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Holidays in San Francisco

Set on a peninsula on California’s north-west coast, the famously hilly city of San Francisco has a distinctive ‘village’ feel. There’s a vibrant social and theatre scene here; it’s the kind of quirky place where a ‘fog-calling contest’ might compete for attention with gala balls marking the opening of the symphony, opera and ballet seasons. From Union Square and North Beach to Japantown, you’ll find intriguing neighbourhoods at every turn.

18-20 °C

Best time to visit San Francisco: July to October, when it’s warmest.

11 Hours

San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which is 13 miles south of the city.

Recommended holidays in San Francisco

Handlery Union Square Hotel

7 Nights, Room Only
Hotel highlights
  • Located at Union Square, the Handlery Union Square Hotel offers the perfect San Francisco lodging for vacationers and business travelers. As a fami...

What is included ?

  • ATOL Protection
  • Resort Service

£1580

Carriage Inn

7 Nights, Bed & Breakfast
Hotel highlights
  • The Carriage Inn offers a witty, offbeat escape that salutes San Francisco's notables, both naughty and nice. The Carriage Inn is a 48-room literar...

What is included ?

  • ATOL Protection
  • Resort Service

£1068

Best Western Plus Americania Hotel

7 Nights, Room Only
Hotel highlights
  • Description: The newly renovated best western americania is a fun, hip hotel that captures the spirit of the mid-twentieth century. Understated ref...

What is included ?

  • ATOL Protection
  • Resort Service

£1111

Hotel Rex, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel

7 Nights, Room Only
Hotel highlights
  • A stay at Hotel Rex, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel places you in the heart of San Francisco, minutes from Grace Cathedral and close to Lombard Str...

What is included ?

  • ATOL Protection
  • Resort Service

£1135

Hotel Whitcomb

7 Nights, Room Only
Hotel highlights
  • Welcome to San Francisco's historic Hotel Whitcomb, an early 20th-century masterpiece that is a favorite among travelers. When you walk through the...

What is included ?

  • ATOL Protection
  • Resort Service

£1136

Cova Hotel

7 Nights, Room Only
Hotel highlights
  • Situated in the heart of San Francisco, the Cova Hotel offers a delightful haven for travelers seeking spacious and comfortable lodging in a downto...

What is included ?

  • ATOL Protection
  • Resort Service

£1173

Pickwick Hotel

7 Nights, Room Only
Hotel highlights
  • Whether in town for sightseeing, shopping, business or attending a conference, The Pickwick Hotel is at the heart of it all. The Pickwick Hotel's c...

What is included ?

  • ATOL Protection
  • Resort Service

£1216

Hotel Cartwright Union Square

7 Nights, Room Only
Hotel highlights
  • DOWNLOAD A FACTSHEET Conveniently located in the heart of San Francisco's Union Square, close to shopping, dining, entertainment, the Financial Dis...

What is included ?

  • ATOL Protection
  • Resort Service

£1248

Hotel Kabuki - a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel

7 Nights, Room Only
Hotel highlights
  • A stay at Hotel Kabuki - a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel places you in the heart of San Francisco, walking distance from Konko Church of San Francis...

What is included ?

  • ATOL Protection
  • Resort Service

£1283

The Pickwick Hotel

7 Nights, Room Only
Hotel highlights
  • You'll be centrally located in San Francisco with a stay at The Pickwick Hotel, steps from Westfield San Francisco Centre and close to Lombard Stre...

What is included ?

  • ATOL Protection
  • Resort Service

£1286

San Francisco is known as ‘The City’ to the natives, but it feels like a mix of little villages thrown side by side. To the south is the up-and-coming Tenderloin; to the north the picturesque and serene Nob Hill. In the middle is Downtown, where The City hustles and bustles 24 hours a day, and you’ll find Union Square’s shops, theatres and the MoMa (Museum of Modern Art). Head north out of the centre to the buzzing Fisherman’s Wharf, to take in the fresh sea breeze and even fresher seafood.

Downtown San Francisco is wedged between Union Square’s upscale boutiques and the gleaming office towers of the Financial District; not to mention Chinatown, and the Civic Centre’s opera house, museums and libraries. Rise and shine early (or roll out a South of Market club) for breakfast with a side of people-watching.

Hotels in San Francisco’s Union Square are perfectly placed for all your shopping and city-hopping needs, via genteel cable cars. Set Downtown, this is where ladies of leisure come to lunch, and the suits of the Financial District and boutique shoppers criss-cross each other during rush hour.

Great for families (and a big hit with the local sea lions!), this waterfront district is all about seafood and sightseeing. Visit the Aquarium of the Bay in the bustling Pier 39 complex, whizz around on a Segway city tour, and catch the ferry out to prison-turned-nature reserve Alcatraz.

San Francisco sits high on the list of the world’s most iconic cities, thanks in part to its grand engineering emblem, the Golden Gate Bridge. The parks are popular hangout spots that offer some of the best views: head to Alamo Square Park, where the ‘Painted Ladies’ - a row of colourful Victorian townhouses - can be seen with downtown skyscrapers looming behind them. Get the ferry to the Alcatraz (aka ‘The Rock’) and visit the Walt Disney Family Museum for a glimpse into the mind of the man behind the mouse. For live-action animals, head to San Francisco Zoo.

An international marvel, the 1.7-mile Golden Gate suspension bridge crosses San Francisco Bay and is the city’s most photographed icon. Alcatraz is one of the top attractions in San Francisco; the atmospheric fortress building offers grand city views from its rocky outpost. Formerly a place its prisoners would try to escape from, it’s now a world-famous destination for tourists (and birds). It’s said to be haunted – if you’re feeling brave have yourself shut into a solitary confinement cell to get a real feel for what life was like here.

Still clicking its fingers to 1950s Beat poets, and swaying to the vibes of the Summer of Love, it’s no surprise that San Francisco is dotted with iconic venues. Jazz and blues fans should soak up the atmosphere at Jazz at Pearl’s, Yoshi’s, and John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room. The Mission District, San Francisco's oldest neighbourhood, is also its hippest: Valencia Street has become a hotbed of new restaurants and music clubs offering everything from punk to funk. The century-old Great American Music Hall, in Tenderloin, is still one of the best places in San Francisco for seeing live music.

The popular Pier 39 leisure complex sprawls out over 45 acres of Fisherman’s Wharf, down on the seafront. Packed with restaurants and shops, it has stunning views over Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz. Union Square offers all the retail therapy delights, from designer names to department stores like Saks and Macy’s. Noe Valley is a bit off the beaten path, and has eclectic shopping, unique restaurants, and almost-guaranteed sunny weather. The hills that bracket the area give it an aura of a village; it’s a friendly family neighbourhood brimming with home décor boutiques, toy stores and cafés.

If you’ve never been one to take the straight and narrow path, you’ll love Lombard Street. It’s known as the most crooked street in the world and features steep hills, sharp turns and a line-up of beautiful Victorian mansions. You’ll want to drive carefully as it’ll feel like you’ve jumped onto a thrilling rollercoaster ride. Its steep slope is sure to send chills running up and down your spine, but it’s well worth a visit and is often a key attraction in many of the city tours. You could also play it safe and explore the jagged street on foot, but if you really want to experience the thrill of it, you’ll need to hop in a car.

In the mood for some downtime? Head over to the beautiful Marina and enjoy the mesmerising music played by the Wave Organ. There’s no musician in sight, it’s just a very unique and innovative art installation that accurately depicts the movement of the waves to create enchanting songs. Designed by Peter Richards, this unusual sculpture has 25 organ pipes in total. Each one is located at different elevations, which allows it to capture the sound of the rising and falling tides. It’s known to be a very peaceful and almost magical experience, inviting you to become completely submerged in its rhythm as you overlook the San Francisco Bay.

The Alcatraz Island is home to one of the world’s most legendary prisons. From 1934 to 1963, the federal penitentiary kept the streets of San Francisco safe from notorious criminals such as Robert Stroud, also known as the “Birdman” and Al “Scarface” Capone. Nowadays, it’s a lot less dark and mysterious and more beautiful than ever. Nesting seabirds rest in rock crevasses while rare plants grow in the stunning gardens. Back in its days of operation, trusted inmates were able to spend time in the gardens before returning to their dreary cells for the night. You can take an intriguing tour of Alcatraz Island and its prison, following a park ranger through its grounds before exploring inside the prison. Watch out though, you never know when an escaped prisoner could be lurking in the dark.

San Francisco is best for...

Music Lovers
Enjoy classic or cutting-edge venues in the home of American counterculture.

Wine Buffs
Tour the famous valleys of Napa and Soma, and indulge in local food and wine festivals.

Parents
This upbeat, child-friendly city has lots of fun attractions for kids of all ages.


Fast facts

Language: The main language spoken in the USA is English.

Currency: The currency used in the USA is the American Dollar ($).

Local time: San Francisco is 8 hours behind GMT/UK time.

Fly to: San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which is 13 miles south of the city.

Flight time from UK: 11 hours.

Tourist Information: Further California tourist information can be found here.

Visa & Health: Before you travel click here for recommendations and advice on visas and health for your holiday to the USA.


Getting around

By Muni: Run by the Municipal Transport Agency, you can ride the ‘Muni’ all over the city like a local. If you’re planning to visit attractions and museums, a CityPASS is a great choice.

By streetcar: Board an Historic Streetcar at any of its stops – the fleet of elegant bus-like vehicles come from all over the world.

By cable car: The quaint cable cars offer a fantastic way to see the city.

By bus and train: Buses run throughout the city, and the overground Light Rail and ‘Muni Metro’ underground service offer even more options for getting around San Francisco.


Weather and climate

Temperatures: Around 8°C in the winter and 18-20°C in the summer.

Best time to visit San Francisco: July to October, when it’s warmest.

With its unique microclimate, San Francisco’s weather can look and feel very different across the city. Winter is generally cool and damp; summer and early autumn are pleasant and dry. Pack your layers - the temperatures rise and fall quickly, so optimistic bare legs on a sunny day can get quite a shock.


Events

Film festivals On the must-see list are the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January, and September’s SoCal Independent Film Festival, in Orange County’s Huntington Beach.

Music and arts The ultra-cool Coachella Music & Arts Festival takes place in April. Look out for the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach from July-August, where clever performers and artists recreate artworks with staging, makeup and costume.


 More About San Francisco
San Francisco OverviewThings To DoWeatherPhotosFAQSCurrency

Weather In San Francisco
Jan, Feb, March, April, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec

Resorts Near San Francisco
Los Angeles

Similar Destinations
Mexico, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Spain

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