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San Francisco is a bustling, cosmopolitan city in California, the centerpiece of the Bay Area, well-known for its diverse ethnic and political communities, hilly terrain, world-class restaurants, and scenic beauty. So much to see and do, it's no wonder why Tony Bennett left his heart there or why Scott MacKenzie wants you to go there with flowers in your hair.
Golden Gate Bridge from Marin County with San Francisco in background
San Francisco is located on seven-by-seven mile (11x11km) square of land at the tip of a peninsula between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast. It has a population of almost 800,000, but is the center of a metropolitan area of millions. San Francisco is blessed with a mild climate. In most months, you can expect the temperature be in the 60s or 70s. Be prepared for cool weather, even in the summer. The hackneyed quote -- often mistakenly attributed to Mark Twain -- ("The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.") is a bit exaggerated, but it's true that the hottest selling items in San Francisco's tourist shops are always sweaters. Don't be afraid of a cool Pacific air or fog, though. Everybody's Favorite City's refreshing air and radiant skies are reason enough to visit.
Castro Street (The Castro)
Haight-Ashbury (the Haight)
Haight-Fillmore (Lower Haight)
SoMa (South of Market)
San Francisco is just one of the cities which makes-up the entire San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco's neighbors, cities and towns to the east of the Bay Bridge, north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and south of it are all in separate counties, each with their own city government and local public transportation systems.
San Francisco was founded in 1776 by the Spanish and has been a vibrant city ever since. Known today for its mixing of cultures, its liberal outlook, and its beautiful sights, it remains one of America's top tourist destinations. A good book on the tumultuous early history of San Francisco is Herbert Asbury's ("Gangs of New York") "Barbary Coast", which details the years from the gold rush in 1849 to the earthquake in 1906.
Map of Northern part of San Francisco
There are three airports in the San Francisco Bay Area:
San Francisco International (IATA: SFO) located about 10 mi (16 km) south of the city),
Oakland International (IATA: OAK) in the East Bay), and
San Jose International (IATA: SJC) in Silicon Valley, about 1 hour south of San Francisco).
Oakland and San Jose tend to offer more discount airline flights, while San Francisco Airport attracts more international flights and can be more convenient for those staying in the city.
San Francisco and Oakland Airports are connected to downtown SF by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, which costs about $5. Taxis are considerably more expensive: a taxi from SFO to the city can easily cost upwards of $40, and over $60 from OAK. Shared vans will cost around $14. If you plan to drive from a car rental area near the SFO airport to downtown San Francisco, you can take the 101 freeway.