San Francisco: It’s Seattle without the rain. LA without the hassle. Brooklyn without the posers. Built on the wild speculation of the Gold Rush, San Francisco is perfectly suited to absorb the madness of nearby Silicon Valley.
Across the bay, Marin County boasts one of the highest concentrations of millionaires on the planet. But on the other side of the iconic bridge, SF manages to keep things much more chilled – quite literally. It may be California, but the city has its own cool, fresh microclimate, which changes from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.
Maybe that’s why so many hipsters flock to the Mission, the traditionally Hispanic neighbourhood that enjoys the most sunshine of all the city’s districts. Nestled among the world-class burrito joints you’ll find some of the city’s edgiest bars, clubs and independent bookshops, stuffed to the rafters with local zines. But the first stop on any literary tour of the city has to be the City Lights bookstore, nestled between China Town and the Italian neighbourhood of North Beach. Back in the 50s, founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti was tried for obscenity after publishing Allan Ginsberg’s Howl. These days you’re more likely to encounter Beat enthusiasts than angry lawmakers.
The Haight may be the Ground Zero for 60s counter-culture, but visitors of every sexual orientation flock to the Castro: a place to let your freak flag fly. Here one of the city’s most beautiful art-deco cinemas, the Castro Theatre, has been packing in the punters for more than 90 years.
With its dramatic hills, lush flora and Pacific panoramas, San Francisco must be one of the most gorgeous cities on the planet. As the thrice weekly Ferry Building market makes clear, the Bay Area doesn’t do badly for local produce either. Browse the endless varieties of fruit and vegetables, then join the queues for the dangerously good street vans. Your hog roast or monkfish frittata will taste all the better for being eaten on the edge of the bay, with sea lions and buskers providing the entertainment.