The city of the mist, the red bridge, the 43 hills, the pleasant neighborhoods, the steep streets, the cable trams and typical Victorian houses. According to many, San Francisco is the nicest and most beautiful city in the United States.
If you make a round trip through West America or looking for a wonderful city trip, then this city may not be missing in your route or bucketlist. In this article you will find a lot of useful information that can help you in preparing for visiting this special city.
San Francisco is located directly on the Pacific Ocean in the middle of the San Francisco Bay Area. Although the city is large in terms of sights, it covers only a small area due to its location on a peninsula. This makes it very easy to see a lot in a relatively short time. Here are 10 beautiful tips that you should have seen in San Francisco.
Discover the city by Cable Car
A well-known symbol of San Francisco is the old cable car that still drives through the city. Although it is rarely used as a means of transport by the inhabitants of the city, it is a popular tourist attraction. The tram is manually operated and it is a nice experience to climb the steep streets of the city in these old machines.
The cable trams run three routes: Powell-Hyde (the most popular among tourists), Powell-Mason and California Street. The Powell-Hyde route takes you from Fisherman’s Wharf to Union Square.
Located in the Bay of San Francisco, Alcatraz along with the Golden Gate Bridge is perhaps the best-known building in San Francisco. It used to serve as a heavily guarded prison for famous and dangerous criminals such as Al Capone. Today it is a museum and even has the status of National Park.
From Pier 39 and Pier 41 you can take various tours to the island. It is advisable to discuss this in advance. If you are going to the final stage, there is a big chance that all tours of that day will be fully booked.
Tip: you can choose to do an audio tour where you will hear sounds that are actually recorded in prison. A tour through Alcatraz will take you about three hours.
The Golden Gate Bridge
One of the most famous landmarks in the world connects the city of San Francisco with Marin County. The bridge, often covered in fog, is more than two kilometers long ( 1,7 miles) and is high enough to allow enormous cargo ships to pass underneath.
You should especially cross the bridge by bike or on foot, so that you can get a good picture of the enormity of the structure and you can stop whenever you want. Would you like to cross the bridge by car then you can, but there is a toll to be paid (on the way back). A nice route for walking is from Marina District.
For those who grew up with the American comedy series “Full House”, Alamo Square will bring some nostalgic feelings up. This park on Fulton Street is really famous for only one attraction: the six Victorian houses located on Steiner Street.
These are the houses, and are often called the Painted Ladies, which often come into the picture in the Full House series. The adjacent park is not too big but can serve as a picnic place or resting point during your busy day in San Francisco.
With more than 100,000 inhabitants, Chinatown in San Francisco is the second largest Chinese district in the United States. With its typical Chinese gateway, the neighborhood is characterized by beautifully decorated buildings. While strolling along busy streets such as Grant Avenue and Stockton Street, you can visit one of the many restaurants or shops. But also a visit to one of the temples (especially the Tin How Temple) is definitely worth it.
Fishermans Wharf & Pier 39
One of the most popular neighborhoods of San Francisco is Fishermans Wharf. With views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, there are numerous shops, restaurants and attractions. You can visit the Wax Museum, the beautiful Aquarium of the Bay or simply gaze at the many sea lions that lie in the sun at Pier 39.
You can also visit a few historic ships here: the USS Pampanito, a submarine from the Second World War and the Balclutha, a transport ship from the 19th century.
Imagine a busy environment: the narrow boulevards are just wide enough for all tourists. Also in the evening there is a cozy activity. The catch of the day is served in many restaurants and there are several cafes and terraces where you can have a beer or wine.
Incidentally, Fishermans Wharf is still the home of a number of commercial fishermen today. Nearby, at Pier 45, you can find a chapel dedicated to the “lost skippers” of San Francisco and the surrounding area.
From Fishermans Wharf you can easily reach other attractions such as Lombard Street and Chinatown on foot.
Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Park is an immense park that lies right next to the Golden Gate Bridge. In addition to beautiful walking routes, the recreational area covering more than 4 km² also contains various museums, an aquarium, sports fields and there is a typical windmill (Dutch Windmill) with a matching flower garden, donated by Queen Wilhelmina.
Although this park is far from being planned by all visitors to San Francisco, it is certainly more than worth a visit. Note that you can just spend a day. You can of course also limit yourself to a few highlights in order to save time.
If you enjoy shopping, Union Square should not be missed during your visit to San Francisco. All large department stores and retail chains are represented. But also countless restaurants, cafes, theaters and hotels adorn the busy streets of this district.
A nice way to get to Union Square is by cable car. They enter the area via Powell Street (for example, you can get in close to Fisherman’s Wharf).
Although Lombard Street is a very long street, it is best known for only a small part of it: the piece with eight sharp hairpin bends. It has earned Lombard Street the title of “the most winding street in the world”.
You can reach this winding street by cable car (route Powell-Hyde) but many visitors want to descend the winding road just by car. Please note that the waiting time to get down in busy periods can be extremely long.
Between Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf lies the Italian district of North Beach, also known as Little Italy. Visit this neighborhood for the Italian-oriented restaurants and coffee houses and especially for the busy nightlife.
How to explore the city
Unlike Los Angeles, for example, San Francisco is a city that can easily be explored on foot and by public transportation.
Some travelers who start their tour in San Francisco even pick up their rental car when they leave the city. Some nice ways to get around the city are the bike and the famous cable tram.
Hop On/ Hop Off Bus
But also the tourist Hop On / Hop Off buses are a fun and easy way to reach the famous sights. You can get in and out when you want and you do not have to worry about the route to follow.
San Francisco also has a metro system (the “muni”) that can quickly take you from one attraction to another. An advantage is that it is a cheap way of transport, a disadvantage could be that there is a lot less to see under the ground than above.
Are you going to explore the city by car then the 49 Mile Scenic Drive is a nice alternative. This route, created by the municipality of San Francisco, takes you past all the highlights of the city. The 49 Mile Scenic Drive starts at San Francisco City Hall and eventually takes you to Treasure Island with well-signed signs.
Discover San Francisco by bike.
A wonderful way to discover (a part) of San Francisco is by bike. Unlike many other American cities, the bicycle is a well-established means of transportation in the busy traffic of San Francsico. The city has a lot of suppliers who rent bicycles; both city bikes and mountain bikes.
A frequently driven route is the one over the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a unique experience to cycle over this beautiful structure and it gives you the opportunity to stop whenever you want; this is not the case with the car. When you cross the bridge you can cycle a few kilometers further to the pittoresque town of Sausalito. With the busy shopping streets and fine restaurants, this village is nice to stay.
The ferry can then return to San Francisco (including bicycle). You then pass Alcatraz and you have a nice view of the skyline of San Francisco. Golden tip: buy your ticket for the ferry from your bike rental company. This saves you in line in Sausalito. Please note that San Francisco has a lot of very steep roads; it could then be difficult to easily cycle up.
The Climate in San Francisco
Although San Francisco is located in the sunny state of California, the city also has many rain showers and fog banks. A fine period to go is just before the summer, or just after the summer. Not only do you statistically have the least chance of rain, but you also avoid the enormous hustle and bustle of the summer months.
Fog banks, however, can emerge out of nowhere and mist large parts of the city in a dense layer of (cold) fog. It is therefore advisable to dress in layers if you walk around longer.
Spend the night in or near San Francisco
San Francisco is generally an expensive city to spend the night. In addition, many hotels also charge costs for parking your car. The closer you want to be to popular attractions (Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square) the higher the room rate will be.
But if you are also happy with a motel, San Francisco has a lot to offer. There are many suppliers on Lombard Street who charge a lower price than many hotels. If you stay in San Francisco for longer than three days, it might be worthwhile to rent an apartment.
Wherever you stay, it is advisable not to look for a hotel in San Francisco on the best price. We advise you to secure your accommodation a few months before your departure
Click here for hotels and motels in the San Francisco area
Looking for a flight to San Francisco? Click here to search and book flight tickets.
Want to visit attractions in San Francisco on a cheaper way?
With The San Francisco Sightseeing Pass you can visit for free a number of attractions of your choice, the hop on-hop off bus, and several cruises in the bay. This is worth it in view of the high prices that are charged in this tourist city for individual attractions.
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