In the heart of northern California, amidst the cool, foggy summers is San Francisco, home to a diverse population of Silicon Valley techies, hippies, fashion gurus, artists and many, many more. Of course, San Francisco, otherwise known as “The City” by locals, is notorious for the infamous Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars that roll down its steep and windy streets. However, what truly mesmerises me about this city is how culturally diverse and beautiful it is in all aspects, be it in the architecture, the people or the food! Each neighbourhood is like walking into a different world of new sounds, tastes, sights and scents.
Like many major cities in the United States, San Francisco has its very own Chinatown, a popular attraction amongst tourists and locals due to the delicious dim sum restaurants and quirky Chinese souvenir shops it hosts. The dragon lampposts and Chinese inspired buildings on one hand and the traditional string music playing in the background on the other hand, is almost like walking down a boisterous street in China!
Walk a few streets down and you’ll come across North Beach or “Little Italy”, filled with the finest Italian restaurants and cute pastel-coloured buildings. Right off the bat, North Beach has a very European vibe to it; laid back people enjoying their afternoon Espresso by the sidewalk, friendly faces with familiar accents and in short, a slow paced and easy-going life. Plus, the Fisherman’s Wharf is right next to it, another district by the bay with the best seafood restaurants in town, many with a view of the water!
Backtrack to the inner parts of San Francisco and you’ll find the Castro, also known as the gay district, home to eclectic, fun and some of the kindest folks I have ever met. Here, I found the most welcoming and warm people (although all San Franciscan’s are like that!), people who bear no judgement and who just see you as a person, not your race, ethnicity, nationality, gender or sexual preference. Top that off with the vibrant and rich colours on the walls, buildings and even crossroads, and you will fall deeper in love with the city.
Haight-Ashbury is yet another eccentric neighbourhood with a very alternative scene. Wander the many thrift stores, record stores, coffee shops and bookstores in the area and get lost in the streets packed with picturesque Edwardian and Victorian homes.
Last but not least is my personal favourite, the Mission district. With a Mexican majority residing here, this quarter inevitably has the best and most authentic ‘taquerias’ and other mouth-watering Mexican restaurants in town. However, the hidden gems of the Mission are the different alleys, filled with beautifully vibrant murals and street art, some of which have deep meanings and depict the constant struggle immigrants and minorities face in the country. Moreover, The Women’s Building, a beautiful establishment both on the inside and outside due to its spectacular mural that promotes female empowerment is also located in the Mission district and advocates “self-determination, gender equality and social justice”. An inspiration to some and an awakening to others, there is no doubt that an afternoon in the Mission is a beautifully eye opening experience.