SF can be expensive but with clever choices, you won’t leave your wallet behind, just your heart
Jump out of bed and skip to Tartine Bakery (tartinebakery.com) for artisanal bread and buttery pastries. Sit at a communal table and chat with local customers or sit in silence and savour the flavours.
Stroll one block to Mission Dolores Park. Walk to the top of the park and enjoy the breath-catching view of the city on a clear day.
Saunter three blocks to Mission Street. You’re now in the old Mission district, the heart of the city’s Latino immigrant community. At 16th Street, walk one block to Valencia Street, the ‘new’ Mission district where hipster eateries and trendy boutiques abound, drawn by low rents. Check out Dandelion Chocolate (dandelionchocolate.com), purveyor of high quality small-batch chocolates. The founders are successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who have traded bytes for beans. Also stop at Clarion Alley to admire the street art murals.
Take a taxi to Golden Gate Bridge. Ask the driver to drop you off at the vista point on the Marin side of the bridge. This is where you take that I Left My Heart in San Francisco selfie for the folks back home.
Take another ride to Golden Gate Park and the California Academy of Sciences (calacademy.org). GG Park is larger than Central Park in New York City and the California Academy is one of the world’s largest and newest natural history museums. Completely rebuilt in 2008, the Renzo Piano-designed museum features a living green roof with over one million California native plants and an aquarium with a glass tunnel where sea creatures swim over your head.
Time for lunch! Head to the Ferry Building (ferrybuildingmarketplace.com), a historic building converted into a foodie paradise. The eateries here represent the cream of local gourmet vendors; visitors should try out Delica (Japanese), Boulette’s Larder (Californian), and Il Cane Rosso (Italian). After lunch, browse for gifts including locally made olive oil, jams, macarons, and chocolates.
To burn off lunch calories, walk along the Embarcadero to Pier 19 and cross the street to Filbert Street. Follow Filbert Street to Filbert Steps, which take you up to Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. Glance up at the tower and notice its resemblance to a fire hose nozzle. Climb up to the top of Coit Tower and enjoy the 180-degree view of the bay.
Walk down the other side of the hill and you’ll arrive at North Beach, the old Italian quarters. Stroll the up-hill-down-dale streets and browse the small shops and cafes. Take an espresso break at Caffe Trieste, arguably the oldest café in North Beach.
As dusk falls and the light softens over the bay, walk north along the waterfront. After passing the Bay Bridge, you’ll arrive at Quiver Bar, situated inside EPIC Roasthouse (epicsteak.com). Order a cocktail and take in the up-close view of the light sculpture and installation, opened in 2013 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the bridge.
Treat yourself to a culinary feast at R&G Lounge in Chinatown. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the restaurant is well known for salt and pepper crab, beef, and Cantonese classics like claypot vermicelli and steamed pork with salted eggs.