Everything to Do in San Francisco, According to a Pro Concierge

Four Seasons Hotel's Vanessa Sharkey shares her top spots

June 27, 2023 7:00 am
san francisco city skyline
These are the city's best cheap eats, museums and rooftops, according to a local
Don Riddle / Four Seasons

Berkeley grad Vanessa Sharkey has been the concierge of Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco for almost 13 years (she was at the Fairmont San Francisco before that), so this is one member of the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or international concierges’ association who will steer you right every time. Here are her picks for the best the city has to offer, from the F-Line streetcars to the best rooftop in town. (Note: If you’re looking for a view of Mount Tam with your drink, we have several additional options right here.) 

InsideHook: Where can I get a great cup of coffee near the hotel and go for a good walk?

Vanessa Sharkey: Mazarine Coffee serves amazing pour-over coffees. I would get one to go, circle around Union Square and then go through the Dragon Gate to explore Chinatown. 

How about a restaurant where only locals go?

Tucked away in quaint Cole Valley is a small French bistro called Zazie. They serve eight varieties of eggs Benedict! Enjoy on their back patio when the weather is warm. 

Where should I go for a big night out on the town?

Rooftop bars are becoming more and more popular in San Francisco. Charmaine’s at the Proper Hotel is one of the best. If the weather is too chilly for rooftops, head to the Black Cat Jazz Supper Club, which is a swanky spot for live jazz. 

Best budget eats in town?

Souvla in Hayes Valley serves great Greek wraps, and their Greek yogurt and honey soft serve is a real treat — they top it with a delicious baklava crumble. 

Where can I go for the best dessert?

One65 near Union Square is a French patisserie serving decadent desserts that are true works of art.

Best place for a sunset cocktail?

For a unique perspective, watch the sun set behind the Golden Gate Bridge from Greens, San Francisco’s pioneering vegetarian restaurant in Fort Mason. 

Best neighborhood to take a long stroll if I want to get better acquainted with the city?

The Mission District offers interesting strolling. Take in the murals at Clarion Alley, browse hipster shops and cafes on Valencia Street, visit Mission Dolores, one of the original Spanish Missions, or simply soak up the sun and people watch in Dolores Park. 

San Francisco is all about the water that surrounds it, how do we get out and enjoy the Bay when the weather is good?

Take a ferry across the bay to visit Tiburon and have weekend brunch at The Bungalow Kitchen. For something more exhilarating, Adventure Cat offers daily sailing excursions, including a sunset sail in the summertime. 

Which San Francisco parks should be on our “don’t miss” list?

Golden Gate Park offers so much — world-class museums, the Japanese Tea Gardens, the SkyStar Wheel, Stow Lake and the Conservatory of Flowers, to name just a few. In the Presidio, check out San Francisco’s newest park, Tunnel Tops, for breathtaking views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. 

What architectural landmarks are there to see in San Francisco, structures that excite the imagination?

There are so many! Try Coit Tower, the Palace of Fine Arts and the Painted Ladies (that iconic row of colorful Victorian homes at Alamo Square Park) to start. 

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We know San Francisco has world-class museums — which are your favorites and why?

I love the de Young Museum, not only for its stunning architecture and interesting exhibitions, but for its observation tower that offers 360-degree views of San Francisco. 

What food does your city do better than anywhere else?

San Francisco is famous for its Dungeness crab and sourdough bread. Add a Napa Valley Chardonnay, and you can’t go wrong! 

What’s the best thing that you can ONLY do in San Francisco?

Our famous San Francisco cable cars are the only National Monuments that move. Ride the Powell-Hyde line from Union Square over Nob Hill out to Ghirardelli Square, but don’t sit inside. Stand up and hang on tight for the best experience. 

I’m looking for a low-key brunch. Where to?

My favorite brunch is at Foreign Cinema in the Mission District. Sit on the patio and try their baguette French toast. 

Best place to eat a meal or have a beer outside when the weather’s better?

The patio at Waterbar is a great place to while away an afternoon. They have panoramic views of the bay and the Bay Bridge and serve the freshest oysters! 

What’s the best way to get around town?

In addition to the aforementioned cable cars, you can take the F-Line historic streetcar that runs from Fisherman’s Wharf all the way up Market Street to the Castro District. Whatever you do, don’t plan to drive your car around the city to see the sights — it can be frustrating with our one-way streets and steep hills. 

What’s the one thing everyone forgets to pack? Or the one thing everyone should remember to pack when visiting?

Everyone forgets to pack a jacket in the summertime. No one realizes how windy and cold it can get here in July and August. Leave the shorts at home, you won’t need them here. 

Finally, what’s the best book to read about the area before I come?

As an avid reader of fiction, I would recommend Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon or Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.


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