One of the most beautiful cities in the United States, if not the world, San Francisco offers European-style charm combined with West Coast beauty. Located in Northern California with scenic coastlines along the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay, this highly-walkable, 49-square mile city features a wealth of delicious restaurants, renowned museums and eclectic neighborhoods all within a short distance.
From relaxing on a boat beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and strolling through the historical streets of Chinatown to shopping at luxury stores in Union Square and savoring clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf–there are a wide variety of iconic experiences to enjoy in the City by the Bay. San Francisco is also just a day trip away from California Wine Country, Yosemite and Monterey, making it an ideal destination for a multiday vacation. Here is our guide to great ways (and great deals) for enjoying an unforgettable time in San Francisco.
What to See in San Francisco
One of the best ways to experience San Francisco’s many exciting attractions is on a guided day tour. See the beautiful beaux arts-style Civic Center, home to City Hall and the Asian Art Museum. Stroll along the romantic, swan-filled pond at the 1915 Palace of the Fine Arts. Discover fantastic views of the city from Twin Peaks or Golden Gate Park. Snap Instagram-worthy photos of Lombard Street, known as the “Crookedest Street in the World.” Watch dozens of sea lions play at PIER 39 and enjoy delicious seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf. Explore the spectacular dragon gate, colorful pagodas and authentic restaurants in Chinatown.
San Francisco is also home to dozens of world-class museums. While in Golden Gate Park, be sure to visit the botanical garden and the California Academy of Sciences. This stunning architectural achievement is the only place in the world to feature an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and a four-story rainforest – all under one roof!
Food Tours in San Francisco
Renowned as one of the world’s best cities for foodies, San Francisco offers a wide variety of dining experiences–from affordable street food to Michelin-starred restaurants. Taste your way around the city with a tour of the Ferry Building Marketplace, a 1906 waterfront landmark featuring artisanal cheese, chocolate, wine, breads, international cuisine and locally grown produce.
One of the best ways to experience San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods is to eat in them. Try a three-hour food tour of Chinatown. Or, if you are extra hungry, enjoy a food tour that combines both Chinatown and the Italian-influenced North Beach. For dessert, head to the Mission District on a dessert tour and enjoy the neighborhood’s popular bakeries and handcrafted ice cream shops. Or, if you’re looking for a night on the town, try a San Francisco Master Craft Cocktail Tour with a local mixologist.
Scenic Bay Cruises and Seaplane Tours
Some of the best views of San Francisco are from the water. Discover amazing photo ops on a wide variety of day and night cruises in the San Francisco Bay. For a classic experience, try the Golden Gate Bay Cruise which sails along the breathtaking waterfront, under the majestic Golden Gate and closely around notorious Alcatraz Island. Or, see the city at the golden hour with a Sunset Bay Cruise. Enjoy a four-course meal with spectacular views on a San Francisco Dinner Cruise that includes live music and dancing. Morning people may prefer a two-hour Champagne Brunch Cruise for French Toast with a side of unforgettable scenery.
For a truly unique experience, get a bird’s eye view of the city on a seaplane tour. Enjoy a 30-minute ride over San Francisco’s famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge and AT&T Park. Or, try a one-hour seaplane flight that includes the San Francisco skyline along with breathtaking coastal nature, including Point Reyes National Seashore.
San Francisco Bike Tours
If you’d prefer to see the city from land, bicycle tours are a fun and affordable way to see the sights while also having time to stop and take photos at your leisure. Enjoy a self-guided electric bike tour that will give you an itinerary and map based on your interest. Or, take a guided Sunset Bike Tour starting at Fisherman’s Wharf and continuing along the Marina District to the Golden Gate Bridge. To travel out of the city, try a bike tour that crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and takes you to the beautiful town of Sausalito.
Day Trips from San Francisco – Wine Country, Yosemite and More
There’s a lot to see outside San Francisco that you’ll want to include in your trip. Napa Valley and Sonoma County, known collectively as California Wine Country, are located just an hour north of the city and are home to hundreds of award-winning wineries. Enjoy a Small Group Wine Lovers Tour that includes a medieval-style Tuscan castle winery, a scenic tram ride and a stop in Calistoga before continuing on to Napa Valley’s historical Beringer Vineyards. Explore more vineyards and enjoy wine tasting on a Napa Valley Day Tour.
For a scenic drive with amazing coastal views, try a One-Day Monterey Bay & Carmel by the Sea Tour. Experience the beauty of the California coastline while driving through 17 Miles Scenic Drive. Along the way, you’ll view Seal Rock, the majestic Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf, and the small charming town of Carmel. Or get outdoors with a day tour or multiday trip to Yosemite National Park where you’ll discover giant redwoods, beautiful rock formations and 15 cascading waterfalls, including Yosemite Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world.
For more trip ideas and things to do in San Francisco, click here.