San Francisco

San Francisco Travel Guide

Climb up to the fourth floor to the country’s oldest Chinese temple, a shrine to Tien Hau, the Goddess of Heaven and the Sea. Fringed red lanterns throng the ceiling, and Taoists send up puffs of incense with their prayers.

This wonderful collection of Japanese photo booths captures customers diving out of a washing machine, covered in confetti, or popping out of a bouquet of flowers. Before the machine spits out sticker page of the shenanigans, make sure to add after-effects like props and writing.

An espresso pioneer, Trieste has been roasting beans and caffeinating the city since 1956. On Saturday afternoons, the owners and other local musicians belt out everything from opera to Patsy Cline.

There may be a bit of stair climbing involved, but the views from the hilltop park are some of the best in the city. To the South: a bowl of neighborhoods leads up to Sutro Tower on the horizon. To the North: a view of the Marina opens up to the Bay beyond.

Karaoke is more kicking with an enthusiastic audience, and the Mint certainly has one. The bonus: Lots of fans. The drawback: It often takes a long wait and a big tip to gain stage time.

The biggest and oldest (opened in 1978) of three linked Haight Street vintage shops, Held Over carries garments, hats, and shoes from the 40’s through the 90’s.

Climb aboard the historic ships docked at the Hyde Street Pier, such as the three-masted Balclutha (1886) and the schooner Alma (1891). Keep walking west and the crowds fall away as you reach the Art Deco Bathhouse Building, with its collection of ship models.

A whiff of vanilla leads you to this cramped shotgun space. Workers deftly pull warm, golden discs off the spinning machines, then flip and fold them into fortune cookies.

The Clay is a sweet single stream theatre, distinguished for being one of San Francisco’s oldest. It’s a mix of classic and contemporary programming in a deco setting.

When True Sake opened in 2003, it was the first wholly dedicated sake shop outside of Japan. Their most popular offering is “Nama Ginjo Genshu,” an unpasteurized sake packaged in a stylish can.

Browser’s cozy carpet-lined interior, collection of antique typewriters, and solid selection of local authors has made the independent bookstore a favorite stop on upper Fillmore since 1976.

On this narrow street branching east from Union Square, chic boutiques close ranks. The highlight, though, is the Xanadu Gallery’s Frank Lloyd Wright building (140 Maiden Lane). Its stern brick façade conceals a graceful interior with a Guggenheim-esque spiral staircase.

Cable cars have competition for Most Endearing Public Transit. These early-20th-century streetcars trundle along the Embarcadero. You might glimpse an orange Milanese number or the olive green “streetcar named desire” from New Orleans.