“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”
This quote is often and possibly erroneously attributed to Mark Twain. While it’s true the author spent a significant amount of time in this fair city and while it is also true the weather in the area can be somewhat unpredictable, the actual origins of the quote remain unknown. Doesn’t make it any less true, though.
Fog in San Francisco
San Francisco’s convenient location in Northern California guarantees a pleasant and mild yet somewhat cool climate. Actually the area can feel just as much Pacific Northwest as it does Cali. The city still gets a lot of the famous California sunshine. It’s just that sometimes that sunshine can be fleeting.
On my first visit to San Francisco I did what I’d do in any other city – I glanced at the Weather Channel and peaked out the window. All signs were pointing to a warm and sunny California day, so I chose to wear the shortest of my shorts, even though it was only March.
I set out to wander around the colorful and lively city full of sounds and sights. Children playing in the parks, old people playing cards on the sidewalk and people walking around, all seemingly oblivious of the looming change. All of a sudden the sun disappeared, as if someone just hit the off switch. Darkness took over the city as a thick and dense fog rolled down from the hills, blanketing the entire city. The air immediately became several degrees colder, bringing chills to my bare calves. Somehow the streets seemed to empty of every living creature with the first whiff of the fog, and the only thing I could hear on my way back to the hotel – to change into a more appropriate outfit – was the sound of my footsteps in the fog.
The Golden Gate Bridge covered in fog
Fisherman’s Wharf and the sleepy sealions at Pier 39
At Fisherman’s Wharf there’s one thing you should definitely do: eat crab
San Francisco has an excess of unique and lively neighborhoods including the old hippie quarter of Haight-Ashbury, the hipster chic Mission District and the gay Castro. Fisherman’s Wharf is the one neighborhood that locals tend to avoid as much as they can.
The admittedly touristy area isn’t all bad, though. There’s a somewhat smalltowny feel to parts of the city’s northern coastline, with cosy restaurants serving fresh seafood and great views of the bay.
Pier 39 is as far from authentic or cool as you can get, pretty much the tackiest mall you can imagine, but the sealions sunbathing at the edge are definitely worth a visit!
San Francisco’s Financial District and its skyscrapers as seen from Coit Tower
Alcatraz, the famous prison island
San Francisco’s famous cable cars are a fun way to see the city and climb some of the steep hills
San Francisco’s FiDi is hiding a beautiful secret between the skyscrapers. One narrow and unassuming alley among many has somehow attracted an impressive row of European style restaurants with lively terraces sprawled out across the alley, covered in beautiful lights. A great choice for a romantic dinner in the city.
Union Square & Geary Street
The seemingly never-ending Geary Street passes Union Square’s department stores and hotels, art galleries and boutiques, stretching all the way until Japantown and leading you towards Alamo Square and the idyllic Victorian houses called the Painted Ladies.
The street is a great hub to explore the city from. I personally love the hotel Clift on Geary – it’s beautiful and close to everything!
Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world, with Coit Tower in the far background
The Painted Ladies are an impressive row of Victorian houses lining the charming Alamo Square. This is one of the best places in the city for a sunny picnic. Unfortunately my picnic was interrupted by a random camera crew just as I was imagining myself as the long-lost fifth Halliwell sister in a new season of Charmed that’s only airing inside my head. My magic power is that I’m really pretty.
Chinatown in San Francisco is actually the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. Walking around the impressive neighborhood it’s actually easy to forget where you are. The countless restaurants and shops in the area are full of treasures and tasty treats.
The Best Views of Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is an icon of the city. It’s actually visible from several places around town, but some views are definitely above others. Here are my favorites:
1. Baker Beach
This beautiful stretch of sand on the west side of the Presidio offers a wonderful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The beach is also suited for sunbathing and picnics, but be careful when wandering around – as you move closer to the bridge the beach becomes a nudist beach, and San Francisco’s nudists are just like all nudists everywhere: old and overweight.
2. Lands End
At the western edge of the city is Lands End Trail, one of the best hikes in the area. While you’re getting a workout you can also enjoy some of the best views of the bridge and the surrounding areas.
3. Coit Tower
The tower is located in the middle of the city on a high hill, making it an excellent viewing point of not only the bridge but the entire city.
There are of course countless other great spots on both sides of the bridge to admire it and other beautiful views. Walk around. Get lost. Find your own favorites. Just be careful of the fog!