There are many reasons why San Francisco continuously rates as one of the most liveable cities in the USA. For starters, its residents retain a relationship between materialism and money on the one hand and cutting-edge thought, innovation and progressive politics on the other. Its relatively manageable size, aesthetics and high standards don’t hurt its reputation too much either.
This dualism in San Francisco is played out in almost all facets of society: from eating, drinking and socialising to art and design, music and culture, landscape and architecture. The reward for unleashing this creative and freethinking beast on everyday activity is a dynamic lifestyle on par with New York and societal norms that are streets ahead of most other cities in the country.
Granted, the discerning attitudes towards everything from dining out to theatre productions have garnered accusations of elitism – the city topped a recent high-profile list of ‘America’s Snobbiest Cities’, but there are worse crimes than having high standards, especially when those standards come not from conservative old money, but from a young, socially responsible population that just expects more than light beer and nights in watching America’s Got Talent.
San Francisco is fortuitously positioned between the Pacific Ocean and Sierra Nevada mountains to the east and west and redwood forests and the California desert to the north and south. On San Francisco's doorstep, the Bay, which fits neatly in between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, is not only tantalisingly beautiful, it's home to 14 small islands, including Alcatraz.
The famous, glorious vineyards of the Napa and Sonoma wine regions ensure weekend escapes are part of the San Francisco experience. The wealth of world-class produce adds to the sense of high standards of living that surround residents and visitors alike here.
Although the city has a mild year-round climate, it should not be confused with the common image of hot and sunny Southern California. When the fog and cold sets in, as it often does in San Francisco, locals head indoors, to jazz venues, cosy restaurants, wine bars and old-school breweries. There’s nothing like occasional inclement weather to ensure that a city has a thriving alternative arts scene.
The city’s neighbourhoods all tell their own stories, from the hotbed of politics that made Haight-Ashbury what it is, to the bohemia of the Mission and the Tenderloin to the culinary wonder of Chinatown and the understated affluence of Nob Hill. The city has one of the world’s oldest and largest gay neighbourhoods in the Castro, a testament to the accepting nature and spirit of civic acceptance that exists here.
Though steadfast in its bright future, the city's past is always remembered with a collective nod. The city has seen some landmark social movements take place, as diverse as the beat poetry scene to the dot com bubble. Tolerance for the individual’s way of living is perhaps what buoys San Francisco most today, and what inevitably makes it an unforgettable destination for people from all walks of life.