Discover San Francisco

Gain an insight into area’s flower-power past, through the incense-burning, tie-dye garb selling shops that dot Haight Street.

The best way to discover the pulsating city is through its fascinating jigsaw puzzle of neighbourhoods. 

The Castro 

Located in the middle of the city, the Castro is one of San Francisco’s most vibrant and cohesive communities —a proud gay and lesbian hive, loaded with identity and culture.  

Watch as the area’s rainbow flags proudly wave in the wind at the intersection of 18th Street and Castro. Pay homage to the district’s famous civil rights leader, Harvey Milk, at Milk Plaza or Castro Camera. 

The Haight

Bordering the Castro to the northwest, the Haight boasts a famous history of hippie subculture—the focal point of the illustrious 1967 ‘Summer of Love’

Gain an insight into area’s flower-power past, through the incense-burning, tie-dye garb selling shops that dot Haight Street.  Take a stroll through Golden Gate Park, guided by rhythmic hand drum beats and questionable smoke signal to Hippie Hill.

The Mission

On the opposite side of the Castro, to the southeast, the Mission is an edgy melting pot of cultures, cuisines, and cool kids. 

Taste the district’s strong Latino flavour through a number of local street food vendors, taquerias and cafes. Or head out at night to a dive bar to experience the Mission’s growing hipster culture.  

Alamo Square

Moving north, Alamo Square paints a picture of affluent San Francisco, a residential neighbourhood famed for its Victorian mansions. 

Pose for a photo in front of the neighbourhood’s most famous residents, the iconic Painted Ladies of Postcard Row. Set up a picnic Full House-style  in Alamo Square Park, against a backdrop of the city’s dazzling skyline. 

The Civic Centre

San Francisco’s political and historical heart can be found downtown in the Civic Center. A designated National Historic Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Civic Center gives visitors an insight the city’s long and important heritage.  

Wander through the Civic Center, taking in sights like City Hall, the headquarters of the Supreme Court of California, United Nations Plaza, and the San Francisco Public Library. 

Union Square

Former derelict homeless camp, Union Square was gentrified in the early 2000s and gifted to the citizens of San Francisco as the ‘people’s square’. Today, Union Square is considered both the city’s retail and ceremonial nucleus, and is celebrated as the heartbeat of San Francisco. 

Peruse the square’s department stores, upscale boutiques, gift shops, art galleries, and beauty salons.  Or just sit in Union Square Park and people watch the neighbourhood’s eclectic crowd. 

Chinatown

A few blocks north of Union Square, sits San Francisco’s Chinatown neighbourhood—a city within a city, it is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and oldest Chinatown in North America.

Marvel at the enclave’s temples, pagoda roofs and dragon parades. Sample traditional and authentic Chinese cuisines at a plethora of restaurants and food markets. 

Nob Hill

Perched on one of the city’s original ‘Seven Hills’, the opulent neighbourhood of Nob Hill boasts an old-world elegance and outstanding views of San Francisco Bay. 

Take an iconic cable car ride along line 61 to the hill’s summit, looking back over a breathtaking view of the city and water. Relax with a meal at one of the enclave’s world-class restaurants and a drink at a swanky lounge bar.  

Russian Hill 

North of Nob Hill, also nestled atop one of city’s original ‘Seven Hills’, Russian Hill is a charming neighbourhood that channels San Francisco of the past. 

Join the locals at a cozy cafe and watering hole. Take on the "crookedest" street in the world, Lombard Street, trekking up or down its steep hills and around its sharp curves, past grand Victorian mansions. 

North Beach

East of Russian Hill, North Beach is best known as San Francisco's Little Italy. It is also a popular pilgrimage for fans of the Beat movement seeking the old haunts of Kerouac and Ginsberg. 

Walk the precinct streets, stopping off at check-clothed-table laden ristorantes and cafes, and Old World delicatessens. Pull up a seat at Vesuvio Cafe—an old Beat saloon hangout, once favoured by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Neal Cassady, as well Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan and Francis Ford Coppola.

Fisherman’s Wharf

North again, the historical waterfront precinct of Fisherman’s Wharf showcases San Francisco’s strong affinity with marine life and the ocean. Due to its popularity as a tourism hotspot, the wharf also hosts a number of outstanding dining opportunities. 

Witness the firsthand PIER 39’s infamous sea lion colony—their distinct barks can always be heard from blocks away. Take a ferry to one of the world’s most notorious jails, Alcatraz (aka The Rock).  Indulge in a meal of fresh Dungeness crab, served steaming hot at outdoor stands, or a bowl of Boudin’s famous clam chowder, accompanied by an artisan, lobster-shaped sourdough.  

The Presidio

On San Francisco’s northern-most tip, former military base, The Presidio is a national treasure and a local jewel—a large lush national park within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. 

Spend a day in the park, enjoying a unique glimpse at rare birds, native blossoms, and carefully preserved historic buildings. Set up a picnic on the hill overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge—San Francisco’s most mystical and iconic landmark. 

Plan Your San Francisco Holiday

  • Flights to San Francisco: Together with partner airline Delta Air Lines, Virgin Australia operates flights to San Francisco, via LA, from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. 
  • San Francisco Holiday Packages: Plan your holiday with expert help; Virgin Australia Holidays can tailor an exceptional San Francisco holiday package to suit your needs.  
  • San Francisco Hotels: Establish a great base from which to experience all that the cultural hub has to offer. Select from a wide choice of hotels with our hotel partner Agoda.
  • San Francisco Car Hire: Discover San Francisco's various nieghjbourhoods, with an exceptional deals on car hire. 

 

Words by Alice Nash - Published 23 June 2014
Quick Facts 
Population Approx. 7.0033 million
Time Zone UTC -5
Languages English (official), Spanish, Native American
Currency American Dollar ($USD)
Electricity 110v - 60Hz
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