Turn right on California Street and walk up the steep hill alongside humming cable car tracks. You’re headed to Nob Hill, site of San Francisco’s posh hotels. At Stockton Street is the Ritz Carlton, where you may enjoy high tea in its fabulously ornate dining room. A block farther up are the Mark Hopkins and Fairmont hotels, with smashing city views that can be enhanced by taking afternoon rides up their elevators. In the 1880s, Nob Hill was the site of the mansions of the Big Four railroad and mining industrialists Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins and Collis Huntington. Nearby Huntington Park is an excellent rest or picnic stop. Across from Huntington Park is Grace Cathedral. The cathedral is a smaller replica of Notre Dame in Paris.
Transamerica Pyramid, Ferry Building San Francisco Photo Gallery
Head back down California and turn right on Powell Street, a downhill cable car route. At the bottom of the hill, at 450 Powell, is the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, featuring the Starlight Room on top. A block farther, at Post Street, is Union Square, the heart of downtown. Flagship stores and boutiques are within a two-block radius. Park yourself on a bench, chillout, and absorb the cable car clangs and tempo of cosmopolitan San Francisco.
Chinatown, Union Square
On the Post Street corner of Union Square is the St. Francis Hotel, which houses the opulent Compass Rose Room and the best glass elevator of all, a breathtaking jolt from the lobby to a city panorama toward the Bay Bridge. Walk through Union Square, away from Post Street; cross Stockton Street and head down quaint Maiden Lane to check out Xanadu Gallery located in an elegant brick building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1948. Pop out of Maiden Lane at Kearny Street, turn right for one block and then right again to 49 Geary to tour some of San Francisco’s best photography galleries. The galleries are listed inside the elevator. Then head for Market, where you turn left back to the Ferry Building.
For the North Beach walk, turn right on The Embarcadero as you leave the Ferry Building. Docked two piers to the north is the ferry Santa Rosa, built in 1927 and now open weekdays and Saturdays, free to the public. Next you’ll come to Pier 7, a walk over the water on planks lined by iron railing and old street lamps. If you’re taking this stroll on a Saturday, cross over The Embarcadero near Pier 9 and visit the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market for a sprawling assortment of organic veggies and specialty foods.
Cross The Embarcadero near Pier 23, on Greenwich Street. You pass Sansome Street and then ascend the Greenwich Steps, through hidden gardens, reaching Coit Tower, atopTelegraph Hill. Telegraph Hill, with its commanding bay view, was named during the Gold Rush when it was the site of a marine telegraph and semaphore station. Pioneer Park, which surrounds the tower, was established in 1875 by citizens alarmed at growing commercial development. Coit Tower was built in 1933 you can take an elevator to the top. The murals in the foyer artfully depict San Francisco history.