Six of the best ... streets in San Francisco | South China Morning Post
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  • Jan 29, 2015
  • Updated: 8:26pm

Six of the best ... streets in San Francisco

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 April, 2003, 12:00am

Valencia Street in The Mission. When Karl Malden and Michael Douglas were charging around the city in the 1970s TV series The Streets Of San Francisco, this strip was home to some of the bad guys. The wave of Mexican and central American immigrants in the 60s made it something of a Latino quarter. Students and artists added a bohemian feeling before a 90s invasion of yuppified professionals with cash to burn. The result (below, top) is an exciting and bustling cultural melting pot on Valencia and the parallel Mission Street, with a fusion of dining, shopping, drinking and clubbing. But watch your step; if Malden and Douglas were still on patrol, they'd be heading there too.

Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights. So much narcissism in such a small place. Fillmore Street may only stretch eight blocks, but it squeezes in a wealth of classy shops, eateries and cafes. It's the lifeblood of Pacific Heights, an exclusive hilltop enclave that boasts the highest number of million-dollar mansions per block in the city. People come to see and be seen in Fillmore. You're unlikely to come across a Michael Keaton-style stalker like the one he played in Pacific Heights, but keep an eye out for the designer-clad darlings with a decaf soy latte in one hand and perfectly groomed poodle in the other.

Columbus Avenue in North Beach. This is the main artery through a working-class Italian neighbourhood that was home to the 1950s Beat movement. Today, writers are still idealising over espressos but the outdoor eateries, tourist shops and strip joints are more evident. Get lost in the pleasures of City Lights, the bookshop founded by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, where the windswept and interesting pour over its eclectic contents. Don't limit yourself to the main drag; the side streets contain a host of hidden treasures.

Union Square in Downtown. This bustling heart of Downtown is the somewhat sterile starting point to shopper's paradise. On Post Street there are more big-name designer labels than you could throw your credit card at. Perched right on the square, just across from Borders, Saks Fifth Avenue stands out from the couture crowd. On the opposite side, but a world apart in every other way, Macy's seems to take up a whole block. Everything is close by so there's no danger of wearing out your high heels.

Lombard Street in Russian Hill. In the 1968 movie Bullitt, hard-nosed detective Steve McQueen tackled Lombard Street and its eight switchback turns at high speed in a green Mustang. One of cinema's classic car chases is a major reason for the stream of tourists who come to the top of Russian Hill to see 'the world's most crooked road'. The cars move at walking pace, bumper to bumper, giving the occupants a chance to admire the beautiful gardens and houses alongside. This is one steep hill and the road was built this way because a 1920s Model T or horse-drawn carriage would never have reached the top in a straight line.

Haight Street in Haight-Ashbury. Free love and drugs helped put the Haight (below left) on the map in the 1960s, and what was once home to Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead retains a hippie ambience. Veterans of that era will approach you for money for their next drink. Haight Street is arguably a shadow of its legendary heyday, but today's spruced-up version has plenty of drawcards. The Upper Haight boasts great boutiques. Funky restaurants, cheap cafes and chic bars exist all along the strip, but nightlife is best sampled on the Lower Haight.


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