Situated in the north of California, this wonderful laid-back city is well know for it’s steep streets and cable cars. The moment you arrive, you get a feeling of belonging that you don’t really get in some other big American cities. Some of the San Francisco things to do and see are down to the city’s unique topography.
The famous hilly streets are very steep in places. Because of these, walking can be tough, but the cable cars and buses can alleviate some of this. Personally, I prefer to walk where possible as it’s the best way to take in all the great victorian buildings and neighbourhoods. And basing yourself around the Union Square area will give you a great place to go off site seeing from.
There is so much to do here that it’s a bit challenging making up a definitive list. But here are the attractions you should consider first.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is probably the most recognised suspension bridge in the world. Built in 1937 after over 4 years of construction, it was the longest in the world until 1960 when the Verrazano Narrows bridge in New York was built at 60 feet longer. It’s one-mile length over the strait connects the San Francisco peninsular to Marin county in the north. And with the two 746ft Art Deco towers, it’s easy to understand why it is one of the 7 wonders of the modern world.
On our first visit we walked across the bridge, which is worth it for the views of the skyline alone. On a recent visit we drove a hire car over and viewed the bridge via a boat trip. Overall, we found the boat was the best way to see this marvel in all it’s glory.
Nearest Bus Stop
Golden Gate Bridge Plaza (2)
Alcatraz island started off as a military prison back in 1828, becoming a federal prison in 1934. It has detained some famous criminals such as Al Capone, Robert “The Birdman” Stroud, & George “Machine Gun” Kelly
Being the subject of a few films, it’s a strange feeling standing in the cell once inhabitited by the ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’ Robert Stroud. And the eerie understanding that on New Years Eve, the inmates could often hear the distant sound of partygoers drifting across the bay from the mainland. This really puts you in the middle of it all.
If you’ve never been, put this on your list of San Francisco things to do and see, as it really shouldn’t be missed.
It’s worth doing the self guided tour as you can make your way around the prison at your own pace, stopping to enjoy the things that interest you more.
Only accessible by ferry, these run every 30-40 mins throughout the day. But check the summer v winter times for first and last ferries. After all, you really don’t want to be left behind here!
Nearest bus stop for ferry at pier 33
North Point St & Kearny St (8 & 8BX)
This famous white monument was built in 1933 and sits on top of Telegraph hill. It is named after Lillie Hitchock Coit, a patroness for the volounteer firefighters of San Francisco. She was also the benefactor for it’s construction.
The tower is art deco in design and the fact that it looks like a fire-hose, we are told, is just a coincidence.
At a height of 210ft (64m) on top of the 284ft (87m) Telegraph Hill, gives you fantastic 360 degree views of the city.
Since the stairs were closed a couple of years ago, it is only accessible by one lift, so the queue can become long. Get there early if possible or go as part of a tour that gives you a time slot.
Nearest Bus Stops
Telegraph Hill Boulevard (39)
Coit Tower (39)
This bustling harbour contains loads of restaurants, attractions & shops to keep you busy. You can pick up ferries here for tours around the harbour and Alcatraz. But it’s great for just walking around and taking in the atmosphere anyway. You’re never quiet sure what you’re going to come across next.
This famous pier in Fisherman’s Wharf is renowned for it’s attractions, shops, restaurants and of course, the resident sea lions.
The pier, like the whole of the wharf is always bustling with tourists. The noisy Sea lions can be found (and heard) near the end of the pier. If you want eat here, ensure you book a table as it took a few restaurants before we were able to settle down for lunch. But the clam chowder was to die for.
Live Street Performances show throughout the day near where an impressive 2-tier carousel resides. There is also the aquarium of the bay showcasing the local marine animals.
Nearest bus stops
North Point St. & Hyde St. ( 2,4,8,18,24,27,30,38,44,47,54,58,72,74,76 & 91)
A famous public plaza surrounded by department stores, boutiques & art galleries. Recognisable by it’s Dewy Monument in the centre with the Goddess of Victory at the top
Here you will find Macys, Levis, Tiffany & Co. & Saks among many other stores to peruse.
Comedy, theatre & music can often be found playing here along with ice skating in the winter months
This is a great area to stay and base yourself for the San Francisco things to do and see list.
Nearest bus stops
Post St & Grant Ave (38, 38R & 76x)
Post St & Grant St (2 & 3 )
Nearest tram stops
Powell St & Post St (PH, PM)
Geary St & Powell St (PH, PM)
Golden Gate Park
This beautiful park stretches nearly half way across the width of the San Francisco Peninsular. Starting from Ocean beach on the east side through to the Pan Handle in the centre.
Walking through it’s many paths and lakes, you’ll come across a multitude of different things to do.
Conservatory of flowers
A huge glasshouse containing thousands of flowers and plants.
California Academy of Sciences
A natural history museum containing a planetarium and aquarium
Japanese Tea Garden
Walk around a peaceful garden full of Japanese plants and flowers. Also includes Drum Bridge, a Pagoda and a waterfall.
If you like your animals, you can find a herd of American Bisons here grazing in their paddock. A strange site in a big city, but San Fran likes to do things differently.
Nearest bus stops
Across the north side (5 & 5R)
Mid south side (7, 7X, 28 & 29)
Other San Francisco things to do and see..
|City Hall||Lombard Street||The Painted Ladies|
An interesting neighbourhood with fantastic food. Go where the locals go!
Cable Car Museum
A museum dedicated to the city’s most famous mode of transport
San Francisco Marriott Marquis (View Lounge)
A 39th floor bar with incredible views across the city. Great for cocktails at night.
Other City Attractions