An Arab man dressed in turban and white robe walks his Pomeranian dog while looking at the screen of his iPhone. Across the street, a homeless man pulls down his pants and scares off a couple of German tourists. Then, two boys pass by the hand, stop and kiss each other. San Francisco is eclectic and free. What to do in three days in the city. Extra: how to move, where to stay and where to eat.
Around Union Square is the largest commercial center in San Francisco: there is a seven-levels Macy's, five-star hotels, clothing and technology stores -from Gucci to Apple- and restaurants. In addition, it serves as a departure point for tourist buses.
A few blocks from Union Square is San Francisco's Chinatown, the oldest in the United States. Must do: go to the main gate, located on Grant Avenue and Bush Street; and walk through Grant and Stockton streets, adorned with Chinese lanterns and lamps that make you feel at a celebration of the Year of the Dragon.
In this "Fisherman's Wharf" is the famous Pier 39, where it stands an open-air walkway with shops and restaurants specializing in fish and seafood. Sea lions sunbathing on the wharf is one of the most wanted photos, but the honor of witnessing them depends on the time of the year due to migrations. From this place there are also boats to Sausalito -in front of San Francisco- and Alcatraz prison.
How to get there: Uber or "Cable car" -the historic tram of the city-. If you are staying in Union Square, take it at the Powell / Hyde stop.
Extra on foot: walk along the coast in a westerly direction until you reach Ghirardelli Square, another open-air space, the epicenter of restaurants and the Ghirardelli ice cream shop / chocolate shop, the most popular in SF.
A few blocks from Ghirardelli Square, between Russian Hill and Hyde, Lombard Street becomes the most visited asphalt and flower labyrinth in the world. Once you reach the highest point of the street, enjoy the panoramic view of the city before descending the stairs to see the cars zigzagging along this winding road.
Tip: go at noon to see it all illuminated.
FINE ARTS PALACE
Start the tour at the Palace of Fine Arts or Fine Arts Palace. This Greco-Roman-style monument surrounded by a lake is home to art exhibitions and scenery worthy of a summer picnic.
Cross to Gorgas Avenue on Lyon Street until you get into the Presidio Real Park. A garden taken from a doll's house is the prelude to one of San Francisco's best hidden treasures: Lucas Films, the home of the film production company. Although it is not open to the public for tours, you can enter the lobby Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 17 p.m. and be face to face with the fountain of Yoda, the mythical Star Wars character.
Extra: if you got the area, walk from there to the Disney Family Museum (fifteen minutes).
If you go in the summer, prepare yourself for a sunny and hot day in the city to dissipate as soon as you get closer to the Golden Gate: due to meteorological factors, the area of the bay is a fog magnet. After entering the visitor center, walk through its "trails" or circuits to discover the area. The best view from the east side: Crissy Field (easily accessible and well signposted from the vicinity of the bridge). On the west side: Marshall beach. To get there, grab the California Coastal Trail until you hit the Batteries to Bluffus Trail and go down to the shore.
Extra: Cross the Golden Gate Bridge on foot or by bike to reach Sausalito, where the clouds are left behind and the sun shines again.
This 412-hectare park in the heart of San Francisco is home to a huge botanical garden -it has 22 hectares-, a Japanese garden, the De Young Art Museum and the California Academy of Sciences, among some of the attractions that are worth knowing.
The bohemian area for excellence, Haight Ashbury saw the hippie counterculture born in the late 60's. "Flower power" clothing stores, street artists, music and vinyls venues, bars and graffitis characterize the most psychedelic and bizarre neighborhood in San Francisco.
Key: go during the day.
Walking eastward from Haight Ashbury, three-storey terraced houses with staircases start appearing until you reach Alamo Square. The best? The Painted Ladies - the Victorian houses painted in three or more colors - especially in pastel tones - that are already a typical postcard of the city.
How to get around
Going from the airport to downtown San Francisco is easy and cheap: by following the signs without leaving the airport, take the Bart train towards Pittsburg / Bay Point (it's the yellow line) and get off at Powell St. Station. Once there you are four blocks from Union Square. Unbeatable option compared to UBER or taxi: the trip lasts 45 minutes and costs only 8.95 dollars.
If you stay two or three days, hire the bus "Hop on-Hop off" is good: it stops in twenty places KEY San Francisco, allows you to get on and off at any of the stops to walk through the area at your own pace, and it constantly passes every 20/30 minutes. There are two levels -the top one opened- and during the tour a guide tells the story of each tourist point. The companies that offer it are:
Grayline: 55 dollars a day, 65 two days.
CitySightseeing. The best option, costs 58 dollars for the two days and includes three other tours (night, Sausalito and Downtown) in addition to the classic.
Big Bus: 47 dollars a day, 68 two days.
Tip: hire it online, it's cheaper. But in Union Square or Fisherman's Wharf they have outlets.
The cable cars are great for a tourist walk but not for moving. It costs 7 dollars each trip. Chose UBER.
Where to stay
$$ Stratford Hotel (242 Powell St). In the center of the action: one block from Union Square, cheap for San Francisco prices, it has breakfast included and small but nice rooms. It stands out: the good attention of the guys in the lobby and the great location.
$ USA Hostels San Francisco (711 Post St). Three blocks from Union Square. The shared rooms are spacious and clean, the staff organize activities for guests, offer good breakfast and have common spaces with wave. Great for a traveler with low budget.
Where to eat
$$ The Cheesecake Factory at Macy’s Union Square.
$$ Bubba Gump at Pier 39.
$ Pearl's Deluxe Burgers (708 Post St).
$ In-N-Out (333 Jefferson St).
$ Supermercado Walgreens (135 Powell St). Para comprar desde sándwiches y frutas hasta tablas de sushi.
Al igual que en otras grandes ciudades de Estados Unidos, San Francisco tiene un grave problema de "homeless people" o gente sin hogar. De 800 mil habitantes, más de siete mil viven en la calle, en especial en el barrio Tenderloin y en las inmediaciones del centro.