Things to do in San Francisco: San Francisco was a dream destination for tourists from all over the world during the hippie era. The Californians themselves are very proud of their exciting city, where today about 830,000 people live. In the “City by the Bay” there is also a lot to see and to experience. To help you stay on top of your “San-Fran” visit, we have put together 14 things to do in San Francisco.
“No city makes your heart rise as much as San Francisco. Arriving in San Francisco is a lifetime experience.” Said William Saroyan (1908-1981), one of the most important US writers of the 20th century
On the one hand, there is the stunning location on the Pacific Ocean and the Bay of San Francisco, on the other hand, there is the open sea, spanned by one of the most beautiful and photographed bridges in the world – the Golden Gate Bridge.
With its Victorian cottages, historic cable cars rattling up and down the steep streets, thriving arts and music and numerous parks, there is no shortage of things to do in San Francisco.
Here is our take on things to do in San Francisco.
1. See the city from above
San Francisco is built on and between a total of 42 hills. There are many places to enjoy fantastic views of the city and the bay but it is best to approach the city by getting an overview from above. This is best done from the so-called Twin Peaks, which rise south of the more densely populated urban area and reveal the view of the Pacific, the bay, the skyline, Downtown, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge.
2. Bike tour through the city
Admittedly, San Francisco with its many hills is no easy place for cyclists. But to explore the city by bike is worth it. In many places, there are rent stations where renting cycles for 24 hours cost around 30 US dollars. You will also get route suggestions and maps here. A beautiful round trip leads through Golden Gate Park, Lincoln Park, and Presidio via the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and back. Cycle over the 67-meter high bridge with its red pylons is an experience you should not miss anyway.
3. Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is undoubtedly the most visited attraction and tops the list of things to do in San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge is visible from almost any point in the city but there are a few places in the city that amplify its significance.
The bridge is at its best in the following places:
Battery Spencer: The former military post is on the opposite side of the bridge. From there you can take the typical postcard of a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge – with the San Francisco skyline in the background.
Baker Beach: If you want to see the bridge from a never before seen angle, you can do it from the Baker Beach in Presidio. The beach is surrounded by cliffs and offers a beautiful backdrop especially at sunset.
Alcatraz: The bridge in all its glory can also be seen wonderfully from the eastern prison island of Alcatraz.
Boat tour through the bay: You can, of course, admire the Golden Gate Bridge from all possible perspectives, even from below on a boat tour. The Starting point is Fisherman’s Wharf.
4. Visit Angel Island
Everyone goes to Alcatraz but there is another island in the San Francisco Bay that is definitely worth a visit: Angel Island. From there you can also enjoy fantastic views of the city skyline, and the Golden Gate Bridge can be photographed with Alcatraz in front of it. There are daily ferries to Angel Island from San Francisco. The view is even more magnificent after climbing to the highest point, the 240-meter-high Mount Livermore.
5. Chilling at Alamo Square
With so much sightseeing, a breather is also needed. You can either spend it in one of the many parks in the city or enjoy the views of the famous Painted Ladies, a strip of Victorian, multicolored, 19th-century wooden houses. The steep street with Victorian homes, which used to house gambling dens and brothels, is one of the most beautiful in San Francisco.
6. Steepest street of the city
The steepest street of the city at 17.5 Degrees is one of the steepest streets in the world. Filbert Street begins in Presidio and heads east down Russian Hill to Telegraph Hill. It would take you over an hour to walk all Filbert Street from start to finish and that is if you are in pretty good condition. Strangely, it is one of the best things to do in San Francisco and is really popular amongst people who want to cross the street in record time. The street has been used in several action films as a “ski jump” for daring stunts.
7. Curviest street of the city
In addition to the steepest, you should not miss the curvy street of the city, Lombard Street. Motorists have been able to meander through serpentine-like streets for 90 years. Today, Lombard Street is a popular and rewarding photo opportunity with the cars parked at an angle in the bends.
8. Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39
Fisherman’s Wharf should definitely be part of things to do in San Francisco. In addition to many fish restaurants, there are also a number of shops, galleries, and museums. And of course one of the main attractions of the city: Pier 39, where hundreds of sea lions criss-cross over each other. For the first time, the sea lions appeared in 1989 after an earthquake at the harbor pier. The reason was that they felt safer here. They stayed and multiplied. There are up to 1700 animals. The bay is a paradise for the sea lions as in addition to plenty of food, they find protection from weather, currents and natural enemies such as sharks.
9. Culinary Wonderland
In California, sustainable agriculture is now given extreme importance. If you’ve had enough of burgers and coke, you will find a culinary wonderland in the Ferry Building Marketplace at the Embarcadero with a large selection of organic produce from local production as well as great gourmet restaurants.
10. A visit to Chinatown
Culinary highlights of a completely different kind can be found in Chinatown, one of the largest of its kind in the USA. About 80,000 people live in the district, which is characterized by Chinese architecture and decoration. The district was founded in 1850, and you can actually experience a bit of real China here.
11. The cable cars
Since 1873, the historic tram rattles at 15 kilometers per hour through the city center. You can also board the cable car and drive up and down the hills. The cost is $ 5 one way with a waiting time of up to 30 minutes on the most popular tourist route on line 60. The historic wagons are the most beautiful to look at from the outside and is one of the best things to do in San Francisco.
12. Visit Alcatraz
A visit to the legendary prison island Alcatraz is definitely included in every list of things to do in San Francisco. The crossing by boat takes about 20 minutes and is in itself a highlight because of the great view of the skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. On the island, you can move freely and accompanied by an audio tour. Be sure to book in advance.
Market Street, San Francisco’s main thoroughfare, is packed with restaurants, cafes, and shops. The largest shopping area has major department stores such as Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s or Barneys New York. If you like to shop individually, go to Haight Street. There are fancy clothes stores, bookstores and record shops, as well as many nice cafes and restaurants, especially in the old hippie district in the section around Ashbury Street. Anyone looking for bargains from Asia can shop in Chinatown, where everything is sold, from clothes to Asian furniture and Buddha statues in all variations, to kitsch decorations and electronic gadgets of all kinds.
14. Mission District
One of the coolest neighborhoods in San Francisco is the Mission District in the western part of downtown, named after Mission Dolores, San Francisco’s oldest surviving building. The Latino neighborhood is known for its street art, graffiti and murals, most of which can be found in Balmy Street, Clarion Alley, and 18th Street. Here is the famous Women’s Building, It is a house covered in painting from top to bottom. It shows famous women of different skin color, who stood up for world peace. The Mission District also has many cafes and the supposedly best Mexican restaurants in the city.
There is something about San Francisco that is particularly attractive. Life here is both fast and slow, celebrated and ignored, accepting and protesting. Maybe that is what makes this city so special. So, we hope this list of things to do in San Francisco will certainly help you better explore the city and also enjoy your time in San Fran.