10 Essential San Francisco Facts First Visitors Should Know

You may think you know San Francisco, but first-time visitors are often surprised by a number of essential facts about The City By The Bay that residents and long-time visitors know all about.

Sure, you know about the fog, the hills, and the Wine Country but you probably didn't know that San Francisco has one of the most educated populations in America. Or that its cultural icons, like the ballet and opera, are amongst the oldest in the USA. See, there's more than meets the eye!


1. It's a Compact City…

Compact City

San Francisco proper encompasses a postage-size piece of land about 49 square miles, (7 miles by 7 miles, nearly square). It's just slightly bigger than Paris, another famously compact city at 41 square miles. For each place, the petite size makes it a wonderful walking city.

The city sits on the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula and is contained by the bay of the same name with its two famous bridges — Golden Gate & the Bay Bridge. With roughly 18,000 people per square mile, it's the most densely populated city in California and the second-most densely populated city in the USA, after New York. (Paris beats both of them with 55,673 per square mile, NYC at 27,858, and SF at 18,187.)

2. It's a Very Popular Destination, Famous For…

Popular Destination

Cool summers, rolling fog, steep hills, an eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks. That's not to forget the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Alcatraz, and Chinatown to name but a few more.

In fact, nearly 20 million travelers visit the city each year, despite the fact that it's in an earthquake hotspot.

3. San Franciscans Are Smart…


The citizens have the second-highest percentage of college graduates in the nation, only slightly behind Seattle. Over 45% of the adult population have a bachelor's or a graduate degree.

Along with that high education comes high incomes and — you guessed it — high rents. It's the most expensive place to live, in neck-to-neck competition with Manhattan. Also not surprising is that the world's best tech startup companies are headquartered in San Francisco.

4. It Has Many Diverse Neighborhoods…


How do they manage to cram so many wonderful neighborhoods into such a small space? We don't know, but there sure are a lot of them.

However, visitors only need concern themselves with (in alphabetical order) — The Castro, Chinatown, Civic Center, Cow Hollow, Embarcadero, Fillmore, the Financial District, Fisherman's Wharf, Haight-Ashbury, Japantown, Marina District, The Mission/Dolores, Nob Hill, North Beach, Pacific Heights, Presidio & Russian Hill.

5. It's Not All Hills…

It's Not All Hills

Like Rome, SF is famous for the seven hills — Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Rincon Hill, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson and Mount Sutro.

But there also are relatively flat areas of the city — Embarcadero, South Beach, SOMA, North Beach, the Financial District, and Union Square.


6. It Has a Thriving Restaurant Scene…

Thriving Restaurant Scene

You probably already knew that, but, at 40 restaurants per 10,000 households, SF has nearly 50% more restaurants than the second-place city. New York City, by the way, comes in at a distant 4th position.

It's hard to keep track of the latest and greatest on the city food scene. But, you might want to read our article about 5 classic SF restaurants.

7. Summers Are Cold & Foggy, Winters Are Clear & Warm…

Divisadero Street

You probably also know Mark Twain's famous witticism "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco".

In summer, cross the Golden Gate Bridge to seek out hot weather in Marin County. In the city, Divisadero Street (running north-south) is the fog line. West of the Divisadero you see sun a lot less sun than if you are east of the Divisadero. Winters promise less fog and more sunshine.

8. One of the Best Things About The City Is Not in The City…

Wine Country Day Tours

Wine Country. Just an hour from the city center away lies an Eden — the lush valleys of Napa & Sonoma.

In just a few short decades both regions have become two of the top wine producers in the world. You must visit these areas when you visit SF. It's essential. We recommend you book a small group tour and leave the driving to someone else.

9. SF Has a Thriving Arts & Culture Scene…

Thriving Arts & Culture Scene

Every month SF is alive with cultural events — ballet, symphony, festivals & theater. This is nothing new, it's been that way for a long time. 2016 marks the 83rd anniversary of the San Francisco Ballet Opera Company. And the SF Symphony has been an important part of the cultural scene since its first concert back in 1911.


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10. It's a Festival City.…

Things to Do in San Francisco

San Francisco loves to celebrate. Each and every month is packed with festivals! Highlights include Chinese New Year's Street Festival, the SF Indie Film Fest, the Ocean Film Festival, Saint Patrick's Day Festival, Cherry Blossom Festival, Cesar Chavez Holiday Parade, and Festival & SF Jazz Fest.

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