Hang out with hippies and have fun in the fog – it has to be San Francisco. One of the USA’s most charismatic and iconic destinations, this is a city that has everything – world famous landmarks, unique architecture and incredible cultural attractions. Need some inspiration? Then look no further than our definitive list of the top 10 things to do in San Francisco.
1) Cross the Golden Gate Bridge
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.
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 things to do 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 be simply too steep to tackle in a straight line. Climb the curves and smell the beautiful flowers planted in the beds along the way.
4) Head straight to the Haight
Starting in the 1960s and gathering around the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets, the hippie movement’s spiritual home was right here in San Francisco. It’s a little more upmarket these days but you can still find shops selling counterculture clothing, mystical keepsakes and even the occasional original hippie passing by.
5) Travel the world in Chinatown
America’s oldest and biggest Asian community is the place to go for incredible sights, sounds and smells. Pass under the Pagoda Gates on Grant Avenue and you’ll have traveled half way across the world in just a few steps. Visit at night to see the bustling district lit up by neon.
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.
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.
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.
9) Get colorful with the local architecture
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.
10) Sample a slice of Little Italy
Love Italian food? Then 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.