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There are some cities that are best seen on foot, and San Francisco is one of them. Unlike burgeoning metropolises such as Los Angeles, whose boundless sprawl blurs the line between city and suburbia, San Francisco is confined by bay and sea to a mere 47 square miles of highly coveted real estate. The result, not surprisingly, is an incredibly dense and intricate maze of man-made minutia. Americans may think big as a whole, but most San Franciscans are content to coexist in crowded and dearly priced confines, a small price to pay (so we say) for living in one of the world's most popular cities.
There is, however, a silver lining to our foggy surroundings, for there are few places on earth where one can find so much to do, see, eat, and enjoy within such a condensed and readily walkable radius. Truth is, San Francisco is one big, beautiful walking tour. All I've done is break it down into manageable parts, add a dash of historical lore and a pinch of modern-day gossip, and package each tour into a thoroughly enjoyable 2- to 3-hour jaunt into the city's past lives and present virtues.
Even I, a city-savvy local, and Matthew Richard Poole who contributed to the last edition of this guide, found ourselves surprised by all the sultry secrets and delightful wonders San Francisco had been hiding as we researched the city to write this guide. It seemed that around every corner was yet another enticing shop, grand old mansion, or little-known historical tidbit that we had overlooked for, what, the thousandth time? Instead of seeing the forest for the trees, as we did our homework, we were constantly reminded that it's the little things that count the most: an intricately carved medallion on a Victorian frieze, that weathered wooden stairway leading into a river of small gardens, a modest home where Jack London was born--little things that add to a growing appreciation of one of the most intriguing cities on earth.