San Francisco is one of the most enticing cities on the west coast. Unlike many American cities, it has a rich history, a vibrant cultural scene, dramatic scenery nearby and a city centre that is compact and interesting enough to explore on foot.
The city’s big break came in 1849 when gold was discovered nearby, and more recently it was a hot spot in the hippy culture of the 1960s and Silicon Valley – the suburban sprawl on the west side of San Francisco Bay between the city centre and San Jose – has been associated with technology industries and the Internet boom of the late 1990s.
This appealing city is surprisingly easy to get around and has a wealth of worthwhile attractions including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid and the old-fashioned cable cars that rattle up and down its hilly streets.
Hallidie Plaza, 900 Market Street, San Francisco
BART/MUNI Metro Powell; cable car Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason (stop: Powell Street/Market Street)
Tel 415 391 2000
Open Jan-Apr Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 9am-3pm; May-Oct Mon-Fri 8.30am-5pm, Sat-Sun 9am-3pm; Nov-Dec Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 9am-3pm
San Francisco is one of the most connected cities in the world, which isn't surprising when you realise that Silicon Valley and the headquarters of Google and hundreds of other internet businesses are just down the road. However with everyone connected to the net, it's easier to find a Wi-Fi hotspot than a regular internet café but there are a few internet cafés around including:
1122 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Bus 12, 19 (stop: Folsom & 7th Street)
Tel 415 255 4866
Open Mon-Thu 7am-10pm, Fri-Sat 7am-11pm, Sun 8am-10pm
1777 Steiner Street, San Francisco
Bus 2 (stop: Sutter Street & Seiner Street)
Tel 415 771 0888
Open Mon-Fri 6am-8pm, Sat 7am-8pm, Sun 7am-5pm
401 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94108
BART/MUNI Metro Montgomery bus 8AX, 8BX, 8X (stop: Kearny Street & Bush Street) cable car California (stop: California Street & Bush Street) tram F (stop: Market Street & Kearny Street)
Tel 415 362 3929
Open Mon-Fri 9am-7pm
1234 Polk Street, San Francisco
Bus 19 (stop: Polk Street & Sutter Street), 47, 49, 90 (stop: Van Ness Avenue & Sutter Street)
Tel 415 673 4181
Open Mon-Fri 6.30am-10pm, Sat-Sun 7.30am-10pm
Free internet computers and wireless internet access is also available in San Francisco public libraries. Printing costs 15c per page. Public libraries in San Francisco include: Main Library (100 Larkin Street, San Francisco; BART/MUNI Metro Civic Center; tram F (stop: Market Street & Hyde Street; bus 6, 9, 9L, 71, 71L, K-OWL, L-OWL, M-OWL, N-OWL, T-OWL (stop: Market Street & Hyde Street); tel 415 557 4400; open Mon 10am-6pm, Tue-Thu 9am-8pm, Fri 1pm-6pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun noon-5pm); Chinatown branch library (1135 Powell Street, San Francisco; cable car Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason (stop: Powell Street & Jackson Street); tel 415 355 2888; open Mon 1am-9pm, Tue-Wed 10am-9pm, Thu 10am-6pm, Fri 1pm-6pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 1pm-5pm) and North Beach branch library (2000 Mason Street, San Francisco; cable car Powell-Mason (stop: Mason Street & Greenwich Street); bus 30, 91 (stop: Columbus Avenue & Mason Street); tel 415 355 5626; open Mon noon-6pm, Tue 10am-9pm, Wed 1pm-9pm, Thu 10am-6pm, Fri-Sat 1pm-6pm).
Meraki operate a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout San Francisco, although their main coverage is in residential areas such as the Mission and Castro neighbourhoods. There is also free wireless access at Union Square.
Panera Bread (301 King Street, San Francisco; MUNI Metro King Street & 4th Street; bus 91, T-OWL (stop: King Street & 4th Street)) has free Wi-Fi and the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf have Wi-Fi at their stores at the Embarcadero Center (4 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco; BART/MUNI Metro Embarcadero; open Mon-Fri 5.30am-6pm, Sat 8am-5pm) and Market Street (773 Market Street, San Francisco; BART/MUNI Metro Powell; bus 6, 9, 9L, 71, 71L, K-OWL, L-OWL, M-OWL, N-OWL, T-OWL (stop: Market Street & Stockton Street); tram F (stop: Market Street & Stockton Street); open Mon-Thu 6am-10pm, Fri 6am-10.30pm, Sat 7am-10.30pm, Sun 7am-10pm).
All Barnes and Noble bookshops have free wireless internet including the branch at Fisherman's Wharf (2550 Taylor Street, San Francisco; cable car Powell-Mason (stop: Taylor Street & Bay Street); tram F (stop: Beach Street & Mason Street); bus 47 (stop: North Point Street & Mason Street); open 9am-9pm daily).
There are plenty of small independent cafes that also provide a free Wi-Fi connection for their customers. These include the internet cafes listed above plus many others including: Caffe Roma Coffee Roasting Co with branches in North Beach (526 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco; bus 8BX, 8X, 41 (stop: Columbus Avenue & Green Street); open Mon-Thu 6am-7pm, Fri 6am-8pm, Sat 6am-10pm, Sun 7am-7.30pm) and SOMA (885 Bryant Street, San Francisco; bus 27, 47 (stop: Bryant Street & 7th Street)); Cup A Joe Coffeehouse (896 Sutter Street, San Francisco; bus 2, 3, 27, 76 (stop: Leavenworth Street & Sutter Street); open Mon-Fri 6am-8pm, Sat-Sun 7am-8pm); Rockin' Java Coffee House (1821 Haight Street, San Francisco; bus 33, 71, 71L (stop: Haight Street & Stanyan Street); open Mon-Fri 7.30am-9pm, Sat-Sun 8.30am-9pm) and Sugar Cafe (679 Sutter Street, San Francisco; bus 2, 3 (stop: Sutter Street & Taylor Street); open Mon-Fri 6am-2am, Sat-Sun 7am-2am).
This is just a handful and there are plenty more cafes that offer free wireless internet to their customers. Actually in San Francisco you're likely to find more cafes with free Wi-Fi than without it.