When you think about San Francisco and a typical photograph of it, you will probably think of the Golden Gate Bridge or all those steep, steep hills with cable cars (aka trams) going up and down.
Oh boy, those hills!
They will get to you, if you choose to go by foot like we did. Mission District is a lot less hilly and easily walkable, but once we wandered off from that neighbourhood we had to take on the task to conquer those infamous San Francisco hills, that were between us and the coast.
One of the most photographed cable car (yet I don’t have a decent photo of it, oops) in San Francisco goes up the Hyde street to the Russian Hill, which indeed was ridiculously steep. It would have cost 7 dollars each to take the cable car, so we cheapskates opted to just leg it. For some awkward reason we chose to do all those hilly neighbourhoods on the last half of the week, so after long days of hiking the struggle was real.
In conclusion: neither of us would never like to live in San Francisco because of the hills, no matter how much we love the city otherwise. Not that it would be likely anyway.
But to get to the touristy parts of the city, while saving money by just walking everywhere, going up and down the hills was our only option. It was totally worth it as well. The coast is where many of the attractions are: piers with markets and shopping, sea lions, museums, and of course, the Golden Gate bridge.
We worked our way up from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge over a course of several days.
The Ferry Building is the host for a weekly Farmer’s Market, but also a place for permanent ‘collection’ of food and gift items. We stopped by twice for breakfast, even though our first try was a miss and we did not like any of the food we got. Nevertheless I think it is a nice place to have a look and walk around.
Next stop could have been the Exploratorium. This museum of science attracts visitors with its interactive exhibitions. We would have loved to visit, but Matte will discuss more of the reasons why we didn’t on the next and final post of San Francisco.
Pier 39 brought us right back to Santa Barbara and Monterey. It a wooden pier with a lot of touristy knick-knack shops, little amusement park -fitting snack carts, expensive average quality restaurants and even a carousel. The pier was packed with people when we were there. Probably comes as no surprise that this part of San Francisco was not on top of our list.
Many people go to this specific pier also to spot some wildlife. After California laws made it obligatory for boats to give way to marine mammals, part of the pier has become home for hundreds of sea lions. When we visited there were more people trying to spot these animals, than there were actual sea lions.
What did make us feel utterly delighted, however, was Musée Mécanique nearby. It is a hall filled with working, playable old coin-op games, some of them even from 19th Century. It feels like taking a step back in time and it is easy to imagine yourself half a century ago, spending time with your pals and playing some games on a Saturday-evening. Some of the games are not actual games, but jukeboxes, scenes from movies or coin-operated fortune tellers. Fun, weirdly nostalgic and the best spent few dollars in a while.
Before heading to see the Golden Gate Bridge up close, we stopped at Palace of the Fine Arts. It was originally built 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, like Balboa Park we saw in San Diego.
Palace of the Fine Arts was influenced by the Roman and Greek architecture and is a marvellous piece of work. When Musée Mécanique makes you go back in time, Palace of the Fine Arts makes you step out of San Francisco for a while. To be honest, it is as picturesque as it is fake, but it does not matter. It is still beautiful and serene place to visit.
Our last stop on the coast was the Golden Gate Bridge. It is actually further away from the city and quite a walk away. Many people had rented bikes and it would have been a good idea to go there and back. Of course, when walking, you have even more time to take in the view.
The Crissy Fields before the bridge is filled with joggers, kite-surfers, dog-walkers and even beachgoers.
Every day during the week we spent in San Francisco the bridge was partly or even mostly covered by fog, even on sunny days. Thus there were no chance of getting a picture with the bright red against the blue sky, but when you travel, you make the best you can out of the conditions.
The Golden Gate Bridge is beautiful to look at. If we would have had more juice in us, we would have walked over the bridge to take in the view from the other side as well. But we were happy with what we saw and frankly, ready for dinner. Maybe we should have spend more time on the biggest landmark of the city, but we were just ready to go back to Mission District and eat comfy Indian curries. Ironically we ended up walking back despite it being a 2-hour walk, but apparently we just can’t help ourselves!
One of our AirBnb hosts in LA called us “urban hikers” and we have loved that term ever since.
And there is no doubt that, despite the hills, the beautiful and fantastic San Francisco has been our favourite place for urban hiking.