A small, European-flavored city ringed with pristine bay views, San Francisco remains a relentlessly charming place despite its popularity with the rest of the country (and indeed, the world). While downtown still has the moody atmosphere of Hitchcock films and Hammett novels, outlying neighborhoods like Hayes Valley and the Mission District buzz with eclectic, attitude-free boutiques. The birthplace of California cuisine is also home to one of the finest gastronomic strolls in the country — the Ferry Building.
A Foodie Haven
The Ferry Building (One Ferry Building) was originally a travel hub for commuters. Nowadays this 660-foot-long waterfront landmark, built in 1915 at the end of Market Street, has been transformed into a foodie heaven. I recommend a visit to the farmers market on Saturday morning. The market is also open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Since the 1950s, the two owners of The Buena Vista (2765 Hyde Street; Tel.  474-5044) have been mastering their recipe for the perfect Irish coffee: whiskey-coffee pick-me-ups topped with thick dollops of whipped cream. A sister property is located in Sausalito.
The Marina District
I like to browse around the Marina District, the area chosen as the site of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition after the 1906 earthquake. Chestnut Street and Union Street are lined with boutiques, art galleries and coffee shops. When I become footsore, I pause for a cappuccino at Le Marais Bakery (2066 Chestnut Street).
A Paradise for Book Lovers
With a triangular storefront in the heart of North Beach, City Lights (261 Columbus Avenue; Tel.  362-8193) is both a winding three-floor bookstore and a publishing company. This is a book lover’s paradise, with unique-to-San Francisco sections such as “Beat Generation” and “Muckraking.”
An unexpected find in the forests of the Presidio is the art installation “Wood Line,” created by Andy Goldsworthy. The artist has used fallen eucalyptus trees to sculpt a snaking path along the forest floor near the park’s oldest trail, Lovers’ Lane. The trail culminates at his “Spire” sculpture, a 90-foot tower created from 37 cypress tree trunks.
An Excellent Museum
The must-see San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (151 Third Street; Tel.  357-4000) reopened in 2016 following a three-year expansion project. The museum houses a vast collection of creative, contemporary works in all mediums. On the ground floor is chef Corey Lee’s gourmet restaurant, In Situ, which duplicates recipes from famous chefs around the world.