The Golden Gate Bridge might be San Francisco's most iconic landmark, but this dynamic city is steeped in an abundance of culture, creativity, and innovation stretching far beyond the 1.7-mile orange-painted expanse. As one of the most beautiful cities in the country—known for its diverse landscape as well as its ever-changing skyline—The City by the Bay is a mecca for everything from romantic getaways to those looking to get lost in world-class art and design. In between, you’ll discover a rich coffee scene, an array of craft cocktail spots, Michelin-starred restaurants, and diverse neighborhoods filled with incredible shopping. Relive the Summer of Love while strolling through Haight-Ashbury and Golden Gate Park, immerse yourself in the rich history of the oldest Chinatown in North America, or discover the character and community of the Castro—but whatever you do, be prepared to leave your heart in San Francisco.
Where to Stay
Built in 1903 and set atop San Francisco’s tony Pacific Heights neighborhood, the Edwardian-style boutique hotel has well-appointed rooms, a wonderful staff, and plenty of charm. “This property is a fabulous retreat, in a non-touristy neighborhood, and close to the best Sacramento Street boutiques and restaurants," gushes designer Suzanne Tucker.
Cavallo Point Lodge
Just over the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito and situated on national parkland, this hotel has stellar accommodations, superior spa services, on-site dining at the award-winning Murray Circle restaurant, and some of the dreamiest views around. “Sit in a rocking chair on the property’s wraparound porch with the stars above and San Francisco framed in the view over the bay," recommends designer Catherine Kwong. "It’s the perfect spot to unwind."
Membership definitely has its privileges at this members-only private club which includes a swanky 14-suite boutique hotel that, luckily for you, is open for public booking. Hotel guests become Resident Members for the duration of their stay, with access to the club’s exclusive facilities. With three bars, a reservation-only restaurant, a spa, and fully outfitted gym, this downtown gem is a sure bet for bespoke service.
Where to Eat and Drink
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
Opened in 1945 and located within the Fairmont San Francisco in Nob Hill, this kitschy but cool restaurant and watering hole—with its over-the-top tropical décor and lagoon—begins welcoming guests once again, post-pandemic, on July 9. Originally designed by famed MGM set director Mel Melvin, the eye-popping space has since received a cool update. Order the 1944 Mai Tai, Fog Cutter, or the Hurry Kane to appease the formidable Tiki God.
What began as a popular pizza truck is now a buzzy brick-and-mortar offering some of the best wood-fired pizzas in the city. Outfitted by interior designer Jessica Helgerson, the restaurant’s menu includes a breakout star: “Pizzas, unsurprisingly, are what they’re known for, but insiders know the real star is the homemade focaccia,” says Kwong.
Michelin-starred and nestled in the heart of Presidio Heights, this local favorite serves up contemporary American cuisine with an elegant French flair. Originally designed by Stephen Brady for Williams-Sonoma Home, it offers a full bar and extensive wine list. “It feels wrong to order the burger in such a chic environment, but it’s the best you’ll ever have," promises Dina Bandman.
Saved from closure in 2019, this legendary North Beach restaurant and bar just turned 102 years old. Order the Tosca Meatballs, Soft Shell Crab Chitarra, or Tuscan Fried Chicken at this reimagined hot spot that’s been “glamorously redone by the indomitable Ken Fulk, who wisely kept the opera-playing juke box," says Tucker. The design, she says, "is topped-off with a scrumptious menu by legendary Nancy Oakes!”
Where to Shop
Offering unique furniture, lighting, and accessories from all over the world, this indoor-outdoor design shop is as charming as it is eclectic, making it a favorite of designer Barbra Bright, who also loves its more under-the-radar offerings: “Apart from funky but fantastic mid-century and modern furniture, there’s also a not-so-secret door that opens into a narrow alley filled with plants and sculptures," she says.
Owner Maja Lithander Smith expertly curates the right mix of furnishings, art, and décor inspired by her travels around the globe. “It’s a treasure trove of beautiful objects that Maja sources herself," gushes Bandman. "It’s a one-stop-shop for gifts that will delight the most difficult to shop for."
Interior designer Jonathan Rachman’s retail shop is a charming mix of antiques, collectibles, and personal accessories. From vintage barware and linens to 19th century oil paintings, plumed hat, and pillows, you’re sure to find something delightful you didn’t expect. Plus, the owner himself is often on site and a treat to visit with.
Consider this the OG of San Francisco interior décor boutiques. Sue King has been stocking her eponymous shop with an incredible collection of home furnishings since 1978. From a dizzying selection of Astier de Villatte and Coral & Tusk linens to the hottest coffee table books, it’ll be a challenge to leave empty-handed.
Where to Explore
Opened in 1940 and located in Golden Gate Park, the 55-acre parcel of land is home to around 9,000 different plants from around the globe. Broken up into several collections, you can find a vast array of flora and fauna from Mediterranean, mild-temperate, and cloud forest climates. You can even buy plants at an on-site nursery.
Spend an afternoon at this Herzog & de Meuron-designed museum in Golden Gate Park. One of two Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the exhibitions and collections are some of the best in the country. Don’t miss the incredible panoramic views of the city from the top floor of the building’s architecturally stunning 144-foot spiraling tower.
Directly across from the de Young is this incredibly stunning Renzo Piano-designed research institute and natural history museum. “The oscillating roof and amazing exhibits are guaranteed to bring the kid out in all of us," says Fulk. While the lush, four-story rainforest with its 90-foot-diameter glass dome is not to be missed, a visit to the Academy’s most famous inhabitant, Claude—a rare white alligator—is an absolute must.
Unveiling its new Kulapat Yantrasast-designed exhibition pavilion and art terrace this summer, the museum houses one of the most incredible collections of Asian art in the world. With nearly 20,000 pieces in its permanent collection—spanning 6,000 years—the storied institution will host an even larger roster of exciting news exhibitions across its reimagined collections galleries.
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