Wear comfortable,(read: flat) shoes or you’ll blow out your knees walking down the hills. (I found I needed ski poles for some of those slopes.) The cafes, such as Café de la Presse (on the corner of Bush and Grant streets, right at the Gates of Chinatown) offer the best opportunities to get a feel for the San Francisco lifestyle.
Public transportation consists of Muni, the Municipal bus system, and BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit. Muni costs only a dollar and is great for day transportation, especially since it’s impossible to park anywhere in San Francisco. However, if you’re without a car, plan to take cabs at night, since it gets chilly, somewhat dangerous in places, and Muni stops running at midnight (some run Night Owl, all night, but save yourself some hassle.)
BART is the best way to get to Berkeley for a day trip, but you’ll need a car to venture out to points North or on the coast. Most walkable neighborhoods include: Chinatown, North Beach, Downtown, Union Square, and Chinatown.
San Francisco is the original kick-back-and-take-it-all-in town. The bars close down at 2 AM. You won’t find anyplace open for a late, late snack, since kitchens close at 11. The local color here has paled slightly in the last few years due to the new Gold Rush. Sadly, dress khakis seem to have overtaken tied-dyes and love beads as the uniform. And stay away from the Marina except to take a stroll by the water and appreciate the boats. I’ve never seen more baseball caps (men and women) and fleeceware in my life. I stopped in to Peet’s Coffee on a Saturday morning and had to fight mobs of identical, well-tanned
Tweny-and-thirtysomething professionals and their Gapped-out progeny. Thought I’d walked in to a frat party.
All in all, I’d have to recommend bringing lots of good reading and writing materials, and plopping down in a café like the North End on Grant street in North Beach, or at Café Trieste, the favorite hangout of aging radicals, writers, and intellectuals.