33 Places to Visit & Things to Do in San Francisco

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san francisco golden gate bridge
san francisco golden gate bridge

San Francisco, a town renowned for popular attractions, is the cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California. The population of the place is approximately 875 000. However, there is only one city that has a higher population density than San Francisco in the U.S., videlicet New York.

With its historic landmarks, leisure parks, and fascinating museums, the metropolis attracts millions of travelers every year. Nevertheless, San Francisco is not only a popular tourist destination but also gourmets’ favorite spot. Its stylish restaurants and cordon bleu chefs are very prominent.

Discover the best things to do in San Francisco and choose the ideal one for yourself.

Golden Gate Bridge

Engineer Joseph Strauss planned the Golden Gate Bridge, which connects San Francisco Peninsula with the Marin Country, in 1917. The structure, which is 1.7 miles in length, was the most stretched-out suspension bridge in 1937, viz. when it became accessible.

The Golden Gate Bridge is considered one of the Wonders of the Modern World. Moreover, Arthur Frommer, the famous creator of numerous travel guide books, described it as “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed bridge in the world.”

Alcatraz Island



Situated in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island is 1.25 miles away from the shoreline. The island functioned as a federal prison, a military prison, plus a military fortification in the middle of the 20th century. An interesting fact is that prisoners couldn’t escape due to the freezing water and strong currents.

Presently Alcatraz Island is a tourist destination, which can be reached by ferry for about 15 minutes from Pier 33. Things worth seeing on the island are the Main Cellhouse, Lighthouse, Water Tower, Model Industries Building, et cetera.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is a tourist attraction that more or less covers the northern waterfront part of San Francisco. It is the proud owner of a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, a shopping center, a historic park, and excellent seafood eateries. One can also buy fresh Dungeness crab from street vendors in case there is no time for a restaurant.

The best time to explore the waterfront area is on the fourth of July since there is a firework display at that time. And the best way of exploring the place is by renting a Segway or a boat. Do pay a call to the sea lion colony close to Pier 39 – a well-known shopping center.

  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Pier 39
  • Ghirardelli Square
  • Maritime State Historic Park
  • USS Pampanito
  • Art Institute
  • Telegraph Hill
  • Coit Memorial Tower
  • St Peters and Paul
  • The Cannery
  • Fort Mason
  • National Maritme Museum

Ride the Cable Cars

Engineer William Eppelsheimer brought the first cable car in San Francisco into being in 1873. Its possessors made a real success out of it, that’s why they created more cable cars. Consequently, there were 23 cable car lines between 1873 and 1890.

Unfortunately, cable cars lost popularity after the invention of electric streetcars. Today, only three lines are usable, and nobody but a tourist who longs to try his hand at something takes advantage of them.

Official site: www.sfcablecar.com/

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park, which is 1,017 acres in size, is grander than Central Park in New York and it is one of the most preferred central parks in the U.S. More than 13 million travelers explore the park’s lakes, gardens, dedicated areas, statues, and monuments annually.

Other unique features are a carousel, an aquarium, and a golf course. Furthermore, Golden Gate Park hosts countless events and amusements all year round. The photographic area is ideal for a wedding ceremony and an engagement party.

Official Site: www.goldengatepark.com

Chinatown

There are four Chinatowns in San Francisco, unlike other major cities that have only one. Excluding Asia, the Chinatown on Grant Avenue (a one-way street in San Francisco) is the largest on Earth, plus the oldest in North America. Two hospitals, hotels, parks, and numerous traditional shops are in existence within the boundaries of the town.

The four Chinatowns offer those who relish Chinese cuisine everything ranging from fried rice, Peking duck, and stinky tofu to congee, Kung Pao chicken, and scallion pancakes. To fully embrace the Chinese culture, attend the Autumn Moon Festival, held once a year during mid-September.

Legion of Honor

An elegant Neoclassical Beaux-Arts museum with an imposing setting in San Francisco, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor is one of San Francisco’s finest attractions. The Alma de Bretteville Spreckels Memorial was a gift from a socialite, philanthropist, and patron of the arts. Because of a love of French culture, the museum was designed as the facsimile of a French palace.

The Legion of Honor Museum boasts a fine collection of fine European decorative arts, sculpture, and paintings from the Mediterranean and Near East in addition to antiquities. Getting a ticket for this museum also grants you admission to the de Young Museum.

The museum is found in the beautiful Lincoln Park, with a golf course along with coastal woodlands and water features. The museum is close to the entrance of the Lincoln Highway, which has stunning ocean views and amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Those looking for an adventure-filled hike will enjoy visiting the Land’s End Trail. A winding, cliffside trail with panoramic views of San Francisco Bay opens up to a wide-ranging view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Official site: legionofhonor.famsf.org

Palace of Fine Arts


A prominent American architect, namely Bernard Maybeck, planned the Palace of Fine Arts in the 20th century. Initially, the buildings aimed to display art collections, but they have changed their functions several times. Now they are used as an art gallery.

The beautiful structure is considered a San Francisco Landmark, and it is an essential fragment of the National Register of Historic Places. With its specific design, the complex charms tons of visitors. If you happen to be there, you will probably see ducks, swans, geese, and raccoons since water encircles the palace.

Address: 3601 Lyon St, San Francisco, CA 94123, United States
Official site: www.palaceoffinearts.org

Have a pleasant walk around Union Square

Union Square is perfect for keen shoppers since it is home to numerous luxury boutiques. The most famous ones include Chanel, Bulgari, Gucci, and Prada. There are also cafes, inns, theatres, elegant hotels, and, last but not least, art galleries.
Moreover, dozens of events and activities take place here that you can attend day and night. In other words, there is never a dull moment in Union Square. By the way, the noticeable landmark, situated in the middle of the area, is the statue of the ancient Greek Goddess of Victory.

Academy of Sciences

The Academy of Sciences, a wondrous structure in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, is both an architectural masterpiece and a museum. The eco-friendly, innovative, sustainable building is built with a 2.5-acre Living Roof, covered with native plants and rolling hills to match the natural surroundings. The roof is completed with solar panels to generate electricity, and special soil prevents heat loss and cold air infiltration. The room is arched by large windows that admit natural light.

The inside of the aquarium contains an incredible natural history museum, planetarium, and rainforest. The Steinhart Ocean Experience includes 38,000 specimens and a 25-feet-deep coral reef. The Osher Forest consists of four floors that contain animals and amphibians. Because you can descend in a glass elevator to the deepest depths and see fish swimming overhead while looking down through an acrylic tunnel. The Kimball Natural History Museum is home to numerous specimen, including skeletons of a T-Rex and a blue whale.

Address: 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, United States
Official site: www.calacademy.org

DeYoung Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco


DeYoung Museum is a public art institution and a large fine art museum in San Francisco. Exhibit A details various time periods and locations. The museum features art and architecture not only from North America, but also from a wide range of countries such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Near East. There is a wide variety of British art and folk art from Africa, America, and the Pacific Islands.

Admission to the de Young Museum will include admission to the Legion of Honor for a reduced price.

Address: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, United States
Official site: www.deyoung.famsf.org/

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


The Museum of Modern art came into existence in 1935 in the War Memorial Building but in 1995 reopened in the SoMa district, a community in San Francisco. There was not a single museum that housed only art of the 20th century at that time on the West Coast.
There you might find paintings, sculptures, photos, and other pieces of art. The museum preserves essential artistic productions by Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, Andy Warhol, and so forth.
Official site: www.sfmoma.org
Address: 151 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103, United States

Twin Peaks

These two unique and uninhabited hills are not the highest of San Francisco’s 43 hills, which belongs to Mount Davidson, which is 33 feet higher. They have a great view of the city and bay and they’re not in use, they’re undeveloped and they’re easy to access. You can drive to the north peak parking area and hike to the north peak viewing platform and to the south peak view platform.

The Twin Peaks are the only hills in San Francisco that still exist as nature designed them. The Spanish called the women’s breasts the “Los pechos de la Chola” On hot days, a cool wind blows in from the Pacific Ocean, especially during the afternoon.

 Asian Art Museum


Avery Brundage, the creator of the Asian Art Museum, is an Asian art collector as well as a millionaire. In addition, he was the only American who became the president of the International Olympic Committee.
Found in 1966, the museum lies in Golden Gate Park. It owns over 18,000 pieces of art, some of which are nearly 6,000 years old. Furthermore, the building hosts large exhibitions throughout the year.

Pay a visit to the Exploratorium at Pier 15

Probably one of the best things to do in San Francisco is to make discoveries in the Exploratorium. The place is especially appropriate for children as they are able to expand their horizons there.
This museum of science, arts, and technology encompasses six galleries – each one concentrates on different areas. Frank Oppenheimer, who is a physicist and educator by profession, is its founder.

Address: Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94100, United States
Official site: www.exploratorium.edu

High Tea at a Historic Hotel

High tea at a historic hotel enhances the visualization and feel of the city of the Victorian era and turn of the century. Fairmont San Francisco on Nob Hill has a beautiful lounge area, which has an excellent ambiance. On Saturday and Sunday, the Fairmont’s Laurel Court serves afternoon tea.

The Ritz-Carlton in Nob Hill is famous for its high-quality afternoon tea service in The Lounge.

One of the city’s most notable hotels built in 1875, the Palace Hotel is located downtown. The breathtaking hotel dazzles visitors with its gorgeous Garden Court reception area, where finger sandwiches and scones are served as part of a classical afternoon tea.

There are walking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, and beautiful beach areas where people can enjoy. Some of the beaches have magnificent sights of the Golden Gate Bridge. The park is also rich with historical significance and exhibits Fort Baker, an important 19th-century military post.

Oracle Park

The home of the San Francisco Giants, Oracle Park is frequently visited by sports fans and visitors alike. If you cannot go to the game, you may want to take a tour of the inner workings of the stadium. You can learn about the history of the building and the historic aspects of the landscape. Tours are scheduled around games so you shouldn’t worry about missing out on a trip to the ballpark.

Initially called Pacific Bell Park, after that SBC Park, followed by AT&T Park, last of all, Oracle Park is a baseball park and the pearl of the city. If you are a baseball fan, there is no need to consider what to do in San Francisco. Merely go to the stadium and enjoy yourself while watching the San Francisco Giants.

Established as the New York Gotham’s in 1883, the team has proceeded as San Francisco Giants since 1958, viz. after settling in San Francisco. They have taken part in the World Series 20 times and lifted the World Series trophy eight times.

Address: 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107, United States

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a huge natural area located across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. This 600-square-mile park in Marin County is an internationally designated Biosphere Reserve and contains a variety of attractions. The park is a peaceful place to enjoy nature and relax.

Day Trip to Napa Valley

Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley are just a few hours from San Francisco, but the biggest grape-growing areas in California. A lot of people come to this area to stop at the sights and visit some of the sites. Situated in the Napa Valley, Napa is a city in the northern California wine country approximately 51 miles north of San Francisco.

This is a beautiful area with a relatively dry climate. Originally established in the 1840s, it was named after the long-extinct Napa Indian tribe. The western boundary is formed by the Napa range. The Howell Mountains form the eastern border of Napa County, and they provide protection from violent storms.

Hike and Picnic on Angel Island State Park

Only Alameda Island is more sizeable than Angel Island within the San Francisco Bay. Angel Island can be reached by ferry as long as you are in San Francisco. When on the island, use an open-air tram or Segway to explore the area.

Drink an excellent coffee in a cafe while chatting with your soul mates or take a bite in a snack bar. What’s more, nighttime amusements are available for those who long to dance and have fun with the island’s residents. However, you better search on the internet for the event schedule beforehand so as to visit the island at the right moment.

Ghirardelli Square

Domenico Ghirardelli, the most prosperous chocolatier within San Francisco, started up the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in 1852, when he was 35. The Broma process, a chocolate-making method, was found there by an employee of Domenico.
Today, Ghirardelli Square is full of elegant shops and stylish restaurants. The 5-star hotel, located in the Marina area, has 53 luxurious suites, and it is known to be one of the most comfortable hotels in the city.

Meet fascinating animals in Aquarium of the Bay


The aquarium first was called Underwater World, but in 2000 it was renamed to Aquarium of the Bay. The massive fish tank encompasses over 273 species and over 60,000 fish. The most interesting ones are leopard sharks, eels, kelpfish, swell sharks, and broad nose sevengill sharks.

One is able to come into physical contact with sea cucumbers, anemones, skates, leopard sharks, and sea stars. The place is also home to frogs, toads, newts, snakes, skinks, and other terrestrial animals.

Gulp down at the Ferry Building


In the past, the San Francisco Ferry Building functioned as a shelter for travelers from the East Bay. It was transformed into a marketplace in the 21st century. The structure possesses a 75m clock tower, and the clock bell rings out every hour and half-hour.

Go around high-class shops and dine in gourmet restaurants. In case you are not a shopping lover, there are countless events that you can attend with your amigos and have a great time together.

Enjoy the view from Coit Tower


Lillie Hitchcock Coit, an uncommon woman who used to don men’s clothes, had a deep desire to prettify San Francisco. But she departed this life in 1929, leaving a large sum of money to those who can satisfy her will.
The construction of the Coit Tower finished in 1933 using the heritage of Lillie, and in 2008 it was part of the National Register of Historic Places. Now everyone is able to admire the spectacular views of the town and nearby bay.

Ramble amongst the Redwood Trees


Covering 554 acres, Muir Woods National Monument rests on Tamalpais Mount in Marin country. And its unique redwood forests sit on 240 acres of land.
Thus, there is a large area for walking and relaxation. To have a picnic is another good option supposing you take a day off. If you have a pet, it is okay to walk him here since the park is pet-friendly.

Discover the oldest Japanese Tea Garden in the U.S.


Opened in 1894, the San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden covers five acres. Designed in a Japanese style and filled with native Japanese plants, the spot makes you feel like in Japan. On the other hand, structures connected with Buddhism, stones, and elements of water help you relieve the pressure on your brain.

Go across the Bay Bridge


The Bay Bridge has not only lanes for motorcars but also for bicycles and foot-travelers. The bridge, which links San Francisco Bay and Oakland, is used by about 240,000 vehicles on a daily basis.
Once a fragment of the bridge fell, which led to its closure for four weeks. Fortunately, it was successfully fixed and carried on perfectly functioning.

Take a walk along Ocean Beach


Ocean Beach is the perfect point for sunbathing, surfing, and swimming. It never gets overcrowded, plus the ocean is perfectly calm. Slow down, go there, and stop worrying about your work, duties, or exams.
There are neither towering structures nor loud nightclubs. You may hear only stunning sounds of birds chipping and the ocean waves.

Go to Yerba Buena Gardens


Yerba Buena Gardens stand in the center of the town. Activities that you can do there are subbing in a restaurant, going to a cafe or the theatres, and visiting museums.

The park, one of the most beautiful recreation areas, offers every kind of San Francisco attractions, such as bowling and ice skating. The gorgeous historic carousel within the park is what your child needs.

Explore the Walt Disney Family Museum


The Walt Disney Family Museum, situated in the Presidio of San Francisco, was found in 2009. Stretching out for 40,000 square feet, the museum provides a lot of room to explore.
Here is held the tiny reproduction of Disneyland and 24 rewards obtained by Disney. Have a look at the uncommon corner where travelers watch Disney classics every day.

Stop and take a breath at the Presidio of San Francisco


The Presidio of San Francisco was a military building designed to defend from attack. Now it is a park, but the remains of the U.S. Army fort are well preserved. There is a Presidio Visitor Center to dig up further information about activities that the park offers.

Idle away the hours admiring the view of the Pacific Ocean or go for a walk with your companion. The park has spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge too.

Where to Stay in San Francisco for Sightseeing

If you’re looking for a place to stay in San Francisco, the best location is at Union Square. You will find the absolute best shops, restaurants, galleries, theaters, and hotels here. San Francisco’s famous Chinatown is within walking distance, and Union Street is a major transportation hub, which makes it easy to venture further afield to other attractions. Fisherman’s Wharf is also a popular place to stay with its great atmosphere and beautiful scenery—especially for families seeking a less hectic vacation. Below are some of the best places to visit in San Francisco.

  • Luxury Hotels: A 12-minute walk from Union Square to the Loews Regency Hotel in San Francisco’s financial district provides some of the city’s best views of the bay and skyline. Other luxury options include the Four Seasons hotel around the corner from Union Square and the Ritz-Carlton which is also conveniently near Union Square.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: The Chancellor Hotel on Union Square offers excellent value in the heart of Union Square, while the Cornell Hotel de France boutique exudes Parisian style in a convenient location between Union Square and Nob Hill. Courtyard by Marriott Fishermans Wharf is an excellent choice in a hot seaside setting – especially for families who are looking for accommodation a short stroll away from Ghirardelli Square in this popular tourist spot.
  • Budget Hotels: If you need to keep within a budget, the Herbert Hotel may be a valid option near Union Square. There is The Castle Inn, which is located in between both, for those who can’t decide between staying in Fishermans Wharf and Union Square. It is a short walk from Fishermans Wharf and Union Square in approximately 25 minutes and 30 minutes.

Tips and Tours: How to get the most out of your San Francisco visit

Several great tours around San Francisco make getting around the city simple and quick. Though San Francisco is a large city built on hills, with many uphill climbs and stairs, tours are especially effective for those experiencing mobility issues, but also for people who have only a couple of days to see as much of the city as possible without the challenges of driving or trying to find parking. There are a number of ways to save time, see the sights and enjoy the outdoors. Prices are guaranteed to be the cheapest.

  • See the sights: The way to experience the most extensive sightseeing in San Francisco is by taking the Big Bus San Francisco Hop-On Hop-Off Tour. This double-decker bus tour allows you to get on and off at the important tourist places and allows you to see various aspects of the city while learning a little history and seeing the tour highlights. Use a San Francisco Waterfront Segway Tour to save money on your sightseeing tour by riding around Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and other popular spots.
  • Cruise the Bay: To enjoy the city skyline in a leisurely sunset cruise, one should take a Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise. This 90-minute cruise takes in the sights of Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge while the sunsets and the city lights start to glow.
  • Get out of the city: Within striking distance of some fantastic scenery lies San Francisco. To see some of the fabulous coastline, shop Cannery Row in Monterey, see the charming seaside town of Carmel and take the famous 17 Mile Drive, try the San Francisco Bay Area Monterey/Carmel, 17 Mile Drive Day Trip. Another exciting trip, offering a chance to visit one of the United States’ greatest national treasures, is the Tour of Yosemite National Park. This is a must for hikers who want to see famous sites like Half Dome and the Giant Sequoias in Sequoia National Park. This tour has free pickup and drop-off points in some San Francisco hotels. For a half-day trip that emphasizes nature, sightseeing, and shopping, the Muir Woods, Giant Redwoods, and Sausalito Half-Day Tour is a well-rounded tour. This tour is available in the morning or in the afternoon, and also can be booked with pickup and drop off at hotels.
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