good starting point to set off on your sightseeing tour. As a plus, you may spot your first cable car, a famous feature of San Francisco, at Union Square. Cable cars have run since the 19th Century and still use their traditional bells to make themselves heard from several blocks away. You may even take a ride on one of the three routes that are operational at the present time.
It is a good idea to explore China Town, as it is the oldest Chinese area in North America and the largest Chinese quarter outside Asia. This exciting area is centered around Clay Street, reflecting a fantastic fusion of East and West. The architecture mirrors this fusion well, in my view. The European style buildings in the area intermingle with Chinese-style gates, pagoda-style decorative architectural elements and facades. Street signs are also bilingual. If you like Chinese cuisine, it may be a good idea to try one of the restaurants and eateries in this lovely area. Alternatively, it is a good idea to sample some sushi in Japantown, slightly further afield. Visiting Coit Tower is an essential part of your trip to San Francisco. You need to prepare for some climbing, as it is located at the top of Telegraph Hill. It is another landmark with a history and some great views over the city. The Coit Tower, aka Lillian Coit Memorial Tower, was built from the funds left for the beautification of the city by Lillie Hitchcock Coit after her death. The tower was designed in an Art Deco style and was built in concrete. Some claim that the tower was intentionally designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle, due to the late Ms Coit’s connection to the city’s volunteer fire brigade. However, this is a highly disputed claim. Nonetheless, it is a known fact that Ms Coit had been committed to chasing fires since her teenage years. When she was 15, she witnessed a volunteer fire brigade in action on Telegraph Hill. She then threw her textbooks on the ground and jumped into action to help, calling residents and bystanders to help move the engine up the hill. She was then named the mascot of the brigade and became a regular helper to firefighters. She even received a title of “honorary firefighter”.
The Coit Tower provides an excellent view over San Francisco Bay, including toward the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, as well as the city’s skyline. The tower’s interior is home to several murals. The murals were prepared by artists and students of the California School of Fine Arts in the 1930s, as part of a New Deal federal employment program for artists. The murals reflect Marxist and leftist political ideas, which is a really interesting feature. Fisherman’s Wharf is another area of interest in San Francisco. It is quite touristy, so it is worth visiting it early, before the crowds turn up. Fisherman’s Wharf provides a vantage point toward Angel Island, Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge. Pier 39 is a favored place of sea lions, where they like to hang around, basking in the sun. If you like cute creatures, that’s a place for you. You can also visit the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park nearby. Here, you can go on board Eureka, a steamboat built in 1890, which was originally used as a ferry between San Francisco and Tiburon. Later, it was used during the world wars to carry ammunition and troops, and then again as passenger ferry. It was retired in 1941 and later underwent a major refurbishment. Now, it is glowing in its original glory, and it is an awesome example of American shipbuilding, the only remaining ferry with a wooden hull. Don’t miss Eureka, as it is a real experience to board this ship. From Fisherman’s Wharf, you can visit to the famous prison, Alcatraz. The prison, aka ‘The Rock’ used to be operational as a military prison in the 1800s and became a high security federal prison from 1933 to 1963. It was one of the most secure prisons in America. Several inmates tried to escape, but no one succeeded. Day and evening tours are available, so if you are interested in the prison and the circumstances under which inmates were kept here, go and see it yourself. Just don’t forget to book your trip well in advance.
Lombard Street is a rather famous wiggly street. It has the reputation of being the crookedest street in the world. Whether it is true or not, it is rather bendy. Its famous one-way section is located on Russian Hill, between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets. Here, the street has eight sharp turns. It wasn’t built due to sheer eccentricity, but due to the fact that the hill was too steep for common vehicles. Thus, the eight turns were planned to decrease the hill’s 27% grade and to make it safer for pedestrians to walk downhill. Be prepared though that the street is rather touristy. To me, it seemed that every visitor to San Francisco must take a photo at the top of the street, with the bends in background. If you visit all the above-mentioned sights on foot, you will have plenty of chance to admire the Victorian and Edwardian architecture of the city. Approximately 48 thousand buildings were constructed between 1849 and 1915 in these architectural styles. Sadly, the earthquake visited upon San Francisco in 1906 destroyed many of them. Also, some of them were demolished or redesigned, losing their original facades. However, from the 1960s onwards, their preservation and decoration in cheerful, bright colors began. By the 1970s the coloring of the houses became a movement, which endures up to the present day. The beautifully painted houses shown in the picture below are a good example of the style. They are referred to as “Painted Ladies”. Fortunately, they are preserved in a good condition and look better than they used to. These most photographed of San Francisco abodes can be found at 710-720 Steiner Street. So if you like architecture do go and take a few snaps of these charming buildings.
San Francisco is famous for its lively cultural scene, too. It is home to various museums and it’s famous for its opera, symphonic orchestra, ballet and dance companies, too. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum, the de Young Museum, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, the Exploratorium and many other thematic museums and galleries await the culture-hungry visitor. You might have heard that San Francisco is (one of) the gay capital(s) of the world. Accordingly, the city is famous for its tolerance of gay/lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The biggest event of the city is connected to this community, the SF Pride. It is a huge celebration! Just book early if you want to participate in this event, as it is the busiest tourist period each summer. The city is famous for its restaurants, too. Here, you can taste any cuisine you fancy. While the city cherishes all the cuisines of the world, it has a strong culture of using fresh and locally grown ingredients. Prepare your palate, ready yourself for some fantastic culinary experiences here and then dive into the famous nightlife of the city. If you are in San Francisco, spend a few more days in the area exploring the San Francisco Bay and a bit beyond, where you can visit a number of lovely wineries and the famous university town, Berkeley, too.