San Francisco occupies the tip of a 32-mile peninsula between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Its land area measures about 46 square miles, although the city is often referred to as being 7 square miles. At more than 900 feet high, towering Twin Peaks (which are, in fact, two neighboring peaks), mark the geographic center of the city and make a great place to take in a vista of San Francisco.
With lots of one-way streets, San Francisco might seem confusing at first, but it will quickly become easy to navigate. The city’s downtown streets are arranged in a simple grid pattern, with the exceptions of Market Street and Columbus Avenue, which cut across the grid at right angles to each other. Hills appear to distort this pattern, however, and can disorient you. As you learn your way around, the hills will become your landmarks and reference points.
Main Arteries & Streets -- Market Street is downtown San Francisco’s main thoroughfare. Most of the city’s buses travel this route on their way to the Financial District from the outer neighborhoods to the west and south. The tall office buildings clustered downtown are at the northeast end of Market; 1 block beyond lies the Embarcadero and the bay.
The Embarcadero—an excellent strolling, skating, and biking route—curves along San Francisco Bay from south of the Bay Bridge near the Giants’ home at AT&T Park to the northeast perimeter of the city. It terminates at the famous tourist-oriented Fisherman’s Wharf. Aquatic Park, Fort Mason, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area are on the northernmost point of the peninsula.
From the eastern perimeter of Fort Mason, Van Ness Avenue runs due south, back to Market Street. This area forms a rough triangle, with Market Street as its southeastern boundary, the waterfront as its northern boundary, and Van Ness Avenue as its western boundary. Within this triangle lies most of the city’s main tourist sights.
Another main artery, which is less on the tourist track, is Geary Boulevard, which stretches from Union Square, through the bedroom-community Richmond District, and all the way out to Ocean Beach.Finding an Address -- Because most of the city’s streets are laid out in a grid pattern, finding an address is easy when you know the nearest cross street. Numbers start with 1 at the beginning of the street and proceed at the rate of 100 per block. When asking for directions, find out the nearest cross street and your destination’s neighborhood, but be careful not to confuse numerical avenues with numerical streets. Numerical avenues (Third Ave. and so on) are in the Richmond and Sunset districts in the western part of the city. Numerical streets (Third St. and so on) are south of Market Street in the east and south parts of town.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.