With its hilly streets and beautiful houses, San Francisco is consistently voted one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. The ‘City by the Bay’ is full of culture, blending both a bohemian and cosmopolitan experience.
Shopping, San Fran Style
When it comes to shopping, there are two distinct districts for guests to choose from: Union Square and the Mission District. Union Square is home to many big department store chains, as well as smaller fashion boutiques, while the Mission District has some of the hippest art, records and vintage kitsch clothing to be found.
In Union Square, shoppers can find good deals on fashion at Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Barney's and Saks. However, these are places that most guests can shop at anywhere in the world. The main draw of Union Square is the smaller boutique stores. There are plenty of small Indie fashion designers who only have shops in San Francisco. Be sure to check out shops like Anne Fontaine's for ridiculously elegant and luxurious formalwear, or Anthropologie for some truly innovatively designed clothing.
Down in the Mission District, music lovers must stop at Aquarius Records to peruse their large selection of music, including a great selection of vinyl. For the art enthusiast, be sure to stop by Southern Exposure. This artist-run non-profit gallery is a venue for the most cutting edge pieces on the local art scene. Not only are there paintings and sculptures, but the store frequently hosts performances, films and lectures too. And at the Ruby Gallery, you’ll find some of the best locally-made handbags, jewellery, clothing and accessories.
For travellers who are interested in more consumable souvenirs, there are three equally wonderful goods to choose from. The yeast used to make Sourdough bread was brought to San Francisco during the gold rush by the French, and it has remained in continuous production since. Be sure to stop by Boudin Bakery and grab a loaf. Also try to stop by XOX Truffles to sample the chocolate, and at K&L Wine Merchants to grab some Napa and Sonoma wines. K&L even has a few bottles of rare and treasured vintages for serious connoisseurs.
Enjoy Nearby Wine Country
Let's be honest, isn't the nearby wine country at least part of the reason for visiting San Francisco in the first place? So take advantage of one of the numerous tours that take wine aficionados to nearby wine country.
Private Boutique Wine Tours is one of the best tour operators out of San Francisco. Travellers will enjoy sparkling wine for breakfast while over looking San Francisco Bay before driving past picturesque vineyards until lunch. At the first winery, guests will receive an interactive winemaking lesson including a seminar on how to blend them. Once you identify a blend you absolutely love, a bottle will be sealed up as a souvenir. At a further five wineries on the tour, you will be treated to samples of the finest treasures in the collections. There will also be olive oil, cheese and chocolate-tasting before you go back to San Francisco.
For those that want to see wine country in a more adventurous way, join Bike Wine Country on a ride through the gently rolling hills of California's wine country. This nine-hour tour includes bicycles, two tour guides, four winery visits and a gourmet catered lunch.
An Eclectic Food Scene
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Visitors to San Francisco can find just about any kind of cuisine in the city. The gold rush of 1849 opened the flood gates for foreigners who were looking to strike it rich, and they all brought the unique flavours from their homelands with them. Now the city has transformed into a place that thrives on culinary diversity and sets food trends worldwide.
At Ame American, French, Japanese and Italian flavours all converge within the masterful dishes created by head chef Hiro Sone. The restaurant is designed in an attractive modern style that complements the St Regis Hotel that it dwells within. With signature dishes like egg custard with sea urchin, sake marinated black cod, tuna tartar and an open sashimi bar, it is easy to see why Ame lures celebrities and the social elite. Like any good restaurant in California, Ame also hosts a fine local wine collection. There’s also a long list of imported sake to choose from.
Boulevard is another of San Francisco's high profile eateries. With the kitchen being run by two of the city's biggest culinary celebrities, Nancy Oakes and Pat Kuleto, it is no wonder that Boulevard is considered a must-visit for discerning visitors. The restaurant is located in the historic Audiffred Building, which looks like something that was plucked right out of Paris. Inside the two chefs serve up sophisticated American food that has been given a distinctive French twist. The menu changes seasonally, but favorites include generous portions of Maine lobster ravioli, wood-grilled pork prime rib chops, Wagyu beef burgers and grilled king salmon with chanterelle mushrooms.
Stay In Creative Hotels
Though the Argonaut Hotel started as a fruit and vegetable canning facility, those days are long gone. Now this beautiful brick four story building has become one of the finest luxury options in the city. Fitting with San Francisco's Bay City nickname, the hotel has adopting a nautical theme complete with ropes, anchors and compasses in the lobby. The rooms are spacious, complete with a sitting area, beautiful wood beam ceilings and windows open to the sea air and waterfront. Suites come with deep whirlpool bath tubs and most rooms come with views of either Alcatraz or the Golden Gate Bridge.
For those that don't mind being away from all the action of the downtown area, the Hotel Drisco is perfect. This beautiful Edwardian hotel is nestled among the homes of the wealthy and it’s a favourite hideaway for celebrities. The quiet hotel feels more like a secluded bed and breakfast rather than a hotel in the city, and the rooms come with sweeping views of San Francisco. Be sure to head down to the lobby each evening for complimentary wine and chocolate biscotti; it is a perfect way to prepare for a night on the town.