To quote the words of Tony Bennett’s signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” It was love at first sight when I relocated from London, England to San Francisco in 2001.
I immediately felt like I had found “home”. These days I live just across the Bay, but my heart still jumps each time I cross the Bay Bridge and get a view of the city skyline. San Francisco is truly a magical and welcoming place, with almost a European feel — no doubt influenced by the fabulous architecture that the city has to offer.
So, for those of you who have yet to experience the delights of this wonderful city, here is a list of things you absolutely must do and see.
If you want to experience some of the best views of the city and the San Francisco Bay, then you can’t go wrong with one of these favorites:
- Top of the Mark – The InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel has a dining and bar area on its 19th floor called Top of the Mark. This world-renowned sky lounge provides wraparound views of San Francisco, including views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Marin Headlands and the city lights. It is also famed for its 100 Martinis menu and hosts some of San Francisco’s most legendary musical talents.
- Harry Denton’s Skylight Room – Located on the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, this is the place to be at night. It mixes old-school glamour with present-day pizzazz for the ultimate San Francisco experience. And the night views out of the window aren’t bad either.
- EPIC Roasthouse – If you want a fabulous meal with a view of the Bay, then EPIC Roasthouse is for you. Located on San Francisco’s scenic waterfront, this restaurant offers panoramic views of the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island and the San Francisco skyline. And the food is great too. But if you are just in the mood for drinks then I would recommend grabbing a window table in the upstairs bar area.
Things to Do in San Francisco
You can’t leave San Francisco without enjoying some of the more popular tourist attractions. Here are just a few you should consider:
- Fisherman’s Wharf – Located along the Bay’s Embarcadero, the wharf boasts many attractions. Some of the favorites include boat tours to Alcatraz (Pier 33), the Aquarium of the Bay (Pier 39) and the Powell-Hyde Cable Car. Pier 39 also boasts tons of dining options, seal viewing spots and even a humungous merry-go-round for the kids.
- Coit Tower – Located on the top of Telegraph Hill, this 210-foot high white concrete column has been an emblem of San Francisco’s skyline since its completion in 1933. It is known for its depression-era murals, which decorate the lobby, as well as for the views that can be seen from up top.
- Painted Ladies and Lombard Street – If you are considering renting a car, then the Painted Ladies and Lombard Street are two things that are worth a drive. The Painted Ladies are a row of Victorian homes located on Steiner Street (across from Alamo Square) that are arguably the most famous of the 14,000 Victorian homes in San Francisco. This is most likely due to their immortalization in various films over the years, as well as the fact that they stand in stark contrast to the modern skyline of downtown San Francisco. Similarly there is a famous one-block stretch on Lombard Street that is known as one of America’s most crooked streets, thanks to the eight hairpin turns that cars have to navigate. It is a visual treat, but hang onto your seat!
- Golden Gate Park – Trust me, this is not just a park. It boasts more than 1,000 acres and is 20% larger than New York’s Central Park. It is also home to some really cool attractions — as well as a herd of buffalo. At the top of the list of attractions (at least for me) is the California Academy of Sciences which has an aquarium, planetarium, and a self-contained living rain forest — all under one roof. There is even an African penguin exhibit which draws large crowds at feeding time. And if you are feeling cultural, you can always check out the Golden Gate Park’s de Young Museum or the Japanese Tea Garden.
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