San Francisco is a city that I was fortunate enough to visit three times last year; once during our California road trip and once for work. I felt like I got to know the city quite well during my visits and want to share with you my top 11 things to do/see whilst in San Francisco. You can also read more about some of the things I did in more detail here.
1.Get the ferry to Alcatraz Prison
Visiting Alcatraz should be at the top of your list during your time in San Francisco. It is my number one thing to do; I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would – it completely surpassed my expectations. Although like many people told me before visiting if you really want to visit Alcatraz you should get your tickets even before you travel as it can get booked up months in advance. The whole production and the way they tell the prisoners story is very well done and I would also recommend the photography exhibition showing the final days of Alcatraz before it closed down.
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge is what San Francisco is most well known for and seeing it for the first time is as spectacular as you would expect. Rather than just taking a selfie with the Golden Gate bridge in the background (yes this was my wallpaper background for a good few months after our trip), I would suggest setting aside one day in your itinerary for a cycle from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate bridge and down to Sausalito. You can then spend some time in Sausalito and cycle back or get the ferry with lots of other cyclists. There is also the option to turn back as soon as you get across the bridge and make your way back over back to San Francisco.
3. Watch a San Francisco Giants Baseball game
As a European travelling to America the idea of going to see a sports game is so exciting. If you go in the right season you should definitely see if the San Fran Giants are playing at home. It is very expensive whilst inside the stadium but you can make the night cheaper by drinking at some of the pubs opposite the stadium before you go in, this is also a good way to meet some of the local Giants supporters.
4. Catch the cable car (Market Street to Fishermans Wharf)
This is one of the most iconic things to do in San Francisco and is something you should do to feel like you have visited the city. There are lots of different cable car routes throughout the city as we were staying in the Hilton near Union Square the Market Street to Fishermans Wharf line was perfect for us. If you take this route you will most likely have to queue but it does move quickly and lots of people can fit on each journey. To get the whole experience I would recommend riding on the outside of the carriage, although at points I did freak out – I was holding on SO tight! The route we took was from Market Street to Fisherman’s Wharf which is number 6 on my list to visit – two birds, one stone!
5. Traverse the local neighbourhoods
You can’t beat getting a city by walking around and one thing you will learn quickly is just how many steep hills there are in San Francisco. Sometimes it’s nice to not have an agenda and just walk around stopping for pictures and coffee and cake as you go. This is the best time to stumble upon a new cafe or restaurant you weren’t expecting to find.
6. Explore Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39
Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are both busy tourist hotspots in San Francisco, with lots of choices of places to eat particularly fish and seafood. You can spend ages seal watching at Pier 39, it doesn’t sound it but trust me this is actually really amusing.
7. Spend an afternoon in Sausalito
Sausalito is a picturesque town the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge with an almost Italian riviera feel. There are lots of boutique shops and a wide variety of places to eat and drink along the water. With lots of methods of transport to get to Sausalito from San Francisco you really will be spoilt for choice.
8. Boat cruise under the Golden Gate bridge
This was something we hadn’t actively planned to do, we did it because it was part of a package we booked but it ended up being really good. It’s nice to see the Golden Gate Bridge from different angles and is quite exciting when you do actually get to go underneath it.
9. Castro district – rainbow crossing
I can’t think what could brighten up your day more than visiting the Castro district in San Francisco. The Castro district is the epitome of pride and rainbows all around you, there’s even a road crossing that gets a lot of camera time. The Castro district is a happy and fun place that you can mooch around at any point in the day or night.
10. Visit Haight-Ashbury
The Summer of Love took place in 1967 as more than 100,000 ‘hippies’ hung out around Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco. When we visited it was the 50 year anniversary so this was a big talking point in the city. There are lots of trendy cafes, boutique/vintage shops and a great choice of food around Haight-Ashbury, as well as lots of graffiti and artwork for you to admire and of course take pictures of.
As you can see there is lots to do in San Francisco and I really do hope that you explore and enjoy the city as much as I did. For those of you heading to San Francisco soon I hope you’ve enjoyed my top tips and have an amazing trip!
Katie Travels xo