City Guides / San Francisco
Although founded in 1776 by Spanish colonists the city didn’t see true growth until the California Gold Rush of 1849, and then so much so that it became the largest city on the West Coast. It is now the cultural, commercial and financial centre of Northern California, it is also the birthplace of the United Nations. Three quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire killing 3000 people, it is considered as one of the worst and deadliest natural disasters in the history of the United States. Built on the tip of a rocky peninsula, San Francisco’s terrain is undulating and steep, with some surface streets exceeding 30% gradients for stretches. Lying just past the Golden Gate Bridge at the northern end of the city is Marin County, a paradisiacal escape from the urban pressure of San Francisco, with 55% of its land preserved as open space.
During the Second World War San Francisco was a major port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theatre. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalising attitudes, along with the rise of the ‘hippie’ counterculture, the Sexual Revolution, the Peace Movement growing from the opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing to this day San Francisco as a centre of liberal activism in the United States.
San Francisco became an epicentre of internet start-up companies during the dot-com bubble of the 1990’s and the subsequent social media boom of the late 2000s, some of the companies based there are Instagram, Twitter, Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, Dropbox and many more. The economic shift has caused immense cultural upheaval, with many of the city’s more bohemian aspects shunted aside by the skyrocketing cost of living and gentrification.
Locals know San Francisco only as ‘The City’, but it has several nicknames including ‘The City by the Bay’, ‘Fog City’, ‘San Fran”, and ‘Frisco’ as well as older ones like ‘The City that Knows How’, ‘Baghdad by the Bay’, and ‘The Paris of the West’.
We’d lke to thank Nate King (@kingthenate on IG) for all the below tip-offs on STAYING, EATING, and DRINKING – we bow to you!
- Directly in San Francisco:
http://www.hotelgsanfrancisco.com - Upscale boutique hotel specialising in avant-garde decor and fostering creativity in its guests. Located in the heart of Union Square, San Francisco’s historic shopping destination.
- http://www.wsanfrancisco.com/ - Modern, chic, and in SoMa, SF’s start-up mecca.
- www.fairmont.com - Quintessential old-school San Francisco. The classic grand hotel experience drenched in decades of history. Located in the bougie Nob Hill neighborhood, it proffers the legendary Tonga Room, a must-visit for any Tiki Bar aficionado.
http://www.cavallopoint.com/ - Wake up every day beneath the Golden Gate Bridge on the Marin County side. Built in the former Fort Baker, Cavallo Point offers historically restored cabins, houses, and rooms, as well as new modern, minimalist accommodations and outstanding on-site eating/drinking. A perfect place to escape from the City, but still have at your fingertips.
(sorry, my approach to food/drinking is decidedly...Bourdainian)
- http://www.donpistos.com/ - Phenomenal taco/tequila bar in the typically-Italian North Beach neighborhood. Al Pastor tacos that will ruin you. Margaritas to kill for.
- http://spqrsf.com/ - Modern Italian, run by renowned chef and talented cyclist Matt Accarino, SPQR’s noteworthy accomplishments all include gluten and a Michelin star.
- http://www.unapizza.com/ - Una Pizza Napoletana. Tony does pizza, and only pizza, in the classic neapolitan style. Select few varieties available, no slices, and one size only. No reservations. He bakes until the dough is gone. Get in line early. The Pegoretti of pizzamakers? Perhaps.
- Marufuku Ramen - http://tabemonojourney.com/2017/02/22/tabemono-in-san-francisco-marufuku-ramen-excellent-hakata-tonkotsu-ramen-in-japantown/ - Everything is made in-house. Hankering for a bowl of noodles and broth? Doesn’t get better. Expect a wait.
- http://www.suppenkuche.com/ - German. So, so German. Community tables. Huge liters of lager. A slice of Munich in California with everything that could possibly stick to your ribs.
- http://www.tongaroom.com/ - kitschy as fuck, totally worth it. start the night here, get something on fire. Tiki Bar to the extreme.
- https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Gangway/144944282207460 - Gangway is a necessary stop, and a notable piece of SF history. One of the city’s oldest gay bars, it’s rich in experience and the drinks are...strong.
- http://theinterval.org/ - The Interval at Long Now is setup in the Fort Mason Center just off the Marina. This is the bar for nerds, snobs, and anyone dabbling in intellectualism, with a hefty dash of classy Steampunk. And it’s a nonprofit.
- http://www.bourbonandbranch.com/ - Make reservations. Dimly lit, speakeasy vibes, astonishingly good cocktails. Visit the “secret” Library for an unforgettable experience.
- https://gestalthausoffairfax.com/ - Located north of SF in Fairfax along a popular cycling route, the Gestalt Haus is a cyclist’s dream pe bar. Hooks along the back wall for bikes, propaganda from the birth of mountain biking clutters the space, and the beer selection is extensive. The perfect end (or midpoint) to nearly any ride into Marin County.
Valencia St in the Mission District, eclectic shopping at its best, quite a bit of vintage, mixed with some high end, a little bit hipster, yet not sickeningly so. Some good coffee shops as well, Four Barrel being arguably the best, I got a new favourite mug from there that says “Fuck It”.
Hayes Valley is very much the same vibe as the Mission District, arguably better, but full of the same sort of thing, shops are designed to be searched rather than simply perused. Amazing food and drink opportunities to boot.
Above Category - This is a very special shop, situated in one of the most beautiful areas anywhere to ride a bike, Marin. It’s name describes it perfectly, anglicising the terrifying hors category term used to describe those Tour de France mountains that are simply beyond classification. Only this shop isn’t scary, in fact it is very welcoming, and stocks some of the most beautiful cycling paraphernalia available anywhere in the world. Owned by Chad and his wife.