Visiting the hilly, hipster city of San Francisco for 3 days only? There’s so much to see and do, from cruising over the Golden Gate Bridge and visiting Alcatraz to tucking into freshly-made clam chowder.
We’re here to help you plan your San Francisco itinerary. Follow our guide below to get your San Francisco sightseeing fix in just 3 days…
This offbeat corner of the US lines up loads of unique attractions and iconic sights. There’s the famous Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, and quirky sights like the world’s most crooked street and the seal-filled Pier 39 to see.
Take a whistle-stop tour of the best San Francisco sights on your first day in the city. Book a hop-on, hop-off guided bus tour so you can stop at any sights that take your fancy. And, enjoy the live commentary, historical information and top tips on how to spend the rest of your time.
Your tour will start at Fisherman’s Wharf. You’ll see the wild sea lions that live on Pier 39 and the restored 19th- and 20th-century ships lining the waterfront at the Hyde Street Pier. You’ll then be whisked off to Union Square, which is packed full of boutiques, restaurants and galleries, and the famous Golden Gate Bridge where you’ll get that iconic San Francisco snap. After that, it’s onto the pretty Palace of Fine Arts and then Lombard Street, the curviest road in the world. You’ll also make stops at Chinatown, Alamo Square, the Marina District, and many more – phew!
Hop off and walk around the famous sights – especially the Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street – if only for the novelty value. Spend some time visiting the museums and galleries on route too.
Day Tour – Red Route
Sourdough is San Francisco’s famous savory snack. Head to Boudin Bakery on Fisherman’s Wharf and watch the sourdough being kneaded and baked from scratch. The sights and smells of the bread being baked are mouthwatering enough. After watching how it’s made, tuck into the famous clam chowder which comes in an edible sourdough bread bowl.
After chowing down on that amazing chowder, head to Pier 39's secret tiki bar, Luau Lounge, for a cheeky nightcap.
Day Tour – Red Route, Stop: Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf
You can’t holiday in San Francisco without paying a visit to the former federal prison, Alcatraz. It was home to some of the worst criminals in the US in the 1970s, including Al ‘Scarface’ Capone and the Birdman of Alcatraz, who you’ll learn all about on your trip. On the island you can tour the cell house to see where the prisoners lived and get amazing views of the San Francisco skyline from the island. Advanced ticket reservations are essential if you’re visiting in summer, so make sure you don’t miss out.
If you’ve got time to spare after visiting Alcatraz Island, head to the seaside bay of Sausalito. Here you’ll get amazing views of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge, with a boardwalk to stroll along and a small black sand beach to enjoy. There are plenty of restaurants serving fresh crabs, lobsters and sea bass if you’re a seafood fan too.
Sausalito Tour – Green Route
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the biggest in the whole of the US. And, it boasts some of the best Chinese food in the country. Head there for a dim sum and fortune cookie feast to round off a packed day of sightseeing.
Day Tour – Red Route, Stop: Chinatown Gate
Now that you’ve seen the main city sights, it’s time to explore some of the nearby attractions. If you want to spend more time on California’s breath-taking coastline, join a Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea tour. You’ll travel down Highway 1 spotting seals and watching waves crash against the rocks. And, you’ll get to stop and explore two small beach cities along the way.
Or, if you fancy yourself as more of a wine lover, take a wine country tour and explore the famous regions of Napa and Sonoma Valley. On your visit to these world-renowned wine regions, you’ll enjoy estate tours and plenty of tasting. Plus, you’ll get to explore the boutiques and local art galleries of Sonoma Square.
If you’re not too tired after that wine-fueled sightseeing, make a pit stop at the Bay Bridge to enjoy the orchestrated Bay Lights night show. It started off as a temporary art installation and has now become a much-loved permanent fixture.
Sorted for your San Francisco holiday? Follow our 3-day itinerary and you’ll get the perfect mix of top sights, historic attractions, beaches and California’s breath-taking coastline. And if you've got more time in this Golden City, click here for more ideas on how to spend your time.