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San Francisco

Until the late 18th century the area now known as San Francisco was inhabited by the Ohlone Indians. But they vanished almost immediately when, in 1776, Spanish missionaries began a mission in the region in an effort to introduce Catholicism. They named it for St Francis of Assisi - hence 'San Francisco'. The village passed, along with the rest of California, into the possession of Mexico in 1821, and in 1846 it finally became part of the United States.

The California Gold Rush began just two years later, and within another year fifty-thousand people had moved there to seek their fortune, transforming the village and its surrounding wasteland of sand dunes into a prosperous town. San Francisco, by now a city, entered a golden age at around the turn of the 20th century, though this was sadly cut short by the devastating 1906 earthquake - in which about 80% of the city was levelled. However, it was quickly rebuilt and a new, magnificent city arose.

San Francisco

Our guide to San Francisco
Local sites to see

Golden Gate Bridge

Opened to traffic on May 28, 1937 after a construction period of four years, San Francisco's most recognisable sight is known across the world as an iconic American landmark. The 4,200-feet (1,280-metre) toll bridge connects the City of San Francisco and the County of Marin to the north, and gained its name from the three-mile-long and one-mile-wide Golden Gate Strait that it spans. Painted in the warm International Orange colour to prevent erosion of the steel it is constructed from, the bridge has featured in movies ranging from 'The Maltese Falcon' (1941) to 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' (2011). Around 2,000,000,000 vehicles have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, which has been closed to traffic only five times.

Fisherman's Wharf

Home to stands serving crab and gourmet seafood restaurants, Fisherman's Wharf has plenty to treat your tastebuds. Animal-lovers can watch the activities of hundreds of sea lions that gather on docks next to Pier 39.

Alcatraz

Popularly known as "The Rock", the island of Alcatraz functioned as a federal prison from 1934 until 1963. From November 1969, the island was occupied for 19 months by a Native American protest. The island was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986 and is open to visitors. Alcatraz can be reached by ferry from Pier 33 at Fisherman's Wharf.

Chinatown

With a history dating back to the 1840s, the Chinese quarter in San Francisco is now the largest outside of Asia. The architecture, cuisine and shops celebrate the community's heritage.

Haight-Ashbury

Famed for its 1960s hippie culture, experiencing 'The Haight' can range from shopping in vintage clothing and vinyl record stores to catching a cult movie at the Red Vic Movie House.

Holiday ideas for San Francisco

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