San Francisco is one of the most popular travel destinations not just in California, but the world. With an international airport with plenty of direct connections, it’s easy to get to.  The only downside of  San Fran (apart from the occasional earthquake)? Too much to see and do. You really need a week or two in order to actually capture all of the best experiences.

Today, I’d like to highlight one of San Francisco’s most popular neighbourhoods – Fisherman’s Wharf.  It’s a vibrant waterfront area full of tourist attractions, some slightly cheesy, others unique to the city, but all worthwhile.

The marketplace in the Ferry Building. Perfect place to grab a snack or souvenir.

The Ferry Terminal

You might think if I’m suggesting a Ferry Terminal, then I’m suggesting cruises. While that’s true, let’s start with this historic building itself; inside are some of the best foodie joints in the whole city.

Olive Oil is a big seller, with two shops selling their wares. There’s a wonderful wine merchant, a meat company, cheese and bread, pastries, chocolate, tea and coffee. Another one of my San Fran favourites is in the terminal, Book Passage. They have a wonderful assortment of books, journals, calendars, etc. Great stuff. You won’t go hungry, for sure, and you won’t leave empty handed either.

Now, about those ferries – there are plenty that leave from right around the area! Perhaps the most famous is a trip out to Alcatraz, the prison that once was on an island that still sits out in the bay.

Other great tours are the Golden Gate Bridge cruises, daytrips to Angel Island, or your average 1-2 hour cruise. Don’t forget a jacket and scarf, because it can get very breezy and a bit chilly, especially after dusk.

Pier 39

This Pier is probably the biggest attraction in San Francisco. The pier is lined with nearly a hundred different shops, bars, restaurants and attractions. It is free to window shop – though don’t blame me if you succumb to the smells of hot clam chowder!

If you do want the chowder, I suggest you grab the sourdough bowl at Boudin. It’s become a chain these days, but the original is as good as ever. Crab House at Pier 39 is a bit of a splurge, but often voted as the best crab in town; if that is your thing it is well worth it.

It goes without saying that if you love seafood, this is where you want to be. (If not, try North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy.)

As for the shopping, it’s an interesting mix of kitsch souvenir shopping, typical American chain stores (good for souvenirs), and an eclectic mix of other shops, such as gadget stores and clothing stores.

PIER 39 Fisherman's Wharf

Ghirardelli Square

This picturesque square was named an official city landmark, where you can still see the old chocolate making machinery that was started here by local chocolate maker Ghirardelli. Today there are lots of boutique shops and eateries, as well as a perfect spot overlooking the bay.

Getting Here: Fisherman’s Wharf is probably the easiest place to get to in town. The cable cars stop at Taylor/Bay or Hyde/Beach; the F streetcar (popular for hitting many great local attractions) also runs all along the main piers.

Photo credits: David J Laporte, Beth, Andy Hayes, prayitno

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 at 10:00
Category : Spotlight
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