Fifty years on from the Summer of Love, the hippie city has blossomed into a thriving tech hub. Start planning your escape to visit the home of Alcatraz, says Lizzie Frainier
Why go? San Francisco is a city that incubates innovation, radical thinking and progress. Residents are fiercely proud to call the 11sq km peninsula home and with an eclectic selection of neighbourhoods, buzzing ethnic fusion restaurants and a thriving cultural scene, it’s not hard to see why. This month it plays host to several events, including the Uncorked Festival on 13 May and San Francisco International Arts Festival from 25 May.
What to do Start by exploring the city’s distinctive districts. North Beach is the Italian hangout, known for its trattorias and gelato parlours. Chinatown and Japantown here are the oldest in the US, while Haight-Ashbury’s bohemian vibe is felt in the countless vintage clothing and record stores. Our favourite area is The Mission, rich with Hispanic heritage and ever-shifting murals. Discover the stories behind the ones on 24th Street with a Precita Eyes Muralists precitaeyes.org tour. While its diminutive size means it is technically walkable, San Francisco’s 43 hills are notoriously steep, so make use of the world’s last manually operated cable car system sfcablecar.com and save your legs. Later, check out SFMOMA sfmoma.org and its collection of 33,000 modern art pieces. It reopened last year with almost three times the original gallery space and new restaurant In Situ, where head chef Corey Lee curates a rotating menu comprising dishes from top global chefs such as René Redzepi and Thomas Keller. Finish with a boat trip to Alcatraz alcatrazcruises.com and explore the former maximum-security prison while taking in views of the City by the Bay’s skyscrapers and Golden Gate Bridge. With 38 painters constantly working to maintain its recognisable International Orange shade, you won’t be disappointed.
Where to stay? Being a perennially hip and tech-savvy city (home to Twitter, Airbnb and Pinterest), San Fran has loads of stylish hotels with cutting-edge amenities to choose from. Many are found around the central shopping district of Union Square. Hotel Zetta 00 1 415 543 8555, viceroyhotelsandresorts.com is designed to cater for the tech crowd, with smart TVs, high-end docking stations and Jawbone speakers. The Axiom 00 1 415 392 9466, axiomhotel.com combines technology (think fibre-optic Wi-Fi and USB points) with chic, minimalist design and muted colours. Built in 1910, The Marker 001 415 292 0100, jdvhotels.com is considered old by US standards but its beaux-arts exterior gives way to a distinctly modern interior with pops of bright pink and blue decor. At Hotel G 00 1 877 828 4478, hotelgsanfrancisco.com all the art hanging in the rooms is for sale, raising money for a non-profit organisation helping disabled artists. Climb the unmarked staircase opposite the front desk to find speakeasy-style bar Benjamin Cooper for creative cocktails and oysters.
Where to eat and drink? To understand why the Bay Area food scene is so damn good, start with a visit to Ferry Building 00 1 415 983 8030, ferrybuildingmarketplace.com where raw ingredients reign supreme. Originally a transport centre, the building is now a sprawling food market selling everything from juicy peaches to infused honey. In The Mission, burritos are the order of the day. Try no-frills La Taqueria 00 1 415 285 7117 for its carne asada version stuffed with steak and pinto beans. At South Indian-influenced Dosa 00 1 415 441 3672, dosasf.com you’ll find a brunch menu serving frittatas with spiced potatoes and coriander alongside bloody Marys laced with an extra kick of ginger, garlic and green chillies. Two-star Michelin Lazy Bear 00 1 415 874 9921, lazybearsf.com began life as a supper club and now serves up changing tasting menus of new American cuisine to long communal tables five nights a week.
Time running out? Take yourself out to a ball game at the AT&T Park sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com and opt for the upper seats to watch the San Francisco Giants with a backdrop of bay views.
Trip tip The city’s hilly landscape means each neighbourhood has its own microclimate. Bring layers to adjust as you meander from the sunnier Mission district to the fog-shrouded Embarcadero.
Currency is the US dollar. Time is eight hours behind GMT. Flight time is approximately 16 hours from Dubai The cost to carbon-offset is $33.53. For more details, visit climatecare.org
Emirates Airline flies direct from Dubai to San Francisco daily emirates.com Turkish Airlines flies to San Francisco from Dubai via Istanbul daily turkishairlines.com
San Francisco Travel offers event listings, restaurant tips and maps to help you explore the city. sftravel.com
The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts (Griffin, $14.50) is a captivating political biography of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.