a citizen’s guide to San Francisco

say hello to San Francisco

Home to the legendary Golden Gate Bridge and a medley of unique neighbourhoods, San Francisco is a city where everyone is welcome to join the eclectic mix. Even the fog has a pet name (hi, Karl!). So, whether you're in town for a business meeting, a conference, or simply want to explore the vibrant streets, you'll find there's something here for everyone. Think cable cars, sourdough, fusion cuisine and start-ups.

Get ready to plan your trip to San Francisco and fall in love with the City by the Bay! But before you dive headfirst into the San Fran adventure, let's spill the beans on some insider tips and hidden gems that will make your visit truly unforgettable.

where is San Francisco

If you're ever playing hide and seek with cities (and why wouldn't you?), you'd find San Francisco lounging on the northern tip of California's coast, a six-hour drive from Los Angeles. This dazzling city prefers to cuddle up with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Francisco Bay on the other. Quite the cosy arrangement, don't you think?

Now, surrounding this iconic city is a delightful mishmash of towns and neighbourhoods collectively known as the Bay Area. Think of it as San Francisco's extended squad, offering a taste of everything from coastal vibes to techy treasures.

Speaking of tech, just a hop, skip, and a jump south, you'll bump into Silicon Valley – the birthplace of your iPhone and probably that app you're addicted to. Here, areas like Menlo Park and Palo Alto don't just sound fancy – they're the actual hotspots where tech geniuses put on their thinking caps, sip artisanal lattes and dream up the next big thing.

So if you’re planning a trip to San Francisco, give a little wave to its trendy neighbours. Who knows, maybe your next tech gadget is being dreamt up right there as you zoom in!

getting around

Let’s talk about the best ways to get around in San Francisco and how to tame this hilly beast. First off – cars? In SF? Forget it. With streets that resemble vertical launch pads and traffic that makes snails seem speedy, you're better off launching a start-up than trying to park downtown. Let us surprise you. The best way to get around in San Francisco is by muni bus, light rail metro train or cable cars. Yup, a different type of cookie. But no worries, citizens. It’s easy peasy.

Now, the million-dollar question – how do you pay for these delightful rides? Well, we've got your back, folks. Get yourself a Clipper Card, and you'll be the master of this transportation maze. Load it up with some cash or snag a handy pass, and you'll be gliding up and down San Francisco's famous hills without a care in the world. No need to fumble for change like you've got a pocket full of loose marbles.

best time to visit San Francisco

The best time to visit San Francisco is from September to November, when the city flaunts its sunny Californian side and fewer crowds hit the streets. It’s like San Fran’s classy summer, arriving fashionably late to the party.

In summer itself, tourists flood in. High season buzzes from June to August with sunny summer evenings, but our pal Mr. Fog does love to crash the party. So if you prefer your cityscapes with a side of dramatic mist, ‘Fogust’ is your month. Just remember, you’re not in a mystery novel, it’s just the weather pulling a fast one.

Autumn? Like we said, that’s San Fran's sneaky summer. Gone are the summer fogs, replaced by layers of golden hues and sweater-perfect temperatures. When the rest of the world is reaching for pumpkin spice, we're reaching for our sunglasses. Yup, like we said, that’s the best time to visit San Francisco.

And spring? Same! It's the introverted middle-child season: pleasant, but not too showy. We're talking spring blooms popping up everywhere and the city humbly showing off its colourful side. It's that sweet spot between the wet and dry season, where the skies are clear and the weather can't make up its mind. Ditch the umbrella, but bring a light jacket – those cool Pacific vibes are giving way to drier breezes. Perfect for a city stroll, wouldn't you say?

Winter is chill – literally. It's when the city puts on its comfy pants, binge-watches Netflix, and invites you to its cool holiday parties. Cosy, a tad moody and perfect for those who want a break from the usual holiday tan. It's a quieter charm as the low season sets in, letting you truly own those hilly streets.

The festivals! With players such as the vibrant Chinatown New Year and the boisterous Carnaval, the city's calendar is dotted with occasions. But a heads-up – bank holidays can get busy. So, depending on your vibe – be it bustling or laid-back – pick your best moment for a trip to San Francisco, and the city will serve you its finest!

San Francisco’s iconic sights - with a citizenM twist

Golden Gate Bridge Giggles

It's big, it's red, and it's definitely not shy - meet the Golden Gate Bridge! It's probably the most photographed thing in the city, after those scrumptious clam chowders.

Linger at Lombard

Forget walking — skateboard down the crookedest street. Sure, it's twisty and filled with eight sharp turns, but think of the adrenaline!

Chinatown's hidden bars

Duck into a speakeasy in the heart of Chinatown. Behind some unassuming doors, a world of mixology wonders awaits.

Alcatraz after-dark

Go beyond the day tour and sign up for the night experience. Let's just say, the Rock’s stories sound a little... spookier with the moon overhead.

things to do in San Francisco

San Francisco is not just about that famous red bridge or prison island. It’s the city where fog is a resident and tech meets bohemian vibes. San Francisco has a quirky underbelly filled with unique experiences. Here are our top picks to getting the most unconventional fun out of SF.

wave at the Sea Lions

Skip the tourist boat, and head to Pier 39. San Francisco’s most boisterous residents are waiting. Their barks and antics? Way more entertaining than most reality shows.

hidden Tiled Steps

The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps project is a mosaic wonder. Who knew taking the stairs could be this Instagrammable? Get ready for the most picturesque cardio session of your life.

swing above the city

At Billy Goat Hill Park, a lone swing waits. For those daring enough, it promises a unique aerial view of the city. Just remember: it's all fun and games until someone gets an epic Instagram shot.

taste coffee like a techie

San Fran loves its brew. Skip Starbucks and hit up spots like Four Barrel or Ritual Coffee Roasters. It's where caffeine meets art and your taste buds do a happy dance.

haunted hopping at the Queen Anne Hotel

Luxury meets paranormal at this Victorian-era hotel. Even if you don’t spot any apparitions, the architecture and tales will haunt your thoughts.

magical fairy tale boutiques

Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids in Valencia Street isn't your average toy store. It's a whimsical wonderland of treasures and oddities that kids and adults alike will love.

Seward Street slides

Why should kids have all the fun? Slide down these concrete behemoths (on a piece of cardboard for extra speed) and release your inner child.

literary lounging at City Lights

An iconic bookstore where the beats once hung out. Sniff out some poetry, linger in the alleys of knowledge, and maybe pen a line or two yourself.

hunt for ghost signs

San Francisco's streets are littered with faded advertisements from bygone eras. Wander around, look up, and discover these beautiful relics of the past.

museum of ice cream

It's pink, it's sweet, and it's a little nutty—just like San Fran! Dive into a sprinkle pool and indulge in a scoop or two.

where to stay in San Francisco

City trippers: Dive straight into the action at citizenM San Francisco Union Square hotel. Step out the door, and you're in Union Square, the epicentre of retail therapy and coffee spots. Need a dose of culture? Museums, theatres and art galleries are at your fingertips. After a long day of chasing city dreams, you'll find a bed that feels like a cloud and hospitality that will make you feel at home. Oh, and did we mention the self-check-in and speedy Wi-Fi? You're welcome. 

Business travellers: Zip over to citizenM Menlo Park hotel. Ideal for Silicon Valley hustle with strong coffee on tap and sleek spaces to rest. Close to the tech giants of the valley, it's the perfect spot for those essential meetings. Caffeine fix to fuel your brainstorming sessions? Check. A sophisticated spot to unwind after nailing that pitch? Absolutely. Your room is a haven of modern chic and tranquillity waiting for you.