Free Things to Do in San Francisco

On a Budget? No Problem!

As you have probably figured out by now, San Francisco is an expensive city to visit or live in. Well, that's okay because we have put together a great list of free things to do in the city by the bay. So, if you're traveling on a budget, or even a really tight budget, then this list should get you started. Here are some of the best free things to do in San Francisco.
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is the iconic symbol of San Francisco. It's one mile wide and connects the city of San Francisco with Marin County. It offers a stunning view looking back on the city and many visitors enjoy renting bikes and riding across the bridge. It is also considered one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Golden Gate Bridge, SF, California, 94129
Union Square
Union Square
Union Square is one of the most famous public plazas in San Francisco. It's surrounded by some of the city's best shopping, theaters, and tourist attractions and is bordered by Geary, Powell, Post, and Stockton Streets.

Union Square also has a number of high end hotels, world class restaurants, as well as green space where visitors can hang out. Fashion lovers will appreciate the area's top rated shopping. Almost any brand you can think of has a store in the area.
Union Square, SF, California, 94104
Interested in more travel advice for San Francisco? Check out Explore the Asian Culture in San Francisco and Hidden Finds in San Francisco.
Lands End Park
Lands End Park
Lands End is a park that's located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It runs along the beautiful rocky shoreline and offers stunning views out over the water. It's located between the Sutro District and Lincoln Park and has a number of hiking trails that follow the coast. You'll also find a few small beaches such as Mile Rock Beach and Sea Rocks Beach. Also inside the park is the Legion of Honor art gallery, Holocaust Memorial, a golf course, the USS San Francisco WW2 Memorial, the Sutro Baths, and more. It's a nice place to explore, or find a space to yourself and enjoy reading or simply relaxing.
Seacliff, SF, California, 94121-1545
Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf is a classic tourist's neighborhood in San Francisco. It's filled with souvenir shops where you can by t-shirts and other nick nacks. This is also where you'll find the famous Pier 39 with its many attractions including San Francisco's famous sea lions. Also in the area are a couple of museums, the famous sourdough and clam chowder restaurant, Boudin, and ferries to Alcatraz. Fisherman's Wharf is also the turn around point for one of the cable car lines.
San Francisco, CA
Chinatown
Chinatown
Chinatown is a must-see neighborhood for anyone visiting San Francisco. It's one of the most visited neighborhoods in the city and it offers a unique cultural experience, that is surprisingly authentic, particularly if you wander down Stockton Street, which is lined with local seafood and vegetable markets. For the more touristy stretch with souvenir shops, head to Grant Street. San Francisco's Chinatown has a long history, and it is home to the largest Chinese population outside of China.

For anyone interested in trying local Chinese food, there are a number of good restaurants. There are also many small shops with souvenirs and trinkets.
San Francisco, CA
Pier 39
Pier 39
Pier 39 is the most popular pier in Fisherman's Wharf. It's a touristy area with a number of shops and restaurants, but people also head to the pier to see San Francisco's famous sea lions. They hang out on the nearby docks and entertain the crowds. The pier is also lined with seafood vendors and a couple of tourist museums.
Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Alamo Square Park
Alamo Square Park
This park is most notable as the place to view the famous "Painted Ladies," a series of Victorian and Edwardian homes that were made famous by the Tanner family, in the 1980's sitcom, "Full House". The park spreads out for 36 acres and it's a nice place to relax with a book, enjoy a picnic lunch, or let the kid's play on the playground.
Steiner St & Hayes Street, Alamo Square, San Francisco, CA, 94117
Ferry Building
Ferry Building
This historic building has been converted into a shopping area with great restaurants and local vendors who sell produce, cheese, and more. There's also a weekend farmer's market in the area that's fun to browse.
1 Ferry Building, Financial District and Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA, 94111
San Francisco has plenty more to offer, so see also our other articles: The Best Hiking Trails Near San Francisco and What to Do in the Summer in San Francisco.
Lombard Street
Lombard Street
Often called "the crookedest street in the world" (although technically it's ranked second - the first is also in San Francisco), this zig zag street is a popular tourist attraction. It's fun to drive through this small stretch of switchbacks, but depending when you visit, be prepared for traffic.
Russian Hill, San Francisco, CA
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Located amid the hustle and bustle of the Financial District, this garden offers a nice retreat from the surrounding energy. There's a hedge maze, waterfalls, and grassy areas where you can relax in the sun. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a snack or take a break with a book. It's also conveniently located where you can rest your legs during a busy day of sightseeing.
750 Howard Street, SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94103
Mission Dolores Park
Mission Dolores Park
This large park is a popular hangout with locals, who head here when the weather's nice to enjoy picnics, ballgames, and hanging out in the sun. The park has a full-sized basketball court, a bike polo court, a soccer field, and six tennis courts. There's also a large playground that's perfect for kids. The park is in a family-friendly area so parents and kids often spend their afternoons here.
Dolores St &, 19th St, Mission and the Castro, San Francisco, CA, 94114
Clarion Alley
Clarion Alley is a unique street in San Francisco that is famous for its murals, which were painted by the Clarion Alley Mural Project. The street is located between Mission and Valencia Streets and 17th and 18th Streets.
Clarion Alley, Mission District, SF, California, 94110
Cable Car Museum
This free museum is all about the history of the cable car system in San Francisco, and is also home to the actual machinery that powers the cable cars themselves! Visitors can see historical exhibits about how the cable cars were once used much more frequently in the city, what they looked like, and how they work. It's also possible to go down under the street level to see the gear machinery, and gaze upon the large engines and wheels that move the cables.
1201 Mason Street, Nob Hill, SF, California, 94133
Grace Cathedral
Grace Cathedral is an Episcopal cathedral on Nob Hill. The beautiful building is known for its mosaics, two labyrinths, and impressive stained glass windows.
1170 California Street, Nob Hill, SF, California, 94108
Japantown
Japantown in San Francisco is the oldest of the three remaining Japantowns in the United States. At the heart of the neighborhood is the Japan Center, which is a shopping area filled with restaurants, hotels, and a movie theater. Head here for some of the city's best sushi and ramen. The neighborhood also hosts a number of great festivals throughout the years including the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, Children's Day in May, and the August Nihonmachi Street Fair
San Francisco, CA
Pioneer Park
Climb the stairwell on Filbert Street and you'll stumble into Pioneer Park, which is a 5 acre park that surrounds the famous Coit Tower. The park offers views of Russian Hill and it's possible to see The Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz when the weather allows.
1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, CA, 94133
Hayes Valley
Hayes Valley is a dynamic neighborhood centering on Hayes Street between the blocks of Van Ness Ave and Laguna. Here you'll find plenty of shops and restaurants. If you're interested in clothing boutiques, this is a good spot, as this area has plenty. Also found here are some home and garden design stores, tech and gadget shops, and shoe stores. A few bars and restaurants can be found along Hayes Street as well such as Doppio Zero (pizza & Italian), Anina (cocktails & beer), Monsieur Benjamin (French), and Chez Maman (French). The Davies Symphony Hall and the SFJAZZ Center are also in this area of town. Also, check out Patricia's Green which is a small park with some art exhibits.
Hayes & Gough, San Francsico, California
San Francisco Railway Museum
Located by the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero, this fun and family-friendly railroad museum focuses on the history of railroading in San Francisco with a special focus on the historic street cars. After all, the city is not just home to the cable cars, but also street cars and a subway system. Visitors can get into the driver's seat of a replica street car and view a variety of exhibits about local history as it relates to transportation in the region.
77 Steuart Street, Embarcadero and Financial District, San Francisco, California
Buena Vista Park
Buena Vista Park, in the famed Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, is the oldest park in the city. It's a bit of a climb to reach the park's peak, but from here you can enjoy views of the city, the University of San Francisco, and the surrounding hills that make up San Francisco's unique topography. The setting is a nice place to relax or enjoy a picnic.
Buena Vista & Haight Street, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, CA, 94117
Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden
Head to this beautiful garden during the spring season to see the tulips in bloom. The garden offers a touch of the Netherlands in San Francisco. The flowers are set beneath an authentic Dutch windmill and the beautiful red, pink, orange, and yellow colors really pop when the flowers are in bloom. You can also grab a bite at the Park Chalet Garden Restaurant and enjoy the view while you dine.
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Park is a diverse outdoor space with museums, wildlife, gardens, and trails all within a peaceful setting. It is the third most visited park in the United States, and it's the perfect place to wander, walk, run, or relax. Inside the park you'll find world-class museums like de Young Museum, the unique Japanese Tea Garden, and the impressive San Francisco Botanical Garden. It's easy to pass hours here just soaking up the refreshing outdoor setting.

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
Ina Coolbrith Park
This small park is perched on a small piece of land in the Russian Hill neighborhood. It's a bit removed from the main tourist areas, so it's a nice place to rest your legs and enjoy a peaceful setting. It is a bit of a climb to reach it, but for those who put in the effort, the park's stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, Coit Tower, the Bay Bridge, and the city's skyline are a spectacular reward.
Vallejo & Taylor, Russian Hill, San Francisco, CA, 94133
Shakespeare Garden
For a quieter setting, head to the Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park. The flowers in this garden have all been mentioned in Shakespeare plays, so literary enthusiasts can enjoy identifying the species. You can enjoy a quiet and romantic picnic and it's also the perfect place to relax with a book or spend time with your thoughts. The setting is often used for weddings as well.
Golden Gate Park
How much does it cost?

Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $5 to $842. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $94. A few of the best options are below.

Where to Stay in San Francisco


Vacation Rental Prices in San Francisco

How much do vacation rentals cost in San Francisco? Prices vary by location, date, size of the place, and the level of luxury. See below for options.

Find the best vacation rental for your travel style.

We love VRBO because of their commitment to small businesses. VRBO is part of the Expedia family, one of the biggest names in travel.

Budget Your Trip

Budget Your Trip has average travel costs for thousands of cities around the world, all provided by other travelers. You can also register to organize your spending by category and location with graphs, maps, charts, and tables.

Search for Travel Costs

Share This Page

Some of the links on this website are sponsored or affiliate links which help to financially support this site. By clicking the link and making a purchase, we may receive a small commission, but this does not affect the price of your purchase.