San Francisco became part of the United States in 1848, but Native American tribes known as the Ohlone settled the region as early as 3,000 B.C. Spanish explorers arrived by 1769, and seven years later, settlers led by Juan Bautiza de Anza established a presidio and mission. The area came under Mexican rule in the early 19th century, and by 1849, the Gold Rush was in full swing, marking the birth of San Francisco as we know it today. The city saw rapid growth during and following the Gold Rush until a magnitude 7.8 earthquake and fire leveled much of it in 1906. But rebuilding didn’t take long: San Francisco celebrated its rebirth just nine years later when it hosted the Panama Pacific Exposition.
It’s impossible to cover the city’s complete history in two short paragraphs, but you can experience much of it for yourself at museums and historical sites around town. From early Spanish architecture to the popular hangouts of the counterculture movement, read on for a look at the best places to get a sense of San Francisco’s rich history.