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TOP THINGS TO DO IN SAN FRANCISCO

A FIRST TIMER’S GUIDE


Once you’ve spent a day by the bay, it's easy to see why San Francisco is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US. This windy and very hilly city is packed with things to do. Whether you are looking for free activities, outdoor attractions, beautiful natural landscapes, shopping or amazing food, beer and wine, The Golden City has it all.

Top Things To Do in San Francisco - The Painted Ladies

 

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GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE


San Francisco has a lot of well-known landmarks, but the Golden Gate Bridge is certainly the most recognisable. The views of this world-famous bridge are always stunning, even when it's engulfed by “Karl the Fog”. You can drive, walk or bike across the bridge, or you can admire it from multiple locations around the bay.


We recommend walking along the bay up to the Presidio of San Francisco. You can admire the bridge along the way and explore sites like Fort Mason, Marina Green, Crissy Field, Golden Gate Beach, the Warming Hut Park Store and Fort Point National Historic Site.


ALCATRAZ ISLAND


Alcatraz, one of the most famous former prisons in the US, is located on an island in the centre of San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz operated as a prison until 1963, housing many notorious criminals like Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly, and was the site of one of the most well-known prison escapes in history.


The tour operator for Alcatraz Island operates out of Pier 33. Tickets can be pre-purchased online or at the pier.


On the island, explore the historical buildings, listen to the cell-block audio tour, browse through the gift shop and learn more about the American Indian Occupation, which saved The Rock and its history from being destroyed.



FISHERMAN’S WHARF & PIER 39


Fisherman’s Wharf is an area filled with family activities and tourist attractions. In the waterfront neighbourhood, you’ll find places like Madame Tussauds and Ripley’s Believe It or Not, along with aquariums, museums, souvenir shops, markets, fast food eateries and seafood restaurants.


One of the top things to do in Fisherman’s Wharf is Pier 39. This pier is packed with restaurants, dessert stalls, souvenir shops, arcades, rides and live entertainment. Pier 39 is also home to the Sea Lion docks. The docks are easy to find – just follow the fishy smell and barking sounds.


Discover Hidden Hearts of San Francisco


HEARTS OF SAN FRANCISCO


The Hearts of San Francisco is a public art installation that began in 2004. Each year, these heart sculptures are created by artists and auctioned off to raise money for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. Many of these hearts are on display around the city.


There are maps online to help you find the hearts, but it’s also fun to stumble upon them, so keep an eye out while on your adventures.



RIDE A CABLE CAR


Riding a cable car in San Francisco is not only a fun mode of transport, but also a way more appealing way to climb the hills than on foot. Take a seat and admire the buildings as you roll by, or stand on the ledge and lean out (safely) as you ride up the steep hills.


We recommend taking the Powell/Mason Cable Car from Fisherman’s Wharf to Union Square. A single ride costs $8 and can be purchased at the cable car or via the MuniMobile app.


THE PAINTED LADIES


One of the most photographed landmarks in San Francisco is The Painted Ladies on Steiner Street. Painted Ladies are a set of Victorian or Edwardian houses painted with three or more colours. This particular row of houses has been made famous through popular culture, most notably in the opening credits of the TV show Full House.


On the opposite side of the street is Alamo Square. From the square, you will get that postcard picture of The Painted Ladies with the city skyline in the background. The park is also a beautiful sunny spot for a picnic with a view.


Tourist Attraction - Lombard Street San Francisco


LOMBARD STREET


Yet another famous location in San Francisco is the zig-zag portion of Lombard Street. This crooked street takes eight hairpin turns down the hill, lined with picturesque gardens and beautiful houses. The road was originally designed with these sharp turns to make the steep hill safer to drive down. Nowadays, the street is littered with tourists who drive down the road, walk the stairs, or stand at the bottom of the street for photos.





PIER 7 & FERRY BUILDING


Pier 7 and the Ferry Building are both located in the Embarcadero district. This district runs along the waterfront with beautiful views of the bay and the Bay Bridge.


Pier 7 is a picturesque wooden pier lined with lamp posts, offering a beautiful space to sit by the waterfront and take a perfectly framed photo of the Transamerica Pyramid.


The Ferry Building is not only the main terminal of San Francisco, but it's also a marketplace with clothing and gift shops, cafes, restaurants, wine bars and markets.


Things To Do in San Francisco - Union Square



UNION SQUARE


For those who love to shop, Union Square is the place to visit. In Downtown San Francisco, Union Square is the shopping precinct of the city. Every well-known brand and label can be found along these streets. There are also many dining options to choose from when you need a break from all that retail therapy.







GHIRARDELLI SQUARE


Ghirardelli Square is a chocolate lover’s paradise. This precinct was once the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which first opened in the 19th Century. Nowadays, this square not only offers cafes, ice creameries and shops to enjoy Ghirardelli chocolate but also has boutiques, gift shops, restaurants, bars and the San Francisco Brewing Company.



CHINATOWN


The oldest and largest Chinatown in the US can be found in San Francisco. The neighbourhood that covers 24 blocks has been completely rebuilt after being destroyed in fires following the 1906 earthquake. The main tourist street is Grant Avenue, beginning at The Chinatown Gate on Bush Street and continuing south, where the streets are lined with lanterns, Chinese-style lamp posts and souvenir shops. Running parallel to Grant Street is Stockton Street, where you can escape the souvenir shops and explore the produce markets instead.


While the main streets have a lot to offer, don’t skip the side streets and alleyways. Once home to brothels, gambling and opium dens, these laneways are now filled with street art, small shops and local community life.



DAY TRIP TO SAUSALITO


Across the bay lies the beautiful waterfront town of Sausalito. The town has a charming Mediterranean feel and offers spectacular views of San Francisco and the Bay area. There is a beautiful waterfront walk opposite boutiques, cafes, restaurants and wine bars. There is also a boardwalk along the Yacht Harbour and Marina, where you can admire the famous houseboats.

You can reach Sausalito by car, bus, bike or ferry. The ferries operate from Pier 41 and The Ferry Building.



OUR GOOGLE MAPS


When planning our travel destinations, we pin our bucket list of sites to see and recommended places to eat and drink on Google Maps. We are then never lost for ideas when travelling, and can easily share these lists for our friends and family to use too.




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