Another of California’s vibrant cities, San Francisco is brimming with exciting possibilities – so much so it can be hard to know where to start. There are bucket list experiences everywhere you turn, from walking across the Golden Gate Bridge to shopping in legendary Union Square or snapping a pic of the famous Painted Ladies. Here are our all-time favourite things to do and see in San Francisco.
One of the most iconic things to do in San Francisco is visit Alcatraz Island. From Fisherman’s Wharf, you can take the ferry across to the former prison, which once housed federal convicts such as Al Capone, to explore the eerie hallways. Even though the ferry operates every half an hour throughout the day, it still frequently sells out – so book early.
Union Square is the heart of the city, acting as a popular hangout spot for both locals and tourists. Surrounding the public park is the city’s best shopping with numerous flagship stores and countless restaurants. This is where you will find big names like Macys, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and gorgeous speciality stores like Williams Sonoma.
San Francisco’s famous cable cars are still going strong, despite being one of the oldest (and largest) manually operated cable car systems in the world. They provide transport up and down many of San Francisco’s steep streets and can take you close to top attractions such as Fisherman’s Wharf and Lombard Street. It is also worth the ride just for the spectacular city views.
Sausalito is a small seaside town just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is famed for its wealthy residents, beautiful houses and gorgeous views across the harbour. Enjoy the views with lunch in one of the seaside cafes or wander the unique art galleries and boutiques that line the strip. In the evening, you can watch the city lights dance in the distance.
It is a special moment when you see the Golden Gate Bridge up close and there are plenty of different ways to experience it. Stroll the two kilometre bridge on foot, hire a bike or drive a car over the orange landmark. You could also enjoy a ferry ride across the bay for views of the entire bridge from below. For fantastic photos, see the bridge glisten at sunset.
Fisherman’s Wharf offers an eclectic mix of entertainment with a countless boutique shops and kitschy restaurants. It is definitely a tourist hot spot but there’s no denying the lovely sea vistas. Stroll down to Pier 39 and watch the playful sea lions basking in the sun and diving into the cool waters to find a bite to eat. You’ll hear their loud cries before you even see them!
Lombard Street is commonly referred to as the most crooked street of San Francisco. It is extremely steep and features eight unique hairpin turns. In the spring and summer the street is alive with beautiful flower beds which, as I found out the hard way, are non-existent during the chilly winter. It is a popular spot for tourist though so be prepared to battle a few crowds.
Full House fans will be excited to see the famous Painted Ladies that star in the show’s opening credits. It is one of the most photographed locations of the city and can be seen on just about every postcard. The signature row of gorgeous Victorian houses can be found in Alamo Square – for the best views of the Painted Ladies, visit Alamo Square Park.
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