IT IS a great wonder that, for a city of its size, San Francisco can be so many things to so many different people.
The city, on the north-west coast of California, is a cultural, financial, tourism and industrial hub.
The county of San Francisco, which also takes in the rest of the surrounding Bay Area including Berkeley, San Jose and Oakland, is about 120sq km. Compare this with the Sunshine Coast which is 460sq km or Brisbane which is 5900sq km.
But one thing should be made clear: San Francisco should be seen on foot.
Although its steep, rolling hills will leave your legs aching, it is one of the great walking cities of the world.
San Francisco is as culturally rich as it is diverse. The city has many hearts.
Just which one is the true centre depends on whom you ask.
Certainly the most storied is the north-east quadrant which takes in downtown, Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf, the North Beach Italian district and Chinatown.
Many visitors' first point of call will be Fisherman's Wharf. From here, it is just a short car or bus ride to the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge is an architectural marvel and its views of the bay are spectacular.
The bay is picturesque and it is easy to understand why it is a must-see for many tourists. While Alcatraz and Treasure Island are the big drawcards of the San Francisco Bay, its serene beauty makes it worth a visit.
The Fisherman's Wharf area is a bustling tourist hot-spot dotted with seafood eateries and shops.
However, if you're after the best cuisine in the city, you can't go past the Stinking Rose in North Beach.
The region is known for its Italian restaurants.
But the Stinking Rose stands out as every item on its menu contains garlic.
Ever had garlic ice cream or garlic wine?
The Stinking Rose serves both.
Nearby is City Lights, the city's most well known and best bookstore.
During the cultural upheaval of the 1960s, San Francisco became the epicentre of the liberal movement and the remnants of that can be still be seen today.
City Lights was a frequent haunt of Beat Generation writers such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and has become an important cultural landmark. Areas such as Valencia St and Haight St are strongly associated with the hippy and hipster movement and are home to some of the city's best bars and stores.
In the centre of San Francisco is Union Square, the city's shopping capital which has several blocks of upmarket stores and hotels.
There is a strong juxtaposition between Union Square and the neighbouring Tenderloin District, where much of the city's public housing is located.
Homelessness is rife in San Francisco and it is common to be asked for spare change while window-shopping Union Square's boutique shops.
San Francisco was one of the main beneficiaries of the Californian Gold Rush of the 1840s and 1850s, the legacy of which is its strong financial sector.
Many banks and financial institutions set up in the city in the 19th and early 20th centuries and San Francisco has maintained its status as the state's financial hub since.
The city, as well as the surrounding San Jose and Silicon Valley, became the epicentre of the dotcom boom of the past 20 years and many of the world's largest websites and software companies are still based there including Apple, Google, eBay and Twitter.
One of the great aspects of the city is its cultural diversity.
Nearly 40% of the city's population was born overseas - as seen in Chinatown or the Mission District which is home to the Latin community.
And while the city is small, it is many experiences in one.
For that reason, it is difficult to take it all in.
Simply by taking a short walk or train ride, you can often feel like you're in a completely different world.
While the city is small, it is many experiences in one. Simply by taking a short walk or train ride, you can often feel like you're in a completely different world.