San Francisco has always exerted an almost mythical pull on the unbridled imagination of pioneers, artists, writers, curious souls, tourists and all those who once answered the call to "go west young man!" Pirates and conquistadors saw it as a ghost arisen from the twilight fog where it had drowned; artists and poets pictured it as an elegant, sun-drenched metropolis; painters and photographers used the city as a backdrop for a veil of greyness and melancholy; dreamers and writers saw it as far-off land shrouded in mystery.
Bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean and to the north by the Golden Gate Strait, San Francisco stretches across the tip of a peninsula that is bordered by a 1,280km² bay. The Golden Gate Bridge leads to Marin County, while the Bay Bridge links San Francisco to the cities of Oakland and Berkeley. The city of San Francisco barely covers 125km² and is dotted with some 40 hills, of which the highest is Mount Davidson, which reaches 282m. The urban design of San Francisco is unlike that of any other U.S. city, with its many Victorian homes that give it a distinctly European touch. Another well-known characteristic of this town is the dense fog that is caused by the meeting of the ocean's cold air and the coast's warm air.
Long California's most populated city, in the mid-20th century San Francisco fell to the fourth rank behind Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose. Today, San Francisco is home to approximately 752,000 people.