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San Francisco Guide
San Francisco - Out and About
San Francisco, California’s second largest city, is located on the Pacific coast, at the extreme northern point of the San Mateo Peninsula. The San Francisco area stretches southwards along the peninsula and comprises nearly 40 hills. The city and its hills form an incredibly scenic back-drop, home to Victorian houses, suspension bridges and the famous cable-cars straining to climb the steep roads.
The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco’s most famous suspension bridge, is one of the longest in the world. The bridge, built in 1937, serves to link the city with Marin County at the mouth of the bay. It is possible to drive over the bridge by exiting at the Sausalito junction of the freeway and passing along Conzelman Road. To see the bridge from its base, the visitor should go to Fort Point, site of the Praesidium, a fortified military zone, founded in 1776 by the Spanish and occupied until 1847 by the Americans. The chapel and the officer’s club still remain, as evidence of this military period. The Praesidium complex is located in the elegant district of Richmond which is lined along its ocean shore by Lincoln Park. Castro Street and the Mission District are located on the hill-side nearby and originally formed the nucleus of the city. Today it is the site of the Hispanic community, which developed around the site of the Dolores Mission, situated between 16th Street and the corner of Dolores Street.
Dolores Street joins Market Street, and leads into Buchanan Street, site of the Japanese Consulate and home to the Japanese community. The beautiful Japanese “Cherry Blossom Festival” is held here every April. Following Van Ness, one of the main city streets, the visitor descends to Market Street and the Civic Center, which houses various Government, State and Council buildings, together with the more prestigious cultural institutions in the city: the 1915 City Hall, inspired by the Classic-style architecture of the 17th Century; the State Office building; the Main Public Library, the Civic Auditorium and the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, built in 1980 and home to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (closed Monday), located in the vicinity, offers an extensive range of European and American contemporary art. Continuing along Market Street ,the visitor arrives in Hallidie Square; from here, Powell Street leads on to Union Square, the commercial centre of San Francisco. Maiden Lane between Geary Street and Post Street, located to the east of the square is considered the most beautiful street in the city. The Circle Gallery built in 1948 by F.L. Wright and inspired by the Guggenheim Museum in New York, is located at N°140. The largest Asian community living outside Asia, lives in San Francisco’s colourful Chinatown. A labyrinth of narrow alleys and streets complete with Buddhist temples, restaurants, shops selling exotic gods and cultural institutions including the Chinese Cultural Center and the Chinese Historical Society Museum, which displays photographs and records, detailing the development of the Chinese district.
The Financial District is located at the end of Kearney Street. This zone is the centre for business, banking and commerce and is the site of the city’s skyscrapers: the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Building (1929); the Bank of America Building; The Bank of California; the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange and the Transamerica Pyramid (1972), which has now become one of the symbols of the city. North Beach, the exclusive residential district of the city is located a few blocks away from the Transamerica Pyramid. North Beach is the Italo-American district, famous for its restaurants, art galleries and night life. It is also the site of Saint Peter and Paul Catholic Church, where mass is celebrated in three languages. Italian, English and Chinese. Telegraph Hill, offering wonderful views over the city, is located a short distance away. The Coit Tower, built in 1933, stands on the summit of Telegraph Hill and commemorates the heroic work of the city’s firemen during the blaze, which followed the 1906 earthquake. Columbus Avenue, Nob Hill and Russian Hill lie to the west and make up the wealthy and prestigious West Coast district. The area is dotted with Victorian style houses, painted in pastel shades. The majority of the houses date back to the period 1870 to 1906, having miraculously survived the 1906 earthquake. Fine examples include the Haas-Lilienthal House Museum, Whittier Mansion and Octagon House. Nob Hill is also the site of the Neo-gothic style Grace Cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of the Episcople Church of California.Lombard Street, located on Russian Hill, is regarded as the world’s most tortuous street. It has an incline of 40% and a series of 10 curves, which wind their way around among elegant flower-beds. Fisherman’s Wharf, the city’s liveliest district, is located north of Colombus Avenue, in front of the Cannery. This old quay, with its large number of souvenir shops and local restaurants is a firm tourist attraction. The ancient, but fully functional, Ghirardelli Chocolate Manufactory stands in Ghirardelli Square between Beach, Larkin, North Point and Polk. San Francisco is home to numerous academic institutions, including: Berkeley University of California (1868), San Francisco State University(1889), Golden Gate University(1901) and Stanford University of Palo Alto (1885).
San Francisco’s public transport system is comfortable and efficient. A first-time visitor must take a ride on the famous trams and trolley cars.
San Francisco - Not to be missed
A spectacular 360° view of the bay can be had from the summit of Twin Peaks.
Alcatraz Island stands 2.5km off the coast. The island is the site of the famous prison, from which nobody ever managed to escape. The prison, which was closed in 1963, opened to the public in 1973 and now forms part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Ferries to the island leave from Pier 41 and 43 and guided tours are held every 90 minutes. It is advisable to book.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is considered the largest urban park in the world. Visitors should stroll along the Golden Gate Promenade, a 6.5km trail which starts at Aquatic Park and runs to Fort Point and Golden Gate Bridge. A very scenic walk that allows the visitor to admire the Palace of Fine Arts. This semi-circular building, with two large pillars at its entrance, was constructed in 1915.
The Golden Gate Park to the west of the city, is one of the most beautiful town parks in the city. The park administration at McLaren Lodge provides information and detailed maps. Guided walks are organised every week-end from May to October. The park houses: the Conservatory of Flowers, a large greenhouse with tropical plants and flowers; the Asian Art Museum with a vast collection of Oriental art and the Japanese Tea Garden, a delightful Japanese garden with wooden bridges, ornate arches, pagodas, lakes and statues of Buddha.
San Francisco - Walks and tours
The Monterey Peninsula is situated 200km south of San Francisco along the panoramic CA1. The area is renown for its beautiful landscapes and its rich and varied marine flora and fauna. The zone is the site of three charming towns: Monterey, Carmel and Pacific Grove. A detour from Pacific Grove takes the visitor along “17-Mile Drive”, a panoramic road surrounded by rare natural beauty, that passes sandy coves and rocky shores inhabited by sea lions, otters and seals. Carmel possesses the San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo Mission(1774), considered to be the finest in Northern California.
Sacramento, founded in 1849 is the state capital and is s located 140 km east of Los Angeles along Interstate 80. The city contains many interesting buildings including: the State Capitol Building ,constructed between 1860 and 1874; the Old Governor’s Mansion (1877); the Californian State Indian Museum, with a fine collection of Indian artefacts and the Old Sacramento Historic Park, the old historic centre with buildings dating back to 1860. Following the I80 for a further 160 km brings the visitor to Lake Tahoe. The lake, renown for its limpid waters, is situated in a valley in the Sierra Nevada and is the largest mountain lake in North America. The lake surrounded by thick forests and bordered by small beaches is the ideal location for those who wish to practise aquatic or winter sports. 250km east of San Francisco it is possible to visit the famous and very popular Yosemite National Park. The park stands in the centre of the Sierra Nevada, and provides a spectacular display of nature: thundering waterfalls cascading down vertical, white-granite cliffs, forests of giant sequoias and meadows full of wild flowers, all this inhabited by deer, coyote, badgers and marmots. There are a host of trails and paths to be explored on foot. A bus leaves from the Visitor Center and takes the visitor to the more interesting points in the park.
San Francisco - The traveller's notebook
Currency : the unit of currency is the US$, subdivided into 100 cents.
Climate : Mediterranean, during the summer period fog is often present in the bay.
Opening hours : The majority of the shops are open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 7pm. Many are also open on Sunday at the same times. The banks are open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm.
Telephones : Telephone code:. 415
San Francisco - A pocket guide
National holidays. New Year’s Day, 1 January Matin Luther King Memorial, third Monday in January G.Washington Birthday, third Monday in February Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May Memorial Day, last Monday in May Flag Day, 14 June United States of America’s Independence Day, 4 July Labor Day, first Monday in September Columbus Day, second Monday in October Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November Christmas Day, 25 December
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