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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > California > San Francisco

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Things to see in San Francisco

Tourist Offices

San Francisco Visitor Information Centre

Address: , 900 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Telephone: +1 415 391 2000.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sat-Sun 0900-1500 (May-Oct); Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sat 0900-1500 (Nov-Apr).

Website: http://www.sftravel.com

The city's information office is manned by helpful multilingual staff that are ready to dispense advice, and hand out maps and brochures. They can also book tours and make hotel reservations.

Tourist passes

The San Francisco CityPASS (www.citypass.com/san-francisco) allows admission to five attractions (California Academy of Sciences, Aquarium of the Bay, Cable Car and Muni Bus Passport, Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure and either the Exploratorium or De Young Museum). It is valid for nine days and can be purchased from the attractions on the day or online in advance. The Go San Francisco Card (www.smartdestinations.com) allows you to build your own customised discount card from a selection of more than 25 attractions.

Attractions

Golden Gate Park

The 412 hectares (1,017 acres) of Golden Gate Park encompass meadows, lakes, myriad gardens, an open-air music concourse, a children's playground and vintage carousel, a buffalo paddock and the tallest artificial waterfall in the West. The park fronts Ocean Beach, which affords spectacular sunset views. You'll also find the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), which includes the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor. Gaze at 5th-century Peruvian artefacts and prized Maori sculptures from New Zealand, then wander through the Rockefeller Collection of American Paintings to dangling collages of modern art.

Address: , 501 Stanyan Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Telephone: +1 415 831 2700.
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website: http://www.golden-gate-park.com
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Alcatraz

Looming menacingly in the Bay, Alcatraz (known simply as 'The Rock') was the site of the USA's toughest maximum-security prison from 1934 until 1963. Al Capone lodged there, as did birdman Robert Stroud, although his infamy is based more on Hollywood legend than fact - he never did keep birds here. Alcatraz, which imprisoned convicts as much with the Bay estuary's lethal currents as with manmade bars, opened to a curious public in 1973. Now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, its on-island activities include trail walks and audio tours narrated by former inmates and guards. Ferries depart from Pier 33.

Address: , Alcatraz Island, San Francisco,
Telephone: +1 415 561 4900.
Opening times:

Daily 0845-1830 (Mar-Oct); daily 0930-1630 (Nov-Feb).

Website: http://www.nps.gov/alcatraz
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Cable Cars

San Francisco's network of century-old cable cars were introduced in 1873 to replace horse-drawn streetcars and refurbished in the 1980s. The ride is best enjoyed from one of the outside platforms but travellers should hold on tight and watch out for traffic. The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines, beginning at Powell Street and Market Street, run roughly north-south between Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square. The California Street line runs east-west from California Street and Market Street, near the Embarcadero to Van Ness Avenue. The cars are turned by hand on turntables at the end of the line - all part of the experience

Address: , Powell Street, Market Street and California Street, San Francisco, ,
Telephone: +1 415 701 2311.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0600-0130.

Website: http://www.sfmta.com
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Chinatown

The Dragon Arch that leads into Chinatown at Bush Street is the only authentic Chinese gate in North America, and it leads into the oldest and largest Chinese community outside of Asia. So large it houses numerous parks and countless restaurants, Chinatown is a living microcosm of Chinese life, and draws more tourists to its streets than the Golden Gate Bridge. New Year and the Autumn Moon Festival are the neighbourhood's big draws, but wander round on any day of the year and savour the sensory assault that fills the air.

Address: , Chinatown, San Francisco,
Telephone:
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website: http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

The Mission

The Mission, once linked to Mission Dolores (the city's oldest building, built by its Franciscan fathers in 1791), is a district of San Francisco where Central America's immigrants and bohemians rub shoulders with yuppies and dotcom workers. Here, better than anywhere, you can get a feel of the city's Spanish origins. Beautiful outdoor murals, often on social justice issues, signal the area as a vital hub of diversity and creative change. Valencia Street, a lesbian enclave, is a very desirable property area and boutiques and restaurants with a Latin flavour vie for cash with the drug dealers in neighbouring Dolores Park.

Address: , Dolores and 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Telephone:
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website:
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Golden Gate Bridge

The beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Marin County, is not gold, but a vivid rusty orange that stands out through frequent thick fogs. Spanning 2.7km (1.7 miles), the bridge is one of the wonders of the modern world and one of five bridges that span the Bay. The best views of the Golden Gate Bridge are from Fort Point in the Presidio and Visa Point. A walk (30 minutes) or, at least, a drive across the bridge is essential.

Address: , Highway 101 (Lincoln Boulevard), San Francisco, Ca 94129
Telephone:
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours (roadway and bicycle access); daily 0500-2100 (pedestrian sidewalk).

Website: http://www.goldengatebridge.org
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Presidio

Destined to become a self-sufficient national park, the land and buildings of Presidio surround the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. Formerly one of the oldest military installations in the country, it now houses a forest, a Civil War brick fortress and a museum. The first fortification was erected in 1776 and the facility was transferred to the National Park Service in 1994. There are some incredibly scenic trails in and around the wooded areas of the park, with views across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Address: , The Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94123
Telephone: +1 415 561 4323.
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours; Daily 1000-1700 (visitor centre).

Website: http://www.nps.gov/prsf
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39

In the daytime, visitors throng the sidewalks and piers of Fisherman's Wharf - a centre for tacky souvenirs, Bay-view restaurants, shops, attractions and the spectacle of some 500 resident sea lions crowded onto pontoons to sunbathe. In the early hours of the morning, from dawn until 0900, the ambitious visitor can get quite another view - that of a busy fish distribution centre. Pier 39, where Beach Street meets The Embarcadero, is actually one of 29 curiously numbered piers on the waterfront and is now the city's biggest attraction. Not only is it home to the sea lions but also the Aquarium of the Bay, where moving sidewalks are surrounded on three sides by water.

Address: , The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133
Telephone: +1 415 674 7503.
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website: http://www.fishermanswharf.org
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Ferry Building

Standing regally on the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street, the iconic Ferry Building has long been a San Francisco landmark. Opened as the transportation hub for ferry commuters and train travellers in 1898, it carried up to 50,000 ferry commuters a day. Today the repeating interior arches and overhead skylights in the grandiose central nave provide a home for purveyors of the finest cuisine from the Bay Area.

Address: The Embarcadero, One Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111
Telephone: +1 415 983 8030.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 1000-1800, Sat 0900-1700, Sun 1100-1700.

Website: http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, opened to great acclaim in 1995. Its permanent collection is particularly strong in American 20th-century sculpture, painting, photography (including works by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and Georgia O'Keeffe) and multimedia installations. A three year, multi-million expansion plan completed in 2016 has doubled the gallery space and expanded the collection, making it one of the greatest contemporary art museums in the world.

Address: South of Market, 151 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Telephone: +1 415 357 4000.
Opening times:

Fri-Tues 1000-1700, Thurs 1000-2100.

Website: http://www.sfmoma.org
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

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