San Francisco Travel Guide
San Francisco Travel Guide plan your trip to San Francisco with our travel guide including how to get around, things to see and do, what and where to eat and many more.
Travel to San Francisco
San Francisco, also known as the City by the Bay, is a vibrant and eclectic city located in Northern California. It is a popular tourist destination known for its hilly streets with iconic cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, foggy weather, and rich cultural and historical landmarks. The city is home to some of the best museums, art galleries, and restaurants in the world, making it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in experiencing the best of what California has to offer.
San Francisco has something for everyone, from the bustling Fisherman’s Wharf to the serene Golden Gate Park. The city is also home to some of the best shopping districts in the country, such as Union Square, Hayes Valley, and the Embarcadero. For those interested in history, San Francisco offers attractions such as the famous Alcatraz Island, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the Presidio. Visitors can also explore the city’s rich cultural heritage by visiting Chinatown, the oldest and largest Chinatown in North America, or by experiencing the city’s vibrant LGBTQ culture in the Castro District.
For nature lovers, a visit to San Francisco is incomplete without a visit to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is home to over 80,000 acres of wilderness, beaches, and historic sites. The Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, offers stunning views of San Francisco Bay and the city skyline. Visitors can take a leisurely walk across the bridge, bike along the scenic coast, or simply relax and enjoy the breathtaking views. With its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, San Francisco is truly a destination like no other.
The best time to go to San Francisco – the 4 seasons in San Francisco
Generally, the city is known for its cool and mild climate, with temperatures ranging from 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C) throughout the year.
If you prefer warmer weather and want to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and sightseeing, the best time to visit San Francisco is between September and November. During this time, the city experiences its Indian Summer, which is characterized by warm, sunny days and cooler evenings. This season is also less crowded than the summer months.
If you’re looking for lower hotel rates and fewer crowds, the best time to visit San Francisco is between December and February. However, be prepared for cooler temperatures and occasional rain.
Spring (March to May) and summer (June to August) are also popular times to visit San Francisco, but these seasons can be more crowded and expensive. During these months, the weather is mild, but you may experience fog and cooler temperatures, especially near the coast.
Visa and entry requirements
If you are an American citizen, you do not need a visa to travel to San Francisco or anywhere else in the United States, as long as you have a valid passport or other acceptable travel document.
If you are a citizen of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), such as many European countries, you do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days for business or tourism purposes. However, you must apply for and receive authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a carrier to the United States.
If you are a citizen of a country that is not part of the Visa Waiver Program, you will need to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country before traveling to the United States.
It’s important to note that visa requirements and processes can change over time, so it’s always a good idea to check with the U.S. Department of State or a U.S. embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date information on entry requirements for your specific situation.
From San Francisco airport to the city centre
There are several transportation options to get from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to the city center:
BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit): This is the fastest and cheapest option to get to the city center. You can take the BART from the SFO International Terminal station to the downtown San Francisco stations. The fare will be around $9.65 for a one-way trip.
Shared ride services: Uber, Lyft and other shared ride services are available at SFO. These services are convenient and can cost between $25-$40 depending on the distance and time of day.
Taxi: Taxis are also available at SFO. A typical fare to the city center will be around $45-$65.
Rental Car: You can rent a car from the airport, however, keep in mind that parking in downtown San Francisco can be expensive and difficult.
Shuttle Services: You can also take a shuttle service to the city center. These services are available at the airport and typically cost around $17-$20.
The best ways to get around San Francisco
San Francisco is a compact city with a diverse range of transportation options. Here are some of the best ways to get around:
Public transportation: The San Francisco Bay Area is served by multiple public transit agencies, including Muni (buses, Metro light rail, and historic cable cars), BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, a regional subway system), and Caltrain (commuter rail service). They offer an extensive network of routes and are generally reliable and affordable.
Walking: San Francisco is a very walkable city, with many attractions close together. Hilly areas can be challenging, but they also offer great views and unique experiences. Be prepared with comfortable shoes and be mindful of the sometimes-steep inclines.
Biking: San Francisco is a bike-friendly city with dedicated bike lanes, bike-sharing programs like Bay Wheels, and numerous bike rental shops. The city’s compact size makes biking a viable option for getting around. However, be prepared for hills and always follow safety guidelines.
Ride-sharing: Services like Uber and Lyft are popular in San Francisco and can be a convenient way to get around, especially if you’re traveling with a group or have a lot of luggage.
Taxis: Traditional taxis are also available, though they may be more expensive than ride-sharing options.
Car rental: Renting a car can be useful if you plan to visit areas outside the city, like Napa Valley or Monterey. Keep in mind that parking can be challenging and expensive in San Francisco, so consider this when planning your transportation.
Scooters and electric bikes: Dockless electric scooters and e-bikes are available for rent through apps like Lime and Spin. These can be a fun and efficient way to explore the city, but be sure to follow local rules and regulations.
Ferry: The San Francisco Bay Area has several ferry routes that can be a scenic and enjoyable way to get to destinations like Sausalito, Alcatraz Island, or Angel Island.
When planning your transportation in San Francisco, consider factors like convenience, cost, and your personal preferences. Each mode of transportation has its own advantages and disadvantages, so think about what will work best for your needs and itinerary.
Explore San Francisco’s neighborhoods
San Francisco, the cultural, commercial, and financial heart of Northern California, is a city of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character and allure. In this guide, we will delve into the heart of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods, unveiling the best points of interest, activities, and hidden gems that make each one special.
Vibe: Vibrant, fashionable, and bustling
Points of Interest: Union Square Park, Westfield San Francisco Centre, Maiden Lane, and Curran Theatre
Recommended Restaurants & Cafes: Tadich Grill, Café Bellini, and Dottie’s True Blue Café
Activities: Shopping, attending live performances, and exploring art galleries
Union Square is San Francisco’s premier shopping and entertainment district, teeming with chic boutiques, flagship stores, and luxury hotels. With its central location and excellent public transportation options, Union Square is the perfect starting point for exploring the city. Be sure to visit the historic Curran Theatre for a live performance, and take a stroll down Maiden Lane, a pedestrian-only street with boutique shops and outdoor cafes.
Vibe: Historic, bohemian, and Italian-flavored
Points of Interest: Coit Tower, Washington Square Park, and City Lights Bookstore
Recommended Restaurants & Cafes: Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, The Stinking Rose, and Caffe Trieste
Activities: Exploring the Beat Generation history, enjoying live music, and savoring Italian cuisine
North Beach, also known as Little Italy, is a lively neighborhood famous for its Italian-American heritage, historic landmarks, and bohemian atmosphere. Discover the rich history of the Beat Generation by visiting City Lights Bookstore and Vesuvio Cafe, or take in the breathtaking views of the city from Coit Tower. Washington Square Park is perfect for a leisurely picnic, while the numerous Italian eateries, such as Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, offer mouthwatering culinary experiences.
The Mission District
Vibe: Hip, artsy, and Latino-influenced
Points of Interest: Dolores Park, Clarion Alley, and Valencia Street
Recommended Restaurants & Cafes: Tartine Bakery, La Taqueria, and Dandelion Chocolate
Activities: Exploring street art, browsing unique shops, and trying artisanal food
The Mission District, with its colorful murals and lively streets, is a hub for San Francisco’s thriving arts and food scenes. Stroll along Valencia Street to find an eclectic mix of vintage shops, bookstores, and art galleries. Don’t miss Clarion Alley, famous for its vibrant street art and political murals. For a relaxing break, head to Dolores Park, and enjoy stunning views of the city skyline. Sample the legendary burritos at La Taqueria or indulge in sweet treats at Tartine Bakery and Dandelion Chocolate.
Vibe: Open, inclusive, and LGBTQ+-friendly
Points of Interest: Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro Theatre, and Pink Triangle Park
Recommended Restaurants & Cafes: Kitchen Story, Frances, and Hot Cookie
Activities: Attending film screenings, exploring LGBTQ+ history, and bar hopping
The Castro District, widely known as the heart of San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community, is a vibrant neighborhood filled with colorful Victorian homes, lively bars, and historic landmarks. Visit Harvey Milk Plaza to learn about the trailblazing politician, and catch a film at the iconic Castro Theatre. For a poignant reminder of LGBTQ+ history, stop by Pink Triangle Park, which honors the memory of Holocaust victims. Enjoy creative American cuisine at Kitchen Story or delight in the cozy ambiance of Frances, a local favorite for Californian dishes. Don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to Hot Cookie, a popular bakery offering a variety of unique treats.
Vibe: Bohemian, countercultural, and historic
Points of Interest: Red Victorian Bed & Breakfast, Amoeba Music, and Buena Vista Park
Recommended Restaurants & Cafes: Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery, Cha Cha Cha, and The Pork Store Café
Activities: Vintage shopping, exploring music history, and relaxing in parks
Haight-Ashbury, the birthplace of the 1960s counterculture movement, maintains its bohemian spirit with a mix of vintage shops, eclectic eateries, and historic landmarks. Browse the vast collection of vinyl records at Amoeba Music, or relive the Summer of Love at the Red Victorian Bed & Breakfast. For a breath of fresh air, visit Buena Vista Park, offering beautiful views of the city. Sample the delicious beer and comfort food at Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery or enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and Caribbean cuisine at Cha Cha Cha.
Vibe: Touristy, waterfront, and family-friendly
Points of Interest: Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, and Alcatraz Island
Recommended Restaurants & Cafes: Boudin Bakery, Scoma’s, and The Buena Vista Café
Activities: Exploring waterfront attractions, visiting museums, and enjoying scenic views
Fisherman’s Wharf, with its iconic attractions and beautiful waterfront views, is a must-visit destination for any San Francisco traveler. Take a stroll along Pier 39, where you can find numerous souvenir shops, street performers, and sea lions basking in the sun. Indulge in the world-famous clam chowder at Boudin Bakery or savor fresh seafood at Scoma’s. For a bit of history and adventure, take a ferry to Alcatraz Island and explore the infamous former prison. Don’t forget to stop by Ghirardelli Square for a sweet treat, and experience the historic Buena Vista Café, the birthplace of the Irish Coffee.
San Francisco’s neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm and character, offer visitors an unforgettable experience. From the bustling shopping district of Union Square to the historic and vibrant streets of North Beach, the city’s diverse neighborhoods cater to a wide range of interests and tastes. This guide provides a glimpse into the heart of these iconic neighborhoods, inviting you to explore and discover the countless wonders that await in the City by the Bay.
Attractions and things to do in San Francisco
Price: $39.90 for adults (Alcatraz Cruises)
Activities: Guided tours, audio tours, exploring the former prison
Brief History: Once a notorious federal prison, Alcatraz Island housed infamous criminals like Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Alcatraz Island offers a unique look into the history of crime and punishment in the United States. Accessible by ferry, a visit to the island includes a captivating audio tour narrated by former inmates and guards. Book tickets in advance, as they often sell out quickly.
Golden Gate Bridge
Price: Free (walking or biking); $7.70 for FasTrak vehicles, $8.40 for Pay-By-Plate vehicles (toll)
Activities: Walking, biking, photography, visiting the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center
Brief History: Completed in 1937, this iconic suspension bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County. It’s one of the most photographed structures in the world and a symbol of the city’s resilience.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see for any visitor. Walk or bike across the 1.7-mile-long span for breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding bay. The Welcome Center provides historical information and a gift shop.
Price: Free (attractions within the area may have separate fees)
Activities: Exploring Pier 39, visiting museums, shopping, dining, scenic cruises
Brief History: Once the center of San Francisco’s fishing industry, Fisherman’s Wharf has evolved into a vibrant tourist destination.
Fisherman’s Wharf offers a mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Stroll along Pier 39, visit the sea lions, and indulge in fresh seafood at a local eatery. The area also hosts several museums, including Madame Tussauds and the Aquarium of the Bay.
Activities: Hiking, photography, visiting the Sutro Baths ruins, enjoying scenic views
Brief History: Lands End was once home to a coastal amusement park, the remnants of which can be seen at the Sutro Baths ruins.
Located on San Francisco’s rugged coastline, Lands End offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Marin Headlands. The area features several hiking trails and a visitor center, providing an opportunity to immerse yourself in the city’s natural beauty.
Activities: Exploring street art, visiting Dolores Park, dining at local eateries, shopping
Brief History: Named after the Mission San Francisco de Asís, the Mission District has a rich Latino heritage and a thriving arts scene.
The Mission District is renowned for its vibrant murals, particularly along Clarion Alley and Balmy Alley, which showcase the neighborhood’s artistic spirit and political activism. Dolores Park offers a relaxing spot to enjoy the views and people-watch, while the area’s diverse culinary scene features everything from iconic burritos to artisanal ice cream.
Activities: Exploring LGBTQ+ history, visiting the GLBT Historical Society Museum, shopping, dining, and attending film screenings at the Castro Theatre
Brief History: The Castro District became a symbol of LGBTQ+ activism and pride in the 1970s, thanks in part to the work of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California.
The Castro District is a vibrant and historic neighborhood, known for its colorful Victorian homes, lively bars, and LGBTQ+ landmarks. Visit the GLBT Historical Society Museum to learn more about the community’s history and stop by the iconic Castro Theatre for film screenings and events.
Activities: Driving down the street, walking along the sidewalk, taking photos, enjoying the surrounding architecture and gardens
Brief History: Lombard Street is famous for its steep, one-block section with eight hairpin turns, constructed in 1922 to reduce the hill’s natural 27-degree grade.
Lombard Street, also known as the “Crookedest Street in the World,” is a must-see attraction in San Francisco. Located in the Russian Hill neighborhood, this winding, flower-lined street offers picturesque views of the city and unique photo opportunities. Visitors can drive down the street or walk along the sidewalk to enjoy the surrounding Victorian architecture and beautifully maintained gardens. As a free attraction, Lombard Street is an excellent addition to any San Francisco itinerary.
Golden Gate Park
Price: Free (some attractions within the park have separate admission fees)
Activities: Exploring gardens, picnicking, visiting museums, biking, boating, and attending events
Brief History: Golden Gate Park, created in the 1870s, is one of the largest urban parks in the United States, spanning over 1,000 acres.
Golden Gate Park is an oasis in the heart of San Francisco, offering a wide variety of activities and attractions for visitors. The park features beautiful gardens, such as the Japanese Tea Garden and the San Francisco Botanical Garden, as well as numerous playgrounds, picnic areas, and walking trails.
While entry to the park itself is free, some attractions within the park charge admission fees. These include the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum, and the Conservatory of Flowers. Additionally, visitors can rent bikes, boats, and other equipment for recreational activities at an extra cost.
Golden Gate Park also hosts numerous events throughout the year, such as concerts, cultural festivals, and athletic competitions. Be sure to check the park’s calendar during your visit to take advantage of any special events happening during your stay.
Cable Car Ride
Price: $7 per ride or $23 for an unlimited daily pass
Activities: Exploring the city, sightseeing, experiencing a historic mode of transportation
Brief History: San Francisco’s cable car system, introduced in 1873, is the last manually operated cable car system in the world and has become an iconic symbol of the city.
Riding a cable car is a quintessential San Francisco experience. As a unique and historic mode of transportation, cable cars offer an exciting way to explore the city’s steep hills and bustling streets. There are three cable car lines in operation: the Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason, and California Street lines. Each line offers stunning views of the city and access to various neighborhoods and attractions.
A single ride on a cable car costs $7, while an unlimited daily pass is available for $23. The daily pass allows you to hop on and off the cable cars as many times as you like within a 24-hour period, providing a convenient and cost-effective way to see the city. Be sure to visit the Cable Car Museum to learn about the history and mechanics of this fascinating mode of transportation.
Price: Free to explore (costs vary for food and activities)
Activities: Shopping, dining, visiting historical landmarks, experiencing Chinese culture
Brief History: Established in the mid-19th century, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest and one of the largest Chinatowns in the United States.
San Francisco’s Chinatown offers a vibrant and immersive experience for visitors looking to explore Chinese-American history and culture. With bustling streets, ornate architecture, and colorful decorations, it’s easy to get lost in the sights and sounds of this unique neighborhood.
While it’s free to wander through Chinatown and take in the atmosphere, visitors should budget for food, shopping, and activities. Sample authentic Chinese cuisine at local eateries, ranging from dim sum and hand-pulled noodles to traditional bakeries and tea shops. Explore the various souvenir shops selling traditional Chinese goods, such as silk garments, lanterns, and jade carvings.
Notable landmarks in Chinatown include the Dragon Gate, a traditional Chinese archway that marks the entrance to the neighborhood, and the Old St. Mary’s Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in California. Additionally, you can visit the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum and the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory to learn more about the area’s history and cultural contributions.
Price: $10 admission fee for adults, $8 for seniors (65+), $5 for youth (12-17), and free for children under 12
Activities: Admiring the murals, taking in panoramic city views, learning about the tower’s history
Brief History: Built in 1933 with funds bequeathed by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, Coit Tower is a prominent Art Deco monument atop Telegraph Hill, offering spectacular views of San Francisco and the bay.
Coit Tower is a beloved San Francisco landmark, known for its incredible vistas and rich history. The tower’s interior features beautiful murals, painted in the 1930s by local artists, depicting scenes of life in California during the Great Depression. These murals, part of the Public Works of Art Project, showcase the city’s artistic and historical heritage.
Visitors can take an elevator to the observation deck, located at the top of the 210-foot tower, for a 360-degree view of San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the downtown skyline. The admission fee is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (65+), $5 for youth (12-17), and free for children under 12. Be prepared to climb some steep stairs and slopes to reach the tower, as it’s located on the summit of Telegraph Hill.
While visiting Coit Tower, consider exploring the surrounding Telegraph Hill neighborhood, known for its charming streets, beautiful gardens, and the famous wild parrots that call the area home.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
Price: $25 per adult, $22 for seniors (65+), $19 for young adults (19-24), free for visitors 18 and under
Activities: Exploring modern and contemporary art, visiting temporary exhibitions, attending lectures and events
Brief History: Founded in 1935, SFMOMA was the first museum on the West Coast dedicated to modern and contemporary art. It has since become one of the world’s most influential modern art institutions.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts, featuring an extensive collection of modern and contemporary works by renowned artists such as Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo, and Andy Warhol. The museum is housed in a striking building designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, with a recent expansion by the architecture firm Snøhetta.
SFMOMA offers a diverse range of exhibitions, from painting and sculpture to photography, film, and new media art. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions and a variety of public programs, such as artist talks, film screenings, and educational workshops.
Painted Ladies at Alamo Square
Activities: Admiring the architecture, taking photos, picnicking at Alamo Square Park
Brief History: The Painted Ladies are a row of iconic Victorian houses built between 1892 and 1896, known for their intricate detailing and brightly colored facades.
The Painted Ladies, also referred to as “Postcard Row” or the “Seven Sisters,” are a famous row of Victorian and Edwardian homes located near Alamo Square Park. These beautiful houses are known for their vibrant colors, intricate woodwork, and detailed architectural elements, making them a popular subject for photographers and a symbol of San Francisco’s historic charm.
Visiting the Painted Ladies is free, and you can take as many pictures as you like while admiring the architecture. Alamo Square Park, located across the street, offers a perfect vantage point for capturing the iconic view of the houses with the San Francisco skyline in the background. The park itself is a great spot for picnicking, relaxing, and enjoying the scenery.
Presidio of San Francisco
Price: Free (some attractions within the Presidio may have separate admission fees)
Activities: Hiking, picnicking, exploring historical sites, visiting museums, enjoying scenic views
Brief History: Established in 1776 by the Spanish, the Presidio has served as a military base for Spain, Mexico, and the United States. In 1994, the base was transferred to the National Park Service, becoming part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
The Presidio of San Francisco is a historic park and former military fort located at the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula. The 1,500-acre site is now managed by the National Park Service and the Presidio Trust, offering a wealth of outdoor activities, cultural attractions, and stunning vistas.
Visitors can enjoy miles of hiking and biking trails, including the popular Golden Gate Promenade and the scenic Presidio Coastal Trail. Popular spots for picnicking and relaxation include Crissy Field and the Main Parade Ground, both offering beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.
The Presidio is also home to several museums and historical sites, such as the Walt Disney Family Museum, the Presidio Officers’ Club, and Fort Point National Historic Site. While entry to the Presidio is free, some attractions within the park may charge admission fees.
Make sure to visit the iconic Palace of Fine Arts, located just outside the Presidio grounds, which was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and is now a popular destination for photography and events.
Things to do with kids and teens in San Francisco
From exploring interactive museums to enjoying outdoor recreational opportunities, this diverse city has something for everyone. In this presentation, we will explore a variety of fun activities that cater to different age groups and interests.
Activities for Kids:
California Academy of Sciences:
Interactive exhibits on astronomy, earth, and life sciences
Steinhart Aquarium with its vast collection of marine life
Rainforest dome and planetarium
Hands-on science museum with over 600 exhibits
Encourages curiosity and learning through play and experimentation
San Francisco Zoo & Gardens:
Home to more than 2,000 exotic and endangered animals
Interactive exhibits and opportunities for up-close animal encounters
Golden Gate Park:
Children’s playground and carousel
Boating at Stow Lake and visiting the Botanical Garden
Pier 39 & Fisherman’s Wharf:
Watching sea lions at the Sea Lion Center
Exploring the Aquarium of the Bay
Activities for Teens:
Fascinating history and guided audio tours
Spectacular views of the city skyline
Engaging, team-building experiences where participants solve puzzles to “escape” a themed room
Various themes and difficulty levels
Bike the Golden Gate Bridge:
Rent bikes and ride across the iconic bridge
Enjoy stunning views and visit nearby attractions like Sausalito
Indoor mini-golf course with a San Francisco-themed design
Engaging, challenging, and fun for all skill levels
Muir Woods National Monument:
Explore the ancient redwood forest with beautiful hiking trails
Connect with nature and experience tranquility
Experience San Francisco like a local
Visit Golden Gate Park:
Golden Gate Park is a popular destination for both tourists and locals. It’s a massive park that spans over 1,000 acres and has a lot of attractions to offer. Locals like to come here to picnic, play sports, bike, hike, and visit some of the park’s famous landmarks like the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young Museum, and the California Academy of Sciences.
Explore the Ferry Building Marketplace:
The Ferry Building Marketplace is a great spot to explore local food and shops. It’s an indoor marketplace that is open every day, and it’s the perfect place to grab a quick bite, browse local vendors, or shop for artisanal products. Locals also like to come here to enjoy the view of the bay and watch the ferries come and go.
Go to the Beach:
San Francisco has several beaches that locals like to visit, such as Ocean Beach, Baker Beach, and Crissy Field. These beaches offer a scenic backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge and are great for sunbathing, picnicking, and playing beach volleyball. Locals also enjoy surfing and kiteboarding in some of these spots.
Attend Street Fairs and Festivals:
San Francisco is known for its vibrant street fairs and festivals, such as the Bay to Breakers race, the North Beach Festival, and the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair. These events offer a chance to experience local music, food, and culture, and they’re always a great opportunity to meet new people and have fun.
Visit the Castro District:
The Castro District is San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ neighborhood and is a popular destination for locals. It’s a colorful and vibrant area that offers a lot of bars, restaurants, and shops that cater to the LGBTQ+ community. Locals like to come here to attend events, explore the historic landmarks, and enjoy the nightlife.
Where to stay in San Francisco
The Ritz Carlton – Located in the heart of San Francisco, this luxurious hotel offers stunning views of the city from its spacious rooms and suite. With an exceptional fitness center and full-service spa, guests can stay in shape and relax during their stay. Price range: $525-$1,191/night.
Fairmont San Francisco – This historical hotel offers grand and opulent rooms with amazing city views. Located on Nob Hill, guests are in a prime location to explore some of San Francisco’s best attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square. Price range: $397-$2,764/night.
The St. Regis San Francisco – A contemporary luxury hotel located in SOMA, San Francisco, this hotel has stunning city views and offers a full range of modern amenities including an indoor infinity pool. Price range: $646-$1,690/night.
Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco – Ideal location in the Financial District, this luxury hotel features famous One Spa, which includes a full-service salon as well as an indoor lap pool. Price range: $550-$1,875/night.
Hotel Vitale – Located on the beautiful Embarcadero Waterfront of San Francisco, this luxury hotel boasts amazing views of the Bay Bridge and waterfront. With an onsite spa and fitness center, guests can unwind after a day of exploring. Price range: $307-$1,325/night.
Palace Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Francisco – A historic building located in the heart of San Francisco, this upscale hotel offers a full-service spa and traditional afternoon tea services. Price range: $452-$1,002/night.
Taj Campton Place San Francisco – This upscale hotel is located in the heart of Union Square, providing easy access to some of San Francisco’s best shopping and dining. The hotel features an award-winning restaurant and a 24-hour fitness center. Price range: $344-$1,433/night.
The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel – Located in the heart of San Francisco’s Theater District, this trendy boutique hotel boasts an iconic redwood bar and offers easy access to the city’s best museums and theaters. Price range: $233-$986/night.
Hotel Zetta San Francisco – This stylish design hotel, located in SOMA, features popular games room with pool tables and ping pong tables. Price range: $195-$684/night.
Hotel Zephyr San Francisco – This unique boutique hotel is located on the waterfront, boasting amazing views from the hotel’s outdoor lounge areas. Funky décor that features refurbished shipping containers and many game activities like life-sized chess and Connect Four. Price range: $161-$648/night.
Food and drinks in San Francisco
Traditional dishes of San Francisco that you should try
San Francisco is a food lover’s paradise, offering a wide variety of cuisine from all over the world. However, there are some dishes that are uniquely San Franciscan and are a must-try for any foodie visiting the city. In this presentation, we’ll explore some of the traditional dishes of San Francisco that you should try and where to get them.
Cioppino at Tadich Grill:
Cioppino is a seafood stew that originated in San Francisco’s Italian immigrant community. It’s made with a variety of fresh seafood, tomatoes, and herbs and served with bread for dipping. Tadich Grill, located in the Financial District, is one of the oldest restaurants in San Francisco and is renowned for its Cioppino. It’s a must-try for any seafood lover.
Mission-style burrito at La Taqueria:
Mission-style burritos are a San Francisco invention that is now popular all over the country. These burritos are larger than the traditional ones and are filled with rice, beans, meat, cheese, and salsa. La Taqueria, located in the Mission District, is one of the most famous taquerias in the city and is known for its delicious Mission-style burritos.
Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Cafe:
The Irish Coffee is a San Francisco classic that was invented at the Buena Vista Cafe in the 1950s. It’s made with coffee, Irish whiskey, and whipped cream and is the perfect way to warm up on a chilly San Francisco day. The Buena Vista Cafe, located near Fisherman’s Wharf, is the best place to try this classic drink.
Crab Louie Salad at Swan Oyster Depot:
The Crab Louie Salad is a San Francisco classic that was popularized in the early 1900s. It’s made with Dungeness crab, lettuce, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and a special dressing. Swan Oyster Depot, located in Nob Hill, is a family-owned seafood restaurant that is renowned for its Crab Louie Salad. It’s a must-try for any seafood lover.
Sourdough Bread at Boudin Bakery:
Sourdough bread is a San Francisco staple that has been around since the Gold Rush era. It’s made with a sourdough starter that gives it a unique tangy flavor. Boudin Bakery, located at Fisherman’s Wharf, is the oldest bakery in San Francisco and is famous for its sourdough bread. They offer a variety of bread shapes and sizes, including their famous bread bowls that are perfect for holding soup or chowder.
The Iconic and some of the best restaurants in San Francisco
San Francisco is undoubtedly a culinary destination, boasting some of the best restaurants in the country. From classic establishments that have been around for decades to newer hotspots, the city offers a diverse range of flavors and experiences. Here are some of our top picks for iconic San Francisco restaurants that you must visit:
Located at 1 Mission St, Boulevard is a classic San Francisco establishment that has been serving diners since 1993. The restaurant’s cuisine can be described as American contemporary, with a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Executive Chef Nancy Oakes has won several awards for her work, including a James Beard Award for Best Chef: California. You can’t go wrong with any dish on the menu, but their signature dish, the Grilled Niman Ranch Pork Chop, is a must-try.
For seafood lovers, Sotto Mare at 552 Green St is a must-visit. This cozy, family-run Italian restaurant offers some of the freshest and most delicious seafood in the city. The specialties include clam chowder, shrimp scampi, and cioppino, a San Francisco classic consisting of a hearty seafood stew. You’ll feel like you’re dining in a traditional Italian home, with the friendly staff and lively atmosphere.
Located in the historic Jackson Square neighborhood, Kokkari Estiatorio at 200 Jackson St is a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant that offers a modern take on Greek cuisine. Chef Erik Cosselmon’s dishes are flavorful and inventive, and the restaurant’s atmosphere is warm and inviting. Don’t miss the Grilled Octopus, which is one of their most popular dishes.
One of the most iconic restaurants in the city, Zuni Cafe at 1658 Market St has been serving diners since 1979. The restaurant’s cuisine is Mediterranean-inspired, with a focus on organic, locally sourced ingredients. Their most famous dish is the Roast Chicken for Two, which has become a San Francisco staple. The cafe’s decor, which features a large, open kitchen and a beautiful atrium, enhances the overall dining experience.
State Bird Provisions
If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, State Bird Provisions at 1529 Fillmore St won’t disappoint. The restaurant’s concept is based on dim sum style service, with small plates being served on carts and trays. The dishes are influenced by a variety of cuisines, resulting in an eclectic and exciting menu. Husband-and-wife team Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski are the creative forces behind the restaurant’s success.
The Slanted Door
Located in the Ferry Building at 1 Ferry Building #3, The Slanted Door is a modern Vietnamese restaurant that offers a range of delicious dishes. Chef Charles Phan’s menu draws inspiration from the street food of Vietnam and combines it with local ingredients. The restaurant’s location on the waterfront offers stunning views of the Bay Bridge and an unforgettable dining experience.
The best rooftop bars and restaurants in San Francisco
Each of these must-visit destinations offers a unique experience with breathtaking views of the city, delicious food, and a perfect lively ambiance.
Charmaine’s Rooftop Bar & Lounge: Located atop the San Francisco Proper Hotel, Charmaine’s features cozy fire pits and stunning city views. The atmosphere here is upscale, but relaxed with a trendy vibe.
Rooftop 25: Nestled in the heart of SOMA, Rooftop 25 offers panoramic views of the city. You can sip on handcrafted cocktails and enjoy delicious food while watching the sun set over San Francisco.
Shelby’s Rooftop: Enjoy craft cocktails and small bites while taking in the birds-eye view of the bustling city. The vibe here is relaxed and intimate, making it the perfect place for a romantic evening out.
620 Jones: Located in Lower Nob Hill, this rooftop bar features a beautiful outdoor patio with a chill ambiance. Sit back and relax with a craft cocktail and stunning views of the city below.
Cityscape Lounge: Located inside the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, CityScape boasts 360-degree views of the entire city. The atmosphere here is upscale with live entertainment and delicious cuisine.
Cavaña: This trendy rooftop bar in Mission Bay is the perfect spot for a night out with friends. The atmosphere is laid-back, with a lively vibe, and perfect for enjoying delicious cocktails and tasty bites.
Dirty Habit: Located in the heart of Union Square, Dirty Habit boasts a beautiful outdoor patio and stunning views of the city. The ambiance here is sophisticated and elegant, making it the perfect spot for a special occasion.
B Restaurant & Bar: This unique rooftop bar in SOMA boasts stunning views of the San Francisco skyline. The atmosphere is elegant, with a trendy vibe, and the perfect spot for drinks and tapas.
Archimedes Banya: Located in Bayview, Archimedes Banya is a unique rooftop bar and spa featuring stunning views of the city. The vibe here is relaxed and serene, with a variety of saunas and hot tubs to choose from.
Study Hall Rooftop Lounge: This sleek rooftop bar in Berkeley is the perfect spot for drinks and bites with friends. Located on the highest rooftop in the city, Study Hall offers stunning views of the entire Bay Area and a lively ambiance that’s perfect for a night out.
Cool bars in San Francisco
San Francisco is known for its vibrant nightlife, and there are plenty of cool bars to choose from. Here are some of the best bars in San Francisco, their vibe and location:
Located at 650 Gough St, Smuggler’s Cove is a Polynesian-style tiki bar that serves up creative cocktails. The decor is fun and tropical, with lots of bamboo and thatched roofs. The drinks are strong and flavorful, and the atmosphere is always lively.
Alchemist Bar & Lounge
Situated at 679 3rd St, Alchemist Bar & Lounge is a trendy spot with a speakeasy vibe. The bar has a rotating list of craft cocktails and a wide selection of high-quality spirits. The decor is dark and moody, with lots of velvet and leather.
Located at 2351 Mission St, Casements Bar is a low-key neighborhood bar with a friendly vibe. The bar is known for its extensive beer selection, with over 28 beers on tap. The decor is simple, with a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.
Cavaña is a rooftop bar located in Mission Bay. The views of the city skyline are amazing, and there are plenty of cozy lounge areas to relax in. The drinks are refreshing and perfect for warm summer nights.
Blind Pig is located in Chinatown and has a prohibition-era ambiance. The bartenders are skilled mixologists who serve up classic cocktails with a twist. The decor is elegant and classy, with lots of dark wood and leather.
Bar Sprezzatura is located in the Financial District and has a sleek and modern atmosphere. The bar specializes in Italian-style aperitifs, and the cocktails are light and refreshing. The decor is minimalist and chic, with lots of marble and gold accents.
What not to do in San Francisco, things to avoid
Don’t leave valuables in your car:
Car break-ins are a common occurrence in San Francisco, especially in tourist-heavy areas like Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square. To avoid becoming a victim of theft, make sure not to leave any valuables in your car, even for a short period.
Don’t ignore street signs and parking regulations:
Parking in San Francisco can be challenging, and it’s important to pay attention to street signs and parking regulations to avoid getting a ticket or being towed. Be aware of street cleaning schedules, parking meters, and residential parking permits to avoid any issues.
Don’t be loud and disruptive in residential areas:
San Francisco is a dense city, and many people live in close proximity to one another. To be respectful to the residents, avoid being loud and disruptive in residential areas, especially at night.
Don’t underestimate the hills:
San Francisco is famous for its steep hills, and it’s important to be prepared for them, especially if you plan to walk or bike around the city. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and take breaks if needed.
Don’t miss out on public transportation:
San Francisco has an excellent public transportation system, including buses, trains, and cable cars. It’s a great way to get around the city and see the sights without having to worry about parking or traffic. Don’t be afraid to use it!
Shopping, taxes and tipping in San Francisco
Sales tax in San Francisco is currently 8.5%, but it can vary depending on the specific location. The tax is added to the total price of the item, and it applies to both goods and services. It’s important to keep this in mind when shopping, as the price on the tag or menu may not include tax.
Some restaurants in San Francisco may include a service charge on the bill, especially for larger groups. This charge typically ranges from 15% to 20% and is intended to cover the cost of service. It’s important to check the menu or ask the server if a service charge is included to avoid double-tipping.
Tipping is expected in San Francisco, especially in the service industry. For restaurants, a tip of 15% to 20% of the total bill is customary, depending on the level of service received. It’s important to note that servers in San Francisco are typically paid minimum wage, so tips are an important part of their income.
Safety and security in San Francisco
San Francisco is generally a safe city to visit, but like any major city, there are some safety and security concerns that visitors should be aware of.
Be aware of your surroundings:
It’s important to be aware of your surroundings, especially when walking alone or in unfamiliar areas. Avoid walking alone at night, and if you must, stay in well-lit areas and on main streets. Be aware of your belongings and keep them close to you.
Avoid certain neighborhoods:
While San Francisco is generally a safe city, there are some neighborhoods that have higher crime rates than others. These include the Tenderloin, Bayview-Hunters Point, and parts of the Mission District. It’s best to avoid these areas, especially at night.
Use public transportation:
San Francisco has an excellent public transportation system, including buses, trains, and cable cars. It’s a great way to get around the city and see the sights without having to worry about traffic or safety concerns. Make sure to keep an eye on your belongings while using public transportation.
Be cautious of street vendors and panhandlers:
While many street vendors and panhandlers in San Francisco are legitimate, some may try to take advantage of tourists. Be cautious of anyone who approaches you on the street, and don’t give money or personal information to anyone you don’t know.
Know emergency numbers:
Make sure to know the emergency numbers in San Francisco, including 911 for emergencies and 311 for non-emergency situations. If you need help or assistance, don’t hesitate to call for help.
Final advices for travellers
In San Francisco, the standard electrical voltage is 120 volts AC. If you’re traveling from a country with a different voltage, you’ll need a voltage converter and a plug adapter to charge your electronics.
Paying by card or cash:
Most businesses in San Francisco accept credit and debit cards, including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. However, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand for small purchases or in case of an emergency. ATMs are widely available throughout the city.
Cost of living:
San Francisco is known for its high cost of living, and visitors should be prepared for higher prices than they may be used to. Accommodation, food, and transportation can be expensive, so it’s a good idea to budget accordingly.
In case of an emergency, the number to call is 911. For non-emergency situations, the number is 311. It’s a good idea to have these numbers saved in your phone or written down in case of an emergency.
Other practical info for foreigners:
San Francisco has a diverse population, and visitors should be respectful of different cultures and languages.
The city is known for its hills, so comfortable walking shoes are a must.
San Francisco is a pedestrian-friendly city, but it’s important to follow traffic signals and be aware of traffic when crossing the street.
Tap water in San Francisco is safe to drink, so you don’t need to buy bottled water.
English is the primary language spoken in San Francisco, but many people also speak Spanish and other languages.
San Francisco in movies
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo is a classic thriller that was filmed in San Francisco. The movie stars James Stewart as a former detective who suffers from acrophobia and becomes obsessed with a woman he’s been hired to follow. The movie features several San Francisco landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower.
Dirty Harry (1971):
Dirty Harry is an action-thriller that stars Clint Eastwood as a San Francisco police inspector who is tasked with tracking down a serial killer who calls himself Scorpio. The movie features several San Francisco landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Embarcadero.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993):
Mrs. Doubtfire is a comedy-drama that stars Robin Williams as a struggling actor who disguises himself as a British nanny in order to spend time with his children after a messy divorce. The movie features several San Francisco landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Painted Ladies, and the Palace of Fine Arts.
The Rock (1996):
The Rock is an action-thriller that stars Nicolas Cage as an FBI chemical weapons specialist who teams up with a former Alcatraz inmate, played by Sean Connery, to stop a group of terrorists from launching a chemical attack on San Francisco. The movie features several San Francisco landmarks, including Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Coit Tower.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018):
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a superhero movie that stars Paul Rudd as Ant-Man and Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp. The movie features several San Francisco landmarks, including Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco in books
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin:
Tales of the City is a series of novels by Armistead Maupin that follows the lives of a group of residents of 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood. The books explore the city’s LGBTQ+ culture, politics, and social issues.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan:
The Joy Luck Club is a novel by Amy Tan that tells the stories of four Chinese-American immigrant families living in San Francisco. The book explores themes of family, identity, and cultural assimilation in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett:
The Maltese Falcon is a classic detective novel by Dashiell Hammett that takes place in San Francisco. The book follows private detective Sam Spade as he investigates the murder of his partner and the search for a valuable statue.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe:
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a non-fiction book by Tom Wolfe that chronicles the travels of author Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters as they drive a bus across the country, including San Francisco. The book is a seminal work of the counterculture movement of the 1960s and explores themes of drug use, alternative lifestyles, and spirituality.
City of Glass by Paul Auster:
City of Glass is a novel by Paul Auster that takes place in San Francisco. The book follows writer Daniel Quinn as he becomes entangled in a mystery involving a private detective and his client. The book is a postmodern work that explores themes of identity, language, and reality.
Check out our USA Travel Guide.