San Francisco is one of the most famous cities in the world. Home to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco has appeared in many Hollywood movies, TV shows and songs, and is well known for its steep streets and the cable cars that move along them.
There is so much to see and do, you could easily spend a week sightseeing in this amazingly vibrant and eclectic city. On the plus side, you can do most of this by walking and catching the cable cars (for those very steep hills) as the city itself is only 49 square miles in area.
Diverse, open-minded and friendly, this city has something to offer everyone.
Experience the awe inspiring Golden Gate Bridge
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge is a must see for any visitor to San Francisco. Probably the most famous bridge in the world, you won’t tire of seeing it from an angle or distance. The weather can alter your view of the bridge from day to day with San Francisco prone to fogginess, and sometimes the clouds can envelope the top towers of the bridge, but it doesn’t take away from how spectacular this steel structure is.
There is a hop-on hop-off bus available, or you can hire a bike or walk across the bridge on the pedestrian path which really gives a sense of how large the bridge is. Make sure your camera is charged, as you won’t be able to stop taking photos of the bridge itself and of the amazing views back to the city. On the other side of the bridge is an enchanting little town called Sausalito which is a great little spot for lunch, overlooking the harbour.
Tour ‘The Rock’, once home to infamous Al “Scarface” Capone
Alcatraz, the federal penitentiary that operated from 1934 to 1963, needs to be on your list of things to see in San Francisco. Take the ferry from the mainland and enjoy being immersed in the stories being told by inmates and correctional officers on the Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour. Be amazed by the re-creation of the famous 1962 escape by inmates Morris and the Anglin brothers, who are still on the US Marshals wanted list!
Apart from the legendary prison, the island is home to many beautiful native flowers and bird colonies, and the views back towards San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge are worth seeing in their own right.
City Highlights – Walk, Cycle, Ride or Drive!
San Francisco city has so much to offer you could spend a few hours or a few days exploring the neighbourhoods. One way to squeeze a lot in and learn about the culture and locals along the way is to do a guided tour. There are many on offer, with a range of transport options.
Some neighbourhoods and points of interest you could include are:
Also known as The Haight, this area is famous for its 1960 hippie origins. Head to the corner of Haight & Ashbury to see the colourful Victorian buildings. Down Haight Street, you will find an array of shops and restaurants selling all sorts of hippy wares and vegan burgers.
If you were a fan of the American TV series, Full House, you will recognise these gorgeous rows of houses on Alamo Square. Called the ‘Painted Ladies’ or ‘postcard row’, this is one of the most photographed spots in ‘San Fran’.
In the centre of the city you’ll find the NOPA district which is the epicentre of the city’s jazz scene. The area is edgy and cool and has seen a rise in many independent cafes and boutiques in the area.
Join in the fun at Fisherman’s Wharf
Visit the bustling Fisherman’s Wharf, jam packed with entertainment for all ages. At Pier 39, you can take a ride on the San Francisco Carousel which depicts hand-painted landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown and Alcatraz. On the west side of the pier, at K-Dock, you’ll be able to watch and listen to the Sea Lions who call it home.
You’ll also find an array for cafes and restaurants, as well as many seafood stands offering fresh steamed crab and other delights from the sea.
Other main tourist attractions here include the Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and the San Francisco Dungeon. You’ll also find many bike hire companies and ferries to nearby attractions departing from here.
A very pretty and windy road
Lombard Street in San Francisco is famous for being steep, windy and surrounded by gardens. It might sound a little strange, but it’s worth a look!
Many people choose to drive down the street to experience the curviness for themselves, but walking also provides a close up look at the wonderful gardens and the views across the city and the bay. One of the latest options is to take a Segway Tour, but be warned that it’s probably more suitable for those who are already comfortable using a Segway to navigate those hills and bends.
Explore Golden Gate Park’s 1000+ acres
This huge park is too big to explore in one go, but is highly recommended and often quoted as one of the prettiest parks to visit in the world. Some highlights include:
Conservatory of Flowers
At the eastern end is the oldest building in the park, the Conservatory of Flowers. It is home to 1,700 plus species of aquatic and tropical plants, a butterfly zone and miniature garden railroad.
Japanese Tea Garden
Created in 1894, this is the oldest Japanese Tea Garden in the United States. This amazing garden not only includes some of the most beautiful maples, bamboo, wisteria and cherry trees, but it also boasts an amazing bonsai collection, a series of koi ponds, stone lanterns, carved gates, a bronze Buddha and a 5-storey Pagoda.
De Young Museum
San Francisco’s oldest museum opened to the public in 2005, and is hard to miss with its bold copper exterior. The collections inside include Native American and Spanish colonial art, Modernism, Surrealism, Abstract and Contemporary artworks.
These are just a minute fraction of what can be seen within the grounds of the Golden Gate Park, but no matter what you end up seeing, your visit will be worthwhile.
Enjoy your San Fran trip!