Whether you’re wandering around the chic shops and art galleries, riding a cable car or gazing out to the Blue Bay, this is a city where you might leave – or find – your heart

Known for its views, world-class chefs and Silicon Valley technology companies that have redefined communication, San Francisco brims with casual sophistication and cutting-edge culture. To call it the culinary capital of California would be a claim easily substantiated, but the adventure in exploring this hippie geek-meets-boho chic melting pot does not stop there…

Retail therapy

A treasure trove of retro fashion at Torso Vintages
Nestled in bustling downtown lies the fashion epicentre Union Square, where department stores like Barneys and Neiman Marcus are intermixed with boutique flagships, from Bulgari and Gucci to the three-storey Chanel. Those seeking a bespoke men’s suit or a gown for the opera need look no further than Wilkes Bashford, an exquisitely curated store. Stroll down the street to Torso Vintages, every local fashionista’s go-to spot for yesteryear’s Pucci, Halston and the like. For homeware and gifts, Gump’s is the destination, while designer labels at reduced prices are too good to pass up at Jeremys in nearby SoMa – a weekly pilgrimage for those in the know. In the Design District, Restoration Hardware new gallery store has rustic antiques and reproduction furnishings.  

City highs

The Oriental Suite bedroom at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco There’s nothing quite like taking in the salty air while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, a stretch of just under 3km. A visit to Alcatraz takes you through the cell blocks that once housed notorious criminals such as Al Capone. If the views from your hotel room at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco, in the city’s third tallest building, 345 California Center, aren’t enough, hike the Lyon Street Steps in Pacific Heights, after taking in the renovated dome of the Palace of Fine Arts. Or climb the stairs of Coit Tower in North Beach for a great panorama. A visit to Nob Hill is a must, where the majestic Beaux-Arts-style Grace Cathedral towers over the park.  
Room with a view Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco is in the city’s third tallest building, 345 California Center

Cool culture

Artworks at SFMOMA, the city's first stop for photography, sculpture and paintings With a living green rooftop and albino alligator, the California Academy of Sciences – new to Golden Gate Park – will mesmerise. Across the way is the de Young Museum, a sibling of the Legion of Honor and exhibitor of American art and international textiles and costumes. After touring SFMOMA's impressive collection of modern and contemporary art, venture through Union Square’s galleries. Start with Fraenkel Gallery for photography lovers, Serge Sorokko Gallery for the Damien Hirst-obsessed, and ending with John Berggruen Gallery and Hackett Mill, ground zero for Bay Area figurative work. When it comes to music, the critics flock to Yoshi’s to hear emerging talent in jazz.  

Outdoor adventure

Map of San Francisco If the sun’s rays conquer the fog that blankets the bay, make like a local and spend time at Crissy Field, where dog-friendly Baker Beach and green lawns beckon. Sail around Angel Island with Ruby Sailing or take a narrated Segway Tour. Those with green fingers will delight at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, which also offers Sunday-morning birding tours. Weather permitting, take a ride aboard the legendary cable cars that traverse the undulating hills. Of the charming neighbourhood parks, Alta Plaza in Pacific Heights has tennis courts, and in Dolores Park, multicoloured Victorian homes line one side of Alamo Square.  
At the day’s end Kick back in the bar at Mandarin Oriental’s Brasserie S&P with a refreshing Indian Summer in Mt Tam cocktail

Fitness fanatics

Equinox Fitness After climbing the city-wide hills, treat your body to a massage with custom-blended oils in an indulgent two-hour Signature Spa Therapy at the luxurious new Spa at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco. Post-treatment, you can take in the Spa’s serene and Oriental aesthetic while sipping a signature brew in its relaxing Tea Lounge. Or if you need to stretch your muscles, the hotel’s light and airy fitness centre comes with the latest high-tech equipment and sky-high views, too.  

Foodie heaven

Silks at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco Let the culinary journey begin at Mandarin Oriental’s Brasserie S&P, where chef Adam Mali serves sophisticated San Francisco brasserie-style cuisine in a casual atmosphere. A diverse selection of wines and unique cocktails, in particular an extensive gin and tonic programme, complement the food. For handmade pasta in a chic space, Quince in Jackson Square will not disappoint. Oenophiles can pick from hundreds of wines thanks to Michael Mina’s RN74 wine bar and restaurant in SoMa. And fans of Balthazar in NYC will be right at home at Café des Amis, a new brasserie in Cow Hollow, owned by the visionaries behind Spruce. For a slice of heavenly pizza, try Pizzeria Delfina in Pacific Heights, after shopping on Fillmore Street, or get your fill from a multitude of artisanal fare at the Ferry Building Marketplace.

Show business

Beach Blanket Babylon Sip cocktails at Sloane in SoMa, or with the hipsters at the Financial District’s Rickhouse. It won’t just be the 360-degree views that catch your eye at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room – the Sunday’s a Drag! performance and brunch features famous drag queens. Watch movies at Sundance Kabuki Cinema in Japantown, and go bowling at the beloved Presidio Bowling Center. For quintessential San Francisco, get tickets to the long-running music revue, Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon. Or kick back in the bar at Mandarin Oriental’s Brasserie S&P and sample the gin and tonic flight tasting menu or an Indian Summer in Mt Tam cocktail – a refreshing blend of St George Terroir Gin and Sensei saffron tonic water.  
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