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All the great sights plus the history and anecdotes that bring them to life
Extraordinary coverage of history and culture
Itineraries, walks and excursions, on and off the beaten path
Architecture and art
Practical tips and full-color maps and photos
Getting there and getting around
When to go and what to pack
Quick tips on where to sleep in every price range
Savvy restaurant picks for all budgets
Praise for Fodor's Exploring Guides
"Most travel guides are either beautiful or practical. This one is both." — New York Daily News
"Beautiful...and the depth of text is impressive." — San Diego Union Tribune
"Authoritatively written and superbly presented...worthy reading before, during, or after a trip." — Philadelphia Inquirer
"Concise, comprehensive, and colorful." — Washington Post
"Absolutely gorgeous. Fun, colorful, and sophisticated." — Chicago Tribune
The perfect traveling companion, Exploring San Francisco highlights the loveliest walks and the finest venues for shopping, eating and lodging, and delivers honest practical information, 21 maps and 300 photos, all in one full-color volume. An A to Z section outlines what to explore, covering both the hidden and the well-known sights.
A Melting Pot
San Francisco holds the largest concentration of Italian-Americans in the U.S., and their impact on the city has been incalculable. Since the first wave of immigration in the 1880s, Italian names have become dominant in city politics and business. Although the Italian population is now spread throughout the city, scores of Italian restaurants and cafés are still found in North Beach, the city's original Italian district.
Largely through the racist restrictions which forced them into Chinatown during the late 1800s, San Francisco's Chinese have long been one of the largest and most visible elements in the city's ethnic mosaic. Traditionally, almost all have been of Cantonese origin, although the easing of Chinese immigration restrictions by the U.S. in 1965 brought settlers from some of the country's far-flung regions -- a fact evinced by the expanding selection of regional Chinese cuisines offered in Chinatown's many restaurants.
Chinatown may provide a spiritual home for San Francisco's Chinese, but many have departed for middle-class lifestyles in the Richmond District, where Clement Street holds some of the city's best Chinese bakeries and restaurants.
Strong links between the U.S. and the Philippines enabled Filipinos to study and work in America in comparatively large numbers. Many arrived during the 1920s to labor on California farms, while others achieved American academic qualifications which led to powerful positions in their homeland.
Since the end of World War II, when its Japanese-American population returned from internment camps, the Japanesecommunity of San Francisco has consistently numbered just under 2 percent of the city's total population, currently around 12,000. Few of them, however, actually live in Japantown, where Shinto and Buddhist temples, Japanese shops, restaurants, and social centers nevertheless provide a focal point for the community and a site for its festivals.
California's Asian population increased by a startling 127 percent in the 1980s, a significant proportion of the new arrivals coming from the countries of Southeast Asia. Recent waves of Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian immigration have resulted in a proliferation of new businesses -- mostly restaurants -- in the Tenderloin, carrying the promise of regeneration in this run-down neighborhood.
Spanish is more prevalent than English on the busy streets of the Mission District, which was settled in the 1940s by a Latin American population lured northward by the prospect of work in shipyards and in other industries stimulated by the war. Latin Americans now comprise 15 percent of the total population; around 50,000 live in the Mission District.
The livestock of 19th-century Russian peasants who migrated to escape religious persecution became a feature of the Potrero Hill area until the late 1950s. More in evidence today are the cafés and bakeries dispensing Russian specialties in the Richmond District, which gained a significant community of urbanized Russian immigrants during the Soviet era. The neighborhood's magnificent Cathedral of the Holy Virgin is the main Russian Orthodox church in the western U.S.
Protected from earthquake damage by its thick adobe walls, Mission Dolores dates with dignity from the 18th-century Spanish settlement and is easily the city's oldest structure. The only other evidence of Spanish-era building is a small section of adobe wall which forms part of the Presidio's Officers' Club.
Architectural refinement was the last thing on most people's minds in Gold-Rush San Francisco, but among the great influx of arrivals aiming themselves at the gold fields were a number of highly trained architects who, when fortune eluded them, took up their trade in the growing city.
As new residential areas sprang up to house the booming city's more affluent population, innovations in mechanized carpentry were allowing wood to be shaped in ways previously impossible. San Francisco, by now the West Coast's major port, received shiploads of mail-order building materials, and pretty wood -- built Italianate homes -- modeled on Italian villas and commonly marked by extended porches and Corinthian columns -- arose during the 1860s as the favored dwellings of the wealthy.
Stick and Queen Anne
Through the 1870s and 1880s, the Stick style -- which involved the use of flat wooden boards to emphasize the building's vertical lines -- was increasingly favored over simple Italianate. Desire for greater ornamentation led to a prevalence of Stick-Eastlake homes, so named for their elaborate decoration inspired by the work of British designer Charles Eastlake.
By the 1880s, the extravagant towers, turrets, and sharply gabled roofs of the Queen Anne style were popular in high society. Each decorative flourish -- stained-glass windows were a definite plus -- was seen as an indication of the owner's financial standing.
Approximately 14,000 Victorian houses survived the 1906 earthquake and fire -- as well as more recent efforts by developers to raze them -- and roughly half have been fully restored by their owners. The main groupings of these wood-built houses are found in Pacific Heights, the Western Addition, Haight-Ashbury, the Mission District, and Russian Hill.
The fire which followed the 1906 earthquake destroyed much of the city, including the Financial District and the area around it. Forsaking stone walls for terracotta façades and adapting classical themes into what became a new American urban architecture, the rebuilding of the Financial District was characterized by ground-level glass fronts intended for retail purposes and upper stories holding office space. Of numerous remaining examples, some of the best are on the lower sections of Sutter Street and Grant Avenue.
In 1925, the completion of the Pacific Telephone Building, its cultured profile still visible just south of Market Street, heralded another new look -- one of stepped-back towers and art deco decoration echoing Eliel Saarinen's award-winning Tribune Tower in Chicago. Though stunted by the Depression of the 1930s, this phase of building began studding the Financial District with tall towers which poked above surrounding rooftops to become visible from all over the city.