""Jewel of the Pacific"" San Francisco by WulfstanTraveller

San Francisco Travel Guide: 9,131 reviews and 19,421 photos

San Francisco is one of my absolute favourite cities in the world and it is truly a unique and beautiful place. Although "The City," as many in the area call it, is now much smaller than many cities in the US and is even only the 4th largest city in California in terms of population, it grew large fact a long time ago and this shows. Although San Jose, the 3rd largest city in California now has about 200,000 more people than San Francisco and is the largest city in the Bay Area, the fact remains that even now San Francisco is still THE City and the cultural and ecomonic hub the whole region; San Jose is little more than one massive extension of the San Francisco area and, unlike San Francisco, is made up almost entirely if soulless, low density, suburban sprawl. San Jose has some attractions of its own, and certainly is at the heart of the high-tech industry, but this does not change the fact that San Francisco is the real heart of the region.

San Francisco is a "real" city and is in fact by far the 2nd-most densely populated city in the entire US. The only city more densely populated is New York City. As a result, San Francisco is a very urban feel to it. Even the lower density "suburban" parts of San Francisco that were developed in the 30s through the early 50s, like the Outer Richmond and Sunset are dense and urban compared to most places in this country.

Due to its early rapid growth and the fact that it was until after 1920 the largest city not only in California but west of the Rockies, San Francisco has a strong old-style urban feel to it and a wealth of experiences and things to see, plus LOTS of atmosphere.

When cities like San Diego and even LA and San Jose were sleepy little villages (especially San Diego, which stayed essentially a sleepy Mexican pueblo for a long time), San Francisco was a booming metropolis. It is characterized not only by lots of old buildings, famously including many Victorians, but by narrow streets and alleys, buildings and people jammed cheek-by-jowl. This old pattern of the city's layout is an even stronger element in its fabirc than the old buildings, as many of the latter were lost in the 1906 Earthquake and fire. The dense structure of the city gives it an old-world feel, with highly mixed, yet cohesive neighbourhoods, and a pedestrian culture all of which are almost non-existant in most American cities.

One can drive in this city, and many do, but really there is normally not much need to. The city is packed into almost a square only roughly 7 miles by 7 miles, so one can do many things here by foot or public transit.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Lots of history, atmosphere, culture, food
  • Cons:Expensive city in which to live
  • In a nutshell:It packs a lot into a small area.
  • Intro Updated Apr 4, 2012
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  • TravellerMel's Profile Photo
    Jul 14, 2009 at 1:20 PM

    After New Orleans, San Francisco is my favorite city in the US. Wonderfully written and personal tips here - well done!

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