Studying English in San Francisco, not only will you live in one of the USA’s great cities, but you will have access to all of California, from the Pacific to the mountains. Here are our tips for the city:
Parts of San Francisco are like open-air galleries. In the Mission District, for example, Balmy Alley (balmyalley.com) and Clarion Alley (sfmuralarts.com) are particularly striking and the powerful mural sweeping across the exterior of the Women’s Building on 18th Street is sight to behold. Bring a camera and prepare to be swept away by the force and passion of some of San Francisco’s most iconic street art.
In all the years that the island of Alcatraz served as a prison, only one escape was believed to be successful. In 1962, three convicted bank robbers left homemade dummy heads in their beds. They then cut through the back of their cells with sharpened spoons and, after shimmying down a drainpipe, made a raft of driftwood and raincoats and floated away into the San Francisco Bay. Nobody knows what happened to them.
The island has been home to a lighthouse, a military garrison, a prison and a Native American protest occupation. It is now a museum that is well worth a visit. Alcatraz Cruises is the only official operator for tours of the island, so you will get the best deals on their website (alcatrazcruises.com). If you take the first tour of the day, the island will be less crowded, but be sure to book your tickets early as the tickets can sell out weeks in advance.
Enjoy Green San Francisco
Yerba Buena Gardens in the city centre is perfect when you need a break, Golden Gate Park has botanical gardens, a Conservatory of Flowers, an enclosure of buffalo and bison, and more… so much you can’t do it all in one day. Alamo Square Park is lined with beautiful Victorian houses known as “painted ladies” while Twin Peaks offers amazing views of the city.
A little further out of town, in the wild and rocky north-western corner of San Francisco, a hike around Land’s End offers hillsides of cypress and wildflowers, views of old shipwrecks, access to the epic ruins of Sutro Baths and pocket beaches. Meanwhile Muir Woods is a gorgeous redwood forest only 30 minutes from San Francisco which is accessible by ferry and then shuttle.
When the federal government banned the production and sale of alcohol from 1920-1933, speakeasies – secret bars – sprung up all over the USA. Most disappeared when prohibition ended, but some remain to this day. In San Francisco, several are well worth checking out. Café du Nord (2170 Market St, cafedunord.com) opened in 1907 and still has its classic Victorian interiors. The House of Shields (39 New Montgomery St, thehouseofshields.com) opened a year later and has a no clock/no TV policy (and a network of secret tunnels). And at Coffee Dan's, patrons would access the basement bar by riding down a 15-foot slide… it is now named Slide (430 Mason St, slidesf.com) and that is still the way to enter!
San Francisco museums and galleries
The DeYoung museum features 17th -21st century art from the Americas, the Pacific & Africa, along with international textiles and costumes.
GG Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., (deyoungmuseum.org)
At the Academy of Sciences California you can enjoy an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and a four-story rainforest.
55 Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park, (calacademy.com)
The Palace of Fine Arts was one of ten palaces built for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in 1915. It hosts all kinds of exhibitions but is worth visiting for the building alone.
3301 Lyon Street, (palaceoffinearts.org)
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Arts is one of America’s great museums but is closed from renovation and expansion until 2016. Look out for events across the city.
Legion of Honor Museum houses works by El Greco, Rembrandt, Monet and many other famous artists.
Lincoln Park, 100 34th Ave., (legionofhonor.org)
The Cable Car Museum is dedicated to the city’s legendary network of cable cars.
1201 Mason St, (cablecarmuseum.org)
The Exploratorium is a 21st Century learning laboratory and interactive science museum that moved to brand new premises in 2013.
Pier 15, Embarcadero, (exploratorium.edu)
The Asian Art Museum hosts one of the largest Asian art collections in the Western world, over 13,000 art objects spanning 6,000 years of history.