Big Night Out in San Francisco

Stylistically, San Francisco has changed little since the 1970s, so expect heaps of Village People clones in the Castro, flying rainbow flags on every street corner, and tons of tie-dye flower chicks and dungaree dropouts in trippy Haight Ashbury. But while people might no longer wear flowers in their hair, there is still a relaxed, anything-goes atmosphere, which means there's something for everyone. Getting around is a cinch. Cable cars, trams and buses all cost $1 (60p) per journey; or buy a day pass for $6 (£3.65). Cab journeys in the city should cost no more than $8 (£4.90).

The vibe

Stylistically, San Francisco has changed little since the 1970s, so expect heaps of Village People clones in the Castro, flying rainbow flags on every street corner, and tons of tie-dye flower chicks and dungaree dropouts in trippy Haight Ashbury. But while people might no longer wear flowers in their hair, there is still a relaxed, anything-goes atmosphere, which means there's something for everyone. Getting around is a cinch. Cable cars, trams and buses all cost $1 (60p) per journey; or buy a day pass for $6 (£3.65). Cab journeys in the city should cost no more than $8 (£4.90).

Liquid

For fabulous views you simply have to take the lift to the rooftop bar of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, 1 Nob Hill, and order a sundowner. Arrive around 6pm and sip slowly as the sun slips into the Pacific. The cool crowd worships in the Redwood Room Bar, Philippe Starck's shrine to chic at the Clift Hotel, 495 Geary Street (00 1 415 775 4700). The redwood panelled room, like the hotel, is divine, and after a negroni or two the video sculptures on the walls begin to make faces at you. San Francisco yuppies and their mates stack up in the smart bar after work at The W Hotel, 181 Third Street.

Refuelling

San Francisco has every kind of fusion cuisine, from Californian to Chinese. At Tin-Pan, 2251 Market Street (00 1 415 565 0733), expect tasty Asian dishes such as pad Thai chicken and red curry mussels. Around £20 per head. One of the best neighbourhood eateries is Chow, 215 Church Street (00 1 552 2469), near the Castro. A mixed clientele devours large platefuls of ordinary American fare such as spaghetti and meatballs. About £10 per head. For dinner with a view, there is nowhere finer than Greens, Building A, Fort Mason Centre (00 1 415 771 6222). Down vegetarian dishes such as grilled asparagus and spinach salad, while admiring a picture-window view of the Golden Gate Bridge. About £35 per head.

Go native

The San Francisco Ballet (00 1 415 861 5600; www.sfballet.org), dates from 1933 and is based at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue (00 1 415 864 3330; www.sfopera.com). Michael Tilson Thomas directs the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra at the Louise M Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Avenue (00 1 864 6000; www.sfsymphony.org).

Party

Nightlife ignites fairly early and clubs are packed well before midnight, as most close around 2am. DNA Lounge, 375 11th Street, is an old favourite but retains an edgy feel. The large dance floor is overlooked by a mezzanine bar. Expect to see international DJs such as Paul Oakenfold spinning the vinyl. A 20-something crowd hangs out at Red Eye, 1337 Mission Street, a basement club bar complete with comfy sofas and big video projections. Hardcore clubbers head for Ten 15 Folsom, 1015 Folsom Street, open until 6am.

Munchies

Hungry club-goers head for Orphan Andies, 3991 17th Street, a Castro landmark, open 24 hours, serving up traditional diner dishes.

Chill

Wander through the green city parks, such as the Presidio, or take in the early morning bay air on a walk along the Embarcadero.

British Airways (0845 733 377; www.ba.com) flies to San Francisco from £237. The Clift Hotel (00 1 415 775 4700; www.ianschragerhotels.com) has rooms from £118 per night. For more information contact California Tourism (premium rate line 0906 577 0032; www.visitcalifornia.com)

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