October 10, 2008 / 3:09 PM / 10 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore San Francisco? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a short visit...

The Maltese Falcon, a clipper sailing luxury yacht owned by U.S. venture capitalist Tom Perkins, sails into San Francisco Bay September 27, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith


6 p.m. — Start your visit off with a meal at one of the city’s hot dinner spots, Zuni Cafe. The restaurant sits in a glass-enclosed space overlooking Market street and offers a menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes that change daily. Sample fresh local oysters at the always-buzzing downstairs bar or grab a table upstairs and try the signature roast chicken with bread salad and taste why San Francisco is famous worldwide for food.

8 p.m.— See what’s playing at the American Conservatory Theater, which puts on a mix of classical and new productions and whose alumni include actors Denzel Washington, Annette Bening and Benjamin Bratt. If music is more your thing, head to the city’s North Beach neighborhood to Jazz at Pearl’s in a club styled on a 1930s speak-easy.

10 p.m. — Finish the night with drinks at Tosca Cafe next door to Jazz at Pearl’s. The bar is popular with locals and tourists alike and the VIP back room is a gathering place for local celebrities and politicians like Sean Penn and Mayor Gavin Newsom. Throw a few quarters into the opera jukebox and sip one of the bar’s famous brandy-spiked cappuccinos made with Ghiradelli chocolate at the long mahogany bar. You can also check out the former beat bar Vesuvio Cafe across the street or for a more local experience, wander up Columbus Avenue and take a right on Stockton Street to Tony Niks, a hip, friendly neighborhood bar.


8 a.m. — Begin the day at the historic Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street and stroll through dozens of shops and restaurants that sell everything from fresh local fish to artisan cheeses to just-baked breads. Nosh on caviar at Czar Nicoulai Caviar or try some chocolate from Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker. If the weather is nice, grab a coffee, some pastries and enjoy breakfast outside while watching the ferries dock. On Saturdays the plaza teems with local farmers who set up stalls at a twice-weekly Farmers Market to sell fresh California fruits, vegetables, jams, breads, cheeses and other locally produced foods.

10 a.m. — Jump on a street car or take a leisurely walk up the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf. Board the ferry to Alcatraz Island for some jaw-dropping views of the city and spend some time wandering through the notorious federal prison located smack dab in the middle of San Francisco Bay and whose inmates included Al Capone and Robert Stroud, better known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz.”

12 p.m. — Make your way back toward the city center by way of North Beach. Jack Kerouac and the Beat poets called the cafes and bars of this neighborhood home and many of their favorite haunts still exist. For lunch, crowd into Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Bar overlooking Washington Square Park for their famous meatball sandwich slathered on locally-made focaccia bread. Head up Grant Street to check out the boutiques and then walk back to Columbus Avenue for a snack at Stella Pastry. If coffee is your thing, turn the corner to Cafe Trieste for java the locals swear by. Make a last stop at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s legendary City Lights bookstore to find radical political titles not available at mainstream shops. If you are up for it, climb the stairs to Coit Tower for views of the Bay and Lombard Street, known as the crookedest street in the United States.

2 p.m. — Stroll toward Union Square through one of the largest Chinatowns outside of Asia. The sights and sounds of the neighborhood make next-door North Beach feel a world away. For the best flavor of local life walk up to Stockton street and joust your way through the crowds doing their daily shopping. If you are hunting souvenirs, meander down Grant Street which is full of shops and restaurants catering to tourists. The end of Grant spills out onto the edge of Union Square, the city’s most upscale shopping district.

4 p.m. — Ride the Powell Street Cable Car and get off at California Street at the top of Nob Hill. Walk one block west to the Mark Hopkins Hotel for their traditional afternoon tea service and then ride the elevator to the famous Top of the Mark bar on the 19th floor for stunning 360-degree views of the city.

6 p.m. — Hop in a cab or take the city’s BART subway to the Mission District for dinner. The traditionally working-class Latino neighborhood is now a mix of fashionable bars and restaurants that bump up against long-time taquerias and local shops. For some of the best tacos and burritos in town try La Taqueria at Mission and 25th Street or nearby La Cumbre, another popular local eatery. For something more trendy, Foreign Cinema and Limon are popular choices, as is the rooftop terrace at Medjool Restaurant and Lounge on those rare warm San Francisco evenings.

8 p.m. — When the sun goes down, the Mission District lights up. After dinner, follow the crowds to the corner of 17th and Valencia and choose from dozens of watering holes for a drink. Blondies is a popular meeting spot where the bartenders are known for stiff martinis. Nearby Dalva and Beauty Bar often attract a crowd as well. For live music, 12 Galaxies offers the latest and loudest bands while Pink is the place to dance the night away.

Marin County resident John Martiniin takes photographs of the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands in Sausalito, California September 24, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith


9 a.m. — Start the morning at Ton Kiang in the Inner Richmond district for what many locals say is the city’s best dim sum. Get there early or be prepared to wait because this place is always crowded.

11 a.m. — It’s a short cab ride to Haight Street for shopping and people-watching in a neighborhood synonymous with the hippie generation of the 1960s. The few short blocks are chock full of everything from second-hand clothing stores to high-end designer boutiques. A must-see for music lovers is Amoeba music at 1855 Haight Street. The massive store is located in a former bowling alley and stocks more than 100,000 new and used CDs, vinyl records and audio cassettes that will satisfy any musical taste whether its polka, punk or post-modern.

1 p.m. — Walk to the end of Haight into Golden Gate Park. Built in the 1870s as an urban oasis, the park stretches some three miles from the edge of the Haight all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Check out the Conservatory of Flowers, which is the oldest glass-and-wood Victorian greenhouse in the Western Hemisphere and home to more than 10,000 plants from around the world. Also popular are the Japanese Tea Garden and the M.H. de Young Museum, a $200 million copper-clad structure commissioned to give San Francisco its own masterpiece of modern architecture. The museum’s collection houses American art from the 17th through the 20th centuries along with works of natives from the Americas, Africa and the Pacific. Make sure to take in the views from the top of the observation tower and then enjoy an afternoon snack or early dinner in the museum cafe featuring dishes made created local ingredients.

Reporting by Michael Kahn; editing by Paul Casciato

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