Few cities in the world, to my mind, possess a completely unique air about in the way that San Francisco does. Granted, you can always feel the lingering presence of Americana in the background - but San Francisco, like New York and New Orleans, is a city built on distinction. 'Frisco', as I'm sure most native citizens of The Bay Area would cringe to hear their city being described, is defined by not only it's stunningly unique topography but also the manner in which the city has built itself up around it. The city has developed it's own unique architectural style and along the way, it has also brought the world some stand-out landmark structures which to this day hold the imagination of many. But these elements are only part of the charm - the city has a distinct character which sets itself apart from and beyond the rest of USA. It's city centre joins the likes of Paris, London, Barcelona, Sydney and Moscow (to name only a few) as a real 'world city' based on its unique style.
As with any city it has it's share of problems - rampant homelessness, outrageous living costs, drugs, crime, slums and the dangling threat that comes with being positioned over San Andreas Fault(!) - but to ride along the 1930s surving tram-cars along the Embarcadero early-morning, to wind-surf the bay, boat-trip out to Alcatraz, join the jogging groups that leave Gharadelli Square all the way out to Fort Point at 8am beneath the awe-inspiring Golden Gate Bridge - one comes to realise how special this city is in it's own right.
The city's history is ripe, complex and near seizes to amaze or interest me. Pleasantly for a US-city, a 15min drive will see you out of the city, into the countryside or to nearby Sausilito for some waterfront coffee and ice-cream. Again, the geography of the city has aided it's evolution to the benefit of it's citizens.
Indeed, the city seems to have it's share of, how should I put it, 'interesting' characters (I won't elaborate) but it doesn't seem to detract from the overwhelming intrigue afforded you from the city by the bay.