TIME OUT: City Guides; CITIES AT A GLANCE

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ROME

Rome has more piazzas, palaces, and ancient sites than any other European city. Yet far from being an open-air museum, it is one of Europe's liveliest cities.

The following information is from the Time Out Rome Guide. The third edition (Penguin, pounds 9.99) goes on sale from end of February.

ESSENTIAL INFORMATION

Money

The Italian unit of currency is the lire (L); the exchange rate at the time of going to press was L2,780 to pounds 1.

Arriving in Rome

From Fiumicino Airport

Fiumicino Airport Information (65 951). Open 24 hours daily.

Rome's main airport, also known as Leonardo da Vinci, is about 30 kilometres from the city, and handles all scheduled flights. There is an express rail service direct to Termini station, which takes about 30 minutes and runs between 7.38am and 10.08pm. The service from Termini to the airport runs between 6.52am and 9.22pm. Tickets cost L15,000 The normal rail service from Fiumicino stops at Trastevere, Ostiense, Tuscolana and Tiburtina stations in Rome, and takes 25-40 minutes. Trains leave about every 15 minutes and run between 6.25am and 12.15am (5am-11pm to Fiumicino). The journey costs L7,000. You can buy tickets for both these services from automatic machines in the main airport lobby, or from the ticket office (open 7am-9pm), the tabacchi and the automatic machines in the railway station. A taxi ride into Rome from Fiumicino will cost about L70,000.

From Ciampino Airport

Ciampino Airport Information (79 49 41). Open 24 hours daily.

Ciampino, about 15 kilometres (9 miles) to the south-east of the city, is primarily a military airbase but is also used by most charter flights to Rome. If you are using public transport, getting to and from Ciampino can be much more of a hassle than using Fiumicino. The best way into town is by the COTRAL bus to Anagnina Metro station on Line A, which links with Termini. Buses for Anagnina leave from the front of the arrivals hall every 30 to 60 minutes from 7.05am to 11.55 pm (6.10am-11pm from Anagnina to Ciampino), and the fare is L1,500. A taxi to the centre is about L60,000.

Getting Around

The best way to get around Rome is by foot. Public transport (bus and tram) tends to be chaotic, crowded and largely incomprehensible even to the locals.

HOTELS

Celio

Via SS Quattro, 35c (70 49 53 33/fax 70 96 377). Metro Colosseo. Rates single L250,000; double L290,000.

This small hotel, a stone's throw from the Colosseum, is a gem of tasteful decoration and comfort. The hotel's 10 rooms are beautifully frescoed.

Eden

Via Ludovisi, 49 (47 81 21/fax 48 21 584). Metro Spagna/bus to Via Veneto. Rates (breakfast L35,000-L50,000 extra) single L495,000-L539,000; double L726,000-L847,000; suites L1,595,000-L2,420,000; royal suite L3,267,000.

Just off the Via Veneto, the recently refurbished Eden, part of the Forte group, has opulent reception rooms, smartly decorated bedrooms, and a roof terrace with a top-rate restaurant.

Hotel Locarno

Via della Penna, 22 (36 10 841/fax 32 15 249). Metro Flaminio. Rates single L195,000; double L290,000; triple L380,000; suite L360,000.

The Locarno, on a noisy road between the Tiber and Piazza del Popolo, was founded in the 1920s and retains some of its original Art Nouveau details. The lounge has a real fire in winter and there's also a lovely patio with a fountain. More than half of the 38 rooms and suites have been refurbished - the others will be completed soon - with parquet floors and marble bathrooms.

Sant'Anselmo

Piazza Sant'Anselmo, 2 (57 83 214/fax 57 83 604). Metro Circo Massimo. Rates single L170,000; double L250,000; triple L270,000; quad L310,000.

A pretty hotel, housed in a villa with a garden. Some of the 46 bedrooms are furnished with antiques, and all but six have their own bathrooms. One of the few Roman hotels to have rooms adapted for wheelchair access.

Teatro di Pompeo

Largo del Pallaro, 8 (68 72 566/fax 68 80 55 31). Bus to Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Rates single L210,000; double L270,000.

A Campo de' Fiori hotel that's a bit smarter than its neighbours. It can claim, at least in part, to be the oldest hotel in Rome: you can take breakfast in what was a bit of the Theatre of Pompey, from the 1st century BC.

SIGHTSEEING

The Catacombs

Catacombs of San Sebastiano Via Appia Antica, 136 (78 87 035). Metro Colli Albani then bus to Via Appia Antica. Open 9am-noon, 2.30-5.30pm, Mon-Wed, Fri, Sun. Admission L8,000.

Miles of underground galleries lined with burial chambers were dug into the volcanic rock beneath the soil of ancient Rome. The reason for this was simple: burial within the walls of Rome was forbidden, and tombs built above ground were expensive. Many of the tombs are pagan, among them the Columbarium (literally, the dovecote) of Pomponius Hylas, in the Parco degli Scipione; a few are Jewish. The most famous, however, are those of the Christians, who were able to bury their dead and carry out ceremonies in the Catacombs, for once unmolested by their pagan persecutors.

Colosseum (Colosseo)

Piazza del Colosseo. Metro Colosseo/bus to Piazza del Colosseo. Open 9am-two hours before sunset Mon, Tue, Thur-Sat; 9am-1pm Wed, Sun. Admission L12,000; ground floor free.

It seems that nothing can be filmed in Rome without the producer showing a few seconds of the traffic speeding past this massive building. One of the most interesting ancient ruins in the city, it was built in 72 AD by Vespasian, at a time when several bloody deaths were guaranteed at every gladitorial performance. Currently undergoing a massive, but slow-moving, face-lift.

Ostia Antica

Getting there by train from the Ferrovia Roma-Lido station (next to Piramide Metro station: every 15 mins); Ostia Antica is the sixth station along. Opening times: excavations Apr-Oct 9am-6pm, Nov-Mar 9am-4pm; museum 9am-2pm Tue-Sun. Admission L8,000.

If it too could boast something as dramatic as Vesuvius for a backdrop, Ostia Antica might be as famous as Pompeii. It was Rome's main port for over 600 years, until its decline in the 4th century AD. Thereafter, river mud and sand gradually buried the town, which had the effect of preserving most buildings from the second storey down.

The Roman Forum

Entrance Largo Romolo e Romo, Via dei Fori Imperiali (69 90 110). Metro Colosseo/ bus to Via dei Fori Imperiali or Piazza Venezia. Open Apr-Sept 9am-6pm Mon-Sat, 9am-1pm Sun; Oct-Mar 9am-sunset Mon-Sat, 9am-1pm Sun. Admission free.

The remains of the Roman Forum now consist of little more than the layouts of floors and a few columns, but with a bit of imagination, a tour around these remnants can give an accurate impression of what ancient Rome looked like.

Santa Prassede

Via Santa Prassede 9a (48 82 456). Metro Cavour or Vittorio Emanuele/bus to Piazza Esquilino. Open 7.30am-noon, 4-6.30pm, daily.

This church is a scaled-down copy of the old Saint Peter's, a 9th-century attempt to recreate an early Christian basilica. Unfortunately, as the uneven brickwork shows, the Romans had lost the knack. The home-grown mosaic artists were no better, so Pope Paschal I decided to import mosaic workers from Byzantium to decorate the interior. The results are exotic and rich.

The Vatican Museums

Metro Ottaviano/bus to Piazza del Risorgimento. Open Nov to mid-Mar and mid-June to end Aug 8.45am-1pm Mon-Sat; mid-Mar to mid-June and Sept to end Oct 8.45am-4pm Mon-Fri; 8.45am-1pm Sat. Admission L13,000; students L10,000.

One of the world's finest art collections is held here. The museum authorities have laid out four colour-coded routes, ranging from a race down to the Sistine Chapel to a conscientious five-hour plod round the whole lot.

Villa Borghese

Metro Flaminio Spagna/train to Piazzale Flaminio/bus to Piazzale Flaminio or Via Vittorio Veneto, Viale delle Belle Arti, Via Pinciana/tram to Viale delle Belle Arti.

The park and gardens around the Casino Borghese were laid out in the 17th century. A measureless collection of art, sculpture and antiquities is on show in the Casino.

Villa Farnesina

Via della Lungara, 230 (68 80 17 67). Bus to Lungotevere Farnesina or Piazza Sonnino. Open 9am-1pm Mon-Sat. Admission L6,000.

This pretty villa was built in 1508 to 1511 as a pleasure palace and holiday home. Come for the frescoes by Raphael, Peruzzi, Sodoma, Sebastiano del Piombo and Raphael's assistants.

RESTAURANTS

Al 34

Via Mario de' Fiori, 34 (67 95 091). Metro Spagna/bus to Via del Corso or Via del Tritone. Closed Mon; three weeks Aug. Average L50,000.

Fashionable and always crowded, Al 34 is one of the safest bets for a good-value meal in the Spanish Steps area. The menu features cucina romana.

Antico Arco

Piazzale Aurelio, 7 (58 15 274). Bus to Via Carini. Dinner only except Sun lunch. Closed Mon; Aug. Average L55,000.

A new, spacious restaurant up on the Gianicolo hill. The decor is retro- elegant, the service affable and the sweets deserve an entry to themselves.

La Carbonara

Piazza Campo de' Fiori, 23 (68 64 783). Bus to Corso Vittorio. Closed Tues; Aug. Average L50,000.

Looming at one end of Rome's most picturesque squares, those tables look like they just have to be a tourist trap. In fact, this long-established restaurant does a surprisingly honest take on cucina romana, with all the old favourites: penne all'amatriciana, fritto di cervella e carciofi (fried brains and artichokes).

Sangallo

Vicolo della Vaccarella, 11 (68 65 549). Bus to Corso Rinascimento. Closed Mon lunch July-Aug; Sun; two weeks Aug. Average L70,000.

What marks out maitre d' Gianfranco Panattoni is his unbridled enthusiasm. This can become overwhelming, especially when you realise, after the third party-piece seafood antipasto, that the pasta course has yet to arrive. The wine list is small but reasonably priced.

BARS & GELATI

Bar della Pace

Via della Pace, 4 ,5, 7 (68 61 216). Bus to Corso Rinascimento or Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Open 9am-2am daily.

For many years this has been Rome's prime posing spot. The ivy-clad location is as beautiful as the prices are horrific. Still a must for first-time visitors looking for Roman glamour.

Da Vezio

Via dei Delfini, 23 (67 86 036). Bus to Largo di Torre Argentina. Open 7am-8.30pm Mon-Sat.

Vezio Bagazzini is a legendary figure in the Ghetto area, on account of his extraordinary bar/latteria behind the former Communist Party HQ. Every available nook and cranny is filled with Communist icons and trophies.

Il Gelato di San Crispino

Via della Panetteria, 42 (67 93 924). Metro Barberini/bus to Via del Tritone. Open 10am-1am Mon, Wed, Sun; 10am-2am Fri-Sat.

The best ice-cream in Rome - some would say the world. Flavours change according to what's around at the markets -there's even a funghi porcini flavour available in autumn.

Rosati

Piazza del Popolo, 5 (32 25 859). Metro Flaminio/bus to Piazzale Flaminio or Piazza del Popolo. Open 7.30am- 11.30pm daily.

Rosati is the traditional haunt of Rome's intellectual left - Calvino, Moravia and Pasolini were all regulars. The Art Nouveau interior has remained unchanged since its opening in 1922. All the cakes are baked in the original oven in the kitchens.

La Vineria

Campo de' Fiori, 15 (68 80 32 68). Bus to Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Open 9.30am-2pm, 6pm-2am, Mon-Sat.

Known also as Da Giorgio, this is an authentic local wine bar evocatively portrayed in Michael Dibden's novel Vendetta as the favourite drinking haunt of his cop hero, Aurelio Zen. By night, it becomes a seriously hip hang-out for bright young things.

NIGHTLIFE

Alibi

Via Monte Testaccio, 39 (57 43 448). Metro Piramide/bus to Via Marmorata or Via Galvani. Open 11pm-4am Wed-Sun. Admission free Wed, Sun; L15,000 Thur, Fri; L20,000 Sat.

Rome's answer to London gay mecca Heaven. It's more hetero-tolerant during summer months, when the glorious roof terrace is open. The basement disco has a great sound system.

Anima

Via Santa Maria dell'Anima, 57 (68 64 021). Bus to Corso Vittorio Emanuele or Corso Rinascimento. Open 10.30pm-4am Tue-Sun. Admission L10,000 Mon, Wed-Sat; free Sun.

Its wacky decor and central location by Piazza Navona make Anima worth a pitstop on your night out. It's more bar than disco, but the music can be good, varying from hip hop to house.

Goa

Via Libetta, 13 (57 48 277). Metro Garbatella/bus to Via Ostiense. Open 11pm-4am Tue-Sat. Admission L20,000 Thur, Fri, Sat; L15,000 Tue, Wed.

New, ethnically-inspired club - incense, exotic artefacts and slide projections. Currently among Rome's trendiest. Music is hip hop via tribal to house, courtesy of Rome's DJ star Giancarlino.

Jonathan's Angels

Via della Fossa, 16 (68 93 426). Bus to Corso Rinascimento or Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Open 4pm-2am daily.

This place is spectacular in summer, with abundant candles burning inside and out. The interior is decked out with kitsch paintings of Jonathan and his Harley. Try the delicious fragolino (strawberry-flavoured) wine. Far and away the best toilets in Rome.

Qube

Via di Portonaccio, 212 (43 81 005). Metro Tiburtina/bus to Via Tiburtina or Via di Portonaccio. Open 11pm-3am Fri-Sun. Admission L15,000.

Hugely successful club with classic disco lights and three bars, plus chill-out room with sofas and pool tables. Plays mainly underground, progressive and "happy music". Expect queues.

SAN FRANCISCO

San Francisco's geographical restrictions - the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Bay on two more - mean that the city is squeezed into a small area. But sights and entertainment are far from lacking.

The following information is from the Time Out San Francisco Guide. The second edition (Penguin, pounds 9.99) is on sale from the end of February.

ESSENTIAL INFORMATION

Money

The exchange rate at the time of going to press was $1.60 to pounds 1.

Arriving in San Francisco

San Francisco International Airport

For more information about how to get to and from San Francisco Airport, phone 1-800 736 2008.

By Bus

SamTrans 7F and 7B buses run every 30 minutes from the airport's upper level to the Transbay Terminal at First and Mission Streets. Phone 1-800 660 4287 for more information. They are cheap but not very convenient.

By Shuttle

A definite step up from using the bus is to travel by shuttle. Rates range from $10 to $15 per person and many offer door-to-door service, including Lorrie's Airport Service (334 9000), Super-Shuttle (558 8500), Bay Shuttle (564 3400), American Airporter Shuttle (546 6689/282 8700), Quake City Airport Shuttle (255 4899) and SFO Airporter (major hotel service only; 495 8404). Most shuttles depart every 10-15 minutes from the upper level of the airport terminal.

By Taxi or Limousine

The most expensive - but most convenient - option for getting into town may be your only recourse if your plane lands in the wee small hours. Expect to pay about $40 plus tip for the 14-mile trip to the city. Taxis are found at the lower level of the terminal in an area marked with yellow columns. For limousine service, use the white courtesy phones located in the terminal.

Oakland International Airport

Getting to San Francisco from Oakland International is simple. Take the Air-BART shuttle ($2; you'll need exact change for the ticket machines) from the airport terminal (they run every 15 minutes from the central island outside terminals 1 and 2) to the Coliseum/ Oakland BART station, and then catch the next BART train to San Francisco ($2.75). For full schedule information call 992 2278.

San Jose International Airport

Though it's 60 miles to the South, San Jose is increasingly becoming the destination of choice for many Silicon Valley travellers. It's a tiny, efficient airport; too bad that it's more than an hour from San Francisco. To get to the city from SJIA, take the Santa Clara Transit bus 10 - which runs every 20-30 minutes from 5.45am to 9.49pm and costs $1.10 - to the Santa Clara CalTrain station, then board CalTrain to San Francisco - which runs from 4.51am to 10.05pm, takes about 80 minutes and costs $4.25 at peak hours. Disembark at the end of the line, the Fourth & Townsend station. For more information about CalTrain, call 1-800 660 4287.

Getting Around

San Francisco is one of the few cities in the US where a car isn't a necessity. Most locals travel on foot, by taxi, or via the city's much maligned yet generally reliable public transport system - the San Francisco Municipal Railway, known as Muni.

HOTELS

Archbishop's Mansion

1000 Fulton Street, CA 94117, at Steiner Street (1-800 543 5820/563 7872). Bus 5, 22. Rates rooms $129-$199; suites $215-$385.

One of the most opulent small hotels in San Francisco - elaborate chandeliers, gorgeous antiques, canopied beds - and with genuinely friendly staff.

Inn on Castro

321 Castro Street, CA 94114, at Market Street (861 0321). Muni Metro F, K, L, M/bus 24, 35, 37. Rates single $85; double $95; suite $135-$160.

This beautifully restored Edwardian building has served as San Francisco's premier gay and lesbian hotel for nearly two decades. It has eight rooms, each with a bath.

The Phoenix

601 Eddy Street, CA 94109, at Larkin Street (1-800 248 9466/776 1380/fax 885 3109). Bus 19. Rates rooms $89-$109; suites $139-$159.

Ziggy Marley and Pearl Jam have all stayed at the Phoenix. It's one of San Francisco's hippest hostelries, and located in one of the city's worst neighbourhoods. Forty-four bungalow-style rooms, a pool and the Backflip restaurant and cocktail lounge help everyone get together and feel alright.

The Red Victorian

1665 Haight Street, CA 94117, at Cole Street (864 1978/fax 863 3293). Muni Metro N/bus 33, 37. Rates rooms $86-$200.

Nothing comes as close to offering the quintessential Haight-Ashbury experience as a night at the Red Vic. Haight Street's only hotel offers 18 wildly decorated rooms, each with its own thematic twist. Stay in the rainbow- coloured Flower Child room, or the tie-dyed Summer of Love double.

SIGHTSEEING

Alcatraz Island

Blue & Gold ferry half-hourly departures from Pier 41, Embarcadero (tickets 705 5555/recorded information 773 1188). Bus 32, 42/cable car Powell-Mason. Open ticket phoneline 7am-8pm daily; Pier 41 box office 8am-6pm daily. Departures summer 9.30am-4.15pm daily; winter 9.30am-2.15pm daily. Return tickets with audio tour $11; $5.75-$7.75 concessions; without audio tour $7.75; $4.50-$6 concessions.

Alcatraz first became a prison in the 1870s. No longer a home to criminals, this craggy outcrop lures 4,000 willing visitors a day and is San Francisco's single biggest tourist attraction. Book your visit far in advance.

Cable Cars

(Route information 673 6864.) Open 6.30am-12.30am daily.

If the cable cars are a legendary part of the city, so is the hassle of getting a ticket to board one at the downtown Powell Street terminus. Of the original 30, only three cable- car lines survive: the Powell-Mason, Powell-Hyde and California lines.

Chinatown

All About Chinatown Tours (982 8839). Tickets $25; $10 under-17s. Wok Wiz Chinatown Tours & Cooking Co (1-800 281 9255). Tickets $25 walk only; $37 with lunch. Glorious Food Culinary Tours (441 5637). Tickets $35 with lunch.

Each of the many tours of the 24-block enclave offers a varied menu of stops both historical and culinary. The Wok Wiz tour, led by television chef and writer Shirley Fong-Torres, covers historic alleyways, Chinese herbalists and groceries, dim-sum restaurants and fortune-cookie factories.

Golden Gate Bridge

Linking the Toll Plaza near the Presidio with Marin County. Bus 28, 29, 76 to the bridge/Golden Gate Transit bus 10, 20, 30, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 across the bridge.

Luminous symbol of San Francisco and star of countless films, the Golden Gate Bridge remains the city's ultimate icon.

Golden Gate Park

Between Fulton and Stanyan Streets, Lincoln Way and the Great Highway. Muni Metro N/bus 5, 7, 18, 21, 28, 29, 33, 44, 66, 71. Open dawn to dusk daily.

One of the world's largest urban green havens - its 1,013 acres range from the Haight to the Pacific - Golden Gate Park forms an oasis of lakes, landscaped vistas, flower beds, meadows, trails and forest, much of it seemingly completely removed from the city. Make sure to see the following sites within the park: the Conservatory of Flowers; Beach Chalet; and the two museums - the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum.

RESTAURANTS & CAFeS

Caffe Centro

102 South Park, between Bryant and Brannan, Second and Third Streets (882 1500). Bus 15, 30, 42, 76. Open 7.30am-7pm Mon-Fri; 9am-4pm Sat.

This South Park cafe has large windows that open out on to the city's "multimedia gulch". The food is straightforward: focaccia sandwiches, fresh salads with fancy lettuces, great pastries, plus coffee, tea and a good selection of bottled juices.

Farallon

540 Post Street, between Mason and Powell Streets (956 6969). Bus 2, 3, 4, 76/cable car Powell-Hyde or Powell-Mason. Lunch served 11.30am-2.30pm, dinner served 5.30-10.30pm, Mon-Sat. Average lunch $38, dinner $55.

Big, new and expensive, with a watery theme. Fishy appetisers include three kinds of caviar as well as fresh crab with urchin sauce; to follow try ginger-steamed wild salmon.

Gold Mountain

644 Broadway, between Columbus Avenue and Stockton Street (296 7733). Bus 12, 15, 30, 41, 83. Lunch served 10.30am-3pm, dinner served 5-9.30pm, daily. Average pounds 12.

You'll get no help with the menu and it may be impossible to communicate with the mostly non-English-speaking staff, but hail the dim-sum carts and enjoy the adventure.

Mad Magda's Russia Tea Room

579 Hayes Street, at Laguna Street (864 7654). Bus 21. Open 8am-9pm Mon, Tue; 8am-midnight Wed-Fri; 9am-midnight Sat; 9am-7pm Sun. Average $7.

A uniquely gay San Franciscan spot - all the artsy funk of Hayes Valley with a queer slant. Go for Russian pastries in the garden or have your tarot cards read.

BARS

Alta Plaza

2301 Fillmore Street, at Clay Street (922 1444). Bus 1, 3, 12, 22, 24. Open bar 4pm-2am Mon-Sat; 10am-2pm, 5.30pm-10pm, Sun; restaurant 5.30- 10pm Mon-Thur, Sun; 5.30-11pm Fri, Sat; 10am-3pm Sun.

From the suited lawyers and doctors to the well-groomed staff, the Alta Plaza is the classiest gay bar in town.

The CoCo Club

139 Eighth Street, between Mission and Howard Streets (626 2337). Bus 12, 14, 19, 26. Open 8pm-2am Wed-Sun.

The hottest new lesbian venue features a sweaty dance club on Fridays, live music on Saturdays and showcases of local bands on Sundays.

The Embers

627 Irving Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues (731 8270). Bus 6, 43, 44, 66. Open noon-2am daily.

One of the great dives of all time, The Embers is like the pub your blue- collar great-uncle loved in his working days before the war.

Twenty Tank Brewery

316 11th Street, between Harrison and Folsom Streets (255 9455). Bus 12, 42. Open 11.30am-1.30am daily.

A noisy landmark among the wealth of nightlife options at 11th and Folsom. It offers a decent jukebox, shuffleboard, big tables for large parties, a massive upstairs area, and table service for dinner and the best home- brews in town.

NIGHTLIFE

111 Minna

111 Minna Street, at Second Street (974 1719). Bus 5, 14, 15, 38. Open 1pm-2am Tue-Fri; 4pm-2am Sat.

Shoebox-sized 111 Minna is an art gallery by day and occasionally hosts musicians during the night hours. But it's best known for a series of dance nights: LoveWorks, Electroni-Cool and other frenetic mixes featuring the best beats and DJs in the Bay Area.

The Box

715 Harrison Street, between Third and Fourth Streets (206 1652). Bus 15, 30, 45, 76. Open 10pm-4am Thur. Admission $7.

This San Francisco institution marks the domain of legendary DJ Mistress Page Hodel. The Box prides itself on making everyone welcome.

The Cafe

2367 Market Street, at Castro Street (861 3846). Bus 35. Open 12.30pm- 2am daily.

The Cafe is the most popular dance club in the Castro. It has two bars, a dance floor and a patio as well as pool and pinball - plus some of the hottest young things (male and female).

El Rio

3158 Mission Street, at Cesar Chavez Street (282 3325). Bus 12, 14, 27, 49. Open 3pm-midnight Mon; 3pm-2am Tue-Sun.

A mixed club featuring international and Latino music. The Sunday afternoon summer salsa garden parties are famous, with superb live music and the best-looking lesbian crowd in the city. Arrive before 9pm to avoid a long wait.

Sound Factory

525 Harrison Street, at First Street (243 9646). Bus 12, 42, 76. Open 9.30pm-6am Fri; 9.30pm-4am Sat.

In a cavernous warehouse space, the Sound Factory boasts two floors and multiple rooms. It attracts late waves of new, mostly young partygoers coming in after they finish waiting tables or cocktailing. Free admission until 10pm.

The Stud

399 Ninth Street, at Harrison Street (863 6623). Bus 19, 27, 42. Open 5pm-2am daily.

A San Francisco institution, buried in SoMa (make sure that you take a cab both ways), The Stud has one of the most varied crowds: from college students out for an exploratory evening to hardcore muscle boys posing away in the corners.

V/sf

278 11th Street, at Folsom Street (621 4863). Bus 9, 12, 42. Open 9pm- 3am Mon-Thur; 9pm-4am Fri, Sat; 9pm-6am Sun.

Against an aural backdrop of house, techno, breakbeat and 1970s funk, the venue comes alive as the busiest big club in the city. Shag, a Brit- night scene livens up Thursdays.

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