San Francisco is such an amazing place! There is such an incredible range of things to see and do. The landscape is almost unlike any other city I have been to. There are these amazingly steep hills that fall straight into the water, beautiful beaches and of course, the man-made attractions. The city itself is now pretty obsessed with the whole Silicon Valley thing, but before that it was a creative place filled with artists and alternative types from all over the world. It has been called home by the likes of Jerry Garcia, Jack London, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac and Tom Hanks, just to name a few.
Besides just walking through the streets taking in the architecture of the houses, which is an amazement in itself, these are the 7 best things to do in San Francisco I recommend enjoying while you are there.
Insider Tip: If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing while in San Francisco, you might want to get the Go San Francisco Card. The card gives you free entry to 30 of the Bay Area’s best attractions and tours, as well as various discounts.
1. Ride the Golden Gate Bridge
This is one of the best things to do in San Francisco. There are bike rental places almost everywhere you go in SF, and it is not that expensive for the day. Prices vary depending on where you go. Alternatively, you can join a guided tour. As you ride over the bridge you will get a perfect feel for the sheer size of it, which to me was mind-blowing and extremely hard to capture. Once you actually get over the bridge, if you take a hard right at the end you will ride to the bottom of a steep hill, which will give you another perspective of just how massive it actually is, and another opportunity for some nice photos.
2. Walk Through Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is an enormously long park that runs almost halfway across the SF Peninsula. If you start at the east end you will also be very close to the popular Haight-Ashbury region, which is also worth a look. Also located at the very eastern end of the park, on Thursdays is a big range of different food trucks where you can try some amazing food. There are a hundred different tracks you can take through the park, and it is completely up to you which way you want to go, but I normally stick to the south side as you will eventually walk into the botanical gardens, which are really beautiful! As you continue towards the ocean you will actually come across buffalo that have a massive enclosure, and it is kind of weird to see something like that in the middle of a city. If you do decide to walk the whole way, you will come out at the west end close to an old school windmill and then across the road you have Ocean Beach, which brings me to my next point.
3. Take a Walk Down Ocean Beach
Ocean Beach is a beautiful beach located to the southwest side of the Golden Gate Bridge. This area tends to be a little neglected by tourism, and you can find yourself alone on the beach quite easily. There are a host of cute cafes and beautiful little beach cottages just back from the beach on the other side of the road. Be careful swimming though if you decide to because the water can be a little dangerous.
If you have done all this walking in one day you are probably a little tired, so a few blocks south of the park on Judah St there is a tram line that will take you all the way back into the city. The trams are also a very typical fun thing to do once or twice whilst in San Francisco.
4. A Day Tour of Alcatraz
This is your typical tourist thing to do in San Francisco and you will be with a bunch of other tourists, but it is also a very interesting piece of history and not something I can ever imagine someone being disappointed after doing. Walking through the cells and thinking about the people and the history that has amassed over the years was amazing to me. I got totally lost in my mind picturing what it was like to be imprisoned there. You can book your Alcatraz tour here.
5. Visit Marin County
Marin is San Francisco’s warmer, sunnier cousin located on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is easily accessible if you ride over the bridge or by ferry from the Financial District to Sausalito. You also have the option of taking your bike on the ferry back to get the best of both worlds. Marin Headlands would be my suggestion here, it runs along the southern coast and is a big, hilly park area that gives amazing views of the Bay Area and the Golden Gate Bridge.
6. Muir Woods
If nature is your thing then Muir Woods is also a must-see. It is an ancient redwood forest located a short drive outside of San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge and a little bit past Sausalito. Once you enter the park you are completely surrounded by giant redwoods, which by sheer size are jaw-dropping. It is hard not to question your own existence thinking about the age of these giants.
7. Eat Your Way Through San Francisco
No matter what your taste you are sure to find it in San Francisco. From raw vegan restaurants to BBQ ribs and beer, you will find whatever you want and almost all of it is done extremely well! San Fran, alongside New York City, is one of the few places I allow myself to eat out twice a day just because the range, quality and price of the food is so amazing! I have already mentioned the food trucks, but they are also worth a look if you are not familiar with them!
Popular Tours in San Francisco
Below are some popular tours in San Francisco that you might enjoy doing.
- San Francisco Hop-on Hop-off Tour
- Golden Gate Bay Cruise
- Alcatraz Ticket with 3-Hour Bicycle Tour at Sunset
Where to Stay in San Francisco
Here are our top recommendations of hostels and hotels in San Francisco. All are centrally located, highly rated and have excellent facilities.
- Best Hostel: HI San Francisco – Downtown
- Best Budget Hotel: Hotel Beresford Arms
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Grand Hyatt San Francisco
- Best Luxury Hotel: Palace Hotel
Don’t forget to also take a look at Airbnb. They have many accommodation options available in San Francisco, and many of them are cheaper than your average hotel.