San Francisco boasts with a population of over 860.000 and this makes it the fourth most populous city in the U.S. state of California (after Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose). Its metropolitan population, however, is far more imposing: over 4.5 million. Encompassing a land area of 121 square kilometres, San Francisco is located adjacent to the eponymous San Francisco Bay. With nearly 18.500 inhabitants per square mile (7.100 per square kilometre), it is the second densest city in the United States beaten only by New York City.
San Francisco is located in the warm-summer Mediterranean climate zone and thus it experiences mild temperature fluctuations depending on the time of the year. Winters are mild with abundant rainfall whilst summers are warm-to-hot and dry. Due to the presence of the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco’s weather is kept mild and forgiving all year long. This makes it a popular tourist attraction and winter-refuge. Although we must mention that the topography of the city tends to vary extremely. This has a direct effect on the climate with certain microclimate zones forming in different locations of the city. The central hilly areas of the city, for example, experience far more rain than the outskirts, so keep this in mind when packing.
San Francisco is served by the eponymous San Francisco International Airport (SFO) located 13 miles (21 kilometres) from the city centre. The airport is the largest one in Northern California and it is a popular gateway to Europe and even Asia. Handling more than 50 million passengers each year, the SFO is the seventh-busiest airport in the United States. Prices tend to be a bit high (depending on your standards) but you might want to consider the popular alternative to the SFO: the Oakland International Airport. This is a low-cost airport located across the bay serving no more than 11 million people each year. If you are on a budget-savvy trip, make sure you check for flights that land there.
Cycling is extremely prominent in San Francisco in spite of the unfavourable topography. More than 75.000 people move about the city on two wheels annually. A bike sharing program called the Bay Area Bike Share has been inaugurated in 2013 and it serves the city with more than 700 pairs of wheels. Statistics say that there are nearly 130.000 bike trips happening in the city daily, so if you are unafraid of the ever-changing nature of the landscape of the city, then we encourage you to opt for the eco-friendly approach.
San Francisco’s hilly nature made its cable-car conveyance renowned throughout the world. These vehicles take riders up steep hills and reduce the risk of car accidents. Thus more than 32% of the population of the city uses public means of transport (with most of them using the cable-cars as well). To bring the importance of the aforementioned vehicles into perspective, we shall encourage all of you to visit the San Francisco Cable Car Museum. You can find it at 1201 Mason Street.
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES:
No visit to San Francisco would be complete without basking in the brilliance and the grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge. Reaching across the 1-mile-wide (1.6 kilometres) Golden Gate strait, it is one of the largest and longest suspension bridges in the world. When it was first inaugurated in 1937, it was the longest one, but now it is outrun by 13 other bridges around the world. It is 2.7 kilometres long and experiences a daily traffic of over 110.000 vehicles. Oh, and don’t forget to take a photo of it with yourself for it is by far the most photographed bridge in the world.
Next up, you should head for the renowned Fisherman’s Wharf neighbourhood of the city. Encompassing the northern waterfront area of San Francisco, the waterside district boasts with countless ocean-themed establishments. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions of the western U.S. and it is known for harbouring Pier 39 (a popular shopping centre), Ghirardelli Square (a public square), a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, and even the Wax Museum of Fisherman’s Wharf. We highly encourage you to spend a whole day there sightseeing, shopping and eating in the local seafood restaurants (wink).
You cannot visit San Francisco and not think about Alcatraz Island. Notorious for its inescapable prison, the island has served multiple purposes throughout history (lighthouse, military fortifications and even a military prison that should not be confused with the state penitentiary). With a land area of 8.9 hectares, the island boasts with many well-known tourist attractions that we highly encourage you to take a look at. These include the Main Cellhouse, the Warden’s House, the Lighthouse, the Water Tower, the Parade Grounds, and even the Building 64 Residential Apartments. Alcatraz is reachable via ferries from Pier 33 and it is open to tours.
If you are in the mood for some more sightseeing, make sure you hop over to Union Square, a 1.1-hectare public plaza located in the Downtown area of the city. The plaza got its name from Union Army that had taken part in the American Civil War and it was designated a California Historical Landmark. You will be happy to hear that it is tinged with restaurants, theatres and general shopping areas, so there really is no reason not to go there. Oh, and don’t forget to admire the celebrated 25.9-metre-tall Dewey Monument in the middle of the square (wink).
San Francisco is an ideal city to live in but also to visit. Its thematic and heavily-romanticised cable-cars are but additions to the already-gorgeous skyline and local vistas. Be prepared to spend some money if you go there, however, for it is not exactly the cheapest of cities. Yet the services that you get for your money are sure to please you or even exceed your expectations. Oh, and, again, trying seafood in San Francisco is a must!