During a visit to San Francisco, you’ll want to wander the city’s hilly streets (or take a trolley or cable car) to discover its eclectic neighbourhoods and waterfront. To help further plan your perfect San Francisco getaway, we asked Andreas Rippel, Chef Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, to share recommendations for how to experience the best of the city – from night-time museum visits to kayaking on the bay.
Art and performance
Photography courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The de Young Museum at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is home to a dazzling collection of art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas, as well as a wide variety of costumes and textiles. The Yerba Buena arts district showcases the Contemporary Jewish Museum, itself a dazzling example of postmodern architecture, and the art gallery at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which also houses a theatre. And the nationally prominent American Conservatory Theater stages plays in the nearby downtown theatre district.
Family-friendly city tours
Go behind the scenes on a small-group tour of the California Academy of Sciences in verdant Golden Gate Park for an up-close look at the greenest museum on Earth. Take a night tour of Alcatraz. Ride around in a big, red, shiny Mack fire engine through the Presidio, across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, where you’ll stop at scenic Fort Baker for a photo opportunity. Or check out the free do-it-yourself walking tours of this hilly but walkable city.
Photography Mike Pucci / Thinkstock
The Concierge can arrange a tour through the vineyards of Napa Valley, including the orchards of Talcott Olive estate, where you can sample the small-production olives. The beautiful rolling scenery will whet your appetite for the area’s fine restaurants and world-famous vintages.
A must-see market
Don’t miss San Francisco’s largest farmers market, at the Ferry Building, with its luscious local produce. Located at the foot of Market Street along the Embarcadero, the market offers delicacies such as fresh fish, artisan cheeses, fresh bread, wines and chocolates. The exterior of the building and the main public hall of the building, which first opened in 1898, have both been restored to their original condition. You can stroll through the permanent market shops and restaurants any day of the week, but Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays bring farmers from all over the Bay Area.
A toast to San Francisco
Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
For a special treat, stop by MKT Restaurant – Bar and try a tempting appetizer—charcuterie with house-made pickles is a favourite—or an excellent cut of steak locally sourced from Brandt Farms. If you are in the mood for a creative cocktail, try the After School Special, with Belvedere vodka, lemongrass, ginger, lime and ginger beer.
Photography Aubrie Pick courtesy Beretta
Many of the best San Francisco restaurants are hidden among the micro-neighbourhoods of the city. In the Mission is Beretta, a hip and casual Italian restaurant with an exhaustive cocktail menu. Flour + Water, also in the Mission, is a Northern Italian pasta and pizza joint that offers house-made pastas and world-class Neapolitan-style pies created with Northern California inspirations.
In the Fillmore, Dosa is a Southern Indian standout. In the Avenues you’ll find Aziza, a Moroccan restaurant that has made the mainstream thanks to television appearances. In the Marina, A16 remains pre-eminent for its Italian cuisine and wine list. The ultimate in San Francisco fine dining: Restaurant Gary Danko, which has everything you could hope for in a romantic evening.
For nighttime entertainment, head to the jazz clubs in the Fillmore, such as Boom Boom Room, where bands of world-class performers rotate regularly. See and be seen at the Marina, which has the best people-watching in the city. The Union Square area is filled with clubs and nightlife, each with its own twist. For something more subdued, consider a night visit to a city museum, several of which offer evening hours and feature music and drinks. The best is the California Academy of Sciences on Thursday nights. It’s a great way to see the space, enjoy a beverage and avoid the daytime lines.
Photography Can Balcioglu / Thinkstock
Head 7.5 miles (12 kilometres) west to the coast and check out Fort Funston. It features 200-foot-high (60-metre) bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. “Sweeping views” doesn’t begin to describe the grandeur of this natural area, which is a hot spot for hang-gliders. Grab a picnic basket and enjoy the free show. Fort Point, at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, is the best place to watch the surfers and passing boats.
This is also your starting point if you want to walk or jog across the bridge (about 3.5 miles, or 5.5 kilometres, total). Point Reyes National Seashore, about an hour and a half north of San Francisco, is one of the most beautiful places in Northern California. You can belly up to a local bar and eat fresh oysters, or you can take a morning kayak trip on the bay to see the abundant wildlife. Five miles past the Golden Gate Bridge lies Fort Cronkhite, one of the early World War II military outposts, complete with barracks and miles of scenic trails.