10,000-step tour: Downhill in San Francisco


Union Square in San Francisco is home to Tony Bennett’s heart, entitled “America’s Greatest City by the Bay.”


City Lights Booksellers is one of those bookshops you have to visit.

I didn’t mean to plan a downhill walk in San Francisco. And I was sorry I had when I got to the last leg and was looking up the city’s famous hills.

But I’d planned the walk with enough stops to fortify my body and spirit, I was ready to power past boring old gravity.

I started on Nob Hill, home of two of San Francisco’s iconic hotels, the Fairmont which survived the 1906 fire and the Mark Hopkins, which looms over Nob Hill. (Its Top of the Mark is great for a drink and a view of the city.)

My walk took me to Chinatown for lunch and a bit of shopping. For something completely different (and nearby) I walked over to City Lights Booksellers, founded in the 1950s by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin and long considered a home base for Bay area poets such as Allen Ginsburg. You can find all kinds of reading material on the shelves here from the latest biography by Ron Chernow to hard to find volumes of poetry.

Next stop was just up the street: a cinema landmark, Cafe Zoetrope,   now owned by


Cafe Zoetrope serves drinks and food amid movie memories.

director Francis Ford Coppola. The green flatiron building stands in contrast to the nearby Transamerica tower. The cafe on the ground level is nice enough (with movie memorabilia) but what I like is knowing that on the upper floors movie magic has been happening here since the 1970s. This is the home of The Godfather. (Before that the Kingston Trio had a recording studio here–and the Grateful Dead recorded on this site.)

The walk toward the San Francisco Bay was pleasant, warmer than most days I’ve enjoyed here. Flowers were blooming and it felt like spring. (A nice feeling after an icy January.)


The Ferry Building Marketplace will satisfy your craving whether it is ice cream, macarons, empanadas or… You get the picture.

I love visiting the Ferry Building and all its little shops. Of course I couldn’t resist seeing what was new and finding something delicious. I stopped at Humphry Slocombe for a scoop of salted caramel cocao nib ice cream. Think I burned off all those calories during my walk? Who cares! I enjoyed every bit as I watched the boat traffic on the bay.

It was time to turn back and go uphill for my final destination, Union Square. I picked it mostly because it would get me to 10,000 steps with a place to rest and a heart sculpture I love to see. “America’s Greatest City by the Bay” was painted by singer Tony Bennett, who, as you may know, left his heart here once upon a time. San Francisco has never forgotten.


Spring is just beginning. I saw this sculpture called Cloud Portal with the park across the street and had to snap a photo.

My fortune cookie at lunch told me the day would be lucky and memorable. It was. I’ll always remember that last trudge up the hill.

Ⓒ Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman


3 responses to “10,000-step tour: Downhill in San Francisco

  1. So much to see in San Francisco! Here’s a couple of suggestions for starting with the uphill part and ending with down.
    You could walk the Embarcadero and take the steps going up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. You may see some of the famous parrots, you will rest on a bench with a knock-out view of the bay, marked with a plaque that says “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”. At the top of the hill you can visit the tower and if you are lucky go up for an even higher view.
    And on another day you could visit Chinatown and then walk up Cathedral Hill to Japantown and St. Mary’s cathedral.
    Of if you are tired of walking up and down you can hop on the N-Judah streetcar with goes along the Embarcadero and ride it all the way out to Ocean Beach, maybe stopping off in Golden Gate Park for some more or less level walks.

    Glad you visited my city!

    • Thanks for all your good suggestions.
      Always love visiting the city by the (SAN FRANCISCO) bay (I think of Baltimore as the city by the (CHESAPEAKE) Bay. I have a post on the Conservatory of Flowers and the Hop-on-Hop-Off experience coming.

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