I left my heart in San Francisco. After living there for a collective ten years over different points in my life, a big part of me will always yearn to go back. It’s one of the most charming and beautiful cities in the world, and even though it’s one of the most expensive places to live, it doesn’t have to be one of the most expensive to visit.
One of the city’s best features is that it’s a pocket-sized metropolis, only 7×7 miles, hemmed in by ocean, bay, and the nebulous and untravelled peninsula. This makes it an ideal city for exploring on foot. I can not recommend enough the importance of getting lost here. The city is safe, small, and each neighborhood is vibrant, distinct, and full of surprises. When you have no map or itinerary, you’ll be amazing at what you can find, from amazing and tiny diners, cafés, and boutiques, to curiosities like Haight Street’s taxidermy and occult emporium Loved to Death, or the pirate supply store at 826 Valencia.
But if you’re looking for guidance to plan your perfect San Francisco day, I would recommend starting with a breakfast at the Pork Store on Haight Street. This greasy spoon is a lively institution with enormous and stupid-delicious breakfasts on one of the city’s most iconic and vibrant streets. From here you can stroll through the lush landscape of Golden Gate Park to Clement Street, what I like to call the “real” Chinatown and home to the universe’s greatest bookstore, Green Apple. Grab a crepe at Genki or a snack at the ridiculously delicious local favorite Burma Superstar. From here you can hop onto the 33-Asbury/18th bus, the city’s best bus line, taking you through the hippie Haight, the famously and fabulously gay Castro, and the hipster/Latino cross-pollinated haven of the Mission. Hop off at any point for an amazing stroll or ride all the way to the Mission and treat yourself to one of San Francisco’s famous burritos. My personal favorite (although the best taqueria is a highly debated and divisive topic in SF) is La Taqueria at 25th and Mission.
From here make your way to Chinatown and walk into North Beach, the traditional Italian neighborhood. The transition from dim sum to cannoli is abrupt and fascinating (and delicious). North Beach was home to the beat generation and is full of amazing bars, bookstores, and boho cafés. Grab a Mai Tai in the Chinatown dive Li Po or a beer at Specs before finishing your night in upscale Cow Hollow with dinner at the well-hidden and signless Brazen Head, a dimly-lit, oldschool, dark-wood restaurant with a rich and delicious menu.
The downside to this one-day tour is that your feet will be sore and you will be so in love with the city that you’ll never, ever want to leave. You’ll be forever in limbo like me, with your heart stuck in San Francisco.