San Francisco for the First Time | A Quick Guide to the City

 
San Francisco City Guide - Monica Francis

During a whirlwind of travel at the end of 2017 - from Paris and London to New Orleans and New York - we landed in sunny San Francisco for few days. Yes, after preparing for the famous fog (you know, Karl) we were pleasantly surprised with clear skies and warm weather. While I'm sure we only scratched the surface, a long weekend was perfect for getting introduced to the city.

San Francisco City Guide | A travel guide for a quick visit to San Francisco, CA | Things to do, favorite restaurants, the prettiest streets, and the best views. | What to see in San Francisco’s most popular neighborhoods. | Downtown, Hayes Valley, Alamo Square, The Mission District, The Marina, Cow Hollow, Marshall’s Beach, Legion of Honor | With a custom travel map you can access from your phone!
San Francisco City Guide | A travel guide for a quick visit to San Francisco, CA | Things to do, favorite restaurants, the prettiest streets, and the best views. | What to see in San Francisco’s most popular neighborhoods. | Downtown, Hayes Valley, Alamo Square, The Mission District, The Marina, Cow Hollow, Marshall’s Beach, Legion of Honor | With a custom travel map you can access from your phone!
San Francisco City Guide - Monica Francis
San Francisco City Guide: View from Coit Tower - Monica Francis
San Francisco City Guide: Lombard Street - Monica Francis

downtown: 

The city's cable car lines run here, from Market Street to Fisherman's Wharf and out to Van Ness Avenue. Between all the steep hills and the fact that things are pretty spread out, you won't get far by walking. Rent a car or use a rideshare app to get around, but hop on the cable car at least once. Bonus points if your skirt matches the California Street car!

One of my favorite mornings was taking the cable car out to Larkin Street for a visit to Mr. Holmes Bakehouse (the matcha croissant is even better than the neon "I got baked in San Francisco" sign), coffee and some writing time at Jane, and shopping at the super-fashionable Hero Shop.

San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art is one of the largest (and best) collections of 20th-century art in the world, from Andy Warhol to Louise Bourgeois. If there's one museum you visit here, this is the one. Spend an afternoon browsing the galleries, and don't skip the gift shop on your way out. 

With sprinkles littering the sidewalk and window displays of unicorns and giant macarons, the Museum of Ice Cream is difficult to miss. It's also not easy to get a ticket, so plan far in advance and get on their email list if you want to swing under a cloud of pink bananas

Visit the famously crooked Lombard Street and see the 360-degree view from the top of Coit Tower. Stop by Boba Guys for tea, settle in for a cozy dinner at Hops & Hominy, or get a drink and a bite to eat at The Cavalier (in the hidden bar room, if you can).
 

San Francisco City Guide - Monica Francis

hayes valley & alamo square: 

Start your afternoon in Alamo Square to see the row of pretty pastel houses known as the Painted Ladies. Once you've snapped a photo, take a walk around the park or relax on the hillside. Then, walk east down Hayes Street into the charming Hayes Valley neighborhood.

The main street here is lined with shops like Fiddlesticks (the cutest kids' store), Cary Lane (a fantastic designer sample outlet boutique), and Plants and Friends (best-ever name for a garden shop, non?). If you're looking for a little Paris, get a sidewalk table at The Riddler champagne bar. For something that's equal parts sugar and almost-too-cute-to-eat, visit the pastry shop Miette.

San Francisco City Guide - Monica Francis

the mission district: 

Dolores Park is one of the most popular in the city, with a wonderful view of downtown San Francisco. It's the perfect place to watch the sunset, spread out with a picnic, or settle into a park bench with something sweet from Tartine Bakery.  Just down the street is the highly instagrammable flower shop Ampersand.
If you're not looking to pack a picnic dinner, make a reservation at flour + water. Their pasta is handmade in-house and they even offer pasta making classes! For a pre- or post-dinner drink, head to Trick Dog

the marina & cow hollow:

You'll find plenty of shopping and restaurants in this area, so plan for a morning or afternoon of wandering through these neighborhoods. Between window shopping along Chestnut Street in the Marina, have brunch at Le Marais Bakery (a favorite) or lunch at Tacolicious. In Cow Hollow, Wrecking Ball Coffee is full of charm from the façade to the pineapple wallpaper - and the coffee is delicious. There are even two flower shops on the same block of Union Street, The Bud Stop and Le Bouquet

San Francisco City Guide - Monica Francis

further afield: 

There are plenty of places to hike in San Francisco, but the path down to Marshall's Beach is relatively quick and easy, with a wonderful view of the coastline and the Golden Gate Bridge. Because it's on the west side of  the bridge, it's also a perfect spot to watch the sunset. 

If you have the time to make your way out to the Legion of Honor, you'll be rewarded with great views of downtown and the Golden Gate Bridge, and plenty of hiking paths around to explore. The museum itself has a well-curated collection of European art, and a quiet terrace café for lunch.

 

 'star' the map below to access it from the google maps app on your phone.