San Francisco
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Public transport

MUNI is the city's public transport system. Mix your trips up for the best experience. Take a bus to the bridge and the historic 'F' line trolley to Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square. Then, jump on board an iconic cable car to Chinatown and Nob Hill. A seven-day CityPass is US$69 and includes free entry into some top attractions.

Walking

Although San Francisco is renowned for its steep slopes, exploring its beautiful streets by foot is recommended. The hills can be challenging, so wear comfortable shoes, pace yourself and make regular stops at some of the city's quirky little corner cafes. The whole city is compacted into just forty-nine square miles, so most sights are within walking distance.

Car rental

With scarce parking and heavy traffic, car rental is probably not worth the cost, unless you're planning on taking day trips to San Francisco's surrounding countryside. Be aware of strict parking rules on the city's steep slopes to avoid being fined. Pointing downhill? Turn your wheels to the curb. If you're pointing uphill, turn your wheels to the road.

Culture tours

San Francisco has fleets of sightseeing buses running between the area's main points of cultural interest. All day hop-on, hop-off passes start from around US$35 per adult and come with a choice of personal or live commentary. An easy option for a first time visitor to get their bearings and tick the main sites off their list.

Escape to Alcatraz

Take a short ferry to the world's most famous island penitentiary from Pier 39. If you're lucky you'll see seals and dolphins swimming in the choppy waters. Bring the prison to life by getting the audio tour to guide you with fascinating stories of the notorious Birdman and famous escapees. Tickets including both the boat and island are around US$30.

The Golden Gate Bridge

On a clear day, this iconic landmark is magnificent, but don't expect the weather to work in your favour! The bridge is often shrouded in fog. Get there by bus and wrap up warm, especially if you plan to cross it. You should, the views of the harbour are amazing. A return walk will take you around an hour.

The Painted Ladies

This row of iconic multi-coloured Victorian houses sits in front of a beautiful backdrop of San Francisco. Take a cable car up to Alamo Square, rest on the grass in front and soak up the breathtaking panoramic views, making sure you get a few snapshots of this glorious scene.

Yosemite National Park

Towering giant redwoods, roaring waterfalls and giant granite formations create an unforgettable day trip to this ancient parkland, four hours out of San Francisco. Ambling through is enough, but if you're feeling adventurous you could arrange abseiling or rock climbing. You might even spot a bear. Discoveryosemite.com has full day tours starting from US$100 each.

DAY 1

Hop on a sightseeing bus with an all-day pass. Take a downtown loop tour, jumping off at the Ferry Building and Union Square. Pause for lunch at Fisherman's Wharf for a clam chowder and some shots of the seal colony. Next, head towards the bridge and walk the full length and back. Even if it's foggy, it's a must do. That evening, head to Mission, get a casual bite to eat and hit a few trendy bars.

DAY 3

Get to Fisherman's Wharf early and purchase a combination ticket to Alcatraz and Angel Island. Spend an hour exploring Angel Island by cable car before crossing over to wander the formidable corridors of Alcatraz. Back on land, head to Washington Square Park and take MUNI bus 39 to Telegraph Hill, to visit the Coit Tower perched on top. Walk eight hundred stairs to the bottom through beautiful gardens. You might even spot a wild parrot or two.

DAY 2

Immerse yourself in San Francisco's rich cultural offerings. Start at the Exploratorium, a thrilling science centre where you can touch the exhibits and take part in performances. Next take a trip back to childhood at the Walt Disney museum. Continue your loop through Richmond, stopping at the de Young museum where there's something for everyone's tastes. The building alone is breathtaking. Next up is the Museum of Modern Art in SOMA. After 6pm, admission is half-price.

DAY 4

Spend your last day exploring places you might have missed on a Streets of San Francisco bike tour. Choose between three or six-hour rides, avoiding scarily steep hills and stopping along the way. Off your bike, head to Chinatown. The area boasts some exquisite, authentic cuisine and interesting boutiques. At night, head to the AT&T Park and watch a ball game with a box of garlic fries, surrounded by locals enjoying this all-American pastime.

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