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San Francisco bridge

Compare the best San Francisco holidays

Holidays in San Francisco offer visitors a unique view of one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world and should be taken with a large pinch of open-mindedness - that way you won't miss a single beat of the soundtrack in this enchanting city.

Why go?

From the famous fogs that hang over the bay, to the tales of crime and punishment that linger within the cells of Alcatraz – a holiday in San Francisco will leave you in awe…

From the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, to the equally iconic cable cars that serve commuters as well as tourists; from the rainbow flags and Bohemian threads of the gay and hippy communities, to the lively and heavily-flavoured districts of Chinatown and Little Italy: San Francisco is all at once familiar and yet completely and utterly surprising.

Sat on the west coast of the United States, at the northern end of California, many holidaymakers use San Francisco as a jumping-off point for road trips and fly-drive holidays. While there is enough to keep visitors entertained for more than a few days, a fly drive is a terrific idea after you've explored the city.

When to go?

They say that variety is the spice of life. Well, if you like your weather spicy, then you should visit San Francisco…

It can be warm and foggy in late summer, with average daily temperatures of 22°C in July. The fog can feel quite cold and evenings will often cool rapidly, even in summer. The winter months of December and January see increased rainfall and temperatures of around 12°C.

What's on?

There are plenty of events to attend in San Francisco all year round. Take a look at our pick of the best…

The arrival of the sea lions; January: The sea lions return from their food-gathering expeditions and the barking beasts can be heard again all around the Pier 39 area. Families gather to watch the animals return.

Chinese New Year; January: Be in the oldest Chinatown in the United States to see in the Chinese New Year. Expect a spectacular parade and copious amounts of delicious and authentic Chinese food.

San Francisco Carnaval and Festival; May: This multi-cultural city celebrates its melting pot of nations with a great big party and a parade. Events run throughout May and are colourful and energetic. Catch it if you can.

San Francisco Pride Parade; June: This world-famous celebration draws the crowds as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folk take to the streets with friends and family. Thousands gather to watch the parade. There's a festival around the Sunday parade too.

What to do?

After you've travelled from San Francisco Airport (SFO) into the city, there is plenty to see once your bags are unpacked…

The Golden Gate Bridge should be near the top of your holiday hit list, and the Bay Bridge, which is actually two bridges connecting the city with neighbouring Oakland, is also worth a few snaps of your camera.

If your legs are up to it, you can stroll the steep hills of San Francisco, made famous by Steve McQueen and his car-chasing antics in Bullitt. Lombard Street is crazily crooked and steep and you'll find plenty of other tourists jostling for space at the bottom to capture the extraordinary sight.

If your legs aren't up to it, make like a local and hop on one of the city's cable cars. You might simply be travelling from A to B, but it's an unforgettable experience.

Check out the city skyline as you move and spot the rather attractive cigarette-shaped Coit Tower in the Telegraph Hill area and the soaring skyscrapers, including the unmistakable Transamerica building, which looks like a stretched pyramid. Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill is equally awe-inspiring. Make your way up to Buena Vista Park for sublime views of the city and see how many famous buildings you can spot.

Weave your way back through the city, perhaps popping in to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for a hit of culture on the way, and make a beeline for Fisherman's Wharf. There are shops, restaurants and hotels, boat trips to Alcatraz, and, at Pier 39, the city's famous sea lions. The creatures bob about on the docks and doze in the sunshine as visitors snap away.

There's a laid-back feel in this city - partly an inheritance from the 1969 Summer of Love - and you'll find San Francisco holidays are a real treat for the senses, without being overwhelming.