The beauty of San Francisco is impossible to deny. This sprawling city is a melting pot of vibrant neighbourhoods, stellar gastronomic splurges and scenic sights thanks to its location at the tip of a peninsula along the USA’s west coast. But it’s also infused with some fascinating history and unique characters that make this one of the best cities to visit in the whole of North America. Squished in between the hills and the bay, there’s a plethora of amazing attractions and sights to see. Here’s a rundown of the top five tourist attractions in San Francisco.
Golden Gate Bridge
An icon of this gorgeous city, most travellers have seen the Golden Gate Bridge in pictures and on the TV many times before they glimpse it with their very own eyes. A massive orange suspension bridge that spans the Golden Gate, in its heyday it was the longest bridge of its kind in the world. Today it’s nearly 80 years old and is a famous must-do attraction. Pay a toll and drive across it, or take your time, soak up the spectacular views and do it for free on foot or by bike.
Perhaps the most famous prison in the world, travellers can’t resist the mystery and intrigue of Alcatraz. Perched on a tiny 22-acre island, this former federal prison is well-known for many reasons – one being the high profile prisoners who’ve been held captive here over the years, including Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Take the boat ride here then get off and explore the prison cell house and grounds, check out the exhibits and hear a few stories retold by the local rangers. Audio tours are also available, as are guided tours from island staff.
San Francisco is famous for its cable cars. Named a national historic landmark in 1964, these moving pieces of history are as charming to watch gliding down the hilly streets as they are fun to ride. While today they’ve been refurbished and the tracks upgraded, the experience will still take you back to 1873, when the first cable car kicked off this iconic mode of San Francisco transport.
This historic waterfront area is buzzing with atmosphere. A long-standing local favourite that started over a century ago, today Fisherman’s Wharf has even more to explore. Lined with seafood stalls and restaurants and French sourdough bakeries, it’s the perfect place for a delicious local lunch with water views – just be sure to arrive on an empty stomach. Catch a few street performers, admire the lively sea lions and wander through the souvenir shops and historic museums. Pier 39 is also the place to catch a boat to Alcatraz.
Golden Gate Park
Forget Central Park in New York City, San Fran’s one and only Golden Gate Park is 20% bigger, which makes it ripe for outdoor fun and exploration. Created on a spot that was once sand dunes, it’s an incredible feat. Hire a bike and ride around to see it all, or pick a spot that interests you and pack up a picnic to soak it up. Head to the Japanese Tea Garden for its ponds, beautiful plants and quaint bridges, or wander past the windmills, bison, museums and lakes. If you’ve got the kids in tow, they’re sure to love the carousel.