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San Francisco is a city of hills and fog, immigrants and innovation, the Gold Rush and gay rights. Geographically, the city is only seven miles wide, but one weekend is barely time enough to take in what this city by the bay has to offer.

Despite the famously extreme elevation changes, San Francisco is a walkable city with an easy-to-understand public transportation system, as well as ride sharing apps and bike rentals. No matter what time of year you visit, it’s always a good idea to pack a sweater.

Saturday: Get Out There

The best way to start the weekend is with a sweet treat, and B Patisserie in lower Pacific Heights has just the thing. The Breton cake called kouign amann (pronounced queen ah-man) is the pastry to try, with its sweet, crispy layers.

Just around the corner on Divisadero is Atelier Yarns, a jewel box of a shop that has been in business for over 25 years.

There’s a lot of beautiful yarn displayed in a small footprint, with many unusual yarns, like handspun cashmere from Tanglewood Yarn Creations.

Up and over Divisadero drops you into the Marina. The large domed structure is the Palace of Fine Arts, designed by Bernard Maybeck for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. But most visitors only have eyes for the Golden Gate Bridge.

My favorite views are from Crissy Field. Walking along the path between the bay and restored wetlands takes you to bathrooms, and a concession stand called the Warming Hut. There’s a steep climb up to the bridge on the Battery East Trail, or you can walk to Fort Point at the base of the bridge.

After all that exertion, follow Marina Boulevard over to Fort Mason and visit Greens for a delicious vegetarian meal with a view. Alternatively, on Friday evenings from March to October, you can sample a host of gourmet food truck offerings at Off The Grid. Just remember to bring a scarf for the outdoor venue (or knit one up quickly)!

A great way to experience any city is to a visit a market. The Ferry Building farmer’s market is the place to be on a Saturday morning. Stalls sell seasonal produce, as well as locally produced jams, honey, and flowers. Inside the Ferry Building are restaurants and stores, where you can grab a coffee and wander, or sit down for brunch.

While the city is known for cable cars, riding on one can often mean waiting in a very long line. A nice alternative is the fleet of vintage streetcars that run along the Embarcadero and up Market Street. You might ride the orange tram from Milan, or a restored streetcar from Kansas City. It makes for slower going than the subway line, but you can enjoy the sights while you knit.

From the Ferry Building, take the F Market to the end of the line at Castro. Walk down Castro Street and make a quick stop at Cliff’s Variety. The store is divided into hardware and craft sections, each with separate entrances, but the variety in the name should be taken most literally. It’s a terrific place to browse and pick up a souvenir or two.

Consider Cliff’s modest collection of yarn and fabric an amuse-bouche for the main course of ImagiKnit, at the corner of 18th Street and Sanchez.

ImagiKnit is Aladdin’s cave, but with yarn. There are floor-to-ceiling shelves brimming with yarn. Fortunately they also have numerous couches for first-time visitors to sit down and recover themselves.

The store has two rooms, one for plant fibers and one for animal fibers, with a sale section in the back.

After all that yarn, continue on 18th Street, past the impressive facade of Mission High School, and Dolores Park. On a sunny day the park is jammed with people, but if you walk up to 19th Street just above the playground, you’re rewarded with a spectacular view of the city.

Walk back down to 18th Street to find Bi-Rite Creamery which is famous for its salted caramel and for long lines on the weekend. Usually the soft serve window isn’t as crowded, but the selection is limited to the two daily flavors.

Stroll with your cone into the Mission, one of my favorite neighborhoods.

Vibrant street art is all over, but is most concentrated in Sycamore, Clarion, and Balmy Alleys.

You can find a map detailing the locations at Precita Eyes Mural Center on 24th Street. The Mission is rich in taquerias and restaurants, so finding somewhere to enjoy dinner Saturday night won’t be a problem.

Sunday: Tired Feet Be Damned

Start your lazy Sunday with a cappuccino in North Beach. This neighborhood is San Francisco’s version of Little Italy, with cafes around the central Washington Square.

Wander down Columbus to City Lights Bookstore, a literary institution since 1953, and publisher of Beat poets like Alan Ginsburg and Diane di Prima.

Walk up Pacific Avenue, through an area known as the Barbary Coast. This was the rowdy part of town in the 1850s. Sailors and prospectors frequented the dance halls, saloons, and bordellos. Nowadays it’s part of San Francisco’s Chinatown, the largest in the country. Skip the touristy Grant Avenue in favor of the many side streets. Stop into a bakery for an egg tart or find freshly made fortune cookies in Ross Alley.

San Francisco’s small neighborhoods flow into one another. Nestled at the base of Nob Hill is the Cable Car Museum and depot. You can visit the underground powerhouse, where large engines turn the continuously running cable which runs in the center track to pull the cars up the hills. There are cable car stops for two lines right outside the museum. If you’re determined to hop on one, the fare is seven dollars; you must have cash to pay the conductor.

Walking back through Chinatown leads into Union Square. This is the downtown shopping hub with big chains and splashy outposts of major brands. Duck down Post Street to the new location of Britex Fabrics.

Although there isn’t any yarn at Britex, they certainly have wool, and it’s worth a stop to admire the wall of brightly colored fabric bolts.

Upstairs boasts an equally impressive collection of buttons and trims in the notions department. Around the corner between Sutter and Bush, tucked into a lane of the same name is the French bistro, Cafe Claude. Sip a glass of wine and enjoy a cheese plate to recoup after a full day.

If you still have the energy, head back to the Ferry Building and take in the Bay Lights, a light installation on the Bay Bridge by Leo Villareal.

Across the water in Oakland and Berkeley, there is more to explore. Stay tuned for the next episode!


About A Knitter’s Weekend

Each piece in our series A Knitter’s Weekend is written by a knitter with local knowledge and a personal point of view. If you have additional places or information you’d like to share, we’d love to hear it—please leave a comment. And if you have plans to visit San Francisco (Vogue Knitting Live, anyone?), be sure to save this article in your MDK account.

About The Author

Sonya Philip is an artist, designer, teacher, and the author of The Act of Sewing. She has made it her mission to convince people to make their own clothes, by teaching classes and selling patterns. When not covered in bits of thread, she can be found knitting another shawl or cardigan. Sonya lives in San Francisco with her family and their scruffy terrier duo, Willie and Hazel.


  • Great article and perfect timing! I will be visiting my son in San Francisco this fall. Thanks for all of the wonderful places to check out!

  • Loved this tour and pictures.

  • What a fun tour! I grew up in San Jose and a trip to San Francisco often included visiting Britex fabrics! I enjoyed seeing some familiar sites – I have been on the other coast for over 30 years.

    • i read your comment and feel exactly the same way! i grew up in sunnyvale and loved seeing all these familiar sites!

  • This makes me want to return to SF. We haven’t been for a couple of years now. Always stay near Union Square and Britex fabrics is a wonder, which I found totally by chance. Now we go in just to wander and buy buttons. I have actually knit a sweater for a couple of beautiful buttons from there! Also, buttons are easy to carry on a plane.

  • Yes, makes me want to visit again!!

  • Brite is my happy place

  • Great article, Sonya! Looking forward to the Oakland and Berkeley installment! I love visiting the Bay Area; y’all are blessed with so many wonderful yarn shops that it seems like there’s one nearby, wherever you are. Knit This, Purl That in Pleasanton, A Yarn Less Raveled in Danville, and Fengari in Half Moon Bay are also some of my favorites. San Jose would qualify for its own Knitter’s Weekend article, and then there is Monarch Knitting if you head south to the Monterrey Peninsula…

  • Love the article on SF it is a beautiful city. Would love to go back again with this article in mind. Thank you.

  • I met my husband of 48 years (YIKES!!!) in SanFran….and we married 4 months later. Sadly, we moved to the other coast shortly thereafter, but we visit our favorite City by the Bay every chance we get. How very wonderful to take a virtual tour with one of my all time faves, Sonya Philips! Thank you so much for this post. You ladies are the best!!!

  • Fond memories being recalled…

    I was just a pre-schooler when we lived in San Francisco, but I remember the city so well. The smell of it, which changes depending on the time of day and which directions the wind is blowing from and to…Going to City Lights with my mother and wandering the shelves while she browsed…crab fishing from the pier…finding beautiful buttons and delicious rice candies in Chinatown.

    And always taking along a cardigan, no matter the time of year.

  • Sounds like heaven! I wish I could visit!

  • Great article! I live just across the bay but you have given me some new places to visit. Thanks!

  • thanks for this beautiful article! you really captured the spirit of the place and it brought back great memories!

  • Oh how I miss SF! Was there two years ago after an 18 year hiatus…went to Imagiknits and loved it!!! Ate at Tartine Bakery. Sigh.. need to get back soon.

  • I learned to knit when I lived in the city, from a patient knitter at a long-ago closed little yarn store on Sacramento Street. Even though we eventually moved away, SF remains my favorite city in the world, and you’ve picked such good stopping spots to highlight. Have a glorious weekend!

  • SF is one of my favorite cities…I have a sister who has lived there for over 40 years and I have visited many, many times. Golden Gate Park is another awesome place to visit and relax…the DeYoung Fine Arts Museum is there and tea in the Japanese Garden is so much fun. ALSO…the SF main Public Library is absolutely A M A Z I N G…check out the art installation of card catalog cards that have been decorated by artists. Also, if you are interested in SF fiction, there is a relatively new middle grade children’s book (I’m a children’s librarian!) that is set in SF and it is pretty spot on for its authenticity: check out Book Scavenger !

    • Seconding your reccy of GG Park, the deYoung, the Japanese Tea Garden – and don’t forget the California Academy of Sciences, an amazing venue. Or venture out to Lincoln Park and visit the Legion of Honor art museum, plus strolling and/or steep hiking (your choice) with fabulous views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • OMG what an excellent article about The City! I live just outside in Pacifica and never really knew some of these spots. That is why I love these articles. Always somethings wonderful!

  • Brilliant intro to the City, Sonya. (And may I say that I immediately recognized both Britex and Imagiknits from the slideshow up top?)

  • Fun fact – I used to live in that top floor apartment in the Precita Eyes building! Way back when I lived there, the mural center didn’t exist, the building was gray – and the big sign was for the super sketchy bar on the first floor – named Guadalajara de Noche! The yuppies hadn’t arrived back then.

  • I loved this so much!!!! I haven’t been to SF in years, and as much as I would love to go back, it is not on the schedule. It was lovely having an armchair wallow with Sonya!

  • Oops! The Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Bernard Maybeck.

    • Thanks for the correction, Pat!

  • Excellent description of my home town.

  • Beautiful piece on my neck of the woods. Although we live in the Napa Valley, I show my paintings in SF and my son lives there as well. in the twenty years we’ve lived in the Bay Area, it is still so new and exciting to me! So much to love about it! XO

  • Perfect timing! My husband has a conference in San Francisco next month, and I’m tagging along. Now I have my time alone planned for me.

  • San Francisco is 49 Square miles, or 7 miles on a side.

    • Thanks for the correction, Sarah!

  • You left out a walk up the embarcadero to visit Scomas Restaurant on the wharf and have the most delicious bowl of cioppano with fish coming right off of their boat. Scomas is a 53 year old SF gem not to be missed !

  • You bring back fond memories — it’s time to go back. The cable car museum was a must back when, with a train loving son — although I think BART was a bigger hit.

  • The San Francisco Botanical Garden is a great place to wander and be inspired by the beauties of nature.

  • LOVE the Weekend series. Even if we cannot get to one of these places, the person leading us gives
    us a grand vision of that place.

  • I remembered this article when I was in SF in 2021. I went to Cliff’s, a store i would never have found otherwise. Thank you!

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