As I emerged from the underground BART station, I found myself situated in the heart of Downtown San Francisco - and buzzing to be there! This was my first time visiting the Californian city, despite it having been on my bucket list for some time.
I’ve since learned this wasn't the most direct route I could have taken - is it too cliché to say I love to get lost in cities? sorrynotsorry – but without much thought, I hopped on one of the city’s old school trams and and hoped I was heading towards the Mission, where I was staying. I watched out of the windows as the built up Financial District transformed into a vibrant and colorful neighborhood and quickly fell in love.
What was it about San Francisco that so quickly captured my interest? Although San Fran maintains its city like vibe and pace, there isn’t an abundance of high rise buildings. Instead, the rolling hills are lined with a mixture of Victorian houses, street art and bustling roads.
And of course, you can watch out over the bay at The Golden Gate Bridge (and don’t forget Oakland bridge!); wander around a busy Pier 39 (I was mainly there to see the sea lions) and take a boat trip around Alcatraz; but for me, that wasn't what was really exciting about SF.
Fortunately the weather held out - I was told that this wasn’t always the case and you would usually find a heavy fog stuck in parts of the city. Sunny afternoons meant that my favorite activity was to aimlessly explore the decorative streets filled with houses painted in an assortment of pastel colors and murals but in all honesty, some of the rolling hills were more like huge mountains to climb so I very quickly figured out how to get myself a JUMP bike to cruise around on.
If you love street art and/or a latino vibes, head to Mission.
After eating my way down Mission Street (scroll down for more), I headed to Ashton-Haight to find stores filled to the brim quirky pieces and vintage fashion. And although I like to think I’ve had a more alternative experience of the city, naturally, as this where Levi’s started their journey I made a visit to the store on Market Street - I couldn’t help myself and bought all the denim.
From shopping to the outdoors, San Fran can cater to all. There are parks dotted across all across the place; you could start off at the decadent Golden Gate park and move across to Dolores Park, which is on top of a hill with a magical view of the whole city.
With just a short trip over the Golden Gate Bridge (!) you can visit Muir Wood; here you can explore the tracks through Redwood trees. My main motivation to visit Cali was actually the opportunity to see real-life Red Wood trees - which was amazing - and I expected this to by favourite thing to do but after exploring SF’s wide streets decorated with palm trees and colorful houses, I also fell in love with the city.
As SF brings together a mixture of cultures, the possibilities to eat out are endless. During my time I, hands-down, had one of the best quesadillas on my life in a chaotic cantina (La Taquiera <3) and tried my first Pupusa from Salvador – to die for! I opted vegetarian for both and they were unreal. Whilst you’re Downtown you can also pay a visit to China Town or Japan Town where there are even more choices for food. I went to Good Mong Kok, a small bakery, for some delicious dumplings on the go.
And on an evening, the city transforms once again as close quarter bars build with indistinct chatter, craft beer houses filled with eager customers and there are live music venues on the corner of every other block. One of my favorite nights was spent in the Revolution Café, a cosy space, bursting with electric music by The Night Animals (who play there once a month – definitely check them out!).
If you have the opportunity to head to the West Coast and visit this city, I would urge you to bump it to the top of your to-do list.