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25 Best Places to Visit and Things to do in San Francisco, California

Beyond the usual San Francisco tourist attractions, the city will charm you with windswept hikes up the golden-hued hills and soulful symphonies. It will fulfill all your gastronomical dreams with the finest restaurants and dazzle you with a nightlife teeming with old western bars and speakeasies. 

With so many things to explore and experience, there is never a dull moment in San Francisco, California! Every time you visit, San Francisco will surprise you with something new (no, we’re not talking about its unpredictable weather!). 

Read on to find out what to do in San Francisco, as we take you through the 25 best things to do in San Francisco that are absolutely unmissable.

Take a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge is arguably one of the top things to do in San Francisco. Visited by over 10 million travelers annually, this San Francisco attraction is not golden but “international orange” in color.  

Drive across the Golden Gate Bridge (toll applicable to southbound vehicles) or take a leisurely walk on the pedestrian walkway across the Bridge for some splendid views of Sacramento River underneath and vast rolling hills in the north.

Golden Gate Bridge as seen from Marshall’s Beach, March 2018.jpg
By © Frank Schulenburg, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Address: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California, USA | Timing: 24/7 | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/1s1prqgzGMxxQ3bR7 | Phone: +14159215858

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park tops the list of fun things to do in San Francisco and the 13 million travelers visiting it each year are proof!  

Visit the Golden Gate Park for its scenic picnic spots, serene lakes, botanical garden, and museum. Particularly fascinating is the Japanese Tea Garden that features cutesy bridges, cherry trees, bamboo groves, koi ponds, a pagoda, and a traditional Japanese Tea House.  

Several music festivals and concerts are also held at the Golden Gate Park all around the year.  

Golden Gate Park aerial.jpg
By Dicklyon, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Address: San Francisco, California, USA | Timing: 24/7 | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/PYDw3vUkDGHmPsqRA | Phone: +14158312700

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is a waterfront neighborhood and a popular tourist attraction in San Francisco. Enjoy the salty sea breeze with some astounding views of the ocean, Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz Prison in the distance, and witness a colony of Californian sea lions sun-bathing at Pier 39. 

The Wharf also has a buzzing marketplace and several iconic eateries such as Buena Vista and Boudin. Savor some Dungeness crabs from a street-side stall or indulge in an elaborate seafood affair at a gourmet restaurant – choices are aplenty!   

Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco (5589590292).jpg
By Pedro Szekely, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Address: San Francisco, California, USA | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/wDrztga6Durec7FH8 

Union Square SF

If your idea of fun is shopping, good food, and great drinks then spending a day at Union Square should be on the top of your list of things to do in San Francisco.  

Loved by the locals and travelers alike, the entire area of Union Square is dotted with high-end designer boutiques, retail stores, several cafes and find-dine options, and buzzing nightlife.  

Explore the historic monuments at Union Square or visit the many art galleries and theatres that host fun events and concerts regularly.  

Union Square - San Francisco.jpg
By Benson Kua, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Address: 333 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA | Timing: 24/7 | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/y9eHDtp2P4xJHs2R9 | Phone: +14154864800

Escape to the Alcatraz Island

The island prison of Alcatraz once housed several notorious prisoners and has featured in many movies. Many tried, but no prisoner could ever successfully escape the prison. This former prison is one of the most popular places to see in San Francisco – so much so, that tickets get sold out weeks in advance! 

The island prison is accessible via ferry from Piers 31-33 and tourists can avail guided tours or explore the island prison on their own. 

Alcatraz Island photo D Ramey Logan.jpg
By Photograph by D Ramey Logan, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Address: San Francisco, California 94133, USA | Timings: Operational hours vary with seasons. Visit http://www.nps.gov/alca/index.htm for more details. | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/dyT9GYS1LFawvQwm9 | Phone: +14155614900

Chinatown

San Francisco’s Chinatown covers an area of about 24 blocks and feels like an entirely different city on the inside.  

A great way to explore Chinatown is by taking a walk around the neighborhood, soaking in the different sights and smells of the traditional food markets, amphitheater, museums and temples. Visit the famous Chinese bazaars for exotic Chinese souvenirs and ancient Chinese potions.  

And, what’s a better place to indulge in some authentic Chinese food than Chinatown. Dim sum, anyone? 

1 chinatown san francisco arch gateway.JPG
By chensiyuan – chensiyuan, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Address: San Francisco, California, USA | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/VRFfrqKos7jeogKS7

Watch a San Francisco Giants Game 

Watching San Francisco Giants play at the Oracle Park stadium is hands down one of the most exciting and fun things to do in San Francisco!  

The way the city unites at the stadium and the crowd cheers from the stands is nothing short of electrifying. And even though baseball season lasts only from April to October, travelers can enjoy behind-the-scenes walking tours of the stadium all year round.  

SF-Giants-Logo.jpg
By Neurosiensf, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Address: Oracle Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, California 94107, USA | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/hBii1pqDwyy9w3EC9 | Phone: +14159722000

Ride on symbolic San Francisco Cable Car

If you want to fully immerse yourselves in San Francisco and all its charms, riding the iconic cable cars is a must-do in San Francisco. 

The Cable car system was introduced in San Francisco during the late 1800s and has since then become synonymous with its identity. The cable cars appear on most San Francisco souvenirs and memorabilia (as does the Golden Gate Bridge) and attract over 9 million travelers annually!  

Enjoy the ride as your cable car meanders along the many upward and downward slopes and affords incredible views of the city.  

Cable Car No. 1 and Alcatraz Island.jpg
By Thomas Wolf, www.foto-tw.de, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Timings: 06:30 am to 12:00 am

Experience the Presidio

The Presidio of San Francisco is an important historic landmark of San Francisco and one of the best things to do in SF.  

Spread over more than two square miles in area, this place has a lot to offer, right from picturesque hiking trails to lush green spaces. Situated at the northernmost tip of the peninsula, it is a part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area.  

Many viewing points around the Presidio overlook the Golden Gate Bridge and provide spectacularly panoramic views of the sea and the Bridge beyond.  

Battery Boutelle, the Presidio of San Francisco.JPG
By EPoelzl, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Address: Presidio of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/QkuD5oBHoMRua1UB9 

The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium at San Francisco is a “learning laboratory” that explores the human perception of science and arts through several hands-on exhibits spread across its six expansive galleries.  

Even though the museum is primarily for children, adults have reported that they were as awestruck and intrigued as their little ones!  

It is easy to spend an entire day seeing and doing everything the Exploratorium has to offer.  

San Francisco Exploratorium.jpg
CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Address: Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, California 94100, USA | Timing: The timings may have changed owing to the pandemic, please check the website  https://www.exploratorium.edu/ for the latest timings. | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/jV7FgLzswvbeipUCA | Phone: +14155284444

Ghirardelli Square

In all honesty, a trip to San Francisco is incomplete without a visit to the iconic Ghirardelli Square near the Fisherman’s Wharf.  

This former chocolate factory is over a century old landmark of the bay area and houses several upscale retail shops, cafes, and restaurants.  

San Francisco’s Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop is an absolute must-visit here, where you can indulge in some of the country’s most famous chocolates and ice creams.  

Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco.jpg
By DroneEddie, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Address: 900 North Point St Ste F301, San Francisco, California 94109, USA | Timing: Monday – Thursday: 12:00 pm to 08:00 pm, Friday – Sunday: 11:30 am to 08:30 pm | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/mmdHuCJeVFRYZWQp8 | Phone: +14154743938

Aquarium of the Bay

Located on Pier 39, the Aquarium of the Bay at San Francisco has over 300 feet long clear underwater tunnels with over 200 species of aquatic animals gliding overhead.  

Here you will come “face to fin” with sharks, bat rays, White Sturgeon, turtles, and several species of jellyfish. Other exhibits also house river otters and Giant Pacific Octopuses.  

Aquarium of the Bay exterior 1.JPG
By BrokenSphere, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Address: PIER 39 The Embarcadero &, Beach St, San Francisco, California 94133, USA | Timing: The timings may have changed owing to the pandemic, please check the website  https://www.aquariumofthebay.org/ for the latest timings | Google Maps Location: https://g.page/aquariumothebay?share | Phone: +14156235300

Twin Peaks

Take a break from local sightseeing and tend to your outdoorsy spirit by going on a hike up the Twin Peaks.  

The Twin Peaks trek takes you back in time before modern development changed San Francisco’s landscape forever.  

The area surrounding the 0.7 miles long hiking trail on the Twin Peaks is rife with local flora and fauna. Once atop, the breathtaking views of San Francisco city and its two famous bridges in the distance are simply stunning (and so worth the hike!).  

things to do in San Francisco

Address: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA | Timing: 05:00 am to 12:00 am | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/mTgGcyEPuZnhUWhdA | Phone: +14158312700

Ferry Building

If you are a foodie, this San Francisco attraction is calling out your name!  

Ferry Buildings Marketplace in San Francisco has many small restaurants serving lip-smacking food. Enjoy everything from Mexican empanadas to juicy burgers and fresh seafood, freshly brewed local coffee to decadent chocolates in the Ferry Buildings Marketplace. The farmers market at Ferry Buildings sells fresh, locally grown vegetables. A single trip to Ferry Buildings is never enough! 

San Francisco Ferry Building (cropped).jpg
By JaGa, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Address: 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, California 94111, USA | Timings: Monday – Friday: 10:00 am to 07:00 pm, Saturday: 08:00 am to 06:00 pm, Sunday: 11:00 am to 05:00 pm | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/39T4sAt63njx89948 | Phone: +14159838000

Muir Woods National Monument

Visiting the Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco is one of the most humbling experiences. The tallest redwood tree in this area is a staggering 258 feet tall and the oldest tree is no less than 1200 years old! 

Several hiking and biking trails (with varying levels of difficulty) with beautiful bridges crisscross the heavily wooded area and are great for exploring California’s native terrain. Even though there are no camping sites at the monument, a few campsites nearby that can be prebooked.  

Muir Woods National Monument (47879026351).jpg
By Matthew Dillon, CC BY 2.0, Link

Address: Mill Valley, California 94941, USA | Timing: 08:00 am to 05:00 pm | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/NCEQ6psTH5EftQua8 | Phone: +14155612850

Ocean Beach

The Ocean Beach on the northwestern corner of San Francisco is a beautiful white sandy beach loved by seasoned surfers and travelers looking to spend a relaxed day away from the busy city.  

The 3.5 miles long stretch of the seashore is not overly crowded and travelers can enjoy a lovely day at the seaside, grilling some fresh fish on a bonfire while downing a couple of chilled beers.  

The Ocean Beach forms a part of the Golden Gate National park and offers phenomenal views of the Bridge in the distance.  

Ocean Beach in San Francisco at sunrise.jpg
By Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Address: San Francisco, California, USA | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/hGBF4MrwiScQt9F2A 

Yerba Buena Gardens

San Francisco sightseeing is incomplete without a dip into the city’s vibrant cultural heritage.  

Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco have a striking display of public arts and host several events all year round that feature amazing performing artists from around the world.   

Other San Francisco attractions deserving of your time are Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Children’s Creativity Museum, and the fine-dine restaurants serving up a storm.  

2017 Yerba Buena Gardens.jpg
By Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Address: 750 Howard St, San Francisco, California 94103, USA | Timings: 06:00 am to 10:00 pm | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/M6a2ZRaR2azP8r7G9 | Phone: +14156513684

California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences is undoubtedly one of the most interesting places to visit in San Francisco.  

It houses an aquarium, a natural history museum, a planetarium, and a rainforest – yes, an entire four-story rainforest, the California Academy of Sciences is must-see in San Francisco. Their Nightlife Live is a one-of-a-kind experience where you explore the exhibits while sipping on cocktails!  

California Academy of Sciences San Francisco December 2016 HDR.jpg
By King of Hearts, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Address: 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, California 94118, USA | Timing: The timings may have changed owing to the pandemic, please check the website https://www.calacademy.org/ for the latest timings. | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/eGTFQKcYZdW1NDST6 | Phone: +14153798000

Baker Beach

While San Francisco is not a traditional coastal place, spending a day by Baker Beach is a fun San Francisco activity. 

Baker Beach is famous for scenic views of towering cliffs and Golden Gate Bridge. Spend the sunset by the sea as the pink-hued sky becomes a perfect backdrop for the Bridge’s magnificence.  

Pack a picnic and spend the day lazing around with a book and indulging in an afternoon siesta whilst listening to the sound of waves or perhaps, try your hand at fishing. 

BakerBeach-San Francisco.jpg
By ParaGreen13 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Address: San Francisco, California, USA | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/MuFR2Mzb9fmVw6ja8

Lands End Trail

Considered to be the best hiking trail in San Francisco by many, it is one of the most enthralling things to do in San Francisco.  

The views of Golden Gate Bridge in the distance are a sight for sore eyes as this winding trail makes its way through cliffs, a golf course, and historical ruins. At a leisurely pace, the hike takes about an hour to finish and it is recommended to spend the sunset gazing up as the sun sets behind the Bridge painting the sky in every possible shade of red. 

Lands End Park, coastal trail and stairs, SF.jpg
By Another Believer, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Address: San Francisco, California 94121, USA | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/cSLmzfvPMk8Gminq8

Fort Point National Historic Site

If you are a history buff, the fort at Presidio is one of the best places to go in San Francisco. This former civil war fortress in San Francisco is now a National Historic Site and offers sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay area from a very different vantage point.

Fort Point National Historic Site (116845657).jpeg
By Justin Scott, CC BY 3.0, Link

The walk or bike ride up to the fort is very scenic and makes for some great pictures! 

Address: Long Ave & Marine Dr, 201 Marine Dr, San Francisco, California 94129, USA | Timing: Monday – Thursday: Closed, Friday – Sunday: 10:00 am to 05:00 pm, Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/XeATkiGukbycrbYg9 | Phone: +14155042334 

Dolores Park

The Dolores Park is a popular park situated in the heart of San Francisco and loved by the locals and travelers alike.  

Its large recreational area features playgrounds for children, basketball and tennis courts, soccer fields, and off-leash dog parks. Dolores Park also hosts several annual cultural events and festivals. 

The lush green gardens at the park are dotted with shady palm trees, perfect to enjoy a picnic on bright, sunny days!  

Mission Dolores Park, San Francisco.jpg
By Travel Coffee Book, CC0, Link

Address: Dolores St &, 19th St, San Francisco, California 94114, USA | Timing: 06:00 am to 10:00 pm | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/G1peFay1sbafrnfq6 | Phone: +14155549521

Mission District

The striking murals and graffiti in the Mission District are among the best things to see in San Francisco.  

The oldest neighborhood in San Francisco, Mission District, retains its Latino roots and exudes a laidback, bohemian vibe that attracts millions of travelers every year. 

Spend the day walking around the neighborhood, enjoying heavenly Mexican food at popular eateries, and exploring some of San Francisco’s best art galleries. After sundown, party like the locals at an old-school live-music nightclub.  

Mission District San Francisco.jpg
By Wendy Harman, CC BY 2.0, Link

Address: San Francisco, California, USA | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/DvDy67xqJRtQY8sb9 

Lombard Street

The famously crooked road on a slope is as much a part of San Francisco’s identity as is the Golden Gate Bridge. Beautiful mansions and carefully manicured shrubbery along the street make for one of the most picturesque attractions across the city.  

Walk up the slope of the pretty road for terrific views of San Francisco from the top or drive down its hairpin turns – either way, this unique street is worth a visit!  

Lombard Street 2020.jpg
By Cmichel67, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Address: San Francisco, California, USA | Google Maps Location: https://goo.gl/maps/avgas4zehih4AvSc9 

Pier 39

San Francisco’s Pier 39 is a premier bay area destination bustling with popular tourist attractions – upscale shopping and dining options, multiple stalls selling scrumptious seafood, museums, aquarium and so much more with a side of scenic views of both, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. 

But the most loved San Francisco attractions at the Pier 39 are the playfully boisterous sea lions that call the pier their home since 1989. Travelers from around the world flock at the railings to witness the lot of them sunbathing and indulging in all sorts of antics! 

Pier 39 - San Francisco, California.jpg
By Kingofthedead, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Address: The Embarcadero, San Francisco, California 94133, USA | Timing: 11:00 am to 06:00 pm | Google Maps Location: https://g.page/pier-39-san-francisco?share | Phone: +14157055500

Fog City, Golden City, City by the Bay – over the years San Francisco’s many nicknames have come and gone, but the feeling has remained the same. Pack your bags and embark on the journey of a lifetime to San Francisco!

Prakrite
I love to explore the world. Even with more than 20+ countries, I have traveled to, it is a fact that I have to cover a lot more to see this world at it's best!

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