San Francisco is one of the USA’s most charismatic and iconic destinations. From world-famous landmarks, unique architecture and incredible cultural attractions, this is the city that has everything.
If you’re planning a visit and need some inspiration for what to do, look no further than our definitive list of the top 10 things to do in San Francisco…
1. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge
If you’re wondering what to see in San Francisco, why not start at the city’s biggest and boldest landmark? One of the most identifiable bridges in the world, you can cross this 1.2-mile (2-kilometer) icon to enjoy the best views of the city from the north side. Marvel at this engineering masterpiece and take the obligatory selfie with the distinctive red metalwork in the background.
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Red & Green Route, Stop: North Vista Point/Golden Gate Bridge
2. Experience lock down in Alcatraz
Despite closing its doors in 1963 and only being a prison for 29 years, Alcatraz is still the most infamous jail in the world. Located on an island in the middle of the freezing bay, surrounded by swirling currents, no one ever managed to escape. Or did they? Find out more on a tour. But book early – as it’s one of the most popular places to visit in San Francisco.
3. Zig zag down Lombard Street
The city’s most famous residential street has a popular reputation as the ‘crookedest’ in the city. With 8 switchbacks in 600 feet (180 meters) it would simply be too steep to tackle in a straight line. Climb the curves and smell the beautiful flowers planted in the beds along the way. If you want to turn this into a fun San Francisco activity, up the ante by wearing a pair of rollerblades on your way down.
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Red Route, Stop: Lombard Street
4. Head straight to the Haight
Ever wondered where the hippie culture started? Well, in the 1960s groups of spiritual freethinkers would gather around Haight-Ashbury, making San Fran the home of the movement. It’s a little more upmarket these days but you can still find shops selling counterculture clothing, mystical keepsakes and even see the occasional original hippie passing by. How’s that for a historic San Francisco attraction?
Red Route, Stop: Haight Ashbury
5. Travel the world in Chinatown
One of the main San Francisco points of interest, Chinatown here is America’s oldest and biggest Asian community. You can expect incredible sights, sounds and delicious food any time of the day. Pass under the Pagoda Gates on Grant Avenue and you’ll have travelled half way across the world in just a few steps. Go at night to see the bustling district illuminated with neon lights.
Red Route, Stop: Chinatown Gate
6. Hang out with the hippies in Golden Gate Park
This 1,017-acre (4-square-kilometer) park stretches for almost 50 city blocks from the middle of the city to the foot of the bridge. Made famous in the 1960s as the ultimate hippie hang out, stroll its tree-lined boulevards and even catch a glimpse of the bison that have roamed freely here since 1891. Wear comfortable shoes and tick off San Francisco sightseeing from your itinerary here.
Red Route, Stop: Golden Gate Park
7. Splurge in Union Square
In the mood for some retail therapy? Then head straight to Union Square and splash the cash in San Francisco’s fashion capital. It’s one of the best shopping districts in the US – where you’ll find iconic department stores and high-end boutiques. Spend an afternoon here and take a photo next to the tram, it’s simply a must-do in San Francisco.
Red Route, Stop: Union Square South
8. Meet sea lions at Pier 39
As well as the shopping precinct built here in the 1970s, this part of the city is famous for its colony of cheeky sea lions that moved in and took over Pier 39. You can watch as they playfully push each other off the dock or enjoy some delicious hot clam chowder from one of the seafood stalls on the pier. This is one of San Francisco’s top attractions.
Red Route, Stop: Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf
9. Get colorful with the local architecture
Want to spend a few hours admiring the architecture at one of the prettiest San Francisco tourist spots? Across the city you’ll find around 14,000 brightly painted Victorian wooden houses. These ‘Painted Ladies’ have become famous around the world as a symbol of the city. Perhaps the best examples are located at Alamo Park.
Red Route, Stop: Alamo Square
10. Sample a slice of Little Italy
Love Italian food and wondering where to go in San Francisco? Check out Little Italy. A wave of Italian migrants settled here from Liguria, bringing with them their amazing ability to cook. Try the stunning seafood creations or wander the area around North Beach, where the Beat generation’s biggest writers – including Ginsberg and Kerouac – hung out in the 1950s.
Red Route, Stop: Washington Square/North Beach
Pick any activity from this list and you’re bound to experiencing one of the best things to do in San Francisco. If they all sound good and you’re hoping to fit them all into your trip, hop on one of our San Francisco bus tours, the perfect way to explore this magical city!