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 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, and designer labels at reduced prices are too good to pass up at Jeremys in nearby SoMa – a weekly pilgrimage for those in the know. Restoration Hardware’s new gallery store in the Design District has rustic antiques and reproduction furnishings.
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 inCow Hollow, 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 Gothic-style Grace Cathedral towers over the park.
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. After touring SFMOMA, venture through Union Square’s fine art galleries, beginning with Fraenkel Gallery for photography lovers, Serge Sorokko Gallery for its fine collection of modern, post-war, and contemporary art, and ending with the famed John Berggruen Gallery, and Hackett Mill, ground zero for Bay Area figurative work. The critics flock to Yoshi’s to hear emerging talent in jazz; The Razz Room for some Cabaret, and The Boom Room for Blues.