Must-See Places in San Francisco
For many visitors, San Francisco is a bucket list destination in of itself. And that's because it offers so many famous places and things to do. A large number of these famous places have been featured on TV and in movies, making them iconic American attractions. From Alcatraz Island to Pier 39 to the Golden Gate Bridge, all of these places should be on your must-do list if you've never seen them before.
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
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
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
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'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
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 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 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 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
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
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
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 $15 to $209. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $83. A few of the best options are below.
Where to Stay in San Francisco