People visit San Francisco for its famous places like the Golden Gate Bridge, beautiful nature, and hilly streets. The city offers great restaurants and many outdoor activities.
Our list of top things to do in San Francisco is full of activities. You can walk in Chinatown, explore the Exploratorium, and enjoy views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s easy to find many exciting things to add to your travel plan.
Things to do in San Francisco
1. Take a walk through Chinatown. It is the oldest in North America. In addition, San Francisco has the largest Chinese community outside of Asia.
2. And also in Chinatown is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Did you know that they are originally from San Francisco and not China? You can enter the factory, see how they make them, and even buy one with a personalized message.
3. Find ‘Rainbow LOVE’, a sculpture by Laura Kimpton behind the Union Square Apple Store.
4. Go shopping in the Union Square area: it is full of restaurants, large shopping centers, and many stores of all kinds. You have the best views of the square from the Cheesecake Factory of Macy’s .
5. Look for the Flatiron in San Francisco. It is a building very similar in shape to the Flatiron in New York, although the style is different. Another classic of the city is the Transamerica Pyramid and it is very close.
6. Get on a ‘cable car‘, the classic San Francisco funicular. They are very meticulous and the routes they take are beautiful. Yes, prepare the dollars. $8 each way!
8. Take the opportunity to take a walk along Pier 39 because it is not just a pier. There is also an area with restaurants, a carousel, and several shops. Basically, it is like a leisure and entertainment space.
9. Take the ferry to Alcatraz and discover the history of what is probably one of the most famous prisons in the world. In both high and low seasons, don’t forget to book in advance.
10. Try the classic ‘clam chowder’ at Fisherman’s Wharf. This clam chowder is served inside a bread roll and is quite a delicacy. I recommend trying it at Boudin Bakery, well-known for its sourdough bread. You will be amazed by the great store/restaurant they have set up.
11. Save room for dessert at Ghirardelli’s. This is the second oldest chocolate shop in the United States and was founded in San Francisco by an Italian named Domingo Ghirardelli. Don’t miss their ice cream cups, they are really awesome!
12. Walk through Fort Mason, an old defensive fort built by the Spanish. Now it is a park and the buildings that were formerly used by the army are used for cultural and artistic purposes. If you have time, lie down on the grass to enjoy a little relaxation.
13. Tour Crissy Field Park. It has a lovely promenade along San Francisco Beach and lots of information panels explaining how climate change and rising sea levels impact San Francisco Bay.
14. Observe the Golden Gate from all possible points of view. If the day is cloudy, you should still visit because the fog gives it a very mystical atmosphere.
15. Walk through the Presidio of San Francisco, a huge park with lots of viewpoints to see the Golden Gate from different points of view.
16. Come to the San Francisco City Hall. In addition to being a place with a lot of history, the building is enormous and has the fifth-largest dome in the world.
17. Discover the wonderful architecture of the houses of Hayes Valley. Impossible to choose just one!
18. Visit the first building that was built in San Francisco: Mission Dolores. Originally there was a parish and a church, but after the earthquake that occurred in the city in 1906, the church was completely destroyed and, in its place, a new building was built that was consecrated as a Basilica.
More things to do in San Francisco
20. Observe the traffic on Lombard Street, known as the most crooked street in the world. It’s famous for its 180-degree turns. If you rent a car in San Francisco, driving down Lombard Street is a unique experience!
21. Make sure to visit the Cable Car Museum and learn the story of how a woman played a crucial role in preserving this historic mode of transportation from disappearing entirely.
22. Stop by Dolores Park. It is on a hill and you can see the entire city.
23. Go eat at the Ferry Building. It was originally built to be the ferry terminal building, but has been transformed into a food and souvenir market. Everything sold inside is made locally.
24. Experience a classic moment at Alamo Square, where you’ll find the Painted Ladies. These charming houses became famous for appearing in the opening sequence of the TV show ‘Full House’. The houses are truly beautiful!
25. Don’t just stay in Alamo Square, but take a walk around because that neighborhood is full of beautiful Victorian houses.
26. Revisit the ‘Summer of Love’ in Haight-Ashbury, the quintessential hippie neighborhood. It’s filled with many small shops and restaurants to explore.
27. Rent a bike and ride through Golden Gate Park. Walking through it will take you practically all day because it is 20% larger than Central Park.
28. Visit the Moraga Stairs in a city known for its hills and stairs. These particular stairs, near the Grandview Lookout, have been colorfully decorated by local residents. They are stunningly beautiful. While you’re there, take the opportunity to enjoy the impressive views from the viewpoint.
29. If you like art you can’t miss the SFMoMa, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This museum has art from 1900 to now. If you’re not an art expert, you can join free daily talks about the museum and its exhibitions.
30. If you are one of those who are looking for the best viewpoints in San Francisco, write this one down: the Coit Tower. A bit expensive ($9), but the views are really worth it.
31. Cross the most colorful pedestrian crossing in the world, the one on Castro Street, in the Castro neighborhood.
32. Before you visit the Castro neighborhood, watch the movie “Milk.” It’s about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay American politician who worked for LGBTI rights. On Castro Street, you can see where Harvey Milk’s shop, ‘Castro Camera,‘ and his house were.
33. Visit Twin Peaks, as it’s one of the best viewpoints in San Francisco.
34. Consider a day trip to Muir Woods. It’s worth spending a day exploring this incredible forest of Redwood trees.
35. Enjoy the sunset at Battery Spencer, across the Golden Gate. Another of the best viewpoints in San Francisco, although this one is not in the city, but in the bay. It is probably the best viewpoint to enjoy the Golden Gate.
36. Walk the ‘California Coastal Trail’ at Lands End, a park in San Francisco with various trails. The best one follows the coast along the old train tracks. You’ll see the Golden Gate Bridge and a rocky coastline with cliffs. It’s a beautiful area. Also, look for the scenic spot Lands End Lookout and the Sutro Baths, ruins of old thermal baths that burned down and were never restored. This is one of the best things to do in San Francisco.
37. Visit the Palace of Fine Arts both during the day and at night. It’s a spectacular sight and one of the most beautiful buildings in San Francisco!
38. Take a walk around Baker Beach, especially at sunset. The waves are strong, typical of the Pacific Ocean.
39. Visit the Museé Mecanique, a museum with old arcade machines that work with quarters. Even if you just look around, it’s one of the best things to do in San Francisco.
40. Rent a bike to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and ride to Sausalito. You can return by ferry, so you don’t have to bike back, which is harder. The bike ride takes about an hour.
41. Visit the houseboat area in Sausalito to see beautiful and charming floating homes.
42. Visit Tartine Bakery, well-known for its excellent pastries, cakes, and bread. Their croissants are exceptional, flaky on the outside and soft inside, with a rich buttery taste. It’s worth waiting in line for their fresh pastries and bread.
43. The Exploratorium in San Francisco is another great museum, especially for hands-on science experiences. It’s perfect for kids, but adults can enjoy it too, especially on Thursday nights when it’s adult night. You can even have a beer while trying out the museum’s experiments!
44. If you love plants and flowers, don’t miss the San Francisco Botanical Garden. It’s a large garden with plants from all over the world. Plus, if you enter before 9 in the morning, it’s free.
45. The final thing to do is plan to come back because San Francisco deserves multiple visits. It’s an exciting city with so many interesting things to do.