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San Francisco, CA

San Francisco is a major city in California, the centerpiece of the Bay Area, well-known for its liberal community, hilly terrain, Victorian architecture, scenic beauty, summer fog, and great ethnic and cultural diversity. These are only a few of the aspects of the city that make San Francisco one of the most visited cities in the world.
Although huge in terms of offerings, San Francisco is physically quite compact. It is located on a seven-by-seven mile (11 x 11km) square of land at the tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast. It has a population of 812,000 which represents a small fraction of the entire Bay Area population of 7.1 million. San Francisco is just one of the cities which makes up the entire San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco's neighbors - Oakland and Berkeley... Read more

San Francisco, CA

Destination:
San Francisco is a major city in California, the centerpiece of the Bay Area, well-known for its liberal community, hilly terrain, Victorian architecture, scenic beauty, summer fog, and great ethnic and cultural diversity. These are only a few of the aspects of the city that make San Francisco one of the most visited cities in the world.
Although huge in terms of offerings, San Francisco is physically quite compact. It is located on a seven-by-seven mile (11 x 11km) square of land at the tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast. It has a population of 812,000 which represents a small fraction of the entire Bay Area population of 7.1 million. San Francisco is just one of the cities which makes up the entire San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco's neighbors - Oakland and Berkeley east of the

Bay Bridge

, Marin County north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Peninsula south of the city are all part of separate counties, each with their own governments and local public transportation systems. San Francisco suffers from crime in some downtown districts like the Tenderloin, Mid Market, 6th Street, Soma and the Western Addition. The south-eastern part of the city also suffers from violent crime. Visitors should be aware of their surroundings when walking late at night near some downtown hotels. San Francisco also has a high rate of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities.

Tourist information
San Francisco's visitor information centers offer maps, brochures and other information for tourists.
  • San Francisco Visitor Information Center, 900 Market Street (next to the

    Cable Car

    turnaround at Market & Powell), +1 415 391-2000 (fax: +1 415 362-7323). May-Oct M-F 9am-5pm, Sa-Su and holidays 9am-3pm; Nov-Apr M-F 9am-5pm, Sa and holidays 9am-3pm. Closed Easter, Thanksgiving Day, 25 Dec & 1 Jan. Visitor Center run by the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau.  
  • California Welcome Center, Pier 39, Building P, Second Level, +1 415 981-1280 (info@pier39.com). One of several California Welcome Centers across the state. 

History

Prior to European settlement in the area, the peninsula that now contains San Francisco was home to the Yelamu tribe, who were part of the larger Ohlone language group which stretched south from the Bay Area to the Big Sur of California. Due to San Francisco's characteristic foggy weather, the earliest European explorers completely bypassed the Golden Gate and the San Francisco Bay.

The first European settlement in the area was founded by the Spanish in 1776 as a mission community surrounding the Mission San Francisco de Asís, in what is today called the Mission Dolores in the Mission District. In addition to the mission, a military fort was built near the Golden Gate: El Presidio.

Upon gaining independence from Spain in 1821, the area became part of Mexico. Under Mexican rule, the mission system gradually came to an end and private ownership of land became a possibility. In 1835, an Englishman named William Richardson founded the town of Yerba Buena, the first significant settlement on the peninsula outside of the Mission Dolores area. As the new settlement gradually grew, Yerba Buena developed a street plan and became attractive to settlers.

In 1846, the United States claimed California, and in July of that year, the US Navy arrived to raise the American flag above Yerba Buena. Over the next couple of years, California officially became part of the United States following the Mexican-American War, and the name of the town was changed from Yerba Buena to San Francisco.

With the California Gold Rush of 1848, San Francisco began to explode in population. Waves of immigrants came to the city to seek their fortunes, including large numbers of Chinese immigrants, forming one of the largest Chinese populations outside of Asia. During this time, many major businesses were created and flourished in San Francisco, and famous (and infamous) personalities settled in the city. Of course, with all this success came problems: the rapid growth of the city outstripped any efforts at city planning, meaning proper sanitation and infrastructure were largely undeveloped, which led to a cholera outbreak in 1855. Violence and corruption were evident, and anti-immigrant violence resulted in many race riots.

In the 1890's, there was a large campaign to modernize and beautify the city, the success of which led some officials to proudly call San Francisco the "Paris of the West." But in 1906, a devastating earthquake shook the city and a resulting fire leveled much of the city (in fact, almost 90% of the total damage was from the fire, and not the quake itself). Nevertheless, officials at the time immediately set out on a plan to rebuild the city, with new parks, boulevards, the current civic center complex, and landmarks such as the Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill. In 1915, San Francisco hosted the Panama-Pacific Exposition (where the Palace of Fine Arts complex is currently located) to showcase the completely rebuilt city.

In the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930's, San Francisco remained largely unscathed. In fact, it was during this time that the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge were conceived and built. It was also during this time that the Federal Government established a prison on Alcatraz Island, which would hold some of the most notorious criminals of the era.

After World War II, San Francisco continued to grow in population. Urban planning projects at the time led to more highrises downtown (including the Transamerica Pyramid) and the destruction of many neighborhoods to build freeways (many of which were later torn down after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake). In the same period, San Francisco became a center of counterculture and the hippie movement, contributing to San Francisco's liberal outlook. San Francisco also became a center for gay men during this time, leading to the development of gay neighborhoods like the Castro.

More recently, San Francisco has experienced a boom in business. Despite falling victim to the dot-com bubble burst in the 1990s, the city's economy largely recovered and gentrification of neighborhoods like SoMa continues.

Today San Francisco is known for its liberal outlook and remains one of America's top tourist destinations. Tourism is the city's largest industry.

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San Francisco, CA: Port Information


You can use the metro to get from San Francisco International Airport to the port. It will take you to Embarcadero station located in a 20-minute walk from the harbor. If you have heavy luggage, take a taxi from the Hyatt.   
A lot of attractions are located at the port. Don't miss an excursion to Alcatraz. 
The new Terminal Project at Pier 27 opened September 25, 2014 as a replacement for the old Pier 35. Itineraries from San Francisco usually include round trip cruises to Alaska and Mexico.

Get around San Francisco, CA


On foot
Walking can be an enticing option to get from one neighborhood to another, so long as you are aware of where you are and keep your street smarts. San Francisco is a city of friendly neighborhoods, but it is also a big city so be aware of your surroundings and keep in mind the dangers that commonly accompany a city of San Francisco's size.
However, streets that often go straight up and down hills may make walking challenging when attempting the uphill portions (but provide good exercise). Driving can be difficult up and down hills but have breathtaking views. There are many stairway walks scattered throughout the city when the streets are too steep. You can find maps that include hiking trails, bikeways, and the grade pitch of all streets marked in varying colors by how steep each segment is, that can help you orient to city walks suitable to your ability and temperament, such as the downloadable map issued by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
Note that locals rarely use the designations "street" or "avenue," even when differentiating the numbered streets and avenues. Numbered roads designated "Street" are located on the east side of the city, south of Market in Downtown,

Castro

, Noe Valley, and Mission. Numbered roads designated "Avenue" put you in the Richmond and Sunset districts on the west side.

By public transit
San Francisco has one of the most comprehensive public transportation systems in the United States, arguably the most comprehensive system west of Chicago. Transport services within San Francisco are provided by several bodies; they are separate organizations and although they have many interchange stations, tickets are not normally transferable across the systems (except for monthly or longer period passes). The major transit systems are:
  • Muni — Metro subway, streetcars, buses, trolley buses and cable cars within San Francisco proper.
  • BART — regional subway services in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Caltrain — commuter rail services to San José.
San Francisco Municipal Railway or Muni, +1 415 701-2311, runs a network of local transport that covers most areas of touristic interest well.
The Clipper Card was fully introduced in 2010 and is a contact-less, multi-agency fare card similar to Octopus in Hong Kong and Charlie Card in Boston. Clipper cards are free at any MUNI ticket machine and are accepted on BART, CalTrain, San Francisco ferries, and many regional transit systems outside the City of San Francisco, in addition to all of MUNI's vehicles (streetcar/subway, busses and cable cars). Clipper can either be set up with pay as you go with all transfers calculated automatically or a 1 day, 3 day, 7 day or monthly pass. MUNI has also created a single use "Clipper Ticket" as the new subway turnstiles no longer accept cash. You can still pay with exact change when boarding a streetcar above ground or a bus.
MUNI operates on a proof of payment basis, sometimes called an "honor system with teeth." 90 minutes of travel on the Muni system (Metro, F-line streetcar, buses) costs $2.25 ($0.75 for youth 5-17, disabled, and seniors 65+) including transfers and return trips if they fall within the 90 minute limit. If you're using a Clipper Card, be sure you "touch on" at any of the readers located near the streetcar or bus door to pay your fare and start the 90 minute clock (you can board at any door as they all have readers). If you aren't using a Clipper Card, don't have a Muni passport, and pay cash, you must board at the front door and obtain a transfer ticket from the driver. The MUNI Saturation Team (fare inspectors) and sometimes the SFPD randomly and frequently patrol streetcars, subway stations and buses with handheld Clipper Card readers checking for proper fare - residents who ride MUNI regularly report being checked once or twice a week.
Many of the city's bus stops also have posted copies of this map with the location of the stop marked, a godsend for lost pedestrians.
You can plan your Muni travel online. Muni arrival times are also available online for many lines at NextMuni. An unofficial site is RescueMuni.com, which often has information on routes that are not listed officially.

By bike
If you have strong legs and a bit of urban cycling experience, bicycles are an excellent option for transportation within San Francisco. The city is fairly small in land area - just about 7 miles from north to south and 7 miles from east to west - so it's fairly quick to get from one end to the other, and in recent years, the city's Municipal Transportation Agency has installed many miles of new bike lanes and paths. Cycling is a common transportation choice for San Francisco residents, moreso than in most other American cities, as it is often the quickest way across town. This means that motorists will generally be aware of the presence of cyclists on the roadway. However, it is extremely important to ride with caution, as gridlock and congestion can lead motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists alike to act unpredictably and in an unsafe manner, at times. Theft of bicycle parts and entire bicycles is unfortunately very common in San Francisco, so it is recommended to avoid leaving a bicycle unattended in public for extended periods of time, and if it is necessary to do so, to lock the bicycle as securely as possible, with a strong lock.
If you plan on cycling in San Francisco, consider that much of the terrain is extremely hilly, making for some tough climbs. In addition, coming downhill means, if you're not careful, you may find yourself barreling out of control into cross traffic at the bottom of the hill. However, there is almost always a bicycle route to get you from one place to another while avoiding major climbs within the city. If you're unsure of how to get around the hills, ask a local cyclist for advice.
Do not be misled by maps depicting the city's street grid and assume that these streets are always flat. Even the straightest of San Francisco's streets might include steep hills or even staircases instead of a roadway. And remember, children may tire even sooner than adults will. A recommended easy ride for children and cyclists with little experience is from the tip of Golden Gate Park's panhandle in the Haight, along paths and JFK Drive through the park to Ocean Beach. JFK Drive is lightly trafficked, and its eastern portion (between Kezar and Transverse Drives) is closed to cars on Sundays.
SoMa, the Mission, the Sunset, and Richmond districts are relatively flat. There are a number of bike paths and bike routes on city streets; the San Francisco Bike Coalition keeps a lot of information about them. There are a number of bike rental companies in town, including Dylan's Bike Rental, Bay City Bike, Bike and Roll and Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals with locations in Fisherman's Wharf, and the Bike Hut and Pacific Bicycle in SoMa.
A very popular ride for visitors to San Francisco is the ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, a small town in the relatively undeveloped Marin Headlands. The Golden Gate Bridge has sectioned off pathways on each side for pedestrians and bicyclists. When open, the Western side of the bridge is for cyclists only. When the Western side is closed for construction, the Eastern side is intended for shared use by pedestrians and cyclists. When sharing the Western side with pedestrians, ride courteously. Avoid riding side-by-side, and do your best to make way for groups of pedestrians, as well as commuting cyclists, who ride at higher speeds, and generally have less patience for obstructions. When the bridge is closed to pedestrians during nighttime, you may continue to bicycle across by stopping to press the buzzer at the automatically closed gates to be buzzed in and out. 

By taxi
Taxis in San Francisco are, for a large city, surprisingly inefficient and expensive. You can get an idea of how much particular taxi trips cost in San Francisco using the San Francisco Taxicab Commission's webpage.
San Francisco is home to several startups which are trying to provide a better ride-for-hire service, including UberCab, Lyft, and Sidecar, which are generally cheaper and more reliable than a taxi. Download the free app for any company to view cars in your area, and request a ride.
Except for taxi stations at or near downtown business hotels, or cruising just a few major arteries, taxis can be hard to find and hail - and calling for a cab can mean a 30-45 minute wait, if the cab shows up at all. Now, if you're anywhere near Union Square and are holding shopping bags, just by standing on the curb and hailing passing cabs will usually get you one quite quickly. It is significantly easier to catch a taxi on weekdays, not including Friday night.
If you are heading to the airport, your best bet is to call ahead with a specific pickup time to one of the many taxi companies. You will also want to schedule your cab ahead of time because if you are going beyond 15 miles, you will end up paying 50% extra.

By car
Perpetually-clogged traffic, steep hills, a confusing system of one-way streets downtown, expensive parking, and a fleet of parking control officers who enforce parking laws with zeal can make driving in San Francisco extremely frustrating; visitors to the city should seriously consider alternatives to automobiles when possible. Car rental is expensive, registration fees are the highest of any US state, and because collisions are common, rates for liability insurance (legally required) are high as well. In addition, traffic from the Golden Gate Bridge uses surface streets either along CA-1, 19th Avenue or US-101 on Lombard and Van Ness. A car is really only useful for visiting destinations outside of the city (excluding Oakland and Berkeley, which is served by BART) or parts of the city less frequently served by MUNI. The greatest hazard of driving is on Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth, where a stretch known as "The Crookedest Street in the World" runs one-way down a steep hill making eight hairpin turns. Oversized vehicles such as pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, and recreational vehicles should NOT attempt to pass through the winding stretch of Lombard Street.
The most difficult problem with your car in San Francisco will be parking. Parking throughout the city is extremely scarce. Garages, where they are available, are quite expensive ($20-30/day downtown). San Francisco has some of the strictest parking laws and enforcement in the country. For day trips into the city, consider a park-and-ride at a Peninsula Caltrain station, at a Peninsula BART station, or at an East Bay BART station.
When parking on a hill (and there are many of them in San Francisco), remember to always apply that parking brake and turn your wheels so that the tires are against the curb (Facing uphill, the front wheels should be turned out until the tires are resting against the curb. Facing downhill, the front wheels should be turned in so that they are set against the curb). Failure to park properly doesn't just run the risk of having your car roll downhill, but it is also against the law and you may be ticketed.
Motorcycles and Scooters are a common sight on San Francisco streets; in fact, San Francisco is known as one of the most motorcycle-friendly places in the US. Street parking for motorcycles is plentiful and relatively inexpensive, but note that parking on sidewalks is usually illegal. There are several motorcycle rental shops like Dubbelju Motorcycle Rentals, along with many dealers, service shops, and motorcyclist hangouts. As elsewhere in California, motorcyclists must wear helmets. Motorcycle theft is a problem; always use a disk lock or secure your bike to a stationary object using a cable or chain.
Segways, though more novel, are fairly common in San Francisco. So far there is only one authorized Segway dealer that rents out Segways, though various tour operators (many of whom operate from Fisherman's Wharf) offer guided trips throughout the city.

Ride share programs
Ride Sharing is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to taxi cab services in San Francisco, offering an arguably friendlier and more reliable service at a cheaper price. Programs including Lyft, Sidecar, Uber and Carma involve downloading their mobile application to request a ride. Programs such as Sidecar, Lyft, and Uber's "UberX" utilize local drivers, and Uber also offers a more up-scale service, providing town cars and luxury SUVs at a premium price. The local drivers whom drive for Sidecar, Lyft, etc. usually do not have a taxi license. They are residents who own cars and are looking for an extra income on the side. But be assured, each driver in the ride share programs go through background checks and are tracked via GPS during your ride. Driver photos and their cars are displayed to the rider before pick up to ensure rider safety.
To request ride, the ride share programs usually requires the rider to download their mobile application and create an account and store credit card information. When requesting a ride, the rider enters their pick-up location, and drop-off location. When a driver confirms your ride request, a GPS map will track the driver's location, ETA, as well as show a picture of the driver and their car.

What to see in San Francisco, CA


San Francisco has much to see — these are just the most significant sights. For more detail see the individual district sections, often linked from this entry.
Two passes are available which offer discounts to many interesting attractions:
  • San Francisco CityPASS. A relatively cheap and easy way to cover many attractions of the city is the CityPASS. For a fare of $84 for adults and $59 for children 5-12, you get admission to the California Academy of Sciences, a Blue and Gold Fleet bay cruise, the Aquarium of the Bay or the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Exploratorium or the Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum (both must be visited on the same day). A CityPASS works for 9 consecutive days starting with the use of your first ticket (each ticket only accounts for one visit to each attraction). The pass also includes seven consecutive days of Cable Car and MUNI fares.
  • Go San Francisco Card - An all-inclusive pass that lets you visit multiple San Francisco attractions for one price, starting at $60. You can save up to 55% on top museums, tours, and activities vs. paying at the gate. The pass is available in 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7 day increments, and includes admission to dozens of top San Francisco attractions including a Hop-On/Hop-Off Trolley Tour, the California Academy of Sciences, a Golden Gate Bay Cruise, and many more.
  • Aerial tour if you are adventurous, you can see San Francisco from the air. There is a new modern power gilder at Palo Alto airport about 25minute south of San Francisco. You can see Stanford, get an idea of how long SLAC is, and be exposed to some of the most beautiful natural vistas. Check out power glider tours at palo alto airport http://www.powerglidertours.com.
Itineraries
  • There are many highlight walks you can take to really capture the feel of the city and see a whole lot of attractions at the same time. Some of the best ones are:
  • Chinatown. Grant from Bush to Broadway takes you through the heart of the famous district. Returning by the parallel Stockton or Powell will give you a better feeling of the day to day life of the residents, and are both good for those looking for imported commodities such as tea or herbs.
  • Ocean Beach. Ocean Beach is entirely open to pedestrians in both the Richmond and Sunset districts from the Cliff House restaurant and Sutro Baths in the north to the zoo in the south. For a shorter walk, the windmills near Lincoln at the end of Golden Gate Park offer a good base for a stroll north.
  • Telegraph Hill. Greenwich and Filbert Steps on the east side of Telegraph Hill, both strenuous and unforgettably beautiful, offer cottages and a flock of wild parrots to enjoy on the way up to the Coit Tower.
  • North Beach. Columbus runs from North Point in Fisherman's Wharf, through the grand church and famous cafés at the heart of North Beach to the landmark Transamerica pyramid, accessible to transit on nearby Market.
  • Haight Ashbury. Haight from Divisadero to Stanyan covers the shopping district famous for hippie culture; at Stanyan the street becomes a path through Golden Gate Park to a popular site (then and now) for relaxing and concerts.
  • Cow Hollow. Union Street between Gough and Fillmore is one of the finest shopping streets outside of the city center.
  • Mission. Mission between 15th and Cesar Chavez streets provides a look at a neighborhood famous for its murals, Latino food and culture, as well as occasional gang activity east of Mission Street. Parallel to Mission, Valencia Street is the artery of the many higher end boutiques and offbeat cafés starting to characterize the neighborhood, and has little of the grit of Mission St. 16th Street between Mission and Guerrero Streets offers a diversity of cuisine and several hip bars.
  • Pacific Heights. Fillmore between Pine and Broadway is lined with a good mix of shopping, views, steep slopes, and some of the city's largest and most expensive homes.
  • Fillmore. Post from Laguna (near 38 bus stop) to Fillmore takes you through upscale shopping and restaurants in Japantown, and turning left onto Fillmore across Geary and on to Turk takes you past the internationally known jazz venues and a mix of Black and Korean owned shops.
  • Castro and Noe Valley. Market from Church to Castro St. and a left down Castro St to 19th takes you through the center of the city's famous gay mecca. Continuing up Castro St over the hill from there takes you to 24th St, the main drag of bohemian Noe Valley.
Landmarks
Perhaps the most recognizable landmark in San Francisco and one of the most famous bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge, spanning the Golden Gate, has been called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and is the first thing you see of San Francisco if driving in from the north, as it is one of the major road routes into and out of the city. Overlooking the Golden Gate is the Presidio, a former military post with beautiful architecture and a very scenic park setting. Within the Presidio is the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and reminiscent of Roman and Greek architecture.
Within the center of the city, the famous cable cars run up and down the hills of San Francisco between Market Street and Fisherman's Wharf and offer quite a ride (see above under Get around for more info). Atop one of those hills, Telegraph Hill in North Beach, is Coit Tower, a gleaming white tower dedicated to the San Francisco firefighters. At 275' high, the hill is a healthy hike from the nearby neighborhoods just below. Another prominent tower nearby is the Transamerica Pyramid, the tallest and most recognizable building in the San Francisco skyline, located among the skyscrapers and highrises of the Financial District. Perhaps the most famous view of that skyline is from Alamo Square Park in the Western Addition district, home to the famous Painted Ladies row of Victorian houses, with many other pretty Victorians encircling the lovely park.
Over on Russian Hill is the famous stretch of Lombard Street between Hyde & Leavenworth, the (nearly) crookedest street in America. The city also has a twistier but less scenic stretch of street, Vermont Street on Potrero Hill. Other street oddities in San Francisco include 22nd Street between Vicksburg and Church in Noe Valley and Filbert Street between Leavenworth and Hyde on Russian Hill — At a 31.5% grade, these streets share the honor of the steepest streets in San Francisco.

Neighborhoods
San Francisco is also well-known for its collection of unique and intriguing neighborhoods. Most tourists start with Fisherman's Wharf; although many of the locals consider it a tourist trap, it is a great place to see amazing street entertainers, watch sea lions, visit museums, or take a cruise to the infamous Alcatraz Prison or the pleasant Angel Island. Working fishing boats still come into the small harbor here, and the district is home to several excellent seafood restaurants. The fresh breeze from the bay can provide a bracing setting.
The Downtown area around Union Square-Financial District | Union Square, is the heart of the city's main shopping and hotel district. Many other interesting areas are in walking distance or a short Muni ride from there.
Chinatown, just north-west of Downtown, centered around Grant Street from Bush to Columbus, is part tourist trap, part an exhibit of local life. Good eating places abound, and the side streets especially have stores one wouldn't find in a mall. Stockton Street is where most locals do their shopping for groceries; be sure to sample some of the dim sum and other specialties offered in the many bustling shops. However, many local Chinese prefer to eat and shop in the new Chinatowns located in other neighborhoods such as on Clement Street between 2nd and 12th Avenues in the Inner Richmond neighborhood. The Muni #1 (California) and #2 (Clement, does not run at night) buses get people from one Chinatown to the other.
South of Downtown is the Civic Center, with its impressive Beaux Arts buildings including City Hall and the War Memorial Veterans Building, the celebrated Asian Art Museum, music and theater venues (including large concert halls and a renowned Symphony and Opera), and the main public library.
The SoMa, across Market and Mission streets from Downtown to the south-east is rapidly gentrifying. Ii is the loaction of the city's main convention center and several new museums.
Further south is the Mission District, home to the Mission Dolores Church, one of the oldest structures in the city, and a fantastic collection of murals of all sorts on the walls of many nearby buildings, especially on alleys between Market and Valencia. BART and the Mission street #14 bus go there.
At the southern end of Market Street is the Castro, the center of San Francisco's Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Transgender (LGBT) community, with numerous theaters, small shops and restaurants. The Muni historic F-line is the best way to go there, although most underground Muni-trains stop there as well.
Further west is Haight Ashbury, famous for being a center of the Hippie movement in the 60s and 70s. While tourism has softened the image of the neighborhood somewhat, the area still retains its distinct feel with small organic coffee shops and store after store selling marijuana-themed goods, tie dye tee shirts and hand bands. The Muni Judah N-line and the Parnassus #6 bus from market street go there.
Treasure Island, an artificial island half-way between San Francisco and Oakland connected to the Bay Bridge, has excellent views of the San Francisco and Oakland skylines and quirky structures from the international fairground-turned-navy base-turned-neighborhood. Accessible by Muni bus #108 from the Transbay Terminal in SoMa.

Museums
When the morning is foggy, you may want to spend a few hours in one of the city's many world-class museums. Golden Gate Park is home to the copper-clad M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, which houses an impressive collection of contemporary and indigenous art. The de Young Museum's former Asian collection is now permanently housed in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, located in the Civic Center. Across from the de Young Museum stands the California Academy of Sciences, which holds a huge array of science exhibits, including an aquarium and a natural history museum.
The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is in Lincoln Park in the northwest corner of the Richmond district. In Nob Hill, the Cable Car Museum offers exhibits on the famous moving landmarks of San Francisco. Near the Castro is the Randall Museum, a lovely little children's museum. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Moscone Center, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Zeum, the Cartoon Art Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora and the Museum of Craft and Folk Art are all located in SoMa, south of Union Square. The Contemporary Jewish Museum, which was designed by Daniel Libeskind and opened in June 2008, is the latest major addition to San Francisco's museum scene.
At the Hyde Street Pier in Fisherman's Wharf you can go on board several historical ships, including the 1886 Balclutha clipper ship, a walking-beam ferry, a steam tug, and a coastal schooner. At Pier 45 just to the east, the World War II submarine USS Pampanito and the World War II Liberty Ship SS Jeremiah O'Brien can be visited. Nearby is the Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 and the newly opened Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. The Musee Mecanique on pier 45 contains hundreds of coin operated amusement machines, many from the 19th century. Most can be used for just a quarter.
The newly relocated and bigger and better than ever Exploratorium on Pier 15 is walking distance from Embarcadero and will keep you busy for an entire day with their science and perception exhibits. In the Marina district is Fort Mason, home to a few cultural museums.
Many museums offer free admission on certain days during the first week of every month.

Parks and outdoors
San Francisco has numerous parks, ranging from the tiny to the huge. The most famous of them is Golden Gate Park in The Avenues district, a massive (roughly 1/2 mile-by-four mile) urban oasis with windmills, bison, museums, a carousel and much more hidden among its charms. The park contains the antique palatial greenhouse of the Conservatory of Flowers, the modern and ethnic art focused de Young Museum, the large Japanese Tea Garden, the new California Academy of Sciences building designed by Renzo Piano and the Strybing Arboretum, a collection of plants from across the temperate world. Defining the extreme Northwestern corner of the city is Lincoln Park in Richmond, which provides majestic views of the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge from the ocean side, and the Pacific Ocean itself. At the extreme western end the well known Cliff House provides both semi-casual and a more formal eating and drinking place. The Legion of Honor museum at the center of the park houses many incredible artworks.
Near the physical center of the city is the Twin Peaks, one of San Francisco's highest points (875' above sea level); providing spectacular views in all directions. Tour buses can get backed up here during the day, but it's a great place to really appreciate the city from above, especially at and after sunset. Temperatures up there can be quite a bit lower than in the rest of the city, so bring a jacket. Nearby in the Lake Merced area is the San Francisco Zoo, a large and well maintained zoo which is a great place to go if you are traveling with children or have a fondness for penguins, primates, lions or llamas.
While not particularly well known for its beaches, San Francisco has a couple of good ones along the Pacific Ocean — but the water is brisk, the winds can be rough, and due to strong rip currents swimming at any of them is not recommended. Ocean Beach along the Sunset district is the largest and most famous beach, with plenty of sand and people enjoying themselves. China Beach in Richmond and Baker Beach in Golden Gate are smaller, rather secluded beaches with lovely views.
On sunny days hipsters flock to Mission Dolores Park, so named due to its location across the street from the Mission Dolores Basilica. The park often comes to resemble a large party, with music, coolers of beer and, er, uh...medical marijuana treatment. Mission Dolores Park is situated on a slight slope in the Noe Valley neighborhood, just a few blocks from the many restaurants and bars in the Mission. The east side of the park is bounded by Dolores Street, a hilly and scenic drive lined with palm trees and Victorians. During the fire of 1906 that destroyed much of the city, one of the few working fire hydrants was located near the Southwest corner of the park. This fire hydrant provided water that helped stop the fire. The fire hydrant is still functioning and is repainted gold once a year on the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake.
In the southern half of the city is the often overlooked but wonderful Bernal Heights Park, a small park on top of a hill overlooking the entire eastern half of the city, with excellent views of the skyscrapers in the Financial District, the Mission District, and the hills in the southeastern corner of the city. A wide trail runs around the base of the park below the peak which can be walked in ten to fifteen minutes. Bernal Heights Park is dog friendly, so much so that a coyote is often observed there.

What to do in San Francisco, CA


Harbor tours
One of the best ways to see San Francisco is from the waters of San Francisco Bay. There are many companies offering harbor tours of varying durations and prices but they all provide marvelous views of the bay, the bridges, the island of Alcatraz, Angel Island and the city.
Only specific island tours are allowed to land at Alcatraz, but the typical harbor tour will circle the island at a slow crawl, giving you plenty of opportunity to photograph the now-inactive prison from the water.
Also consider taking a ferry from San Francisco across the bay to Tiburon, Sausalito, or Alameda. Same views for a fraction of the price.
Most tours leave from docks at Fisherman's Wharf near Pier 39. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks along the waterfront walk. Buy tickets a day or two in advance during the summer high season.
Boats usually leave roughly hourly starting around 10am and ending around 5pm. Multi-lingual guides are available on some tours. Prices range from $20-$40, more for sunset, dinner, or whale watching tours.
  • Even on a sunny day the bay can be chilly, so be sure to bring a sweater as well as sun screen.
  • Some boats have snack bars on board, but bring your own water and treats to avoid paying high costs or going without. There are now limited refreshments and a souvenirs shop on Alcatraz.
Performing arts
The diversity of options to enjoy music and theater is huge. An excellent source for finding current offerings is the edited San Francisco Classical Voice, in addition to specific venues listed here. Concerts by small groups, classical to modern, and often free are listed at the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music page. The SF Classical Music Examiner provides insightful reviews and previews.
  • San Francisco has a Half-Price Ticket Booth located right in the middle of Union Square, where tickets for most San Francisco theatre performances can be purchased the day of the performance for half-price. Run by Theatre Bay Area, the income from all service fees collected from the sale of tickets by TIX Bay Area goes right back into the theatre community.
  • Go to a concert. There are performances most days to choose from by the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Symphony, in the Old First Church. Last minute tickets are often available at the door. Symphony tickets have a wide price range, Terrace seats are often less than $20. There are recitals most days, as well as occasional major performances, at the San Francisco Conservatory nearby. All these venues are located in or near the Civic Center. The museum of the Legion of Honor, located in Lincoln Park overlooking the Golden Gate (north end of 34th Ave), has organ concerts which can be heard in many of its galleries, Saturdays and Sundays at 4pm, as well as music performances in its Florence Gould Theater by the San Francisco Lyric Opera. Around the holidays many churches will have performances and sing-alongs of seasonal music. The classical Herbst Theater (where the UN charter was signed) is temporarily closed for earthquake and major interior updates.
  • Musicals from Broadway and Los Angeles are shown at the traditional Golden Gate and Orpheum theaters on Market, near the Civic Center. For outrageous fun, princes and paupers go to Beach Blanket Babylon in North Beach. Teenagers are welcome at the Sunday matinees. It considers itself the longest running musical revue in theater history
  • For jazz, rock, or folk music the choices are diverse. A new, attractive venue with a wide variety of offerings is SFJAZZ, a few blocks from the Civic Center. There are performances most days, popular artists often sell out early. San Francisco also has many jazz clubs, best found by browsing the web (an excellent site is SFStation.com). Contemporary bands are featured at The Fillmore Auditorium and less frequently at the large Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in the Civic Center. There is an annual blues festival in late September, at various locations, and at least two great bluegrass music festivals each year — during February around the area and late September or October in Golden Gate Park. Many, but certainly not all, events are listed by the City Box Office.
  • Ballet of the world class variety is performed in the Spring by the San Francisco Ballet at the War Memorial Opera House in Civic Center. Standing room tickets, with excellent views from the back of the orchestra section, are available for only $10 during the afternoon of each performance as well as two hours before showtime. In winter, the popular The Nutcracker is performed; those tickets often sell out early.
  • Plays are performed at the Geary (by the American Conservatory Theater), Curran, Marines Memorial theatre and San Francisco Playhouse near Union Square, and at the small New Conservatory Theatre Center near the Civic Center.
  • Silent, rare, and classical movies are frequently shown, accompanied by a live organist, and sometimes a band, in the classical 1930's Castro Theater just off Market street in the Castro district. Tickets are available on-line or on the day of the performance. Popular features may sell out early. The Castro theater is also a venue for various film festivals. The Opera Plaza Cinema often shows rare classical and foreign movies in its cozy theaters. Opera Plaza is located just a few blocks up van Ness Avenue from the Opera and Symphony. The San Francisco Symphony shows movies in its large auditorium, accompanied by its orchestra, several times a year. Both silent movies and movies with intense musical contents, as Walt Disney's Fantasia, are presented. They are a great way to introduce kids to classical music.
Sports
San Francisco has several professional sports teams, although the spread-out nature of the Bay Area means there are also teams nearby in San Jose and Oakland.
The San Francisco Giants are the city's Major League Baseball team, playing their home games at the lovely AT&T Park in SoMa. The other major league team in San Francisco is the San Francisco 49ers, the city's National Football League team, who used to play their games at Candlestick Park on Candlestick Point in Southeast San Francisco. The 49ers have now relocated to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. Both teams command huge fan bases.
As far as college sports go in San Francisco, there are the University of San Francisco Dons, who play various college sports including baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball at their campus in Western Addition. The San Francisco State University Gators play various college sports including baseball, basketball and soccer at their campus near Lake Merced.

Local music
San Francisco is a hotbed for underground music; a highly diverse array of musical styles is represented (e.g., rock, pop, experimental, weird folk, and avant-jazz). Shows occur every night, with as many as fifteen small shows occurring each Thursday through Saturday night. Much of this activity is not always well covered in the mainstream media; useful community-driven resources for finding about local shows include Dar Dar Dar and the Transbay Calendar. For major and regular events, see the section on Performing Arts above.

Meet and greet locals
For those who want to meet actual San Franciscans in addition to exploring major landmarks, in 2010 a group of locals started a new service, "See San Francisco with a local". You join 90-minute walks, The local guides show you city landmarks (and the stories and anecdotes that go with them), but they also engage their visitors on life in SF. You chat with a local, you "decode" the city, and you learn from an insider about local events and festivals, about where to shop, good places to eat or drink, secret places locals keep to themselves etc.
Discover Walks, 2454 Chestnut St +1 415 494 9255. Several tours to choose from everyday. Free service - guests choose their tip/donation.
Free Walking Tours of San Francisco
City Guides are local volunteers who love the City, its history, lore and legends…and they’re ready to share it all with you. The regularly scheduled tours are free and open to the public, except for groups of 8 or more. No need to make a reservation, just show up at the time and place indicated on their schedule; groups of 8 or more are asked to schedule a special tour several weeks in advance. The tours are fun and informative, with a combination of tried-and-true San Francisco landmarks and off-the-beaten path sites. Donations are welcome!
  • San Francisco City Guides, c/o SF Public Library, 100 Larkin St +1 415 557 4266. The list of tours, schedule, and FAQs can be found at their website.
Beers and Bike in San Francisco
Visit San Francisco by bike with Gears and Grapes while stopping in three of the finest beer drinking establishments of the city. Enjoy beers while learning about the cultural history of San Francisco from a local tour guide who will take you away from the tourist crowds to discover places cherished by locals. Tours operate from Monday to Friday and start at 2pm, departure from the office in Chinatown.
  • Gears and Grapes, 714 Commercial St +1 (415) 484-1238.

What to eat and drink in San Francisco, CA


Eat

San Francisco is a sensual, epicurean city with a vast array of restaurants. In fact, San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than any major city in North America, with 1 restaurant for every 250 residents (in comparison, New York City has 1 restaurant for every 940 residents). The price range is huge, and you can spend anywhere from a small fortune to a couple bucks for every type of cuisine. Vegetarians and vegans will find SF a paradise, however contrary to popular belief the city has one of the lowest rates of vegetarian consumers in the nation. Sushi is a local obsession, and though you can find a sushi bar on almost every street corner, the Richmond district has more than its fair share of excellent sushi chefs.
San Francisco is also one of the best places in the nation for Asian cuisine: Korean, Thai, Indian, Burmese, Japanese and, of course, Chinese. With the largest Chinatown in North America as well as one of the largest Chinese communities in the West, there are many exceptional restaurants serving dim sum and other Chinese delicacies found throughout the city. This localized Chinese cuisine has its feet in Hong Kong and America, and is different from what many visitors are accustomed to — it is common to hear complaints from Chinese visitors that Chinese food here is not like the food back home. There are several main types of Chinese restaurants in San Francisco: those primarily serving immigrants from Hong Kong ("Hong Kong style") which commonly have signs on the wall in Chinese characters, live fish and shellfish tanks and some exotic main ingredients, such as pig's blood or sea cucumber; those primarily serving San Franciscans who are not Asian immigrants ("California Chinese") which commonly have Westernized table service, low fat content and more emphasis on fresh vegetables; those primarily serving tourists or other people accustomed to Chinese food as it is commonly served in the United States ("Americanized Chinese"); and those primarily serving immigrants from other areas or a particular dietary need or interest (regional cuisines, vegetarian, Muslim). There may be some mixing between these various classifications and each category may influence the others, for instance, the Americanized dish known as Chop Suey is often not served even at Americanized Chinese restaurants in San Francisco, while Chinese vegetables such as bok choy and pea sprouts may turn up on your plate at California Cuisine style restaurants.
Fisherman's Wharf serves fresh seafood, especially clam chowder and crabs cooked to order. North Beach is the place to go for Italian food, and the Mission (birth place of the mission style burrito) for Mexican and Latin American cuisine of all sorts. San Francisco restaurants are also very corkage friendly. Average corkage fee appears to be in the $15 range, with some of the more pricey places charging $25-35.
EatWith is a new web platform that offers an introduction service so that visitors can eat home-cooked meals in the homes of locals so that each gets to know something of the culture of the other and get insider tips.

Drink

Bars and clubs
The best way to find a good bar or club is to ask the advice of a local; but barring that a copy of The SF Bay Guardian or the SF Weekly will help you find something suited to your personal taste.
San Francisco is very much of a "scene" town, with a varying range of categorical experiences. If you want door-to-door bar hopping at friendly bars that serve PBR tall boys, definitely go to "Polk Gulch" in the Tenderloin and work your way up through bars such as Mayes, The Playground, and Hemlock.
Head to the Marina for mid-20s to mid-30s professionals (and those visiting from Los Angeles) as well as a college atmosphere clubbing scene around super packed club/bars such as Circa and Matrix 24/7. If you want to commit to a single venue for the night and club the night away, pay the necessary cover at high end clubs in South of Market (SoMa) such as The Grand, Manor West, and 330 Ritch, where you can find left-over dot-commers and hipsters hanging out on the street. If you're in the mood for world class clubbing, Ruby Skye is a must visit place; the SF equivalent of a Vegas club, but be prepared to buy tickets ahead of time and wait in line.
If you are specifically searching for underground Techno, House, or other electronic music club culture your best bet is to peruse the local papers; however be mindful that the most likely venues to host such types of underground music are usually Beatbox, 222 Hyde, Public Works (Function One Sound), The End Up (a San Francisco institution since the Disco days), The Mezzanine, and Monarch (custom installed Void Sound). San Francisco has some of the most high end soundsystems in it's clubs than almost anywhere in the Country, be sure to experience one of the systems at the aforementioned locations.
Haight-Ashbury, famous for the "Summer of Love" and hippies, is still a place for alternative lifestyle and now has many neo-punks and hipsters in the mix. The Castro primarily serves San Francisco's gay men, with The Lexington http://lexingtonclub.com/ and Wild Side West http://www.wildsidewest.com/ in the Mission District serving a lesbian scene. Other spots in the Mission also offers a more down to earth vibe that still lets you get your dance on in spots like Brunos and Medjools; a bonus with this is that you can end the night with a great burrito from one of the local Mission taquerias.
With a large Irish population, San Francisco has a number of very good Irish pubs extending out into the Sunset neighborhood. North Beach is home to several dance clubs and strip clubs.
If you like soccer (football) and all things English, you should stop into the Kezar Pub, at the edge of the Haight-Ashbury District, or Lower Haight's Mad Dog In the Fog. The pub quiz and bar food are good. Swill some pints and stay in the dark. Good for an entire day's worth of drinking.
Beer
San Francisco, despite being much smaller than New York City, sports more microbreweries. Anchor Brewing Company (makers of Anchor Steam, found throughout the US) is brewed on Potrero Hill, though it is generally not open to the public (tours are available Friday afternoons by reservation). Similarly, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers opens its doors on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, though its location in Hunter's Point makes it a long Muni ride if you're traveling without a car. The other microbreweries are housed in brewpubs:
  • Beach Chalet & Park Chalet are at the Pacific end of Golden Gate Park, where you can enjoy a view of the ocean or sit in the lawn area.
  • Pizza Orgasmica in the Richmond District specializes in California-style pizza.
  • Magnolia Brewing Company is in the heart of the Haight, and operates a second restaurant down the street, The Alembic.
  • Thirsty Bear in SoMa caters mostly to the happy hour crowd.
  • 21st Amendment, also in SoMa, is three blocks away from the Giants' home at AT&T Park.
  • Social Kitchen & Brewery is the newest brewpub, in the Sunset District, a block from Golden Gate Park.
  • Comstock Saloon, opened since 1907 in North Beach's old Barbary Coast at the SW corner of Columbus and Pacific, is San Francisco's second oldest bar; formerly the oldest microbrewery in San Francisco, it was known as The San Francisco Brewing Company
  • The Saloon, opened in 1861 at the corner of Fresno and Grant in North Beach, is San Francisco's oldest bar and the only bar to survive the 1906 Earthquake and fire
Other destinations for beer drinkers include the Gordon Biersch alehouse on the Embarcadero in SoMa, the City Beer Store and Tasting Bar on Folsom St in SoMa (your best bet for beer to go), the Mission's Monk's Kettle, and the famous Toronado Pub on lower Haight Street, which specializes in Belgian ales.
The surrounding Alameda, San Mateo, and Marin Counties also host many microbreweries worth trying. Many of these are accessible by BART. There are North Bay beer options as well that should not be ignored. Lagunitas Brewing Company, one of the country's fastest growing craft breweries, is 35 minutes north of the city. Also, although Santa Rosa is 45 minutes north of San Francisco, no beer lovers should skip the renowned Russian River Brewing Company in downtown Santa Rosa.

Shopping in San Francisco, CA


If you want it, chances are likely you can get it in San Francisco. There are a wide range of small and locally owned businesses throughout the city's neighborhoods; in fact, San Francisco has for the most part repelled the development of large chain retailers and big box stores that are common across America.
If it's tourist trinkets you're looking for, Fisherman's Wharf has the typical souvenir, T-shirt, and camera shops, along with plenty of specialty stores. However, San Francisco's most popular shopping area is Union Square, which has all the big national department stores (Macy's, Saks, Nordstrom, etc.) and plenty of fancy boutique stores, as well as a few shopping centers thrown in.
For small, upscale boutiques, Union Street, Hayes Street around Octavia, Fillmore Street around California street, and Chestnut Street in the Golden Gate area are lined with unique and trendy places, and all these streets are among the best spots in the city to window shop and nash. Nob Hill is also full of specialty places.
But if you don't have a luxury dollar to spend and still want to walk away with something unique, there are plenty of shops in Chinatown for you, selling Oriental handicrafts of all descriptions, and no chain stores in sight. Japantown also offers plenty of great shops selling authentic souvenirs, including the excellent Kinokuniya Stationery/Bookstore. The Haight is full of excellent independent record and book stores, with Amoeba Music dominating the scene.
For basic supplies, try the ubiquitous 7-Eleven convenience stores and Walgreens pharmacies. If you need groceries, Safeway is the dominant supermarket chain in the city. There are Safeway stores in SoMa, near Fisherman's Wharf, and near the Financial District, but not near Union Square. The closest supermarket to Union Square is the upscale Bristol Farms supermarket at Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre.

Safety in San Francisco, CA


As with many other major cities in the world, San Francisco has its share of problems. A search for "People Behaving Badly" on YouTube will reveal local KRON 4 reporter Stanley Roberts' varied and sometimes comical segments on aggressive panhandling, distracted drivers, fare evasion, and most famously "Elmo Shirt Guy" who became an internet-meme in his own right and was featured on Jimmy Kimmel. The good news is that as a visitor to San Francisco, though you may occasionally encounter people behaving badly, with a dash of common sense its unlikely you'll be the target of any crime or violence.

The areas that one should be most cautious are in the neighborhoods of Bayview-Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, Sunnydale, Ingleside, and Potrero Hill in Southeast San Francisco, as well as the Tenderloin, parts of Western Addition (including the Fillmore District), and parts of the Mission. San Francisco is still susceptible to violent crime, and most of these murders occur in the southeast, less economically fortunate, neighborhoods of the city. Gang violence touches even busy and thriving areas such as the Mission Street retail corridor, although most instances of violent crime are directed to specific targets and are not random acts. The SoMa district used to be somewhat dangerous; however, recent gentrification (something that has become fairly common and a social issue in SF) has transformed it into a rather hip and much safer neighborhood with plenty of art galleries and clubs. However, it is best to be careful even now.

San Francisco also has the largest homeless population per capita in the United States due to it's temperate weather (they do not freeze to death as often as in Chicago or New York) and its relatively less vicious gangs (SoCal gangs are notorious for using homeless persons for target practice or gang initiations). If someone begs from you, you may either politely say you do not have any change or just keep walking, and he or she will generally leave you alone. The main homeless area is around 6th and Market, heading towards the Civic Center, and in the Tenderloin. Haight Ashbury also has lots of panhandlers, and the area near Golden Gate Park at the end of Haight Street near McDonalds is notorious for junkies and should be avoided at night.

Pickpocketing, purse snatching, and other forms of petty crime are common as with any other large city. Be especially cautious on crowded Muni trains and buses, in heavily touristed areas such as Fisherman's Wharf, and during the busy holiday shopping season.

Do not leave valuables in your vehicle, especially when parking on public streets. Car break-ins are very common in San Francisco, and any valuables in plain sight are in danger of being stolen. During your visit, you will probably see small piles of broken glass on sidewalks throughout the city, which are the result of such crimes. If you cannot carry all valuables with you, try to keep them in the trunk and park your vehicle in secure parking garages, which are slightly safer than street parking but are not completely free from crime either.

As with the rest of California, earthquakes are an omnipresent threat, and despite near constant media speculation of the elusive "big one" (the last major quake to hit the city was in 1989); the risk of a major incident remains relatively small. Minor tremors do occur in and around the city on a regular basis however, but apart from the odd broken window they are accepted as routine.

Be careful to check for ticks after hiking in fields in the Bay Area. There is a high rate of lyme disease transmission in the Bay Area. If a bulls' eye rash develops at the tick bite site, immediately seek medical help and treatment with antibiotics.

Language spoken in San Francisco, CA


English is the dominant language spoken in San Francisco. Cantonese is spoken by the majority of San Francisco's large Chinese population, with an increasing Mandarin-speaking minority. Spanish is also commonly spoken in San Francisco, although not as common as in the rest of California.

LOCAL TIME

5:04 am
December 10, 2018
America/Los_Angeles

CURRENT WEATHER

8.58 °C / 47.444 °F
light rain
Mon

8.57 °C/47 °F
light rain
Tue

11.37 °C/52 °F
light rain
Wed

10.54 °C/51 °F
sky is clear
Thu

13.91 °C/57 °F
sky is clear

LOCAL CURRENCY

USD

1 EUR = 1.14 USD
1 GBP = 1.27 USD
1 AUD = 0.72 USD
1 CAD = 0.75 USD

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