SAN FRANCISCO TRAVEL GUIDE. DOWNLOAD FOR FREE!
I am so excited! My San Francisco Travel Guide is here and is available for you to download and print for free. But first, before I arrived in San Francisco, I knew it was going to hold a special place in my heart, and for two reasons. The first, San Francisco is where my parents spent part of their honeymoon - they married after three months of dating and have been inseparable for almost 40 years! I love it when my Dad tells me the story of Mum having a few too many wines one afternoon and as they drove their car across the Golden Gate Bridge, she stuck her legs out of the car laughing, and then was sick. Lols.
The second, San Francisco is my Dad’s favourite city in the world. I had heard so many stories about this city from him when I was growing up and you can imagine my excitement levels were sky high when the plane touched down at SFO.
Now I’ve been really lucky to visit some of the most beautiful cities in the world – Paris, Berlin, Athens, London, Barcelona, New York, Hong Kong, Rome, Reykjavik – yet after three or four nights, I am ready for my next destination.
However this was not the case when I was in San Francisco. In fact, I found myself feeling quite the opposite. I was devastated to be leaving after three nights and couldn’t help but feel no matter how many times I come back, it will never be enough. There will always be new things to discover. And so it now makes sense why this is my Dad’s favourite city in the world, and why I have pieced together the perfect three day Itinerary in case you are also as time poor as I was.
But first, the best thing I noticed about about San Francisco is that you can do as much, or as little, as you want. So if you do find yourself lucky to be exploring San Francisco for longer than three days, feel free to take your time and stretch out my itinerary. And remember to wear flat shoes; you’ll be doing a lot of walking, and a little bit of cycling…
You can download my San Francisco Travel Guide from here and/or you can continue reading on. I've also left some exclusive notes about San Francisco, including accommodation, getting around and safety in the downloadable guide. These are a must read if you plan on travelling to San Francisco. Enjoy!
Union Square: Start your day bright and early in central San Francisco at Powell Street and Market Street. Walk around the neighbourhood, do a spot of shopping and make your way to Union Square. Explore the central hub of the city, do a bit more shopping and grab a coffee. Mind your step as this area is packed with locals, tourists, trams and of course, cable cars!
Cable Car: If you have time, essump on a cable car. When I went the waiting line was well over 500 metres long on Powell Street, so I didn’t bother. But don’t stress! I tell you later on where you can avoid the crowds and jump on an equally gorgeous cable car with equally epic views of the city.
The Castro: From Union Square catch the F Tram to the Castro District, the epicentre of the gay rights movement during the 1960s and 1970s. Warmly known as The Castro, this area was one of the first gay neighbourhoods in the United States, and is rich in history and heartbreak. During this time the assassination in 1978 of openly gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk was a turning point in the country’s history. His death and the impact of AIDS brought the community and the country together, and made activists of everyone in the city. The Castro become not just open but proud about its thriving gay and lesbian population, and to this day, is a cherished spot amongst tourists and locals alike.
Dolores Park: Just a short walk away from The Castro area is Dolores Park, which offers some of the most beautiful views of the city. All you need to do is pick your vantage point and enjoy the people watching. I spent an hour here watching the many locals and tourists enjoying their day and playing basketball. Trust me, time flies here so enjoy and rest your feet. You have lots of walking left today!
Mission: Probably one of my favourite areas in San Francisco is Mission. Again, it’s just a short walk from Dolores Park. You could spend hours getting lost amongst the gorgeous tree lined streets taking in the stunning homes in the area, which are quintessentially San Francisco style. A trip to Mission is not complete until you’ve had a rosemary and lavender ice cream from Bi Rite Creamery. I warn you however, the lines can get long, so be prepared to wait because it’s totally worth it. Luckily I had no problems! And across the road is Bi Rite, one of the best organic food stores I’ve ever come across. Here I bought fresh bread, soft cheese and olives to nibble on for my continued journey. I urge you to do the same so when you get to the Painted Ladies, you can enjoy a picnic lunch.
Painted Ladies: From Mission, you can easily walk to Alamo Square where you will find the Painted Ladies on Steiner Street. And remember my earlier memo about wearing flat shoes? Don’t ignore it because I’m alllllllll about walking. Anyway, it might have been the overcast weather, or it might have been the overly saturated images I had seen online, but I was quite underwhelmed by the Painted Ladies. In case you don’t know what they are, the Painted Ladies is a an America term used to describe Victorian and Edwardian houses painted in three or more colours that bring to live the architectural details. It is worth the visit however, plus there are usually a few local artists taking advantage of the views, and painting on canvases and easels. However Alamo Square is not just about the Painted Ladies; head up the hill and enjoy the panoramic views of the city.
Haight & Ashbury: For the rest of the afternoon, walk over to the Haight-Ashbury district and explore the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets. If you have the energy, make your way to Hippie Hill, and I dare you not to smell some unusual forms of smoke…
Make sure you get to ride one of San Francisco's famous cable cars
The Castro was one of my favourite spots in San Francisco
The main intersection at The Castro is a tonne of fun to cross!
Pick a spot to people watch from high up on Dolores Hill
Sit back and enjoy the view of the Painted Ladies
Haight & Ashbury has an Almost Famous feel to every corner
Wrecking Ball: Jump in an Uber and make your way to Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters for coffee and croissants. My friend Jess from Bon Traveler, who is also a contributor for Mister Weekender, is a San Francisco native and took me here. It’s one of her favourite cafes in the city so I felt very privileged to have a genuine local experience.
Golden Gate Bridge: After starting your morning with a coffee, head over to Bike & View on Lombard Street to hire a bicycle for a few hours. From here, cycle down to the water and follow your way along the bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Keep following the flat footpath past St Francis Yacht Club until you find yourself right underneath the Bridge at Fort Point. The sheer size of the Bridge from this angle slash location is extremely impressive! From here, wrap back around and cycle up a somewhat steep hill until you find yourself on the path which leads you across the Golden Gate Bridge. Watch out for distracted tourists. Cycle across at your own leisure and stop along the way to soak in the views and take photos. The view from Vista Point. Take your time cycling back to Bike & View, take the path less travelled and meander through the streets taking in the traditional San Francisco architecture.
Lombard Street: After you drop off your bicycle it’s time to get your walking on. Walk east up Lombard Street until you get to the top of a very, very big hill, and along the way, enjoy the incredible architecture. When you reach the stop, albeit puffing if you put some effort into it, you will find stunning views of the bay and city from Sterling Park. But the main reason why you want to reach this park is to walk down further where you will find the very famous and steep eight hair pin turns winding down between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets. You’ll know your there by the volume of tourists and drivers trying to meander down the winding section of Lombard Street. Good luck taking a photo without a hoard of tourists in your shot, but after the novelty wears off, if it ever does, continue turn left down Leavenworth Street until you reach Fishermans Wharf from Jefferson Street.
Fishermans Wharf: Spend at least an hour or two exploring this bustling area of San Francisco. You’ll meet stinky sea lions at the end of Pier 39, grab one of Salty’s famous fish sandwiches (also known as a ‘fishwich’) and of course, leave room to buy a bowl of delicious seafood chowder and eat San Francisco’s best sourdough from Boudin Bakery. Wrap your way back down towards Leavenworth Street and treat yourself of one of Kara’s Cupcakes – they are ridiculously delicious. If you have time, and trust me, you’ll want to rest your weary feet, jump on a Hop On Hop Off bus and make your way back to Union Square via China Town.
Twin Peaks: Your day is not complete until you have watch sunset from Twin Peaks. Make sure you leave enough time as magic hour is about 30 mins or so before the sun actually soaks past the horizon, so order an Uber to get you up to Twin Peaks in time. When you get up there, just simply walk around and choose your favourite vantage point. I liked looking North East over the winding road up to Twin Peaks but it also looks out over the CBD, Market Street and Union Square.
Zuni Cafe: Unbeknownst to me, I was staying pretty next door to one of the most popular bistros in San Francisco, Zuni Café. I highly recommend eating here for dinner, but you will need to make a reservation so do this at least a day or so before you want to dine there. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
Start your big San Francisco adventure with a coffee from Wrecking Ball, a local favourite!
Cycling the Golden Gate Bridge is the best way to explore it!
Enjoy the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Vista Point
After dropping your bicycles back, take the steep walk up Lombard Street! And admire the view...
Speaking of which, here's the view from the top of Lombard Street!
And here is the view of the other side of Lombard Street looking down the famous eight hairpin turns!
Here are the famous eight hairpin turns on Lombard Street, so cute!
Make your way down to Fisherman's Wharf and admire the stunning view!
There are so many people at Fisherman's Wharf but enjoy it!
You have to try the chowder!
Say hello to the Sea Lions at Pier 39! They are a bit stinky though haha.
And finish your day watching the beautiful sunset over San Francisco!
Sausalito: Today you will need a car, so make sure you pre-organise a hire car. Driving on the other side of the road (if you’re Australian like me) in the States is actually not as scary as it seems. My best advice is to simply follow the driver in the car in front of you! Head out of the city, over the bridge and to Sausalito. A cute little seaside town located on the Bay, spend an hour or so walking around this side of the Bridge before jumping back in the car again. Note: You can also cycle down to Sausalito from Vista Point at the Northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s a big effort and most people get the ferry back over. Just a suggestion if you have more time…
Muir Beach: From Sausalito, drive over towards Muir Beach and spend at least a couple of hours exploring the beautiful beach and vistas from the various vantage points, which are easily accessible by car and foot. Stop and have a pub lunch at the Pelican Inn before making your way to Muir Woods Forest
Muir Woods Forest: Located in the Mount Tamalpais State Park, there is one slice of Mother Nature that brings thousands of visitors to this park every year – the ancient coast Redwood trees, also known as the Sequoia Sempervirens. I was lucky to see the other giant Sequoia’s, also known as Sequoiadendron giganteum, in Yosemite National Park following my trip to San Francisco. You can read, download and print my free guide to Yosemite National Park here. It’s next to impossible to explain how beautiful and large these trees are, so I think it’s something you’re just going to have to see for yourself!
Conservatory of Flowers: After exploring Muir Woods Forest for a couple of hours, I highly recommend you hightail it back to San Francisco and head to the Conservatory of Flowers. It’ll take about two hours to get back if traffic is good, so try and make sure you leave enough time in your day because the Conservatory of Flowers is by far, one of San Francisco’s most beautifully kept secrets…well not so much a secret anymore.
Walk up, down and around Muir Beach to enjoy the vista
Spend some time exploring the surrounding coastline at Muir Beach
Take in the magical view of the ancient Redwood trees, they are absolutely huge!
The Muir Woods Forest is one of the most beautiful and humble places I've been to
You can't go to San Francisco without visiting the Conservatory of Flowers!
Here's a little sneak peek inside the Conservatory of Flowers (thanks for the photo Jess!)
IF YOU HAVE TIME
As I said above, there is literally so much to see and do in San Francisco. So in case you do have time or want to shake up my itinerary above, here are a list of places I personally didn’t have time to see but will make sure I do when I am next in San Francisco.
- Marin Headland - Slacker Hill - Menlow Headland - Baker Beach - Marshall Beach - Billy Goat Hill Park - Alcatraz
Have you been to San Francisco before? Do you have any other things to see or do, or places to visit that I haven’t included in this guide? If so I’d love you to share them by commenting below. I plan on going back to San Francisco, so I would love any suggestions you may have.