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A lifetime in San Francisco wouldn’t be enough to see the city’s countless wonders. That’s why we’ve selected experiences that everyone from the first-time traveler to the frequent visitor will love. Here’s where to shop, eat, stay, and explore in the Golden City.
Named for the railroad barons (“Nobs”) who built their mansions in the area, Nob Hill is one of the most high-end neighborhoods in San Francisco. At its pinnacle sits the historic Fairmont San Francisco, a stunning expression of early 20th-century opulence. Channel your inner blueblood and relax among marble columns, crystal chandeliers, and giant gilded mirrors. The penthouse suite, which takes up the entire eighth floor, boasts a two-story circular library, a vaulted billiards room, and even a secret staircase that once facilitated dalliances between President John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.
It’s easy to get lost in the SFMOMA in a wonderful sort of way. The largest modern art museum in the world houses more than 33,000 pieces by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Paul Klee, and Andy Warhol. The space itself is impressive, and every inch of the structure is in a sense an exhibition. The rippling white fiberglass exterior invokes rolling fog while the innovative restaurant In Situ faithfully reproduces dishes from famous chefs around the world.
The Mission District is worth a visit if only to see this artsy neighborhood’s vibrant outdoor murals. Once you’re there, stop inside any of the dozens of independent boutiques and eateries. Fuel up with a banana cream cupcake from Wholesome Bakery before browsing for urban camping supplies at Alite Outpost or creative gifts at the women-owned design collective Gravel & Gold.
Beaux arts–inspired grandeur, locally sourced food, creative merchants, and killer views of San Francisco Bay—the Ferry Building is like a microcosm of the city itself. Stroll through the Great Nave to explore outposts of some of the Bay Area’s most interesting vendors. Be sure to sample some Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, try a few bluepoints on the half shell at San Francisco Fish Company, recharge with a siphon pour from Blue Bottle Coffee, and shop for handcrafted tableware at Heath Ceramics.
A meal at The Slanted Door is really all about the windows. Floor-to-ceiling walls of glass showcase sweeping views of the bay. Chef Charles Phan’s take on contemporary Vietnamese cuisine has made this restaurant one of the city’s most popular for more than two decades. Try favorites like shaking beef, cellophane noodles, and imperial rolls.