City spotlight: San Francisco, more than just silicon valley


More than Just Silicon Valley

Known as the City by the Bay, San Francisco is a major financial hub and popular business travel destination. It’s also home to the headquarters of Apple, Google and Facebook. More recently, newly established businesses such as Uber, Pinterest and Airbnb have moved here too. Conveniently, the city is within easy reach of the technology companies of Silicon Valley, as well as the cities of San Jose and Palo Alto. 

It’s not all business here though; San Francisco’s colorful, vibrant atmosphere, cultural diversity, hilly streets, endless sunshine, and world-class food mean that it’s well worth sticking around, long after your meetings are over.

Getting there

San Francisco’s main airport is San Francisco International Airport (SFO), 10 miles south of the city. One of the largest airports in the world, SFO saw 53 million passengers pass through its terminals in 2016. Many airlines offer the non-stop, 11-hour trip directly from London Heathrow, including Delta, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, and British Airways.

To reach San Francisco’s city center from the airport, make use of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which runs every 15 to 20 minutes and takes half an hour for $8.95 one-way. Taxis to the city are considerably more expensive, easily costing over $40 one-way. Uber or Lyft can be cheaper options, depending on the time of day and traffic.

If your destination is elsewhere in Silicon Valley, it’s much easier to hire a car or take a taxi, which takes about 20 – 30 minutes to drive the 20 – 30 miles, depending on where in the Valley you are based. If you decide to tackle the route from the opposite direction by flying into San Jose International Airport, this won’t save much on the journey time unless you are staying in the southern Silicon Valley.

Getting around

If you’re late for that all-important business meeting, San Francisco is not a city that lends itself well to navigation on foot. It’s huge, hot, and full of hills- not ideal for keeping your meeting attire in great shape. Luckily, SF’s public transport network is extensive and includes the subway, streetcars, buses, trolley buses, and cable cars. Various passes are available if you plan on doing a lot of traveling, including the Clipper Card. While you might spend most of your time on the trains and riding the subway, you definitely shouldn’t miss a ride on the historic streetcars or the famous cable cars. You can take one of three routes: there’s Powell-Mason, which runs down to Bay Street; Powell-Hide, which ends at the Aquatic Park; and California Street, running east to west.

Where to stay

Just because you’re in San Francisco on business doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Staying in a quirky or offbeat hotel is a great option as you don’t have to go too far to find entertainment. 

You can choose the Clift San Francisco, a ground-breaking boutique hotel with electric rooms designed by Phillippe Starck that’s just around the corner from San Francisco’s Financial District. It offers a state-of-the-art entertainment center in all its rooms and suites, as well as a fully-equipped gym with a complimentary bike rental so you can explore the city for free. Another hotel with an excellent gym is Le Méridien San Francisco, which has a vast array of cardio machines arranged in a unique circular design.

If it’s exercise you’re after, you don’t even need to find a treadmill-equipped hotel, as The Westin St. Francis San Francisco in Union Square offers its unique RunWESTIN service, where you can join their Running Concierge for a jogging tour of the city. All levels of fitness are accepted.

Where to eat and drink

After all of that running, you might be in need of some good food. San Francisco has no shortage of options. Some of the best restaurants and bars are found in the city’s hotels. Try the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar in the Fairmont, which features an indoor lagoon and ‘rain’ to accompany your Pacific Asian cuisine.

Other than those fabulous hotel restaurants, the Golden Gate City has a plethora of choice for foodies. Try Ozumo for a business lunch over sushi, or the Slanted Door for a relaxed post-meeting meal overlooking San Francisco Bay. Ike’s Place serves up some pretty awesome sandwiches, so good that they were featured on Man vs Food. Try the Kryptonite, an epic sandwich stuffed with avocado, bacon, beer-battered mozzarella, beer-battered onion rings, ham, pastrami, pesto, roast beef, salami, stuffed jalapenos, and turkey. Yum!

If you find yourself in Palo Alto, try Evvia for sizzling Mediterranean and Greek food (don’t miss the lamb souvlaki with tzatziki) or Sundance the Steakhouse for succulent steaks and classy cocktails.

Bleisure time

There’s a reason people leave their hearts in San Francisco. Home to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, there’s plenty to see and do when you get some time off. If it’s your first time here, take a boat into San Francisco Bay and tour the infamous penitentiary at Alcatraz Island, once home to notorious criminal Al Capone. If you’ve already been there and done that, try Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze on Pier 39, a psychedelic labyrinth of pillars, corridors and dungeons sure to get you totally lost. Or make your way to the seafront where the Wave Organ, a series of concrete pipes that plays tunes as the Pacific Ocean crashes against it.

So whether you’re visiting for work or play, you’ll find plenty to explore with San Francisco’s extensive offering of food, entertainment, and amazing city views.