Top Ten Things to do in San Francisco

After 4 years as a San Francisco local, I’ve comprised a list of the top 10 things for you do while you’re visiting this gorgeous city that’s full of history and rich culture.

1. Walk or bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge (obvi!)

With stunning views of San Francisco Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and Sausalito, you can't miss seeing one of the most famous structures in the world! The only thing is, it's a gamble whether "Karl the Fog" will destruct your view.

Tip: Wear layers, San Francisco is notoriously cold and windy

2. Drink an Irish coffee (or five) at Buena Vista. They really are the best!

Buena Vista has been around since 1916. The delicious Irish coffee concoctions are so delish. Truly the best I've ever had. The bar is right next to Ghirardelli Square so you can also roam here before or after to check out the shops and restaurants. And if you’re not a drinker go and have some chocolate instead!

Photo by Sarah Power

Photo by Sarah Power


3. Take a tour of Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island was once a maximum security prison in the middle of San Francisco Bay. The day tour is calming and serene if it's a nice day on the island surrounded by water. The night tour feels a little more eerie when you're out on this secluded island that once held United States most notorious criminals.

Tip: Book far in advance, it fills up quickly!

Photo by Mattia Bericchia 

4. Eat dim sum in China Town

San Francisco’s China Town is largest chinatown outside of Asia. Chinese residents still reside in this part of town, and their local grocery stores and small shops takeover this part of the city that is rich in culture. There are countless dim sum (small bite-sized portions) restaurants to choose from. Try some steamed pork buns, shrimp dumplings, or spring rolls to name a few. Check out this list from SF Eater to select a restaurant.

Photo by Kae Ng

Photo by Kae Ng

5. Grab Lunch at the Ferry Building

The ferry building is a beautiful terminal on the water for ferries that travel on the bay. It has many amazing shops and food delights. Grab a coffee at Blue Bottle and roam the long hallway filled with chocolatiers, ice cream, sandwiches and more. If you want a nice sit down meal head to The Slanted Door for some Vietnamese cuisine. Be sure to arrive with an empty stomach!


6. Explore Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is massive, you can spend an entire day here, or two, or three… I recommend starting at the Science Museum or the De Young Museum. From there, you can wander to see the Japanese Gardens or even go Paddle Boating. There are some bison to view, archery, a brewery and so much more. Spend a full day exploring it by foot, bike or a GoCar (see #8). 


7. Visit Sutro Baths & Hike Lands End

If you're anything like me, you like a good story behind a site. Sutro Baths was formally a large public bath house and is now beautiful ruins along the Pacific coastline. You can park here and do a 3 mile out and back hike called Lands End, taking on views of the Pacific Ocean and eventually the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’ve worked up an appetite at the end, dine at The historic Cliffhouse or the more casual Lookout Café.

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8. Rent a Go Car

There is no better way to see the city in my opinion, then in a GoCar. You can get a good feel for the different regions and all of the sites while taking in the fresh sea air and hearing about all the history from its automated voice activation. Book A Car


9. Grab Bi-Rite Sandwiches or Ice Cream and have a Picnic in Dolores Park

The mission district is a young hipster part of the city with a beautiful park in its midst. Dolores Park boast stunning views, and is more frequented than any beach in San Francisco. This is because the Mission's micro climate is warmer than most in the city, so there's more opportunity to bask in the sunshine and people watch. Grab some food or ice cream from nearby Bi-Rite and throw down a blanket. 

10. Try San Francisco Sourdough at Boudin At The Wharf

Boudin Sourdough has been around since the Gold Rush days. Visit their flagship location at The Wharf to learn about the history and try a chowder bread bowl with a crisp Chardonnay.  

Skip it.

As a former San Franciscan, I'd say Union Square is quite boring unless maybe you’re visiting from another country and want to snag some American goods. It's basically all your standard shops like H&M and the Apple Store centralized in one area with a lot of high rises.

Fisherman's Wharf: Besides visiting Boudin, this area is a tourist trap with bad seafood, and cheesy gift shops. It's very unrepresentative of the city itself, and San Francisco is overflowing with amazing restaurants in other parts of the city. Spend a limited amount of time here.

Do you have any other tips or favorite places in San Francisco? Please leave in the comments below!

Are you planning a trip soon? These are some of my favorite sites for finding places to stay, book tours, and more: