San Francisco, the city of a thousand faces

Here we are. The last leg of our three-week roadtrip in the American West... And what a last leg! 5 days in San Francisco, the emblematic City by the Bay. Cosmopolitan and multi-architectural city, known for its changeable weather, it presents many faces... A place where it is good to live, quite simply. We tell you all about it!

Watch the second part of our trip on video!

How to get there?

If you come directly from Yosemite, it will take you about 4 hours to reach downtown San Francisco from the valley. Yes, but... We don't recommend the most direct route ! We explain you why:

  • First of all, you can't pass through the region without going to Lake Tahoe, north of Yosemite. Sure, it's quite a diversion (4 hours drive to reach the south of the lake from Yosemite, then about 3 hours to reach San Francisco), but the sunset and sunrise on the calm water are a must-see of the region... Don't miss it!
  • Secondly, because the arrival in San Francisco from the east lacks panache, we admit it. We really recommend that you take some time to drive around the bay to take Highway 101. Believe us, you won't be disappointed when you see the Golden Gate Bridge slowly unveil itself as you drive down the road around a hill... An unforgettable sight and the best way to get in the mood right away when you arrive!
What we liked

Honestly, San Francisco is the perfect city for us! Colourful, varied, green, open, modern, slightly hipster, a symbol of minority rights, a temperate climate, a relaxed atmosphere, colourful styles, bars/restaurants for all tastes and an overflowing cultural life?

Not to be missed
In the heart of the city
  • The Golden Gate Bridge (of course): rent a bike from one of the North Beach Piers to enjoy this magical place! It will take you about 45 minutes along the bay to reach Sausalito from the piers (on foot, the crossing alone will take you about 40 minutes). Beware, the bike path on the bridge is a bit steep! The less sporty will prefer to rent a tandem or an electric bike, also offered by most rental companies. We opted for the rental company closest to our hotel: Blazing Saddles Pier 41. For €28, you can pedal around the city for 24 hours (be careful to tie your bike down in the different areas)!

  • The Coit Tower: built to honour the San Francisco firefighters in 1933, this 64-metre tower offers a 360° panorama of the city and the bay. There are buses to get there and a car park is available if you want to avoid the climb up the hill... 
  • The piers, from North Beach to the Embarcadero: walk along these piers to get some fresh air and enjoy the view of the river. The most famous of them is Pier 39: restaurants and shops of all kinds are mixed in a small space... Very commercial, but ultimately fun for a quick visit. You will hear animal cries in the distance... Don't be surprised! Sea lions have taken over several pontoons to rest in the sun! A funny and noisy sight! The sunsets are breathtaking with an unparalleled 180° view of the Golden Gate and Alcatraz.

  • Downtown and the Financial District : After climbing a few steep streets south, you will reach San Francisco's financial district. The iconic Transamerica bank tower will stand before you: you can't miss it, it's shaped like a pyramid! As you wander around, don't miss the Wells Fargo Museum. It traces the history of the bank and its stagecoaches since 1852!

Some trips in the area

  • Napa Valley (1 to 2 days): a must for wine lovers ! It is in this hot and sunny region most of the year that a good part of the Californian wines are produced, which benefit from a Mediterranean climate and a favourable geology. Many French winemakers have settled here. Grape varieties - even French ones - have a completely different taste here... a tasting is a must! Among all the wineries, we had to choose one: Stag's Leap Winery. You will be pampered throughout this unique moment in a 19th century Victorian manor. Their originality: to make you smell the elements that you will find in your mouth before the tasting in order to enjoy the best of the flavours... To do!
  • Muir Woods and Sausalito (1 day): A few miles north of San Francisco in Marin County, take time to walk through Muir Woods and the town of Sausalito.
  • Muir Woods National Monument is named after John Muir. He was one of the first conservationists and the man who created the National Park Service throughout the United States. A walkway has been set up along the Redwood River in the shade of the Sequoias (it is fully wheelchair accessible). For the more adventurous, there are a few hikes (the site is in English) from the main trail.
  • Just across the Golden Gate is the town of Sausalito. It is known for its houseboats: floating houses that were built in the 1970s by hippies.
  • Alcatraz (1/2 day): who has never heard of this island? It houses the most famous prison in the country! The greatest mobsters have been there, including Al Capone. Alcatraz Cruises takes you there in just 15 minutes. On site, an immersive audio guide will take you through the key rooms of the prison. A real-life story told by an inmate, as if you were there!
  • Lake Tahoe (1-2 days): On the Nevada border and only a few hours' drive from San Francisco, enjoy the peace and clear waters of this mountain lake at almost 2,000m. After spending a day on the beach, in a boat or hiking the short trails along the lake, don't miss the sunset over Emerald Bay, southwest of the lake.
Our favourite addresses
Where to sleep?

Hotel Zephyr San Francisco Modern, comfortable, and right on the North Beach waterfront. A nice hotel, in a very youth hostel style for the common areas! The huge inner courtyard will allow you to enjoy the sun in a quiet place. The only drawback? They don't offer breakfast... You'll have to look for it outside to start the day on the right foot!

Cottage Inn - Lake Tahoe Tahoe City: a short drive from Tahoe City, discover this peaceful lakeside haven. Time seems to stand still as you pass through the main gate. The owners will give you an exceptional welcome, from your arrival to the next day's gargantuan, home-cooked breakfast. Be sure to take advantage of theprivileged access to the lakefront for a dip or a morning walk, the view is breathtaking!

Where to have lunch or dinner?

Pier 23 Café This café and its terrace, located between two jetties, is sure to please seafood lovers! For a taste of oysters in the sun or an after-work atmosphere with one of the many beers on the menu, you can enjoy this great address at any time!

Sushi on North Beach This Japanese restaurant, just a stone's throw from Washington Square, doesn't look like much. Don't be fooled and walk through the door to enjoyexcellent sushi under the watchful eye of the chef.

Bubba Gump at Pier 39 The fast food seafood restaurant, inspired by the movie Forrest Gump. Perfect for a quick (but not light) meal with a view of the bay before going for a bike ride on the bridge...

Sausalito, The Spinnaker In Sausalito: more for the view than for the food, but we enjoyed this stilted restaurant with windows that open onto the bay. At sunset, watch the sea lions hunt before your eyes.

Where to eat?

Doughp Cookie Dough You know Ben&Jerry's Cookie Dough? Everyone knows that vanilla ice cream is almost too much: you only take it for the little pieces of cookie dough, right? Well, Doughp, conveniently located on the first floor of Pier 39, understands this! It looks like an ice cream shop, but it's not: there's not a trace of ice cream on the horizon in their shop, only... cookie dough, raw. A delight! To be eaten on the spot or to take away, raw or cooked by yourself in the microwave... A pure cracking, 50% sugar, 50% fat. A little extra: you can even take some with you in your suitcases... But consume in moderation!

Some useful information in a wheelchair...

Despite its steep streets that may give you some difficulty in a manual wheelchair (electric equipment may be welcome for a helping hand if you don't want to use transport), San Francisco is, like many American cities, very accessible.

We were able to take advantage of all the addresses and activities mentioned in the article without asking us any questions, everything is provided for! From the Coit Tower (whose top floor is not accessible, giving you private access to the second to last floor, without the glass barriers to block your view) to the boat to Alcatraz, to the restaurants and piers, you won't have to worry about anything.

Transport (trams and buses) is also easily accessible and will allow you to walk around the city at your leisure.

Find all the accessibility information on our good addresses and visited sites on jaccede.com!

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