THE agreeable Californian settlement of San Francisco, which has grown on the shores of the bay since the first Spaniards put down roots in 1769, occupies a land area of only 121sq km, which means it’s easy for visitors to explore.
An assortment of charismatic neighbourhoods stretching from North Beach and Chinatown to Haight-Ashbury and Fisherman’s Wharf, and a roster of world-famous attractions topped by Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars, mean there’s always plenty to pack into an itinerary.
It’s a case of everything old is new again when it comes to San Francisco’s hottest neighbourhood. Mission District, the city’s most historic enclave named after Mission Dolores, the Spanish religious settlement established in the 1770s, is home to a new shop or cafe every week.
When the weather is fine pack a picnic lunch and head for Dolores Park, considered to be the heart of the neighbourhood with great views, before visiting Mission Dolores (3321 16th St; missiondolores.org), which is the state’s oldest intact mission.
Eating is serious business in the Mission District with La Taqueria (2889 Mission St) serving customers for 50 years and “practically inventing” the local taco and burrito styles. Lolinda (2518 Mission St) is a new-wave steakhouse, and Mission Beach Cafe (198 Guerrero St) is the place to brunch.
The latest additions to the San Francisco accommodation scene are not new builds but the thoughtful “upcycling” of some older city hotels.
The Hotel G (386 Geary St) occupies a Union Square building constructed in 1909, the Radisson Fisherman’s Wharf will become the Hotel Zephyr (250 Beach St) next month when a “re-imagination” is completed, and The Scarlet Huntington (1075 California St) is the result of a 1920s Nob Hill property getting a revamp.
Union Square’s Powell Hotel closed in December with the innovative Axiom Hotel set to welcome its first guests in the northern autumn.
San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than any other large American city, with chefs earning a reputation for combining local ingredients with international flavours.
Mourad (140 New Montgomery St) “takes the culinary resources of the Bay Area and views them through a Moroccan lens”, Liholiho Yacht Club (871 Sutter St) serves heritage food created with Californian ingredients, and Urchin Bistrot (584 Valencia St) creates dishes that are a twist on French classics.
When it comes to something a little less fussy b. patisserie (2821 California St) offers Parisian and Vietnamese-style pastries, sandwiches and coffee in a modern space.
Dim Sum is popular in San Francisco with MaMa Ji’s (4416 18th St), Good Mong Kok Bakery (1039 Stockton St), Delicious Dim Sum (752 Jackson St), Yank Sing (101 Spear St) and Hakkasan (1 Kearny St) all venues worth lining up at to secure a table at brunch.
While Union Square has all the high-street brands, and the Ferry Building (1 Ferry Building) is the spot to source fresh gourmet goodies, some of the city’s best shopping is in the independent stores that sell souvenirs.
Dandelion Chocolate (740 Valencia St) is a “bean-to-bar chocolate factory” in the Mission District, Bluxome Street Winery (53 Bluxome St) brings wine country to the heart of the city and Fiat Lux (218 Church St) sells one-of-a-kind clothes and accessories.
“Valencia St, between 16th St and 21st St, has trendy shops and restaurants as well as some of the best coffee roasters, like Ritual Coffee (1026 Valencia St) and Four Barrel Coffee (375 Valencia St),” says Andreas Rippel, chief concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco (757 Market St). The Lands End Trail, at the northwestern corner of San Francisco, is a wild and windy trail that offers stunning views at every turn.
“You’ll see hills of cypress trees and wildflowers, views of shipwrecks and Golden Gate Bridge, and you will have access to the ruins of Sutro Baths.
“The Legion of Honor (100 34th Ave) has the exhibition High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection until July 19 and de Young (50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drv) is showing the exhibition Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland until May 31.
“Novela (662 Mission St) is a stylish bar with a literary theme, drinks named after characters, punch on tap, book-lined walls, while Hawthorn (46 Geary St) is a cocktail lounge with a luxe ambience and craft cocktails.”
Cathay Pacific offers more than 70 services a week between Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns, and Hong Kong, with two flights a day completing the journey to San Francisco.