A design lover’s dream destination, San Francisco teems with well-known ‘must-visit’ locations and lesser-known gems. These cover everything from architecture and art to stores filled with the latest in design and award-winning restaurants brimming with amazing food. Not to mention the city’s eclectic architectural style along with the iconic steep streets and many hills that make virtually any photo Instagram-ready. Apart from some renowned names (the unmissable SFMoMA, for example), we’ve included many hidden treasures in our San Francisco guide, so you can discover another side of this incredibly cool, picturesque, and captivating city.
Located just at the foot of the Golden Gate bridge, Cavallo Point has a rich history, with the buildings dating back to the 1900s. Apart from the striking views, which may be enough to put it at the top of your list, the hotel also provides access to a spa, healing arts center, tea bar, and even cooking workshops. Guests can stay in historic or contemporary lodges, and enjoy views of the city, the bay, or the Golden Gate bridge. The complex also carries a LEED Gold certification, which will no doubt make the environmentally conscious happy.
It doesn’t get more ‘San Francisco’ than Hotel Zeppelin. This boutique hotel has a chic eclectic décor that blends contrasting elements in a refined way. Think exposed brick walls and wood-burning fireplaces alongside minimalist furniture and ultra-modern lighting design. The 196 rooms vary from the more compact and cozy to the spacious suite with a private terrace. Guests can also mingle in the downstairs 1300-square-foot playroom or enjoy a drink in the sophisticated bar lounge area.
San Francisco has a fantastic restaurant scene, and you can find gems almost everywhere. Our San Francisco guide includes a wide range of eateries that cover virtually any preference. First off, Wise Sons at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. This Jewish deli not only offers some delicious breakfast and lunch options, it also boasts an elegant décor, with designer lighting, handcrafted elements, and intricate patterns on the wooden tabletops, created by local artist Eddie Milla. Stop by Tartine Manufactory in the Mission District to taste some artisanal bread and house-made pastries in a sprawling space bathed in waves of natural light coming through the huge windows. Or go at the 20th Century Cafe, which takes inspiration from charming European coffee shops, with a menu that includes linzertorte and pierogi, among other delicacies.
For a more sophisticated affair, drop by Boulettes Larder, which offers wood-fired dishes that combine Californian and Mediterranean cuisines with Japanese and Greek influences. If you’re craving some Italian food, the Beretta restaurant has a menu filled with Italian classics and it also features a stylish décor that blends dark wood and industrial-style lighting. For a taste of the sea, head over to La Ciccia, which offers Sardinian dishes and seafood, along with an exclusively Italian wine list. Camino serves some tasty American food in a cool interior, with the menu changing with the seasons, while Blue Plate ofers New American dishes in a cozy location with a relaxed atmosphere. Before leaving the city, don’t forget to visit La Taqueria to taste their the award-winning burritos, tacos, and carnitas. Chances are, you’ll want to return.
No visit would be complete without a trip to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, or SFMoMA. Apart from all the art, visitors can get a closer look at the iconic building, designed by Mario Botta and Snøhetta. You can also get your art fix at the San Francisco Art Exchange, which showcases contemporary artist and photographers as well as pop culture icons and legendary creatives from various industries. If you love traditional crafts, visit the Museum of Craft and Design. The museum’s exhibitions highlight the work of local artisans and feature both products made using traditional tools and cutting-edge designs. At Museo Italo Americano you can admire the work of Italian artists and immerse yourself in some Italian-America culture. Apart from the permanent collection, you can also visit current exhibitions, movie screenings, and other cultural events. A gem in our San Francisco guide, the V.C. Morris Gift Store is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s lesser known works, although it preceded New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The building features a Romanesque arch and a smaller version of Guggenheim’s spiral staircase. Occupied by the Xanadu Gallery until 2015, the building now houses the premium Italian menswear brand Isaia Napoli.
Visit Heath Ceramics to browse through the brand’s iconic minimalist tableware and see the work of some talented new designers showcased in store. At Hedge Gallery you can pick up decorative art and sculptures made by local and international artists, and drool at pieces of furniture from the 20th century. For home décor and accessories, don’t miss Jay Jeffers that has a selection of simple but sophisticated products as well as bespoke furniture and limited edition collections. Colorado-based Topo Designs has a charming shop in the Pacific Heights neighborhood, with apparel and biking accessories available along with products from popular brands such as Ursa Major or Zeal. And if you want to buy something, you’ll have the peace of mind that every product is made in the US.
Go to Industrious Life to find gorgeous houseware created by local artists and designers. This shop also features stationery and grooming products as well as a selection of vintage designs. Founded in 2009, General Store now offers an impressive range of products that include everything from home goods and clothing to jewelry and apothecary products. The San Francisco store – the second one opened in LA in 2012 – also has a large garden that is perfect for taking a break from shopping and enjoy a bit of sunshine on warmer days. Before returning home, drop by the beloved Sue Fisher King store. The shop’s carefully curated collection is wonderfully eclectic, featuring everything from linen and ceramics to lighting, home scents, and artisan-made decorative objects.
Get a feel of real San Francisco and visit at least a couple of the numerous food and flea markets the city has to offer. You’ll not only blend in with the locals, but you’ll surely stumble upon some amazing finds. Located in the Mission District, the Mission Community Market brings together local farmers, small businesses, musicians and artists along with fresh food in a friendly and warm atmosphere. The iconic Ferry Building provides the backdrop for the popular Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, visited by up to 40,000 shoppers per week. Inside the building, a world class food market on the striking indoor street features coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants, as well as wine and tea stores along with an assortment of artisanal products that include breads, cheeses, and craft beer.
We had to include the city’s oldest market in this San Francisco guide. Alemany Farmers’ Market opened in 1943 and is one of the most popular locations to get fresh produce. Go early in the morning to find the best products or drop by just after noon to grab some deals. Filled with vintage furniture and décor items, Alameda Point Antiques Faire has an ‘at least 20-years-old’ rule, which means that you can find some fantastic items here. Although this incredibly popular flea market starts to get busy even before 9:00am, you may stumble upon some treasures like an Eames design or other mid-century gems. Finally, the Treasure Island Flea market is held on the last weekend of every month in a stunning location that offers views over the Bay and the city skyline. Artists, craftspeople, and designers showcase their work, with book and vinyl record stalls also available.