How to See the World in San Francisco
San Francisco is such a diverse city that you can travel the world without ever stepping beyond its borders. Right now, with global travel being somewhat limited, an around-the-world staycation here in the City by the Bay may be just what you need to cure your international wanderlust. Here are the San Francisco neighborhoods where you can get some global flavor.
The nation's oldest and largest Chinatown is an intriguing tangle of narrow streets, bustling markets, and popular parks. Delicious and traditional Chinese cuisine can be found wherever you turn. You can even see how fortune cookies get made. Visitors who want to experience "the real thing" should head further west in the city to Clement St. Those in the know argue that this is San Francisco's "real" Chinatown.
With its trendy boutiques and exclusive eateries, all in the shadow of some of San Francisco's most impressive Beaux-Arts architecture, Hayes Valley feels a bit like—dare we say it?—New York City. Michelin-starred Rich Table is among the many Hayes Valley restaurants you have to try. Top international brands like Warby Parker, as well as unique San Francisco originals like Marine Layer, have storefronts here.
One of the only remaining such neighborhoods in the U.S., San Francisco's Japantown is anchored by the towering Peace Pagoda. This small but mighty neighborhood hosts a number of popular events, including the annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. Terrific dining, quirky shops, and a relaxing spa are also found here.
For a bit of Greek grandeur, head to the western end of the Marina, where you'll find San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts. This towering classical structure is all that remains from the famous 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Its detailed architecture and sunny lagoon make it a favorite spot for photos.
If you want to experience every possible angle of San Francisco's Latino culture, the Mission is where to go. So many South and Central American communities have made their mark on this neighborhood. You'll find it in the restaurants, in the vibrant public art, and in the nightlife and music. Plus, the neighborhood features the oldest building in San Francisco: the 18th century Mission Dolores.
If it's the taste of Italy you crave, then head to North Beach. San Francisco's lively Little Italy features family-owned restaurants with sidewalk seating, connections to cable cars, and a number of city icons, including Coit Tower, Saints Peter & Paul Church, and the base of famously crooked Lombard St
With its Victorian and Edwardian architecture, as well as its heavy fog, Pacific Heights gives us a bit of a London vibe. The neighborhood's many parks, steep hills, and staggering views make it great for some urban adventuring. Great shops and restaurants line California and Fillmore streets. You'd be forgiven for doing a little real estate snooping while you're here; Pacific Heights features some of the city's most extravagant homes.
Bet you didn't expect to find a little bit of France out here at the edge of the Pacific, did you? The Legion of Honor, part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, is a replica of its Parisian namesake. Inside, you'll find a collection of ancient and European art that spans more than 5,000 years of history.
The Sunset neighborhood is about as Southern Californian as we San Franciscans allow ourselves to get. Gone are our famous hills; instead, you get sandy beaches and ocean views. The water is typically too cold for a swim (and the strong currents are not to be underestimated), but if you head for Ocean Beach, you'll spot some talented surfers braving the waves.
When you're ready to visit some of the faraway lands that inspire these San Francisco neighborhoods, fly with United. The preferred airline of San Francisco Travel, United offers global service from SFO, making it a gateway to the world.