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San Francisco

San Francisco [1] is a major city in California, the centerpiece of the Bay Area, well-known for its liberal community, hilly terrain, Victorian architecture, scenic beauty, summer fog, and great ethnic and cultural diversity.Golden Gate Bridge from Marin County with San Francisco in background These are only a few of the aspects of the city that make San Francisco one of the most visited cities in the world.

San Francisco is located on a small seven-by-seven mile (11x11km) square of land at the tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast. It has a population of 815,000, but is the center of a metropolitan area of 7.1 million. San Francisco is just one of the cities which makes up the entire San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco's neighbors - municipalities to the east of the Bay Bridge, north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and south of the city are all part of separate counties, each with their own governments and local public transportation systems.

Districts

Each district of San Francisco carries its own unique and distinct culture. This map is predominantly based on the 11 official governmental districts of San Francisco, but it has been adapted to suit the purposes of this travel guide. Some districts of particular interest to travelers have been broken up into popular neighborhood groupings, while others, mainly residential districts, have been merged together.

  Golden Gate 
Fashionable neighborhoods, e.g., the Marina District, Cow Hollow, and Pacific Heights, with extensive views and historical landmarks — Fort Mason, The Presidio, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
  Fisherman's Wharf 
A touristy waterfront neighborhood which encompasses Ghirardelli Square, Pier 39, and the ferry launch to Alcatraz Island, as well as a plethora of seafood restaurants and souvenir stores.
  Nob Hill-Russian Hill 
Two ritzy neighborhoods with upscale hotels, cable cars, panoramic views and steep inclines.
  Chinatown-North Beach 
Two vibrant immigrant communities; the crowded and largest Chinatown outside of Asia next to the stylish laid back 'Little Italy', as well as Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower.
  Union Square-Financial District 
Union Square is the center of shopping, theater and art in the city, next to the many skyscrapers of downtown and Market Street.
  Civic Center-Tenderloin 
The neoclassical Civic Center next to the grit of the Tenderloin. While the 'Loin' is grittier compared to its ritzier neighbors downtown, there is still plenty of interesting architecture and attractions to see here.
  SoMa (South of Market) 
A rapidly changing neighborhood of downtown that is the center of a lot of new construction, including new skyscrapers, some of the city's newest museums, and AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.
  Western Addition 
A historic neighborhood with many Victorian homes that was once a hotbed of African-American culture. Within the area is also Japantown, once the center of San Francisco's Japanese population, still populated with many Japanese stores and restaurants, and hotels that cater to Japanese travelers.
  Haight 
Famous for being the home of the Hippie movement, this once bohemian area is still an eclectic treasure.
  The Avenues 
Includes the foggy Richmond. Sunset and Parkside Districts, separated by scenic Golden Gate Park, bounded on the west by Ocean Beach and on the south by Sloat Blvd.
  Twin Peaks-Lake Merced 
Covering most of southwestern San Francisco, this area is home to many of the taller hills of San Francisco and the large Lake Merced park, which contains the San Francisco Zoo.
  Castro-Noe Valley 
Colorful and cohesive, the Castro (Eureka Valley) is historically known for being the cultural center of the city's LGBTQ community. Nearby Noe Valley offers excellent restaurants and shops along pleasantly walkable streets.
  Mission-Bernal Heights 
This colorful area is home to a large Hispanic community as well as new urban artisans, and is a center of San Francisco night life. For visitors wishing to get off the beaten tourist paths and catch some local flavor, this is the place to go.
  Southeast San Francisco 
A mostly lower income residential area, this district contains several bay-side neighborhoods, many nice parks, and Candlestick Park, home of the 49ers NFL team.

Understand

History

Prior to European settlement in the area, the peninsula that now contains San Francisco was home to the Yelamu tribe, who were part of the larger Ohlone language group which stretched south from the Bay Area to the Big Sur of California. Due to San Francisco's characteristic foggy weather, the earliest European explorers completely bypassed the Golden Gate and the San Francisco Bay.

The first European settlement in the area was founded by the Spanish in 1776 as a mission community surrounding the Mission San Francisco de Asís, in what is today called the Mission Dolores in the Mission District. In addition to the mission, a military fort was built near the Golden Gate: El Presidio.

Upon gaining independence from Spain in 1821, the area became part of Mexico. Under Mexican rule, the mission system gradually came to an end and private ownership of land became a possibility. In 1835, an Englishman named William Richardson founded the town of Yerba Buena, the first significant settlement on the peninsula outside of the Mission Dolores area. As the new settlement gradually grew, Yerba Buena developed a street plan and became attractive to settlers.

In 1846, the United States claimed California, and in July of that year, the U.S. Navy arrived to raise the American flag above Yerba Buena. Over the next couple of years, California officially became part of the United States following the Mexican-American War, and the name of the town was changed from Yerba Buena to San Francisco.

With the California Gold Rush of 1848, San Francisco began to explode in population. Waves of immigrants came to the city to seek their fortunes, including large numbers of Chinese immigrants, forming one of the largest Chinese populations outside of Asia. During this time, many major businesses were created and flourished in San Francisco, and famous (and infamous) personalities settled in the city. Of course, with all this success came problems: the rapid growth of the city outstripped any efforts at city planning, meaning proper sanitation and infrastructure were largely undeveloped, which led to a cholera outbreak in 1855. Violence and corruption were evident, and anti-immigrant violence resulted in many race riots.

In the 1890's, there was a large campaign to modernize and beautify the city, the success of which led some officials to proudly call San Francisco the "Paris of the West." But in 1906, a devastating earthquake shook the city and a resulting fire leveled much of the city (in fact, almost 90% of the total damage was from the fire, and not the quake itself). Nevertheless, officials at the time immediately set out on a plan to rebuild the city, with new parks, boulevards, the current civic center complex, and landmarks such as the Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill. In 1915, San Francisco hosted the Panama-Pacific Exposition (where the Palace of Fine Arts complex is currently located) to showcase the completely rebuilt city.

In the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930's, San Francisco remained largely unscathed. In fact, it was during this time that the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge were conceived and built. It was also during this time that the Federal Government established a prison on Alcatraz Island, which would hold some of the most notorious criminals of the era.

After World War II, San Francisco continued to grow in population. Urban planning projects at the time led to more highrises downtown (including the Transamerica Pyramid) and the destruction of many neighborhoods to build freeways (many of which were later torn down after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake). In the same period, San Francisco became a center of counterculture and the hippie movement,contributing to San Francisco's liberal outlook. San Francisco also became a center for gay men during this time, leading to the development of gay neighborhoods like the Castro.

More recently, San Francisco has experienced a boom in business. Despite falling victim to the dot-com bubble burst in the 1990s, the city's economy largely recovered and gentrification of neighborhoods like SoMa continues.

Today San Francisco is known for its liberal outlook and remains one of America's top tourist destinations. Tourism is the city's largest industry.

Climate

San Francisco has a mild climate, with cool, wet winters and dry summers. In most months, you can expect the high temperature to be in the upper 50s, 60s or low 70s degrees Fahrenheit (between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius). However, these mild temperature readings belie a unique climate not shared by other major cities in the state or country.

Summer days usually start out under fog, slowly burning off towards the ocean into a sunny albeit windy afternoon. Measureable precipitation during the summer months is rare, although light drizzle is possible. Humidity is very constant, but rarely uncomfortable. At late afternoon, when the fog and wind returns people generally find themselves needing a jacket (and this is summer!). There are some days when the fog lingers all day.

In the winter, the rainy season is in full swing. That being said, the chances for a calm, windless, sunny day are actually higher in the winter than in the summer! However, the overall temperatures are going to be lower in the winter.

Spring and fall are not so much seasons in themselves in San Francisco, but rather they are quick transitional periods with some days resembling summer and others the winter. Fall in particular is a good time to visit because the summer wind & fog has mostly gone, but the rainy season has not yet started. The late summer month of September, as summer transitions into fall, is the warmest and driest month of the entire year for San Francisco. Heat waves can occasionally occur around this time of year.

Within these general rules, San Francisco also has a series of microclimates created by the city's topography and maritime setting. Large hills in the city's center block much of the fog, wind, and precipitation that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean. Because of this, there can be significant weather differences in different parts of the city and the surrounding Bay Area at the same time. Generally, the more windward areas along the coast are cooler and foggier, while the more leeward areas in the east are warmer and drier. Temperature differences of 10-15 degrees or so are common on days where the fog persists on the western side of the city. These differences continues as you move east, out of the city and into the outer East Bay (on the other side of the hills from Berkeley and Oakland), where it can be much hotter and drier. Local meteorologists routinely have three forecasts: one for the coast, one for the bay, and one for the inland areas. In short, if you don't like the weather, perhaps travel a few miles east or west to your desired climate.

Literature

San Francisco literature finds its roots in the city's long and often tumultuous history, its diversity, and its attraction to eclectic characters; the city was a major center for the Beat poetry movement and seems to also hold an uncanny attraction for science fiction writers. Among the most famous works set in San Francisco:

Movies

San Francisco has been the backdrop for many films, due in part to the Bay Area's vibrant filmmaking community and the city's proximity to Hollywood. The production companies of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, along with the animation company Pixar are just a few of the big players who call the San Francisco area home. Among the better films set in San Francisco:

Tourist information

San Francisco's visitor information centers offer maps, brochures and other information for tourists.

Talk

English is the dominant language spoken in San Francisco. Cantonese is spoken by some citizens of San Francisco's large Chinese population, with an increasing Mandarin-speaking minority. Spanish is also commonly spoken in San Francisco, although not as common as in the rest of California.

 

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