24 hours in San Francisco

24 hours in San Francisco

Bay beats

Text: Gayatri Bhaumik

If you only have one precious day in SF, here are the top spots to hit up. You'll practically be a local by the end of it

Start your San Francisco experience in hippie-turned-yuppie Haight-Ashbury, the neighbourhood that was once home to the swinging sixties and the Grateful Dead. Fuel up at with breakfast at The Grind Cafe then explore the area's quirky stores and trippy street art. Pop into Amoeba Music for rare records, find anarchist treatise at Bound Together, and pick up real vintage fashion at Held Over.

Since the 1870s, Golden Gate Park has offered a wealth of experiences in the city's biggest urban green space. Explore the trails by foot, Segway or bike, seek serenity at the zen Japanese Tea Garden, then explore all manner of art and science at the De Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences.

de young museum, San Francisco

The historic Presido area served as a military base through much of its 230-year history, but don't expect to find ramshackle military remains here. These days, this is a bucolic spot of sweeping lawns, eucalyptus trees — and views of the Golden Gate Bridge. For lunch, head to the Presido Social Club, an urban eatery housed in a spruced-up former barracks.

golden gate bridge

Take a walk along the waterfront. See the classic sights at Fisherman's Wharf, spot the sea lions at Pier 39, then wander towards the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building. Originally built in 1898, this iconic building transformed San Francisco's waterfront by turning decrepit warehouses into prime commercial real estate. There's a farmer's market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but for a quick pick-me-up any day of the week, grab fresh-of-the-grill empanadas from El Porteño, decadent ice creams at Humphrey Slocomb, or freshly baked pastries from ACME Bread Company.          .

fisherman's wharf

Catch the iconic California Street Cable Car and hop off at Chinatown to explore the markets and temples in the area. When you're done, walk down to Union Square, the city's (upmarket) commercial heart. Here, you'll find every designer flagship and department store imaginable, including Apple, Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy's. Don't forget to explore the side streets, where you'll find chic independent boutiques. Try Margaret O'Leary for sophisticated knitwear, and Ethos for eco-friendly fashion.

Union Square

Mosey over to swanky Russian Hill for dinner at Zagat-listed Allegro Romano. Book ahead for this tiny neighbourhood gem, and get ready to feast on exquisite modern takes on classic Italian fare. On the way out, check out the photographs on the wall behind the hostess stand and see if you can spot Bono, Hugh Laurie, Conan O'Brien and Hillary Clinton, all of whom have dined here.

Seeking a nightcap? Find quality drinks with sweeping city views at Top of the Mark, or explore San Francisco's cocktail culture at Bar Agrico or 15 Romolo. If you're feeling adventurous, venture to historic taverns like Cornstock Saloon for a taste of the Barbary Coast, the city's notorious 19th century red light district.

San Francisco

12 midnight
When you're ready to call it a night, check into The Scarlet Huntington. This stunning boutique bolthole boasts a members-club ambiance with bold Asian-inspired style and prime position opposite Grace Cathedral. Rest easy in plush rooms decked out in custom-made furniture, silk and leather, and slip into the slick spa if you need some pampering.

the scarlet Huntington

Round off your Bay Area adventure in the Mission District. This quirky neighbourhood has a fascinating past that includes religious orders, Latin influences, and punk bands so there's plenty to explore. Try the delectable breakfast sandwiches at Mission Beach Café, but if you can't get a table, pick up pastries from nearby Tartine Bakery. Ready to explore? Check out the creative street art and murals, browse pre-loved tomes at Dog Eared Books, and explore the local art collective at City Art.

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