Saturday, February 21, 2015

San Francisco on Foot-The Filbert Steps to Chinatown

A few weeks back we took the family to San Francisco for the day to explore, wander and get outside and enjoy the unusually warm winter weather. We do this kind of day trip fairly frequently. We research a few restaurants or neighborhoods to check out before and then make a day of it.

We made a plan to do the famous Filbert Steps to Telegraph Hill and North Beach. When you drive into the wharf and Embarcadero Area you are greeted by amazing view of the Bay Bridge!

If you park by Levi's plaza where Filbert Street ends you can get to the base, which seems daunting from the ground.

It's around 400-500 steps and once you get past this first part, it rises straight up through gardens and neighborhoods and literally right to people's front doors. The steps are lined with quirky homes with amazing views of the bay. The steps were originally built for fishermen to be able to walk from their jobs on the docks to their homes in North Beach.

My boys obliged me with a quick photo at this one point, Napier Lane which breaks off and you can see more gardens and homes. The steps are also where the famous parrots of Telegraph Hill live if you can spy a green bird amongst all the fauna here.

Some of the little homes lining the steps...

The steps are a workout, but worth doing for the views and you can make a day of it if you circle back through North Beach to the Embarcadero again. Or you could always call Uber to get back.

Once you reach Telegraph Hill there is Coit Tower right there or you can wander back down to North Beach, San Francisco's Italian neighborhood. Some might be tempted to grab a skateboard here!

There are steps in the sidewalk in case you need them. An elementary school was right here and my boys were wondering how kids biked up this hill!

Once you hit North Beach you will find a park, and so many restaurants, shops and little cappuccino stops. We decided to make like locals and grab a slice of famous Tony's Pizza Napletano, complete with crooked table on a very sloped street. Seriously was the best pizza I've had maybe ever. I still want to go back. The crust and the sauce were amazing. You can wait for an inside table at the restaurant, but we opted to grab a slice at the kiosk next to it and keep on truckin'.

You may want to take some time and explore the whole of North Beach. Lovely cathedrals, a very large square with a pretty park and so many independent boutiques fill the streets.

One iconic spot is City Lights Bookstore, famous hangout of the Beat generation.

Its' still perfectly crumbly and grungy and filled with a fabulous collection of books.

How cool is the diverse architecture here with the Transamerica building behind?

Drop in CityLights and browse around the rooms and it's history.

These are the kind of cool books you can find at City Lights. 

Of course it's good to take a seat a peruse a few selections.

A few blocks over is Chinatown.

 So much eye candy. This gentleman was playing a guitar of sorts.

It's a great stroll down this very long street. Kids will especially enjoy all the tiny stores filled with candy from Japan, small tokens, and toys. Beautiful silks are all over as well.

 I love the colors and the beautiful lampposts of Grant Street. The Dragon gates are at the other end which then leads you to Union Square.

Later we circled back toward the Embarcadero business district, which is deserted on weekends and grabbed a coffee before walking back along the waterfront, another fun path to where we began.

My oldest was trying out a new camera on his phone so we snapped a pic.

One of the most fun things to do is spend a day exploring a city without too much plan. San Francisco is perfect for such an adventure. There are so many neighborhoods and fun landmarks you could never see them all. Next time you have a free day try being a tourist in nearby city or even your own. Wishing you all a good weekend.



  1. I love Chinatown. Such a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. And the instrument is an erhu! Very plaintive, usually, but occasionally played to simulate horses on the Mongolian plain:).

    1. Lisa thank you about that instrument...Was hoping someone knew. I agree love Chinatown!

  2. Oh my! One of my most favorite cities in the world (went there as part of my honeymoon ;-)
    I must say you look young enough to be your son's girlfriend in the last picture; gorgeous photo x

    1. Vanessa you are too kind. Hope you are doing well! x

  3. Such a great tour of SF!!! I love Chinatown. It's full of fun things to see. The whole city is!! You do look fabulous my friend:)
    Let's plan lunch very soon.
    xx Jennifer

    1. Jennifer, Isn't Sf fun? Gosh there is still so much I want to do and see there. Yes love to see you soon. xo

  4. Kim dear, You always capture such color, vibrancy and beauty with your images. San Francisco is the perfect place to get lost and explore, just as you suggested. I have never walked the Filbert Steps, but I'm adding it to my list. Love your quirky finds along the way. We spent 5 days in the city around New Years and I had so many images I had to edit severely. San Francisco is so photogenic! Thanks for sharing this special day with your handsome family. You've been on my mind each day. Hugs and love my friend.
    xx, Heather

    1. Heather I loved your SF trip photos too! Thank you for the notes and thinking of me. xo

  5. Kim,

    My husband and I were in SF 2 years ago and took that exact same walk from Union Square to Coit Tower up through Chinatown and North Beach. We ate at Tony's as well and browsed through City Lights book store. Coit Tower was closed that day so we could only view the ground floor...the morning we were leaving to head home my husband wanted to try Coit Tower again while I was finishing packing but I was too worried that he wouldn't get back in time for our airport shuttle!

    You took some great photos...thanks for sharing. Hope you are doing well.