Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman´s Wharf
San Francisco without doubt ranks as one of the world's greatest cities, renowned for its scenic beauty, unique hilly terrain, elegant architecture and outstanding cultural attractions. Not surprisingly, the city welcomes thousands of visitors every year, all of them falling under the spell of its alluring magic. San Francisco holidays are breathtaking in the richness, breadth and variety of experiences they can offer.
Part of the attraction of San Francisco lies in its dramatic location -- set around a sparkling bay on the north California coast, it not only has a beautiful waterfront, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean from just about every point, but also an almost perfect climate. The California sunshine is tempered by mild sea breezes, keeping temperatures at an ideal level for most of the year. Even when the fog rolls in from the bay, the city takes on a mysterious and exciting look.
The most popular area for visitors, where most people head first, is Fisherman's Wharf, with its historic and picturesque waterfront, where fishermen still unload their catch every evening. It's home to Pier 39, a festive waterfront marketplace, with two levels of boutiques, entertainment venues and charming eateries including the famous crab vendors, all surrounded by sensational views of the city and the bay. A community of sea lions has taken up residence on the floats in the marina, and you can spend hours just watching their antics.
Fisherman's Wharf is the place to catch a ferry to Alcatraz, the rocky island in the bay that is home to the legendary former prison, which housed some of the country's most notorious criminals, such as Al Capone. You are dropped off at the island and provided with a self-guided tour map, and there's also an audio guide recorded by former inmates and prison guards, telling some creepy tales about the prison's history. When you get back, you can enjoy a meal at Fisherman's Wharf, which is home to some of the most renowned restaurants in the world.
Wherever you are in San Francisco, the one iconic sight that will dominate your view is the Golden Gate Bridge, and San Francisco holidays cannot possibly be complete without a visit to this landmark, the most recognisable symbol of the city. You can walk across, drive, hire a bicycle at one of the many cycle-hire shops and cycle across, or even enjoy a tour on a vintage fire engine. One cool way to experience it is to catch a ferry across to the pretty town of Sausalito -- giving you unique views of the bridge's structure -- and explore the town, before catching a bus back across the bridge.
At the city end of the bridge, the Golden Gate Park, the largest urban National Park in the world, offers more than 1,000 acres of gardens, verdant landscapes roamed by bison, and lakes with picturesque windmills. As you wander around you can discover the exquisite Japanese Tea Garden, the gorgeously colourful Conservatory of Flowers, and the beautiful Strybing Arboretum. In the middle of one of the lakes is a man-made island that is home to Strawberry Hill, which you can climb for stunning views of the city and the ocean.
Away from the waterfront, another essential for San Francisco holidays is taking at least one ride on one of the historic cable cars, which are as much a symbol of San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge. There are three trolley lines operating, the most famous being the Powell-Mason line from Market Street, through downtown to Fisherman's Wharf, passing the famous Lombard Street, the steepest and twistiest street in the world, lined with beautiful and elegant houses. Close by is the picture perfect Alamo Square and Steiner Street neighbourhood, with its brightly coloured Victorian homes known as Painted Ladies, including the famous Postcard Row on Steiner Street.
Of course, for those who remember the Sixties and the Summer of Love, or wish they did, the city has a special appeal. Even today, there are plenty of traces of the 60s hippie counter-culture, for instance on Haight Street, running between Golden Gate Park and Market Street, lined with colourful Victorian houses, upscale boutiques, and funky cafes and bars. At the intersection with Ashbury Street is the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood, where it all happened in the Summer of Love, now full of boutiques and Internet cafes.
These are just a few of the dazzling possibilities for San Francisco holidays. Despite being the fourth largest city in the USA in terms of population, it's incredibly compact, covering only 49 square miles, so notwithstanding its hilly terrain it's very easy to get around on foot, enabling you to make the most of your time. Even so, you can spend weeks in San Francisco, and still not experience everything this amazing city has to offer.
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