I’ve made many visits over the years to the quirky iconic city of San Francisco. In June, I was here for two weeks training for my new job at Nordstrom. I felt like a resident by the time I left. So much has been written about this treasured place so I’ll keep it simple with the five things that I keep coming back for:

Union Square - the hub of great shopping

I bet you think that my number one pick would be shopping. And while it’s amazing – check out the stunning architecture in the Nordstrom flagship on Market Street, shopping isn’t on my list … 

#1 – CABLE CARS Such a cliche, I know, but you can’t leave San Francisco without taking a ride on the fabled cars – jump on the front and stand. Go early – there’s always a crazy long lineup at Market and Powell to go to Fisherman’s Wharf … or catch one on the quieter California line. It’s worth the $7 ticket.

#2 AMAZING EATS San Francisco is known for its food. Make reservations at the hot spots (if they’ll take them) before you leave home, or you’ll never get in. I like all of the casual spots and takeaway treats such as Boudin’s sourdough loaves baked fresh at Fisherman’s Wharf and the salted caramel chocolate squares at Ghiradelli’s close by. If you take the cable car back downtown, stop in at Sakana Sushi and Grill, a hole-in-the-wall sushi spot (few seats) with the freshest fish.

#2 – MORE EATS  Another favourite spot is the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero. I loved the mahi mahi fish and chips at Gott’s Roadside finished off with Dutch Chocolate soft ice cream. For a special night out, book in advance at The Slanted Door and share their tuna tartare and Shaking Beef. If you only have time for take-out, stop by one of the Super Duper spots around the city – their veggie burgers and organic cones are next level. 

#3 CYCLING TO SAUSALITO & TIBURON One of the best ways to see any city is on two wheels. While the bike rental companies in San Francisco will tell you the route across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and Tiburon is mainly flat – they lie! It’s rolling terrain and the area is known for its hills … but the workout is worth it. 

#3 – SORE BUM One way to avoid that from a bike is to make sure you wear workout gear for your ride – not jeans like I did. The ride across the Golden Gate Bridge is exhilarating (be careful on a windy day) and the villages of Sausalito and Tiburon are charming. Add in lunch and the return ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf, and you’re looking at a full day. 

#4 – GET OUT OF TOWN Rent a car and drive about an hour south and then west of San Francisco to visit Half Moon Bay. Bring layers for your visit. San Francisco and the coast can be chilly and overcast while a few miles inland is hot and sunny.

#4 – HALF MOON BAY Here you’ll find beautiful rugged coves and beaches, plus the golf course, and walking paths from the Ritz Carlton Resort. Go for a walk and then stay for lunch and enjoy the spectacular view.

#5 GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE From any angle you see it, the Golden Gate Bridge is AWESOME. It appears out of the morning mist and dominates the Bay view. Driving or cycling over it is magical – although I couldn’t shake the feeling that every time I see this iconic bridge in a movie, it’s getting destroyed! (Planet of the Apes for example!) 

TRAVEL TIP – Take the BART train from the airport into the city to avoid the horrendous traffic. Don’t bother renting a car for your city days. Uber is efficient and cheap, and the cable cars and street cars are convenient.