San Francisco

Artist city, hippie stronghold, gourmet metropolis, innovation location – San Francisco has many faces. Follow us to the fascinating metropolis on the US West Coast, which is known above all for its relaxed lifestyle.

San Francisco facts

State: California
County: San Francisco
Area: 600.59 km² (land 121.48 km²; water 479.11 km²)
Population: about 874,000
Nickname: Golden City, Golden Gate City, Belle of the Bay, Fog City, Frisco
Time zone: Pacific (UTC -8)

San Francisco: location & population

The city of San Francisco stretches along the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula in California. The peninsula separates San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to the natural harbor protected by the sea in the bay, the metropolis developed into one of the most important port cities in the USA. The Golden City is also known for its uneven landscape with more than 40 hills within the city limits.

In terms of population, the city itself ranks fourth in California, with around 874,000 inhabitants. However, the large metropolitan region of the San Francisco Bay Area has formed around San Francisco, including, for example, the towns of Berkeley, Oakland, Palo Alto,and San Jose. It is home to more than 9.7 million people in total.

Districts of San Francisco

San Francisco has many faces. Experience the most beautiful of them on a tour through these five colorful and exciting districts:

Downtown

Downtown San Francisco includes many of the most famous corners of the city. Here, you will find the lively waterfront Fisherman's Wharf, the bustling Financial District with Union Square, the luxurious residential district Nob Hill, but also the colorful nightlife districts Chinatown and Little Italy.

Haight-Ashbury

The Haight-Ashbury district gained world fame in the 1960s as the starting point of the flower power movement and thanks to a creative music scene. For a long time, the district remained a hotspot for an alternative counterculture. In the 1980s, Haight-Ashbury also became a center of attraction for the comedy scene: among others, Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg began their careers here.

SoMa

SoMa stands for South of Market and refers to the district that stretches south of Market Street. Originally an area for warehouses, port, and industrial facilities, SoMa has developed since the 1980s into a diverse district full of cultural institutions, museums, shopping opportunities as well as chic lofts and office buildings.

Castro

San Francisco's Castro District began to emerge in the 1960s between Market Street and 19th Street and was one of the first lesbian and gay neighborhoods in the United States at the time. You can't miss where Castro begins because rainbow banners are omnipresent: on street lamps, balconies, or sidewalks. In addition, the Castro District offers a magnificent view of the San Francisco Bay, a variety of stores with locally made products, and a rich cultural offering.

The Avenues

If you prefer a quiet location, The Avenues neighborhood in western San Francisco is right up your alley. The large area includes the residential neighborhoods around Golden Gate Park and is primarily characterized by row houses and gardens. The biggest draw of The Avenues, however, is Golden Gate Park, where you'll find many interesting museums and outdoor activities.

Climate in San Francisco

Although San Francisco has a Mediterranean climate, the weather is strongly influenced by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The cold waters of the California Current flowing from the north cool the temperatures in summer. San Francisco is warmest from June to October, with temperatures around 21 °C to 23 °C. Conversely, winters remain relatively mild with minimum temperatures around 5 °C.

When traveling in San Francisco, keep in mind that the weather can be unpredictable – even within the city limits! Conditions can quickly change from sunny and warm to foggy and chilly. So always pack a sweater if you're going to be out all day.

Traveling to San Francisco

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is located about 13 km south of the city, directly on San Francisco Bay. To get to downtown San Francisco, you can take the BART train for a ticket price of about $10.

Travel authorization San Francisco

Don't forget: If you are not a US citizen or Green Card holder, you will need a visa or ESTA to travel to the United States. Citizens of the 39 Visa Waiver Program countries (e.g., Japan, Australia, European Union) can apply for the comparatively uncomplicated ESTA. If approved, ESTA allows you to stay in the USA visa-free for 90 days.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

Getting around in San Francisco

San Francisco's excellent infrastructure makes it easy to get from A to B in the Bay City. These are your options to get around:

Public transport

San Francisco has a well-developed network of public transportation. The San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) organizes transportation with streetcars, buses, the San Francisco trolley bus and the MUNI Metro subway. The three nostalgic cable car lines are also operated by MUNI. N

umerous ferry services take you from the Embarcadero to many locations on San Francisco Bay.

System Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains run along the eastern side of the bay, and Caltrain connects the city of San Francisco with Silicon Valley.

The Transbay Terminal bus station, from which many express buses depart, is located near the Bay Bridge.

Rental car

Within the city limits of San Francisco, you basically don't need a car, as the public transportation network is excellent. In addition, you can expect parking in and out of often mountainous terrain and high parking fees.

We recommend a rental car if you want to explore the surrounding area – e.g., the vineyards of Sonoma and Napa Valley north of San Francisco. Although the prices vary greatly depending on the provider and vehicle type, you can get a rental car in San Francisco for as little as €25 per day if you book in advance.

Taxi

If you need a cab in San Francisco, you can expect to pay a basic fee of $3.50. Each kilometer driven will cost you an additional $1.72. For standing time, you will have to pay $33 per hour.

Bike

Cycling has gained popularity in recent years, especially in the state of California. So you will have no trouble finding a bike rental in San Francisco. A rental bike in San Francisco costs about $30 per day.

However, before you jump into the fun, remember that San Francisco is built on more than 40 hills! If you are not sure whether your fitness is up to the terrain of San Francisco, you can alternatively opt for an e-bike at a price of about $60 per day.

On foot

What is true for the bicycle is also true for walking: you need to bring muscle strength and good walking shoes to cope with the altitude differences in San Francisco. If you don't mind the climbs and have enough time, it is a good idea to take a walk to the Victorian houses in Noe Valley or along the Bay Trail.

Accommodation in San Francisco

Most of San Francisco's attractions are concentrated in the northeast of the city. To keep travel times short, many travelers prefer to stay in a hotel in this area. Especially around Union Square, you will find a variety of accommodations.

If you want to save money, you can find cheaper alternatives in the neighborhoods of SoMa, Lower Nob Hill, or Jackson Square.

Booking.com

Hotels

San Francisco offers hotels in every price range, such as these four:

Oak Hotel

You can sleep for a reasonable price in San Francisco, for example, at the Oak Hotel in SoMa, about 1.8 km from Union Square.

  • Area: Hayes Valley, SoMa
  • Address: 171 Fell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA
  • Price category: $
  • Hotel details: Oak Hotel

JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square

You can benefit from short distances when you stay near central Union Square. Here, the JW Marriott welcomes you with a bar, a restaurant, and a fitness center.

Argonaut Hotel

In the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city, but with a fantastic view of the bay, you'll stay at the Argonaut Hotel on Hyde Street Pier. In addition to a maritime design, the stylish brick building offers an in-house spa and The Blue Mermaid restaurant. By the way, you can walk to the beach in just 2 minutes.

  • Area: Fisherman’s Wharf, Downtown
  • Address: 495 Jefferson Street, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA
  • Price category: $$
  • Hotel details: Argonaut Hotel

Ritz-Carlton San Francisco

Don't want to miss out on anything in your San Francisco vacation? The luxurious Ritz-Carlton is here for you! Starting at around $500 per night, you can enjoy the restaurant, spa, fitness center, and an Italian marble bathtub.

  • Area: Nob Hill, Downtown
  • Address: 600 Stockton at California Street, Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
  • Price category: $$$
  • Hotel details: Ritz-Carlton San Francisco

Apartments

Apartments and vacation rentals are a good alternative to hotels in San Francisco. Especially if you are traveling with a group of friends, you can save your travel budget.

For one person, prices usually vary between €50 and €150 per night, depending on availability and amenities. If you share the apartment with one or more people, the savings increase accordingly. You can find apartments on:

  • hometogo.com
  • apartments.com
  • airbnb.com

Hostels

The facilities of your accommodation are not so important to you, and you would rather have more money left for your daily activities? Rooms in hostels or other accommodation in a dormitory with shared bathrooms can be found in San Francisco for as little as €30 to €40 per night. If you book early enough, you can even stay in a relatively central location.

Best sights in San Francisco

San Francisco welcomes you with a number of world-famous attractions that you shouldn't miss. At the top of your travel list are these five highlights:

Golden Gate Bridge

The bright orange landmark of San Francisco is a masterpiece of engineering! It took only four years to build the steel giant, which runs 2.7 km from San Francisco south to Marin County. Don't miss the chance to cross the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge at least once by car, bike, or on foot. And don't forget your souvenir photo of the world's most photographed bridge wrapped in fog!

Alcatraz

The virtually escape-proof ex-prison island of Alcatraz is probably the best-known penitentiary in the USA. Famous detainees such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly once gazed from here across the cold waters of San Francisco Bay to the unreachable metropolis on the other shore. Today, "The Rock," as Alcatraz is also called, is one of San Francisco's most popular tourist attractions. The ferries of Alcatraz Cruises LLC take you directly to the island, where you can learn everything about the prison's eventful history on a guided tour!

Fisherman’s Wharf

You'll easily lose track of time in the lively Fisherman's Wharf waterfront: Restaurants, stores, and other popular tourist attractions are lined up here. Taste freshly caught Dungeness crabs, visit the famous sea lions of Pier 39, go shopping in the huge mall, and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere on the pier, where street performers and musicians will keep you entertained.

Cable Cars

A ride in the iconic cable cars is a must on any visit to San Francisco! The hilly streets of the Golden City are the only place in the world where the nostalgic vehicles are still in operation. For a one-way ticket price of $8, they run on three lines in the city center. Tip: You really ride in style in a cable car standing on the outside!

Painted Ladies

The striking Victorian and Edwardian houses in Alamo Square, which you probably know from various movies and TV series, are known as the Painted Ladies. At the end of the 19th century, the entrepreneur Matthew Cavanaugh had the houses built. However, they only received their characteristic painting during an extensive restoration in the 1960s.

You are already in love with San Francisco, and you want to learn more about the highlights that await you in the Golden City? Our article on the top sights in San Francisco provides you with detailed information and lots of travel tips!

Culture highlights in San Francisco

There are plenty of choices for culture enthusiasts in San Francisco, including these museum highlights:

  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • M. H. de Young Memorial Museum
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Legion of Honor
  • Walt Disney Family Museum
  • Cable Car Museum

Nature and parks in San Francisco

Relaxed San Francisco has a number of parks and natural highlights in store for you. These four places are great for relaxing or exercising in the fresh Pacific air:

Golden Gate Park

The huge Golden Gate Park stretches over a length of 5 km and a width of 800 m in the northwest of San Francisco. This makes it about 20% larger than Central Park in New York City! The Californian green space with its lakes, picnic opportunities, playgrounds, and gardens is the perfect place to relax from everyday life. But you don't have to look far for sports facilities, museums, and other cultural institutions either.

Tip: Kennedy Drive, which runs through the park, is reserved for skaters on Sundays.

Twin Peaks

The best view of San Francisco? The 276-m and 277-m high Twin Peaks offer you not only a magnificent panorama of downtown but also of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Oakland Bay Bridge, and the entire San Francisco Bay. The most popular viewpoint can be found in a parking lot at the northern Eureka Peak.

Tip: Go to the summit just before sunset. The play of colors will provide you with unforgettable moments!

Muir Woods National Monument

About 20 km north of San Francisco stretches the day excursion area Muir Woods National Monument. In the nature park, you'll hike among giant coast redwoods, which have become relatively rare in the San Francisco Bay Area. During your explorations, you can observe spotted woodpeckers, owls, chipmunks, and sea otters, to name a few.

San Francisco Bay Trail

Are you in the mood for a long hike or bike ride? No problem – if you follow the more than 800 km long San Francisco Bay Trail, you can circle around the entire San Francisco Bay! You will not only pass California's most famous landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge but also get to know a total of 9 counties and 47 cities.

Shopping in San Francisco

Looking to take a few souvenirs home to remember your trip? Bargain hunting and shopping in San Francisco will be especially successful in these places:

  • Union Square – Most important shopping district of San Francisco
  • Westfield San Francisco Center – Nine-story shopping mall with about 200 stores on Market Street
  • Fisherman’s Wharf – Souvenir stores as far as the eye can see
  • Hayes Street – Creative boutiques, coffee vendors, and craft shops
  • Haight-Ashbury – Vintage and secondhand stores
  • Mission District – Designer stores and boutiques

Food and drinks in San Francisco

San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area are a true mecca for gourmets. The excellent wines of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, for example, are grown here, and the region's typical seafood specialties have also become very popular.

Immigrants from all over the world have settled in San Francisco and influenced the restaurant scene in the city, which is home to four Chinatowns. The largest and oldest one in North America is located around Grant Avenue and Stockton Street.

These specialties will delight you in San Francisco:

  • Clam chowder served in freshly baked sourdough bread
  • Dungeness crabs (Tip: You can get them super fresh in Fisherman’s Wharf.)
  • Irish Coffee (The Buena Vista restaurant in Fisherman's Wharf made the Whiskey-based hot drink world-famous.)
  • Chocolate from San Francisco's traditional Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory

Nightlife in San Francisco

Clubs, tiki bars, pubs: if you want to turn night into day in creative San Francisco, you won't be short of options. You'll find a variety of clubs in the SoMa District, but also in Downtown and the Tenderloin. Trendy bars can be found in the Financial or the Marina District. The Castro District, on the other hand, offers a colorful variety of gay bars.

Sports events in San Francisco

Three teams from the most glamorous professional leagues of US sports are based in San Francisco:

Baseball

The San Francisco Giants have played in Major League Baseball (MLB) since 1958, and since 2000 they are based at Oracle Park, which was built in a prominent location near San Francisco's harbor. The Giants emerged as winners of the MLB World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

American Football

The city's tradition-rich football team is called the San Francisco 49ers. The team was a founding member of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in 1946 and has played in the NFL since 1950. Between 1982 and 1995, they secured five championship titles. Since 2014, the 49ers' home games have been played at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

Basketball

The Golden State Warriors (formerly known as the San Francisco Warriors) have played in the NBA since 1962, winning a total of six championship titles and reaching five consecutive NBA Finals from 2015 to 2019. You can watch the team live at the Chase Center in San Francisco.

By the way: If you are a sports enthusiast yourself, San Francisco is "The Place To Be" for you. The climate offers you ideal conditions for outdoor activities such as cycling, golfing, running, sailing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. It's not for nothing that San Francisco's residents are among the fittest in the United States!

Instagram hotspots in San Francisco

San Francisco is simply indescribably beautiful! Taking a photo is the best way to show your friends and followers the unique atmosphere of Bay City. The following places are perfect for your Instagram picture:

  1. Golden Gate Bridge
  2. Lombard Street
  3. Painted Ladies
  4. Pier 39
  5. Castro

 

History of San Francisco

San Francisco was founded in 1776 by Spanish colonists, more precisely by the Spanish mission "San Francisco de Asis." In 1848, after the end of the war between the USA and Mexico, San Francisco officially became part of the United States of America. Beginning in 1848, the Gold Rush led to rapid population growth and the economic rise of California.

In 1906, San Francisco experienced the largest earthquake in its history to date, which, along with a subsequent fire, almost completely destroyed the city. However, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt.

Around 1930, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge were built, making the city more accessible. This resulted in a further increase in population. The Golden City continued to steadily develop into a cultural and industrial center of the West Coast.

In the 1960s, San Francisco became the starting point of the hippie movement, which had its peak in 1967 with the "Summer of Love." At the end of the 20th century, the rise of information technology began in Silicon Valley, giving San Francisco and the Bay Area another economic boost.

Fun Facts San Francisco

Do you want to shine with your knowledge about San Francisco during your next visit to the USA? With these interesting facts, you're sure to get the attention of your conversation partner:

  • San Francisco is a city full of dog lovers: according to the Department of Animal Care and Control, there are about 10,000 more dogs living in San Francisco than children.
  • The bear pictured on California's state flag lived in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. He was named Monarch and was one of the last wild grizzly bears in the state.
  • Levi Strauss invented his denim jeans during the San Francisco Gold Rush, as miners needed sturdy yet comfortable clothing for their jobs.
  • The Beatles' last concert was held in San Francisco's Candlestick Park on August 29th, 1966.
  • Fatigue doesn't stand a chance in San Francisco, as there are more than 300 cafés within the city limits alone.

Immigrate to San Francisco

Have you been so captivated by San Francisco's laid-back lifestyle that you never want to leave the California coast? You're sure to fit right in with the Bay City's multi-cultural mix! We can give you these tips about living and working in San Francisco:

Working in San Francisco

Since the time of the Gold Rush, the San Francisco Bay Area region has been one of the most important economic centers in California. Today, San Francisco is one of the wealthiest cities in the US and home to many large companies, including Wells Fargo, Levi Strauss & Co., GAP, and George Lucas' company Industrial Light & Magic.

In addition to being a major financial center in California, the IT industry, in particular, thrives in Silicon Valley south of San Francisco. Another important employer in the region is the US Navy, which operates several military bases near San Francisco. There are also job opportunities in tourism, gastronomy, and wine-growing.

Living in San Francisco

No city is like San Francisco! The unique, relaxed atmosphere makes Bay City one of the most livable places in the United States. The low unemployment rate of only about 2.5% is also a good argument for moving to San Francisco. However, (living) quality also has its price: rents are extremely high! For a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, you'll pay around $2,000 – more than double the US average.

With a Green Card to San Francisco

There are several ways to enter the USA with a Green Card, for example, through a job, as an investor in an American company, or for a family reunion. Usually, you have to expect long waiting periods and/or high costs. However, there is one exception – the Green Card Lottery!

The annual lottery of the US government awards 55,000 Permanent Resident Cards to people from all over the world. Sign up right now — just a few clicks, and you're in!

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