Welcome to Part 1 of my California Road Trip series. I decided to do a series on the road trip as I have so much content and also I found it hard to find places that I actually wanted to go to that weren’t your average tourist places (yes there are still some included) and also that had decent coffee (coffee snob).
We are lucky to have family and friends that live in the Bay Area so when we visit San Fran we stay with them. If it’s your first visit it is better to stay in the city as most of the sites to see are around the city itself.
I have organised my suggestions into areas as this is more logical for me (I hope for you too). On the map below, I have marked key places which are a must when visiting San Francisco.
I absolutely love the Hayes Valley area! This is the essential stop for food and style. We did a whole day here sampling treats and browsing the boutiques along Hayes Street.
Start walking along from the corner of Hayes Street and Franklin Street. Along this stretch are cute boutiques such as Azalea (great for jeans), Steven Alan, Rand & Statler (stocks designers such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang, A.P.C and Acne Studios), Cary Lane (designer outlet store) and other San Francisco based designers.
A must stop is Chantal Guillon Macarons, words can’t describe how good these are!
Once you have passed the shops, you will come across the open space which runs along Octavia Street. Here you will find Smitten Ice cream (ice cream made to order with Liquid Nitrogen) and also Ritual Coffee Roasters. Along Octavia Street is Miette, the most adorable sweet store. If you have not had enough sweets yet, make sure you taste a cupcake and some of their turkish delight.
I’m sure you are in need of a break, keep walking up Hayes Street until you get to Noir Lounge. This cute wine bar screens old black and white films and is perfect to relax with some bubbes while you let your tummy settle from all the sweets.
If you have not had enough sweets, Papabubble is also worth a visit for their hand made lollies.
Catch an Uber car up the road to Divisadero Street where you will find another foodie haven (make sure you stop at Alamo Park and take a photo of the Painted ladies – photo above on the way). Once on Divisadero Street, The Mill is a must for breakfast as their toast is the bees-knees and they also have great coffee.
Further down the street is Bar Crudo, visit this place during happy hour for $1 oysters and the best Clam Chowder! we did re-order the Clam Chowder twice it was that good!
Union Square is all about the shopping. Here you will find your high-end brands as well as department store central.
Surrounding the square you have Saks, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Barneys. Just off the square is Maiden Lane with the likes of Chanel, All Saints and Theory.
Also a street away is Powell where you will find cosmetic giant Sephora, H&M and Uniqlo.
This is the stop for your chain pieces and designer items. You wont find many one-off boutiques around this area.
If you are in need of a coffee stop, go up to the fifth floor of Macy’s and you will find a Starbucks which looks over Union Square. (Coffee tip – I always order a double shot from Starbucks).
For lunch hit up one of the little deli’s in Maiden Lane.
This is one of the most tourist focused areas in San Francisco.
If you are planning to visit Alcatraz, this is where you catch the ferry from. I would allocate half a day to Alcatraz, we caught the 9:30am ferry and we arrived back at 1pm. We bought Alcatraz tickets directly from the website.
You can also hire bikes from Fisherman’s Wharf which you can take across the Golden Gate bridge.
From Fisherman’s wharf you can catch the Hyde/Powell St tram up to Lombard Street. The line was horrendous so we walked up and yes its uphill but it only took 10 minutes. If you walk up to the top of Lombard Street, it has great views of San Francisco.
After Lombard St, walk down the street to Russian Hill. This is another one of my favourite areas. Russian Hill has great coffee, little boutiques and vintage furniture stores. This is a great area to stay in, check out Air BnB to find apartments around here. You will find Polk Street has most of the shops and cafes.
Coffee at Saint Frank and La Boulange along Polk is great!
Golden Gate Bridge
This is a must see! whether you just drive over it or take the time to bike across, it is truly worth seeing. On our latest trip the weather was so cold that we could not bike it so we drove across and had lunch at Sausalito. There are lots of little places to eat there so why not try one of the restaurants on the water so you can look back at San Francisco or get take away and sit along the bay.
Below is the fog rolling in at Sausalito, it was only about 2.30pm.
Getting around: We mainly used the BART (train) or Uber, which you download the app and do everything from your phone. Uber is much more reliable and nicer than a taxi (and sometimes cheaper!). The BART is also reasonable and will get you around the city and to the outer Bay areas. The BART also goes to the airport.
Don’t forget to add tax to the ticked price of items. I got stung with this a couple of times, especially with more pricey items. The tax rate for San Francisco is around 8.75%, also take into consideration currency conversion and if paying by credit card, what the conversion fee is. This could easily add 20% to the price so do you homework when it comes to designer items and what you will actually save by purchasing them overseas.
A big thank you must go to our family and friends in San Fran who took time out to take us to these awesome places xox