I’m in the process of creating some really great guides. It’s important for me to share with you my passion and heart for travel, and to inspire you to travel more, and better! See, I’ve lived in San Francisco for over a decade before moving to Shanghai and even though I love everything about my new life in Asia, I surely miss the Bay Area and what the city has to offer so, after my most recent visit, I decided to put together a curated guide of the city – the very best of – and share everything you should do, see and eat, all organized by district. Enjoy!
MARINA, PRESIDIO, PACIFIC HEIGHTS, COW HOLLOW
Inn at the Presidio: a historic and elegant boutique-hotel tucked next to one of America’s most unique national parks.
Presidio Social Club: authentic California comfort food, features a full bar.
The Progress: eclectic and bohemian California-style.
Atelier Clenn: Progressive French culinary and presentation paying homage to the nature and seasons.
Octavia: Cali-French style serving playful and original dishes, wood tables, naturalistic flower arrangements, and black wood chairs.
Out the Door: market-fresh Vietnamese for those who appreciate Charles Phan’s Slanted Door in the Ferry Building (that’d be me!) known for his famed shaking beef, Dungeness crab cellophane noodles, and daikon rice cakes.
State Bird Provisions: contemporary American serving playful dishes, just around the corner from the historic Fillmore Auditorium. A must-visit for those who want to see what’s next in San Francisco cuisine.
Le Marais Bakery & Bistro: French-style bakery located in the heart of the Marina (also in Ghirardelli Square and Castro) district serving some of the most authentic croissants.
Song Tea: a minimalistic-chic tea-ceramic shop offering an exclusive variety of teas primarily from China available on a rotation system.
The Ice Cream Bar: some of the best ice-cream classics – try honey buttermilk or a banana split with caramelized bananas.
Spice Ace: a spice store with over 400 spices, herbs, chillies, salts, sugars and extracts located in Pacific Heights.
Ayla: beauty obsessed founder Dara Kennedy brought the best in natural, non-toxic products to the locals.
Dermaplus Skin + Body: high-tech spa treatment and facials offering a botanical-based line alongside products from Obagi, True, and Jan Marini. Good stuff!
International Orange Spa: located above the Ralph Lauren store offering botanical skincare, facials and massage since 2002.
Reboot Float Spa: sensorial, high-tech spa offering four floating pods located on Lombard Street.
Spend time exploring Crissy Fields and the Palace of Fine Arts.
Drive around Pacific Heights for stunning Victorian architecture and views of the Bay and Alcatraz!
Drive or bike along the Presidio.
Run Lyon Street Stairs. Shop on Union Street. Grab a healthy lunch on Fillmore Street.
RUSSIAN HILL, NOB HILL
Fairmont: a grand and historic hotel located in Nob Hill.
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco: Centrally located in the heart of Nob Hill near Union Square and the Financial District.
Swan Oyster Depot: family-owned seafood counter since 1912l The place in San Francisco for Dungeness crab or a half-cracked crab with Louie.
Lord Stanley: Modern European and clean style cuisine with an artful presentation.
Acquerello: Italian fine dining on a more sophisticated leve – try Budino and ridge pasta with foie gras!
Bob’s Donut & Pastry Shop: American doughnuts known for its giant cake-glazed donuts.
Biondivino Wine Boutique: one of the most popular Italian wine shops in the city.
Nob Hill Spa: a luxurious spa atop Nob Hill offering pool, facials, and massage located inside the Huntington Hotel.
Parlor: a mini-spa offering nail salon, facials, and waxing including Neuropathica skincare products and mineral-based Youngblood cosmetics.
Ride the cable car: riding the cable car is a must-do in San Francisco and everyone should do at least once! Explore the famous crooked street of San Francisco, Lombard Street.
NORTH BEACH, CHINATOWN
The Battery: a hotel and private club in the city, modeled on the Soho House and Chiltern Firehouse in London located on Jackson Square neighborhood.
Coi: contemporary French-style by executive chef Matthew Kirkley (previously at L20 in Chicago) with a focus on modern seafood.
Z & Y: after living in China for almost two years, I decided to give this Cantonese restaurant a try and was quite surprised with the experience. Go for the spicy fish and chicken with chili pepper!
Da Flora: charming Italian restaurant serving authentic Venetian cuisine. Go for the potato gnocchi with sherry cream and pancetta.
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana: if Pizza is your ally, try Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. The place doesn’t take reservations and it’s always busy so plan ahead!
Red Blossom Tea Company: a family-owned tea shop in Chinatown redesigned by second generation offering contemporary tea experiences.
Molinari Delicatessen: in San Francisco since 1896 famous for its line of cured meats sold nationwide.
Explore Fisherman’s Wharf and walk to Ghirardelli Square for Ghirardelli ice cream and chocolate!
Get tickets to explore Alcatraz and learn how the famous prisoners escaped!
Spend time exploring China Town, visit a tea house, and stop by at the dragon gate on Grant and Bush for a photo op.
Go up the Coit Tower for the best views of San Francisco, even better at sunset. Check the website for tours and hours (coittowertours.com).
Visit City Lights Books.
Have an al fresco lunch at Washington Square.
Ina Coolbrith Park has amazing views of downtown San Francisco.
Argonaut Hotel, a Noble House Hotel: an eco-friendly, luxurious hotel part of the Kimpton Group.
Fairmont Heritage Place: located in the Fisherman’s Wharf near the Marais Bakery for its pastries, the Juice Shop stand for freshly squeezed juices and Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.
Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman’s Wharf: an eco-friendly boutique hotel featuring contemporary accommodations and state-of-the-art fitness center.
Boulevard: an upscale cal-French and American restaurant and the place where I had my weeding celebration. Yup, highly recommend!
Gary Danko: American fine dining by chef-owner Gary Danko offering a luxurious and beautifully presented menu. Restaurant has a 2-month reservation list.
The Slanted Door: contemporary Vietnamese fusion famous for its shaking beef and chicken in the cellophane noodles. A local’s favorite!
Yank Sing: one of the best Dim Sun restaurants in San Francisco.
Buena Vista Cafe: go for an iconic Irish-coffee!
Spa Vitale: the place for thermal baths and massage, right across the street from the ferry Building, the hotel has a full menu of spa.
ElizabethW: artisanal perfumes and home fragrances founded by architect Albert Nichols in 1995.
Walk along Embarcadero & indulge in the many restaurants at the Ferry Building.
There’s also a big Cupids Arrow along the Embarcadero for a photoshoot.
Take a tour at Tcho, the luxury chocolate maker.
Walk at the Golden Gate Bridge: as cliche as it sounds, it’s a must! The GG Bridge is one of San Francisco’s iconic gems. Tip: bring a jacket if on foot or bicycle, it gets chilly!
DOWNTOWN, FINANCIAL DISTRICT, TENDERLOIN
Axiom: catered to the ‘forward-thinkers’ and tech-elite, located in the heart of the city overlooking the Powell Street cable car line.
Clift: one of the most iconic boutique-hotels in the city, designed by Phillippe Starck. The Redwood Room is a must-see!
Hotel Nikko: modern Asian-inspired decor located two blocks away from Union Square.
Mystic Hotel by Charlie Palmer: a boutique-hotel located in a century-old building a block from Union Square. The restaurant has one of Charlie Palmer’s signature restaurants: the Burrit Room + Tavern.
Bix: a classic supper club and one of my favorite places to hangout in style back in the days.. Located in a small and quiet alley will make you feel you’re back in the 1930’s.
Cotogna: the sister restaurant of Quince, chef Michael Tusk’s urban trattoria is a popular diner. Walk-ins are though, so try and reserve in advance.
Hakkasan: upscale Chinese restaurant, trademark dishes include crispy duck and roasted silver cod with champagne. If you’re trying to impress Asian-style, this is the place to go!
Kokkari: by far one of my favorite Greek restaurants in the city! If you’re seeking authentic Greek and great atmosphere, look no further. Reservations required two months in advance.
Kusakabe: I’m a huge fan of omakase experiences and was quite impressed with chef Nori (Mitsunori Kusakabe) and his kaiseki-inspired menu. Totally worth a visit!
Leo’s Oyster Bar: had an amazing experience this past February therefore would highly recommend it. As the name says, oysters are on the menu!
Michael Mina: located in the heart of the Financial district, this is the place to bring someone special if you’re trying to impress. The menu balances French, American, Japanese, and Italian which includes Mina’s seasonal trios and signature dishes like his ahi tuna tartare (a must!).
Quince: one of the city’s most respected and elegant Italian restaurants by 3-Michelin star chef Michael Tusk.
Sons and Daughters: casual yet elegant restaurant serving progressive, Californian cuisine from chef owners Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarty. Try the seven-course menu for a sure taste of their techniques and flavors.
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse: a popular bakery serving creative pastries. Arrive by 9am or be ready to stand in line, specially on weekends.
Native Juice Co.: one the the best organic, all-local juices, and smoothies now including breakfast and lunch. Try the avocado toast, a California staple!
Burke Williams: located at the Westfield Shopping Mall and with a variety of treatments. Worth a visit.
The Spa at Loews Regency San Francisco: located at the Loews Regency Hotel, the spa offers massage, facials, and nail salon. A real treat!
Go up the elevator at Westin St. Francis Hotel for a panoramic view of the city.
Enjoy a cup of French-pressed coffee at Union Square.
Have lunch at the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus.
Shop on Grant Ave. Visit the galleries on Geary St.
Hop on a cable car on Market and Powell towards North Beach.
SOUTH OF MARKET (SOMA), SOUTH BEACH, YERBA BUENA
Four Seasons Hotel: great location near Moscone Center and SFMOMA, amazing 3-level fitness center and yoga room (tried-and-tested!). It offers all the amenities one would expect from the Four Seasons experience.
St. Regis Hotel: just as one would expect from the Starwood branded hotels, great service and stylish decor, plus great location near shops and the SFMOMA.
Palace Hotel: as part of the Luxury Collection Hotel, the American-based Starwood group’s portfolio of premier hotels, The Palace is located in a beautiful building, under a glass dome with incredible city views.
1601 Bar & Kitchen: a sophisticated Sri Lankan tasting menu for anyone who appreciates exotic and authentic Sri Lankan cuisine.
Benu: a contemporary Asian restaurant, minimalist, offering a fixed-price tasting menu by chef owner Corey Lee. One of the most cutting-edge, Asian fine dining destinations in the city.
In Situ: located inside SFMOMA by Korean-born chef Corey Lee. Sleek, elegant and original, just as you’d expect at SFMOMA.
Saison: high-end Californian fine dining located on an industrial street in SoMa.
Mourad: a moroccan-meets-California restaurant by Marrakesh-born chef Mourad lahlou. Try the buttery couscous, duck fat potatoes and heirloom beans – a total delight!
Blue Bottle: a locally roasted coffee house and one of San Francisco’s earliest roasters. Order a Gibraltar for a shot of expresso served in a little glass served with steamed milk, similar to a cortado.
Sightglass Coffee: an industrial chic roaster and one of the most impressive of all the coffee houses and roasters in the city. Go upstairs at the affogato bar for an ice cream from Salt & Straw.
Intercontinental Spa: inside the Intercontinental Hotel, known for its Travelers’ Tonic Massage, an eucalyptus-infused treatment that focuses on reliving tension points in the head and scalp, plus a scenic hot tub and indoor lap pool with a beautiful terrace.
Go to a Giants game at AT&T Park.
Visit the newly redesigned SFMOMA.
Stroll at Yerba Buena Gardens.
CIVIC CENTER, HAYS VALLEY
Jardiniére: an elegant California-French restaurant offering a gourmet menu with local seafood, seasonal ingredients, and quality meats. Great wine list!
Rich Table: a creative Californian restaurant with a rustic feel and a super busy bar area. Trademark dishes are sardine chips and dried porcini doughnuts with cocktails. Try the tasting menu for the real experience. Reservations recommended.
Miette: a candy and cake shop devoted to sweet lovers.
Souvla: if you love Greek Gyros this is the place to visit. People come from all over to try the Gyro sandwiches and salads here. You’ll even notice some gourmet touches here and there.
Earthbody: a holistic spa offering botanical skincare and massages. Enjoy a nice cup of rose tea upon arrival.
Lux SF: an oldie local’s favorite seven-station nail salon with suede armchairs and exposed brick walls. The place to be pampered!
San Francisco City Hall: not only I married my soulmate incredible space, I still recommend it for anyone visiting the city. The architecture is simply stunning!
Take a stroll in Hays Valley and have coffee at the first opened Blue Bottle Coffee. Lunch at the Grove.
HAIGHT-ASHBURY, LOWER HAIGHT, NOPA
Ju-Ni: Ju-ni means twelve in japanese, seats just twelve diners and each group of four is paired with a personal chef for the evening’s tasting menu. Listed as one of the top restaurants of 2016 for its omakase menu.
Nopalito: a Mexican restaurant and a local’s favorite offering organic Mexican cuisine by Chef Gonzalo Guzman.
The Mill: if you love breads, this cafe is quite the place to find artisan breads featuring naturally fermented from Josey Baker made with house-milled grains. Come for your slice of toast topped with almond butter or jam. It won’t disappoint.
Alamo Square in front of the Painted Ladies: The Painted Ladies is a block of homes that became famous for the television show, Full House.
Haight Street: walk and browse through the several vintage stores lined up by blocks and great for hippie-watching as well.
Aster: a creative Californian offering seasonal ingredients by chef-owner Brett Cooper (Rubicon, Saison, Coi, Oterlands).
Californios: a contemporary cal-mexican restaurant known for its Mexican culinary references, California seasonality, modernity, flavor and beauty.
Foreign Cinema: a Californian-mediterranean industrial-chic dining room located off Mission Street. Great food and one of the best patios with foreign movies screening on the back wall.
Izakaya Rintaro: Chef-owner Sylvan Mishima bracket was a part of the Chez Panisse family. The restaurant is known for its house-cured inure, silken tony and hand-rolled udon. Contemporary music keeps it fun.
Loló: an inventive Mexican restaurant. Weekend brunches are fun and a great time to visit as well.
Tacolicious: an oldie and thriving Mexican restaurant with now three locations in the city although this one is still my favorite as it brings me back fond memories of when I lived here. President Obama has been at the Mission location!
Dynamo Donut: a Gourmet donuts paradise with favors including lemon Sichuan, saffron chocolate, and apricot cardamon.
Bi-rite market: family-run market and one of the best fine-food store in the city selling all things ‘local – cheese from Andante Dairy, pastries and bread from Starter Bakery, homemade prepared foods, and prime seasonal produce. Visit also Bi-rite Creamery for a taste of their salted caramel ice-cream.
Enjoy some down time at Mission Dolores Park.
POTRERO HILL, DOGPATCH
Plow:nestled at the top of Potrero Hill and the place for Californian brunch. Rustic-industrial decor with a very San Franciscan crowd. Come early to avoid the lines.
Visit Altman Siegel Gallery for cutting-edge art regarded for large-scale work and conceptual art.
CASTRO, NOE VALLEY
Frances: located in a quiet residential street you will find Frances, a Cal-French restaurant offering an authentic rustic cuisine. Book in advance.
La Ciccia: Authentic Sardinian flavors, try the spicy Octopus stew!
Mitchell’s Ice Cream: the ice cream and sorbet place to go on Castro since 1953.
Visit the Castro Theater, a deco-inspired theater located in the heart of the Castro district. A must-see architecture.
Stop at Omnivore Books on Food, a one-room bookstore packed with mouth-watering books on food.
Beach Café: if you are looking to get a taste of the California beach life, this is the place to go and enjoy the view of the ocean fog. Popular on Sunday brunch.
Judahlicious: offering raw, vegan, packed with healthy power foods like sunflower seeds, sprouts, and avocado.
Marla Bakery: bread lovers rejoice! A must-visit bakery and café in Outter Richmond with a country-style decor.
Grand Park View & 16th Avenue Tiled Steps.
Visit Legion of Honor, San Francisco’s most classically handsome museums. Definitely worth a visit!
Walk up Irving Street to Ocean Beach or a longer stroll towards Golden Gate Park.
Am I missing on anything? Any new place you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!
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