Great weather, beautiful bay, rolling hills. San Francisco is one beautiful city.
San Francisco is a popular tourist destination found on California’s coast, known for it’s steep hills, colourful Victorian houses, the red Golden Gate bridge and cable cars that run in the city center. San Francisco is also nicknamed ‘Fog City’ after the fog which can occur year round. The city has marshlands that run through the area, easy to point out from a plane.
A brief history:
The original inhabitants of the area were Native Americans who lived in the area as far back as 3000BC as evidence suggests. The Bay area supported the Native Americans who were hunter gatherers living in small villages. The Spanish exploratory party who colonised the area in the late 18th century named the the Ohlone.
The San Franciso area gained independance from Spain in 1821 and formed part of Mexico. It was in 1835 that one of the first major homesteads were established by an Englishman, William Richardson. He had a vision for the settlement’s expansion and established a town named after an abundant herb found in the area called Yerba Buena (today Portsmouth Square). It was during the American-Mexican war in July 1846 that San Francisco changed hands and was claimed by the Americans.
The Californian Gold Rush brought a flood of gold seeking immigrants to the area in 1848 and the total population grew from a small number of just 1’000 to 25’000 people. When silver ore was discovered in the area it continued the population boom and the city needed to concentrate all efforts to accommodate the new arrivals. Narrow streets which still seen today are a result of their efforts. Chinese workers were a large portion of the population growth, working in the gold mines and the Transcontinental Railroad that was developed later. Today 1/5th of the city is home to Chinese communities. Visitors are able to explore the famous Chinatown in the area.
In 18 April 1906 80% of the city was devastated by an earthquake estimated 7.8 on the Richter scale as well as a fire which ravaged the city. The original city street grid was restored and the city was re-planned and constructed.
Here’s some interesting things to see in San Francisco
- Old fashioned cable cars:
Between 1843 and 1890, 23 manually operated cable car systems where established throughout the city. Today it is the world’s oldest manually operated cable car system and there are 3 cable car lines which are still in operation and are a popular tourist attraction. As a tourist, it’s the perfect way to get up and down the hills in the city. Depending on the time of day that you try and catch a cable car, you might be in for a long wait.
2. Fisherman’s Wharf
The Northern Waterfront area of San Francisco takes it’s name from the time of the Californian Gold rush where Italian Fishermen set up shop to feed the influx of people to the area, setting a scene for an excellent business opportunity.
Today it’s a popular attraction with seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, scenic walks along the wharf. Boat trips to Alcatraz also depart from the wharf.
There are a few chocolate stores to check out at the Wharf. One I visited intrigued me tremendously. It’s called the San Francisco Chocolate Store and it has everything from hand crafted chocolate, candies, ice cream, caramel apples and a few of the weirdest candies I have ever seen (and might not try!). The oddities I found were bug lollies (with ACTUAL BUGS!! WHAT KID WANTS A BUG LOLLY?!) and Harry Potter’s Bertie Bott’s Beans which was actually tempting.
Unfortunately this is the closest I got to Alcatraz! You can see it in the distance of the photograph. If you know you want to go to Alcatraz on your trip to San Francisco, make sure that you book in advance because if you are as spontaneous as I am when it comes to day trips you might be disappointment that tickets are fully booked. https://www.alcatrazislandtickets.com/Compare-Tours/ You can book either a day or a night tour up to 90 days in advance.
Only 2.1 km from San Francisco, Alcatraz can be reached by a short ferry trip. The island is a mere 22 acres (0.089 km), has the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States and an abandoned prison. It was in 1934 that the island became a federal prison, known for it’s high security and the impossibility of escaping. Al Capone, George ‘Machine-Gun’ Kelly and Alvin Karpis were some of the famous in-mates incarcerated. Eventually in 1963 the prison closed down as it was deemed too expensive to run.
4. Golden Gate Bridge
This is easily one of the most photographed bridges in the world, known as one of the most iconic landmarks in San Francisco. It was opened in 1937 and at that time it was the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge: total length of 2’737 m and 227 m height.
San Francisco is along the San Andreas fault line which results in what I experienced between one and two mini earthquakes each day of 1 – 2 on the Richter Scale. Hardly noticable. The bridge’s earthquake resistance has been increased in a project completed in 1980 and now the bridge can survive an earthquake of 8.3 on the Richter scale. (According to a study done by the University of Bath, Architecture and Civil Engineering Department).
Sausalito is a city on the Northern side of the bridge and has a real holiday feel about it, complete with colourful boat houses, boutiques, cafes and restaurants and wooden houses perched on top of the hills, with big leafy trees.
6. Painted Ladies
The Painted Ladies are beautiful houses built in Edwardian and Victorian architecture that is so often seen in the city. The Painted Ladies were built between 1892 and 1896 and are famous for appearing on postcards, TV programs, movies and adverts. Full House and Fuller house are examples. The Painted Ladies also has a great view of the city center from the Alamo Square park from which I took this photo.
7. Walk through Golden Gate park
Golden Gate Park is a large urban park in fact 20% larger than Central Park in New York to which it is often compared. It’s full of large trees of which Blue Gum Eucalyptus (Australian species), Monterey Pine and Cyrus, Giant Redwoods.
8. Flower Observatory (in the Golden Gate Park)
The Flower Observatory is the oldest building in the park, having been constructed in 1879. It houses rare and exotic plant species that shows off the different levels of a rain forest setting.
When you walk into the observatory you are caught up in a humid setting in which it’s easy to imagine yourself in a tropical location.
9. Take a trip to the Googleplex
The majority of my time in the San Francisco area was in Mountain View – at the Google Headquaters for the IO event. The Googleplex is a grand total of 290,000 m2 space with great walks past the buildings. Guests are able to visit the Merchandise shop and purchase anything from the latest tech to a pen or a shirt.
The Lawn Statues are also worth a visit.
10. Beer and Burgers
Embassy Suites by Hilton – San Francisco Airport has a lovely view of the Bay and some great local craft beers to taste. Well paired with a burger or pizza!