North Beach - Chinatown - Union Square

Coit Tower San Francisco (2004)
Coit Tower San Francisco (2004)

This tour is made for eating, San Francisco is filled with great restaurants, but one of the great charms of our city is having an espresso in a North Beach café, having dim sum in Chinatown, and a cocktail in Union Square.

Start this tour at the Ferry Building; take the “F-Line” towards Fisherman’s Wharf to Filbert Street. Walk west on Filbert Street until you reach the foot of Telegraph Hill. Here you will find the Filbert Street Steps, a set of wooden steps leading up to the top of the hill.

If you have second thoughts about climbing the steps, you can start the tour from Washington Square in North Beach (Columbus/Union Street) and take Muni’s #39 Coit bus up to the top of Telegraph Hill.

Telegraph Hill – Filbert Street Steps – the steps lead to the top of Telegraph Hill. They take you through a garden and cottages. If you are lucky you will see (or hear) Telegraph Hill’s famous parrot flock.

Transport mural from San Francisco's Coit Tower.
Transport mural from San Francisco’s Coit Tower.

Coit TowerCoit Tower was built in 1933 as a monument to the San Francisco’s firefighters. Inside are superb depression era murals from WPA artists. It’s well worth a visit to see the murals and also the great view from the top of the tower.

North Beach – From Coit Tower you can walk down the west side of the slope into North Beach, the city’s Italian neighbourhood. Washington Square, located at Columbus and Union is the centre of North Beach. On nice days it’s full of people soaking up the sun or participating in many different types of activities that take place here.

Perhaps it was the espresso coffee that attracted the Bohemians to this neighbourhood in the late 1950s. Walk down Grant Avenue to Columbus, stopping to eat and drink along the way. The City Lights Bookstore at Columbus near Broadway is a centre for local publishing and supported many of the most famous Bohemian writers.

Chinatown – Continuing down Grant Avenue you pass through San Francisco’s Chinatown. Grant Avenue is full of restaurants and gift shops, but if you walk uphill a block to Stockton you will be on Chinatown’s main commercial street – it’s crowded but full of sights. Explore the alleys and see if you can find the ones that have been renovated as part of San Francisco City Planning Department’s Chinatown Alley Project.

Cable Car fans can visit the cable car museum at the corner of Mason and Washington Streets on the Chinatown-Nob Hill border. The museum is located in the cable-car powerhouse, so you can watch the machinery pulling the cable through the streets. Hours vary so check the Cable Car Museum website for more information.

Union Square – Keep walking through Chinatown and you will find yourself in the Union Square area. Union Square has recently been redesigned and it’s worth stopping for a coffee and enjoying the city scene. The area is full of exclusive shops and department stores.

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