Car rental in San Francisco
Rent a car in San Francisco

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With plenty to do in the city and a huge choice of superb day trip destinations, renting a car in San Francisco promises to make your holiday the best it can be. Enjoy one of the most beautiful US cities at your leisure, and drive to iconic hotspots such as Napa Valley and Santa Cruz. And there's nothing quite like driving across the Golden Gate Bridge over San Francisco Bay.

It's your choice: Where to go in San Francisco

What should you see in San Francisco, you ask? Around the Golden Gate Bridge, you'll find one of the city's most fabulous areas for eating, shopping, and sightseeing. The San Fran restaurants with the best views are in the historic Pacific Heights area, and some of the city's most gorgeous homes are in the Western Addition. Be sure to drive around and soak in the unique architecture and geography of these hilly, almost European-style streets. There's also Japantown, full of superb sushi and bento places and cultural events offering a slice of Tokyo in California. SoMA (South of Market), a rapidly changing neighbourhood, houses glittering skyscrapers and museums such as SOMArts Cultural Center and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. For family fun, head to the city zoo or hang-glide from Fort Funston in the Twin Peaks-Lake Merced area.

Things to do in San Francisco

All sorts of shopping await when you rent a car in San Francisco. Farmers' markets are king in the city, with Ferry Plaza near the water offering an impressive range of treats to enjoy on your trip or bring home as gifts. Head to the sprawling, historic Westfield San Francisco Center for retail therapy. For a dose of culture, check out the city's enormous range of festivals, which take place year round thanks to the eternally pleasant weather. Check out the Fringe Festival for theatre in September, or SF Indie Fest for eclectic film screenings in February. If you're into nightlife, you'll be impressed by San Francisco's, which includes a thriving LGBTQ+ scene. Relaxed, hole-in-the-wall bars abound, especially in SoMA. For a truly unique experience, travel to the notorious Alcatraz island prison and explore the exhibits.

Important info about San Francisco

You may often hear that San Fran is constantly shrouded in a layer of mist, which is partly true – the bay provides a steady stream of low cloud across the city. So, while much of California swelters in the summer, San Francisco is said to be 'naturally air-conditioned', making for lovely driving weather as you explore. It's the cultural core of Northern California, although its position toward the centre of the state prevents it from ever being truly cold. Surrounded by vineyards, San Francisco offers sprawling outdoor beauty to discover, and as one of the most US cosmopolitan cities, its range of cuisine is marvellous. Hipster pizza joints and high-end restaurants are easy to come by, as are local dishes. One example is cioppino, a hearty and satisfying hodgepodge of Pacific seafood.

Weather in San Francisco
Country California
Language English, Spanish
Currency US dollar
Time-Zones Pacific Time (GMT-7)
Country Code +1

Good to know

Driving in the USA is a real pleasure thanks to its abundance of wide, open roads, which are generally well maintained. The country is also renowned for its stunning vistas, and splendid California is no exception. Thankfully, you won't need a special permit to drive here, as a full UK driving licence will allow you to rent a car. You'll need to be over 21, and in some cases, 25, depending on the rental company. You'll surely notice the many powerful muscle cars and all-terrain vehicles, which suit the long interstate highways winding through California's valleys. With your passport, driving licence, proof of insurance, and warning triangles packed, you'll be good to go. Whereas the blood-alcohol limit in California is 0.08%, avoiding alcohol completely when driving is highly recommended.

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What to visit in the surroundings of San Francisco

You really will be spoilt for choice with day trip ideas in San Francisco, a sprawling city full of cultural, historic, and architectural interest. Renting a car will also open up the city's gorgeous surroundings for your driving pleasure – designate a driver and go for a tour and tasting in Napa Valley, renowned for its superior wine cultivation. Visiting in winter (January to March) pays off for nature lovers, as you can watch whales at Point Reyes National Seashore. In summer, Santa Cruz is a paradise for surfers, and the woods beckon hikers. Charter a yacht to tour the magnificent coastline, or take the kids to Monterey, home to one of the world's best aquariums and deliciously spicy Monterey Jack cheese. As the former state capital, it also has historic interest – lose yourself among local landmarks on Old Monterey's Path of History.

What to bring to your friends from San Francisco

Who could resist bringing back a few special souvenirs and gifts for friends to show off after such a special trip? A decidedly trendy and alternative city, San Francisco offers up all sorts of fantastic handcrafted goods. Look out for clothing, jewellery, and other trinkets at markets such as Alameda Point Antiques Faire and Solano Public Market, and to support local artists, pick something up at City Art Cooperative Gallery. If you're seeking smaller gifts, fridge magnets, mugs, and T-shirts featuring the Golden Gate are always a hit, and they're easy to find at Stonestown Galleria. For your foodie friends (and perhaps yourself), head to Ferry Plaza Market for preserved goods such as delicious California strawberry and peach jam. The city is also well known for its wonderful coffee houses – make sure to pick up a bag of artisanal grounds from an independent outlet.