San Francisco offers many amazing attractions and sights, making it an essential stop on any California travel itinerary.
Visit Coit Tower to take in its picturesque views. It also features some exquisite murals that tell San Francisco’s fascinating history.
Be sure to arrive early. Peak tourist season can make it quite busy. You can easily access the city whenever you want to with Cathay Pacific flights, including the new route of Hong Kong to San Francisco so why not enjoy all of them?
The Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is not only an engineering marvel and American icon; it’s also an effective means of transportation that connects some outstanding destinations around San Francisco Bay. For instance, its impressive span can take visitors to Muir Woods or Napa and Sonoma vineyards or Sausalito for spectacular vistas – no wonder it was named one of the Seven Wonders of Civil Engineering back in 1994!
Visit the bridge during sunset or sunrise for an unforgettable experience, when its orange glow illuminates the bridge and crowds are reduced significantly.
Fort Point National Historic Site offers another fantastic option to witness the bridge from beneath, constructed during the American Civil War with some original barracks and rooms still standing today – you can even climb to its roof for breathtaking views right towards it!
Fisherman’s Wharf offers easy access to Fort Point Welcome Center by car or bike, where two parking areas provide secure parking spaces. When at Fort Point Welcome Center there are various trails offering stunning views of the bridge; you may even take part in guided tours or visit its museum!
Other great spots to view the Golden Gate Bridge include North Tower Golden Gate Parking and Marin Headlands’ Conzelman Rd parking lot, which both provide spectacular views of both bridge and bay. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not hike down to Marshall’s Beach (a secluded nudist beach). Just remember to give yourself plenty of time for this endeavor as it can be quite a trek!
Crissy Field is another popular location to enjoy views of the Bay Bridge. Once used as a military airfield, now home to hiking and biking trails that offer spectacular vistas of it as well as charming cafes offering snacks or coffee to complement the view. Just make sure that you wear appropriate attire; the windiness up here may prove uncomfortable!
San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf offers breathtaking views of both Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge, making it one of the city’s top tourist destinations with 15-20 million annual visits. Attractions here include seafood restaurants, souvenir shops and free or low-cost museums; there are multiple transportation methods for exploring it too: walking, streetcars and cable cars all provide convenient ways to navigate this popular attraction.
Pier 39 is an area with high activity levels. Home of the famous sea lions, this attraction also offers several dining and recreational offerings and should be visited during winter when sea lions are more active.
Fisherman’s Wharf boasts several other noteworthy attractions, such as the Aquarium of the Bay which features marine life for visitors of all ages to admire and learn about, while the Maritime Museum – housed within a building shaped like a ship and featuring whale harpoons, models, and faithful scale reconstructions of ships from San Francisco’s past – should also not be missed.
If you’re in need of some relaxation, Ghirardelli Square should be on your list. This famous chocolate shop was founded here and its legendary Ghirardelli hot fudge sundaes must be tried! Furthermore, there are numerous restaurants to choose from offering everything from seafood to Asian fare in this cozy neighborhood.
Boudin Bakery is known for their legendary sourdough bread, which you can watch being made in their open kitchen. Additionally, there are several food stands near by where you can sample different flavors of clam chowder.
Fisherman’s Wharf offers some gems worth exploring beyond its touristy restaurants, like Aquatic Park and National Historic Landmarks USS Pampanito and SS Jeremiah O’Brien. Also don’t forget the memorial chapel that pays homage to generations of fishermen lost at sea; don’t forget that Fisherman’s Wharf can attract unsavory characters such as dubious charitable organizations, timeshare marketers, or “Three Cup Shuffle” scam artists!
One of the oldest Chinatowns in America, San Francisco’s historic Chinatown offers exciting activities and sights. Its pagoda-style architecture, ornate lanterns and exotic menu make a visit more like an international journey than just strolling through a local neighborhood.
San Francisco Chinatown can be explored primarily on two main streets, Grant Avenue and Columbus Street, though for a deeper experience it’s worth venturing off these paths and into some of the area’s quaint alleyways, like Waverly Place (known for its painted balconies) or Ross Alley which features many Chinese associations and social clubs.
If you want to dive deeper into Chinatown’s past, visit the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum on Clay Street near Portsmouth Square. Here, their gallery showcases vintage photographs, sculptures and other forms of artwork which depict its real life and impact on Bay Area communities.
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is another must-see attraction in the area. Watch them make cookies while even writing in a message of your own for them to include!
Chinatown hosts its grandest celebration during Lunar New Year, which falls sometime between late January and early March. This event includes a parade and plenty of delicious food offerings.
Visitor to Chinatown will immediately recognize its iconic entrance on Grant Avenue near Bush Street – The Dragon Gate is a landmark that signifies its neighborhood, making an appearance and often becoming a photo op for many photos in Chinatown.
Wok Wiz Tours and All About Chinatown Tours provide excellent guided walking tours that give visitors a deeper look into Chinatown life, its landmarks, and famous sites.
The Chinese Cultural Center’s History and Art TourOpens in new window offers a truly engaging walking tour designed to promote Chinatown’s unique visual culture and architecture while giving participants an understanding of Chinatown’s heritage and community resiliency. Their main gallery can be found at Hilton Hotel; their Ross Alley gallery brings local residents and visitors together for cultural activity.
San Francisco’s iconic cable cars, first invented in 1873, offer visitors an unforgettable ride through its cityscape from water level. Offering unparalleled views from underneath its tracks and on long cables dragged along wheels below its tracks, taking a cable car ride is a must for any visitor to San Francisco; taking one offers unique perspectives of Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island or Bay areas from beneath water level.
Three cable car lines operate in San Francisco, each offering different views and attractions. The Powell Street line passes near Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown while Powell/Hyde and California Street lines travel closer to downtown – these routes can also bring passengers directly onto Lombard Street – famously known for its eight hairpin turns!
For anyone wanting to expand their understanding of cable car history, the free Cable Car Museum is an invaluable resource. Conveniently situated where two Powell lines meet two blocks north of California Street line, and open Tuesday through Sundays; its mezzanine level of Muni’s historic Cable Car Barn & Powerhouse allows visitors to view vintage cable winding machinery in action while antique cable cars such as one from Hallidie’s original Clay Street Hill Railroad are on display; plus there’s even a gift shop where souvenirs may be purchased!
If you plan to take advantage of public transit during your time in San Francisco, purchasing a Visitor Passport could save money and time by providing access to unlimited rides on all Muni buses, metros and streetcars; BART however remains separate and cannot be included within this pass.