About San Francisco

About San FranciscoSan Francisco is the fourth largest city in California and is known for its cool weather, scenic geography and history. It is also California's most densely populated city with all 805,000 residents living inside 47 square miles — 17,000 people per square mile. Only New York City has greater population density.

The Bay Area city was founded on June 29, 1776 by Spanish colonists who set up a fort and mission, naming it after Saint Francis of Assisi ("San Francisco"). The city entered into Mexican hands in 1821 and then into American hands 27 years later.

San Francisco has been on the cutting edge of economic change in the United States, starting with the California gold rush of 1849. Fortune seekers came from across the country to San Francisco, making it the largest city on the West Coast. Thousands of immigrants also came, many from East Asia, leading the city to serve as the Pacific Coast's "Ellis Island."

The city is also on the cutting edge of geology, since it sits on the massive San Andreas fault. San Francisco has been devastated by earthquakes repeatedly during its history. None was more devastating than the 1906 quake that destroyed most of the city, forcing residents to rebuild with stronger structures. Another major quake hit in 1989.

San Francisco played a big role in America's 20th Century social revolution and has come to be known as a center for liberal thought. In the 1960's, the neighborhood surrounding Haight and Ashbury streets was a pilgrimage spot for hippies. The city became a center for gay rights in the 1970's.

San Francisco can feel like an island due to its geography. It is surrounded by water on three sides: the Pacific Ocean to the west and San Francisco Bay to the north and east. To the south are mountains and the city of San Jose, which is even bigger than its northern neighbor.

Once known for its fishing and financial industries, San Francisco's economy is now largely supported by its tourism industry. More than 16 million people visit San Francisco each year, and Pier 39 is the third-most-visited attraction in the nation. The city is also known for its cable cars, painted hillside houses, iconic Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz island, the infamous former federal prison that lies off its northeastern shore.

San Francisco has a popular public transportation system, with one third of its residents using the system each day. It is also a bicycle-friendly city, with an estimated 75,000 people choosing to bike to work. The city is served by San Francisco International Airport.