Clockwise from top: Spanish Village Art Center at Balboa Park, Scripps Pier in La Jolla, La Jolla Cove, exterior of the Mormon Temple, giant panda at the San Diego Zoo, marina with a view of downtown San Diego, Balboa Park in the evening

San Diego is the riviera of North America, pure and simple, with long stretches of spectacular sandy beaches. The birthplace of the state of California is also historic, hip, active, and friendly, bestowing a warm welcome upon visitors of all ages and every persuasion. With Eyewitness Top 10 San Diego, it’s yours to explore.

San Diego boasts ritzy villages, retro surf towns, and movie-star good looks, with a cornucopia of gasp-worthy views, from the colorful flotilla of San Diego Bay, to the lush city of La Jolla to the north, and even parts of Mexico to the south. It is also one of the few places on earth where you can flit from ocean to mountains to desert and back to the city in the span of an afternoon. It is easy to see why San Diegans are proud of Balboa Park, with its showcase gardens, museums, and the famed San Diego Zoo. This is where locals keep fit, laze, dream, and play. And they do love to play, enjoying Comic-Con International, as well as festivals and outdoor concerts.

The city has all the advantages of a big city, minus the bustle, and a mild climate year-round. A stroll along the Embarcadero takes you from the historic Star of India tall ship, past the modern cruise terminal, all the way to the formidable USS Midway aircraft carrier. The historic Gaslamp Quarter, once home to bawdy houses, dance halls, and gambling saloons, is now full of popular shops, bars, and nightclubs. A number of original buildings have become superstar hotels and restaurants.

Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or a week, our Top 10 guide brings together the best of everything the city has to offer. The guide has useful tips throughout, from seeking out what’s free to avoiding the crowds, plus six easy-to-follow itineraries, designed to tie together a clutch of sights in a short space of time. Add inspiring photography and detailed maps, and you’ve got the essential pocket-sized travel companion. Enjoy the book, and enjoy San Diego.

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