How to Spend One Day in San Francisco

Only visiting for one day? These are the must-see places!

San Francisco is a big place, and you might not have a lot of time. So, these are the places that you can't miss if you only have one day. Yes, it would take you more than one day to see all of these spots, but if you pick at least a few of these, you're sure to have a great time.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art houses an impressive collection of contemporary art. There are over 33,000 works including paintings, sculptures, photography, architecture, and more.
151 3rd Street, South of Market, SF, California, 94103
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
Planning a trip to San Francisco? You might also be interested in Historic Buildings in San Francisco and Local Finds and Hangouts in San Francisco.
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
Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island, located in the San Francisco Bay, once served as a federal prison from 1934 to 1963. Today it is a National Historic Landmark that offers tours that cover the island's history, the former prison, and the many famous prisoners that were held here. To get here, you need to take a scenic ferry ride from Fisherman's Wharf, and it's best to book ahead, especially on weekends.
West Road, SF, California, 94133-1312
Coit Tower
Coit Tower
The 210 foot Coit Tower is located on Telegraph Hill in Pioneer Park. It was built in 1932 and 1933 and offers impressive views of the city. If you're short on cash, you can explore Pioneer Park for free and enjoy comparable views to those offered at the top of the tower.
15 Telegraph Hill Boulevard, Telegraph Hill, SF, California, 94133
California Academy of Sciences & Morrison Planetarium
The California Academy of Sciences is both a natural history museum and a research institute. It has more than 26 million specimens, making it one of the largest museums of natural history in the world. It's also California's oldest museum, dating back to 1853.

The adjoining Morrison Planetarium hosts a variety of shows and events centering around astronomy and the stars. The 75-foot dome and large theatre make for an engaging and enjoyable experience for kids and adults alike.
55 Music Concourse Drive, Inner Sunset, SF, California, 94118
Ghirardelli Square
Ghirardelli Square
Named after the famous chocolate maker and constructed from a historic chocolate factory, this shopping center and public square has a number of boutique shops, ice cream, cafes, and nearby restaurants. Naturally, the most visited shop is the Ghirardelli Chocolate shop and ice cream cafe where you can get all sorts of yummy treats. Visitors can also find some fun activities such as mini-golf, a public fountain with outdoor seating, and great views looking out to the bay.
871 Beach Street, Marina District, San Francisco, California, 94109
San Francisco Cable Car System
San Francisco Cable Car System
San Francisco's famous cable car system is an iconic symbol of the city. It dates back to 1873 and at one time there were 23 lines. Today there are just 3 lines and two major routes - two lines that run between Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf and a line that runs along California Street.
854 Washington Street, Chinatown, SF, California, 94107
San Francisco has plenty more to offer, so see also our other articles: The Best Local Sites in San Francisco and Where to See the Sunset & Sunrise in San Francisco.
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
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
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
This venue offers contemporary visual art, performances, films, and community programs that highlight and educate the public on local, national, and international artists that are creating works in modern times.
701 Mission St., SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94103
If you're looking for more information about San Francisco, read A Train Lover's Guide to San Francisco and An Art Lover's Guide to San Francisco.
Nob Hill
Hop on a cable car and make your way to the top of Nob Hill. This famous San Francisco neighborhood is filled with famous hotels, historic architecture, and breathtaking views of the city and bay. This neighborhood is where you'll find the San Francisco Cable Car Museum, Grace Cathedral, and the famous Fairmont Hotel. It's not far from Russian Hill and Chinatown, and it's a must-see area to walk around, but be prepared to give your legs a workout.
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
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
The Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is the last building remaining from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. It's a beautiful, classical style building that sits by a lagoon that serves as a reflecting pool. Inside the palace there are regular art exhibits and performances. The theater seats about 1,000 people.
3301 Lyon Street, Marina District, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Museum of Craft & Design
This museum features the work of painters, textile artists, and sculptors. It's a small museum with a number of rotating exhibits.
2569 Third Street, San Francisco, CA, 94107
Oracle Park - SF Giants Stadium
Oracle Park - SF Giants Stadium
Oracle Park is home of the San Francisco Giants. Baseball lovers will enjoy visiting the ball field, which looks out on the ocean. Try to get seats along the 1st or 3rd base lines or behind home plate. There are also behind-the-scenes tours available.
24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA
If you're looking for more information about San Francisco, read Educational Places and Activities in San Francisco and San Francisco Bucket List: The Best Places to See.
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
How much does it cost?

Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $5 to $1,800. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $124. A few of the best options are below.

Where to Stay in San Francisco

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

Read More
Interested in more travel advice for San Francisco? Check out The Best Art Museums in San Francisco and The Best Children's Museums in San Francisco.
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.