Cable cars, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz
Over 150 years ago, a gold rush transformed this laid-back fishing village into a legendary city almost overnight, and it seems it has been a magnet for tourists ever since, although these days more suited to fun-seekers than fortune-seekers.
San Francisco is one of the biggest tourist hot spots in the US, renowned for it's eclectic architecture, multicultural inhabitants and famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Alcatraz and Chinatown.
San Francisco covers a relatively small area, making it a great place to explore on foot. While the city may not be awash with grand monuments, days in San Francisco are better spent strolling the streets, observing the eccentrics, and indulging in delicious seafood dinners.
Winner of the 'People & Hospitality' Award in the Conde Nast Readers' Travel Awards 2009, San Francisco is arguably the most cosmopolitan and bohemian city in America. It is also one of the most hilly, although scaling the streets is the best way to see the city, offering stunning views of Victorian houses, the Bay and the famous Golden Gate Bridge. After a day scaling the 43 hills that make up the San Fran landscape, you'll be ready to join the sea lions belly-flopping on to Pier 39.
When to go?
Weather in San Francisco is a tad unpredictable, so pack your layers. On the whole, winters are mild and wet while summers are dry but prone to thick fog, which might spoil your sightseeing. For the best of both, opt for Spring or Autumn when you can see the sights without the crowds and stand a better chance of bagging a cheap flight. But be warned that temperatures can drop darn quick when the fog rolls in...
How to get there?
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic both fly from Heathrow to San Francisco International Airport. Air France flies from Manchester, via Paris. Once in San Francisco, most people walk, bike or hop on the cable car - it's the best way to take in the sights of San Fran and will boost your green credentials too.
Explore the crooked Lombard Street, with nine hairpin bends; take a sight-seeing stroll to the Golden Gate Bridge, or give your credit card a workout in the shops of Union Square. Alcatraz Island is city's biggest attraction, a former prison and home to Al Capone, with daily guided tours from Pier 33. With its excellent collections of art and photography, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is also well worth a peek.