Updated: Jul 4
San Francisco is such an amazing destination if you know where to go! The Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street are just a few obvious attractions one might want to see while visiting this foggy city. This article will guide you to the best places to view the Golden Gate Bridge, how to tour Alcatraz, and go over top sites to see in San Francisco!
WHEN TO VISIT SAN FRANCISCO
The best time of year to visit San Francisco is September through November. The weather is warm and the fall season brings fewer crowds. This is also when you're least likely to have a run in with fog. The foggiest time of year is the month of June. Commonly known as "June Gloom" when temperatures are cool and damp with foggy overcast.
WHERE TO STAY
Parc 55 San Francisco | This high rise hotel offers spectacular city views and a great location. It is walkable to restaurants and shopping! It's only a 2 minute walk to Westfield San Francisco Centre mall, a 6 minute walk to Union Square and 2 miles from Pier 39.
GETTING AROUND SAN FRANCISCO
If you don't have a car while visiting San Francisco, don't worry! Most of the cities main attractions are relatively close enough to each other to be reached by foot. Since taxi’s are few and far between compared to cities like New York, you can use the city's public transportation system called MUNI and it's operated by bus or streetcar.
Download the MuniMobile App on your phone for easy and discounted ticket purchasing! Here you can buy a 1 Day Visitor Passport for unlimited rides on Muni, Muni Metro, historic streetcars, and cable cars for only $13. Paper tickets bought at the ticket counter are $24 for the same pass.
It is a cheaper option to take public transportation in San Francisco, but it does take awhile to reach your desired destination. Uber or Lyft is best for saving time and is the most direct form of transportation.
TAKE A RIDE ON A CABLE CAR
Three lines still run throughout the city. Two of them run from Fisherman's Wharf to Union Square and the other goes up the hill from the Financial District to Nob Hill.
One way tickets are $8 or purchase the 1 Day Visitor Passport for $13, either can be purchased through the MuniMobile App. The easiest way to find where you can hop on and off a cable car is through rome2rio. A website that's main focus is finding the best way of ground transportation to your destination!
WHAT TO DO IN SAN FRANCISCO
Fisherman's Wharf District | This is as touristy as it gets but there's a reason for that! The Fisherman's Wharf is located on San Francisco's Northern Waterfront. From the shoreline you will have views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop is also here welcoming in tourists from all over the world wanting to try their famous hot fudge sundaes! Visit Pier 39 for a chance to see a colony of Sea Lions and partake in the many restaurant stalls and eateries selling seafood and clam chowder in bread bowls!
HOW TO VISIT ALCATRAZ PRISON
Surrounded by cold waters and the strong currents of San Francisco Bay this historic prison is known for being inescapable! Alcatraz was considered one of the toughest maximum security federal prisons in America for its time, housing inmates like Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and The Bird Man.
Alcatraz is open for day and night tours! Alcatraz City Cruises is the only ferry and tour company authorized by National Parks Services to visit the Island and is the official source for ticket purchasing. The ticket is all inclusive and includes round trip ferry tickets, the Cell House audio tour, access to historic sites such as the recreation yard, the New Industries Building and more. You are able to buy Alcatraz tickets up to 90 days in advance! I recommend purchasing your tickets a week before you plan to go. Trying to get a ticket the week of will be troublesome since the experience will likely be sold out.
Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing is the location to catch the ferry and it takes about 15 minutes to reach Alcatraz Island. There is no parking at Pier 33. Although there is parking available in nearby commercial parking lots, I strongly recommend using a ride share service such as Uber or Lyft to be dropped off to avoid the hassle.
Things to note:
plan to spend around 3 hours exploring
wear comfortable walking shoes
be aware there is no food available to purchase while on the island
Painted Ladies | Visit Alamo Square to see San Francisco's famous Victorian homes with an amazing backdrop of the city! These ladies were featured in the late 80's sitcom Full House making the homes a tourist destination and popular photographed area.
Lombard Street | Known as the most crookedest street in the world! Lombard Street is one of San Francisco's most popular landmarks, bringing millions of visitors each year to walk or drive this twisty one way street. Once here you'll be within walking distance to other attractions such as Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, and Chinatown!
North Beach | A lively residential neighborhood with Italian heritage that's known for trattorias with checkered tablecloths! You'll find the scenic Filbert Steps that lead to Coit Tower on top of Telegraph Hill. Stop in The Saloon, one of the city's oldest bars established in 1861 for a gold rush era feel and live music!
Chinatown | Visit San Francisco's Chinatown to satisfy your Dim Sum craving! Take a picture at Dragon Gate, stroll down Grant Ave, and be sure to come hungry to enjoy all of the classic chinatown eateries. Stop at Wong Lee Bakery to try their delicious egg tarts on Jackson Street. Also pop in Wing Sing Dim Sum for their huge chicken buns and array of dumplings!
THE BEST TIME OF DAY TO SEE THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
The cities famous fog can put a damper on your views if you go to see the bridge at the wrong time of day. The best time to see the Golden Gate Bridge is mid day. It’s also gorgeous at sunset as long as the fog doesn’t interfere!
BEST PLACES TO VIEW THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
Baker Beach | This beach is popular because it combines a perfect nature feel with the grand engineering of the bridge! It is also a great place to view the bridge at sunset. Unfortunately, on our visit we went too early and the fog was so thick we couldn't see anything!
Fort Point | For a different perspective on the bridge visit Fort Point! An old military station that was meant to defend the San Francisco Bay during World War II. Visiting Fort Point is free! Here you will be able to see the stunning arched casemates that infuses with the bridge from the Fort. It's eye opening to see just how massive this structure is!
Crissy Field | Enjoy walking along the waterfront of the park with views of the bridge! You can also walk from Crissy Field to Fort Point! It's best to combine both locations together. I suggest starting at West Bluff Beach in Crissy Field which is very near to Torpedo Wharf, a small pier that jets out for more scenic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you continue the path past Torpedo Wharf it will bring you to Fort Point.
Kirby Cove | This beach is located across the bridge on the Northern side inside Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This amazing beach is only accessible by hiking down 1 mile from Kirby Cove Road, making it a 2 mile round trip hike. Parking is available on Conzelman Road which is also the parking area for the Golden Gate Bridge Vista at Battery Spencer view point. This overlook also offers amazing views of the bridge!
Battery Spencer | Short and easy 0.4 mile hike up to an amazing lookout to view the Golden Gate Bridge with unobstructed views. It is a very popular overlook and parking can be tricky, but many people are coming to and from so just be patient and something will open up.
This guide just scratches the surface of what San Francisco has to offer. There is so much more waiting to be discovered! This city is special to me since it’s the first place Luke and I visited together just after getting engaged. What is your favorite city to visit? Let me know in the comments below. Have the best time in SF!
Talk to you soon,