The centre of tourist activity, Union Square is tucked inside Sutter, Grant, Market, and Mason streets. Big department stores, expensive boutiques, theatres, many exceptional restaurants and the greatest concentration of hotels in San Fran surround the actual square. If you stay here, Chinatown, Nob Hill, the Tenderloin, the Financial District and SoMa are all within walking distance.
This densely packed area is as colourful and exotic as advertised. The Dragon Gate entrance on Grant Ave leads to touristy shops but after you wander up and around Stockton Street you’ll feel as if you’re in another world.
North Beach isn’t actually a beach, it’s the former Italian enclave that Chinatown is encroaching upon. This is the place to hop from one caf? to another, to browse for books and Italian poetry and to sample the delectable treats on offer from the various Italian delis and pastry shops. Columbus Avenue is the main thoroughfare and family style restaurants and crowed bars line the streets from Washington to Grant.
Sixteen million tourists per year can’t all be wrong, but this most touristy section of town is all a matter of taste. Located on Bay Street, the former working class piers have been stripped of their glory and turned into a gaudy ode to commercialism.