San Francisco is renowned for its months-long episodes of fog, steep rolling hills, the eclectic mix of Victorian and modern architecture, and its peninsular location surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Famous hallmarks and landmarks include the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, the cable cars, the Transamerica Pyramid, and Chinatown.
Many visitors make Ocean Beach on San Francisco's westernmost edge their first stop. The Pacific Ocean's white-capped waves are always an exhilarating sight, especially for first-timers, but the dangerous undertows prohibit swimming. The expansive windows of the Cliff House, erected in 1909, are a popular lookout. Just offshore are the abrupt outlines of Seal Rock, which is nearly always inhabited by shore birds and a colony of stellar sea lions. Bring binoculars for a close-up view. If it's a clear day, you'll also spot the Farallon Islands some 30 miles away. Swimming is allowed at China Beach (28th Avenue and Sea Cliff), where lifeguards are on duty all summer. At Baker Beach , off 25th Avenue , swimming is dangerous, but hikers, fishermen, and picnickers can enjoy views of the Golden Gate.
Shopping!: Encompassing Powell, Stockton , Geary, Post, and Sutter streets, the hub of San Francisco 's downtown retail district is a shopping and cultural paradise where you'll find names like Dior, Armani, Yves Saint Laurent as well as Picasso and Chagall. At the center of Union Square is a beautifully renovated park that attracts residents, shoppers, and tourists looking for a place to read, eat outdoors, or just sit and watch the crowds go by. From there, you can easily walk to a wide range of elegant stores, boutiques, art galleries, and gourmet restaurants that cater to every taste. If you get tired of walking, just flash your CityPass and hop on one of the cable cars that rumble up and down the steep hills of Powell Street . On Nob Hill, check out the old-world glamour of San Francisco's luxurious hotels, like the Fairmont, the Mark Hopkins, and the Sir Francis Drake, where you can relax, have a drink, and enjoy views of the city and the bay.