A great place to climb halfway to the stars

San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge
A Ryanair plane. Picture: Wiki Commons (labelled for reuse)

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You will, it is probably safe to say, hold true to the lyric of San Francisco’s celebrated anthem and leave your heart there. But where exactly?

In one of the little cable cars which, as Tony Bennett so memorably crooned, climb halfway to the stars?

Or on the rust-red Golden Gate Bridge, that iconic span across the mouth of San Francisco Bay?

Or perhaps at the top of Coit Tower, built from the legacy of a wonderfully-eccentric local lady and offering phenomenal views across the city and out into the Bay and Alacatraz island?

Or even in Union Square, the bustling heart of this cosmopolitan metropolis?

Truth told, you’re likely to leave a little of your heart in each, as well as in several other corners of the Bay City.

For San Francisco, home to 845,000 souls and destination for 15,000,000 plus visitors each year, is a truly captivating place in which everyone will find more than one favourite haunt.

Getting around on foot in this city of 43 hills can be a challenge – most of the 1,088 miles of streets present a steep incline up or down, depending on direction of travel. But armed with a good map and a stout pair of shoes, this can be made to add to the fun of exploration.

Or, there’s an excellent public transport system. There’s no underground, but frequent buses and trams (some still bearing the livery of Blackpool, England) and the famous cable cars.

No trip to San Francisco is complete without a ride on one. They are steeped in history and earthy romance, with their clanking gears, seemingly overwhelming complement of passengers and good-humoured drivers.

Sometimes, it seems, it will be impossible for the little wooden car to haul its human cargo up the steep incline ahead. Always, though, the top is reached – and on to the next summit!

Visitors from this area might care to catch a cable car from Union Square up to Nob Hill and then walk a couple of blocks east to Portsmouth Square.

It’s always teeming with locals, excitedly discussing the issues of the day over games of cards, but don’t expect to be able to follow the conversations though – this is the heart of Chinatown, an extraordinary city within a city and the biggest Chinese community outside the People’s Republic.

Head north-east from there for Fisherman’s Wharf, magnet for tourists and for basking seal lions that are even noisier than the crowds in Portsmouth Square!

Or go west to the Pacific beach, passing as you do through Golden Gate Park, a 1,000 acre green lung stretching from the sea deep into the city. Be sure to stop en route at the California Academy of Sciences for an unforgettable taste of nature’s majesty.

It’s home to a spectacular planetarium, an aquarium which boasts the deepest coral reef display in the world and in which you can get up close and personal with a colony of penguins, and a four-storey tropical rainforest to be explored from top to bottom.

It’s yet another corner of San Francisco in which to leave your heart.

Essentials

● A Go San Francisco Card gives free entry to many attractions plus Bay cruise, cable car and trolley tour rides. A seven-day adult pass costs around £76. Go to smartdestinations.com

● Tourism information from onlyinsanfrancisco.com

● California Academy of Sciences at calacademy.org