A Guide to San Francisco


 Travel Guide to San Francisco, Palace of Fine Arts, Water
This “City by the Bay” has captured traveler's hearts from around the world. Hitch a ride on the famous cable cars and zig-zag your way around this California coastal delight. Stroll along the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy the bustling Fisherman’s Wharf, tasting the fresh dungeness crab, while watching the adorable sea lions basking in the sun.
Catch a ferry and venture inside the world-renowned prison, Alcatraz! There you will learn how America’s most dangerous criminals planned an impossible escape. Taste the delicious cuisine in Little Italy and experience the cultural beauty of Chinatown. If you are on the lookout for a laid-back city, with endless attractions, San Francisco will amaze you.


TOP ATTRACTIONS IN SAN FRANCISCO


Painted Ladies

The unique architecture of San Francisco provides unusual beauty around every turn. From towering modern skyscrapers to tiny historic homes, San Francisco’s buildings are gorgeous. One of the most famous sets of beautiful buildings in the city is the row of houses known as The Painted Ladies. Not only are they perfectly beautiful but these houses are rich with the history and the culture of the city, making a pass by them a must for any San Francisco visitor. You may recognize them from the popular 90's show, Full House!


The Painted Ladies are situated near Alamo Square Park. This city park is four blocks in size, on top of a hill, which means that you can see a great view of the city from the park. If there isn’t any fog you can see both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the famous triangular-shaped Transamerica Pyramid.


Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz was once home to some of America's most notorious criminals, the federal penitentiary that operated here from 1934-1963 brought a dark mystique to the Rock. Known as one of the world's most legendary prisons, it housed infamous inmates like Al "Scarface" Capone and "Birdman" Robert Stroud.

Alcatraz Tour Tickets (Adults) - $33 | Book tour in advance here.


Coit Tower

Coit Tower, a slender white concrete column rising from the top of Telegraph Hill, has been an emblem of San Francisco’s skyline. Its observation deck, accessible through an elevator, provides 360-degree views of the city and bay, including the Golden Gate and Bay bridges. Inside the tower, floor-to-ceiling murals painted in the 1930s depict scenes of early San Francisco. Tickets can be purchased in the gift shop.


Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge, spanning 3.5 miles, is the most iconic landmark in San Francisco. It's featured in numerous photos, posters, and postcards of the city. Walking or biking across the bridge is part of the San Francisco experience.

When the Golden Gate Bridge was first built in 1937 it was the longest suspension bridge ever built in the world. It immediately became internationally recognized and still remains a globally known symbol of San Francisco to this day. It is currently the second-longest suspension bridge in the United States and the ninth longest in the world. Construction started in 1933 and took over four years to complete at a cost of slightly more than $30 million.


Pier 39 @ Fisherman’s Wharf

Be entertained by San Francisco’s most famous street performers, ride the Carousel, and view California sea lions in their natural habitat at the Pier’s K-Dock.



Fisherman’s Wharf

One of the most visited neighborhoods in the city with a wide array of restaurants, right on the water, serving up fresh-from-the-ocean seafood. And yes, there really are fishermen there. Bobbing at the docks are a handful of weathered boats, and they still chug out to catch Dungeness crab, scallops, halibut and other seafood in and around the bay, as they have for over a century.

Want to witness it all happening, with all five senses? Early risers can watch them unload their catch at Pier 47, nicknamed Fish Alley. Or sleep in and just sample the catch: Try fresh crab cooked in steaming cauldrons set up on sidewalks here—cracked crab dipped in melted butter and paired with a fresh loaf of local sourdough is a delicious San Francisco tradition.


Lombard Street

San Francisco famously boasts some of the steepest streets in the country. Whether you’re walking or driving, the varying gradient of the road is sure to catch your attention and give your heart rate a healthy boost. Lombard Street is one of the most unique of the vertically endowed roads and is a great stop to add to any itinerary. It's one of America’s crookedest streets. The curvy nature makes for a fun ride that’s also a visual treat. In total you’ll count eight tight turns in one block.


Embarcadero Center

Spanning four blocks in the heart of downtown San Francisco, Embarcadero Center is one of the largest mixed-use complexes in the Western United States. Featuring a unique history and award-winning architectural design, Embarcadero Center offers four buildings with hundreds of shops, restaurants, services and a state-of-the-art multiplex cinema.


Ferry Building Marketplace- a vibrant gathering of local farmers, artisan producers, and independently owned and operated food businesses serving fresh, local cuisine. On any day, especially Saturdays, some of San Francisco’s best-known chefs, and most famous farmers, can be seen at the market.

Hours: Tuesday 10am - 2pm | Thursday 10am - 2pm | Saturday 8am - 2pm


Fort Point

Fort Point National Historic Site defended San Francisco Bay from California's Gold Rush to World War II. Its brick masonry matches the Golden Gate Bridge.


From its vantage point overlooking the spectacular Golden Gate, Fort Point protected San Francisco harbor from Confederate & foreign attack during & after the U.S. Civil War. Its beautifully arched casemates display the art of the master brick mason from the Civil War period.


Asian Art Museum 

The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco is uniquely positioned to lead a diverse, global audience in discovering the distinctive materials, aesthetics and intellectual achievements of Asian art and cultures, and to serve as a bridge of understanding between Asia and the United States.

On Thursday nights (5pm - 9pm) at the Asian Art Museum, you’ll encounter an eclectic array of events to stimulate your mind and activate your soul: dance performances, creative events with artists and writers, cooking demonstrations and tastings with local chefs, film screenings, live music and more. Your ticket also gives you access to one of the world’s finest collections of Asian art: you’ll have all evening to explore two full floors of awe-inspiring artworks ranging from ancient jades and ceramics to contemporary video installations.


Palace of Fine Arts

The iconic Palace of Fine Arts is one of the most photographed sites in the city, featured in numerous film and TV productions. The Palace dominates a small neighborhood park that features lawns to picnic on and a tranquil lagoon populated with fish, birds, and turtles. It’s a wonderful place for a stroll after a visit to the Exploratorium. Admire the Greco-Roman style Rotunda and colonnades and watch swans drift across the peaceful lagoon.



San Francisco City Hall

Built by Parisian architects, the San Francisco City Hall is one of the finest examples of French, Roman, and Greek design. The dome is the tallest in the United States and is truly a hidden gem in San Francisco that many tourists and locals miss. If you haven’t been the San Francisco City Hall, you should definitely make this a top priority! It's open to the public Monday thru Friday, 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM.


Grace Cathedral 

Towering over San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood, the iconic Grace Cathedral is hard to miss. Known as much for its "Gates of Paradise" as for its breathtaking murals and labyrinths, the cathedral is one of the largest Episcopal churches in the United States. Painstakingly built brick by brick, mural by mural, over the course of 37 years, the church is both a tourist landmark and a symbol of hope and resurrection, thanks to its storied history.

Download the app, GraceGuide, for your visit to hear fascinating details about the architecture, artwork, and history of the cathedral while taking a self-guided tour.


Hyde Street Pier

Located at the west end of Fisherman's Wharf, Hyde Street Pier is home to the fleet of historic landmark vessels in the collection of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, which is a unit of the National Park System. For a modest admission fee, visitors can board this fleet of turn-of-century historic ships. Enjoy hands-on exhibits, waysides, videos, and Ranger-led tours. Access to Hyde Street Pier itself is free, offering breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.


Exploratorium 

The Exploratorium is more than a museum; it’s an ongoing exploration of science, art, and human perception. Visitors of all ages can step inside a tornado, turn upside down in a giant curved mirror, walk on a fog bridge, and explore more than 650 hands-on exhibits.


The Exploratorium hosts its adults-only evenings every Thursday night where you can play with more than 650 hands-on exhibits when there are no kids around. Along with themed nights such as Glow, After Dark hosts programs that will titillate your taste buds, illuminate the possibilities of film, bring the periodic table to life, and more. You can expect anything from unique guest speakers and specialty films to one-of-a-kind activities.


Presidio National Park

For 218 years, the Presidio served as an army post for three nations. Explore centuries of architecture. Reflect in a national cemetery. Walk along a historic airfield, through forests or to beaches, and admire spectacular vistas.


Ghirardelli Square 

With shops, wineries and award-winning restaurants, Ghirardelli Square is the premier San Francisco destination. Enjoy spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz, landscaped gardens, one-of-a-kind shopping and, of course, the famous Ghirardelli Chocolate. The Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory originated in San Francisco more than 160 years ago, making it America’s oldest continuously operating chocolate maker.


Yerba Buena Gardens 

The sound of water, the scent of flowers and the warmth of sunlight unfolds across Yerba Buena Gardens. Each unique area of the gardens combines design and plantings to reflect the diversity of cultures in San Francisco and the world. The open sky and the backdrop of buildings and bridges create a serene oasis in the middle of the bustle of downtown. Relax amid landscaped lawns, serene waterfalls and colorful gardens at the cultural heart of San Francisco


Union Square 

San Francisco's crown Jewel of shopping districts. Union Square is one of the most popular neighborhoods to stay in during a trip to San Francisco. It is centrally located near all of the major modes of public transportation, making it convenient for everyone. Visitors love the shopping, hustle & bustle, and beautiful historic buildings—all in convenient walking distance of the biggest hotels. Union Square is both a great starting point for a day in San Francisco and a fun place to shop, eat, and hang out. Some of the city’s best theatres and art galleries are located here as are some top-notch restaurants, many terrific shopping opportunities and the chance to see some terrific historic architecture and stunning city views.


Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square

Open from November to January, this holiday rink is located on the corner of Geary and Powell, in the heart of Union Square. General admission is $11, skate rental is $6, and locker rental is $3.

Open from 10 AM to 11:30 PM daily. 90-minute skating sessions start on every even hour.


Transamerica Pyramid

Situated in San Francisco’s Financial District, Transamerica Pyramid is surrounded by world-class hotels, restaurants, galleries, clubs and shopping, and the colorful neighborhoods of Jackson Square, Chinatown, and North Beach. At 853 feet high (260 meters), the Transamerica Pyramid remains the second tallest building in San Francisco.


Westfield San Francisco Centre

Located two blocks from Union Square, the Bay Area’s premier destination for world-class shopping, with over 200 boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. Gaze upon the magnificent dome and ride the unique six-story circular escalator to gain the full experience of the beautiful mall.


The Punch Line Comedy Club

The city’s longest-running comedy club. Stars such as Robin Williams, Ellen Degeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Drew Carey, Chris Rock and Dana Carvey took their first comedic steps on the Punch Line stage. The Punch Line is the only full-time comedy club in San Francisco, hosting nationally-acclaimed comics in an intimate setting where you can enjoy them, live and up-close.


Chinatown

San Francisco Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America. Covering 24 city blocks, it's easy to spend a day here, exploring the streets and alleys, browsing the shops and enjoying the authentic Chinese food.


Chinatown Hidden Gems

Great Eastern Restaurant

This restaurant is a favorite hidden gem among locals, serving authentic dim sum. Seafood favorites include cilantro shrimp dumplings or deep-fried seaweed roll with fish, alongside only-for-the-experienced-palate options like bitter melon beef dumplings. Black sesame balls or deep-fried pumpkin and egg yolk custard balls are dessert favorites.


Golden Gate Fortune Factory

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory opened its doors in 1962 and remains one of the only places in the country you can still find handmade fortune cookies. When you walk in, the factory manager will most likely be handing out fresh, free samples. These are often right out of the oven, so they'll be yummy and fresh!


Japantown


San Francisco's Japantown is a fun place to explore, but not that many visitors go there. Three indoor malls, and a pedestrian-only block, are lined with a fascinating variety of authentic Japanese shops and restaurants.


In a way, it's like taking a quick trip to Osaka and immersing yourself in Japanese culture, old and new: anime, ceramics, kimonos, sushi, manga, Japanese fashion, and sweets... a huge variety of Japanese items calling out to be purchased or eaten!


There are only four Japantown's left in the U.S. now, and San Francisco's is the largest, and oldest surviving one. All four are in California; two are in Los Angeles (Little Tokyo and Sawtelle Japantown) and another in San Jose's Japantown.


San Francisco's Japantown (aka Nihonmachi) tends to be overshadowed somewhat by SF's more famous Chinatown, but there's a lot to see and do in a small area. It's easy to spend hours here, trying out ramen places, looking at teapots, origami paper, and cute, anime-inspired toys.


Japantown in San Francisco is a 6-block area of shops and restaurants along Post Street in the Western Addition neighborhood. Many of the shops are in a series of malls called Japan Center, as well as a pedestrian-only block of Buchanan Street. This area used to be the center of the Japanese community in San Francisco before World War 2. Most of the establishments are inside one of the three, two-story malls built in the 1960s. "Malls" doesn't sound very appealing, but they've created a cool Japanese atmosphere inside the buildings, where rows of unique shops and Japanese restaurants march along the corridors. The malls run in a row along Post Street, between Fillmore and Laguna Streets: East Mall (Miyako), West Mall (Kintetsu), and Kinokuniya Mall


Japanese Tea Garden

The oldest public Japanese garden in the United States located inside Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. Experience the natural beauty, tranquility, and harmony of a Japanese-style garden.


Kabuki Springs and Spa

If your feet, and perhaps a few other parts, are crying out after all of those hours walking up and down San Francisco’s steep hills, you might want to head to this Japanese-style bathhouse, a fabulous place to relax your body and mind. This oasis of serenity in Japantown features a sauna, steam room, warm pool, a cold plunge, massage therapy, botanical facials, mud and seaweed wraps, and other spa treatments. There are clothing-optional baths open for men on certain days of the week and women on others. On Tuesdays, the baths are co-ed, and bathing suits are required.


Day Trip to Sausalito

Looking for a fun escape from the San Francisco Bay? Take the ferry over to Sausalito, "California’s Amalfi coast," a chic Mediterranean-feeling coastal town. This picturesque seaside village is the quintessential day trip from San Francisco.

Here you’ll find waterfront restaurants serving fresh seafood, adorable nautical themed shops, and the popular ice cream shop, Lapperts.


Taking the ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito

There are several different companies (Blue and Gold Fleet, Golden Gate Ferry) that depart from San Francisco to Sausalito, with two departure location options (either the Ferry Building/Golden Gate Bridge or Pier 41/B&G). No matter which location you leave from, the trip will take approximately 30 minutes, and cost ~$10 each way.


The Ferry will provide you with absolutely stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge! Note that most ferries will not operate during inclement weather, so don’t count on it if a storm is near. See the schedule for Golden Gate Ferry here and Blue and Gold Fleet here.

Sausalito info provided by A Passion & a Passport



BEST PLACES TO EAT IN SAN FRANCISCO


Mama’s on Washington Square

For over 50 years, this small restaurant has been attracting crowds with its amazing breakfast foods. The cozy, daytime spot is comfort food done right: expect fluffy omelets, Bay Area-specific specials like Dungeness crab eggs Benedict, and fruit-topped plates of French toast. The bright and sunny bistro is fairly small and has limited seating, so don't be alarmed when you're greeted by a line down the block -- the average wait for a table on Saturday morning is two hours.

Tip: To avoid long wait times, arrive before opening to get in line.

Accepts cash and debit cards only.

Blue Bottle Coffee Shop

Great breakfast experience and unique coffee. Ferry Building Location - Open ‪7 AM - 2 PM‬. They have amazing cartelized Belgian waffles you must try!

Nopa

Specializing in organic wood-fired cuisine, serving simple food created with seasonal ingredients sourced from local purveyors.

Plow

Serving farm to table comfort food. Locals recommend Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.

Scoma's

Waterfront dining serving seafood straight off the boat!


Pier 23

Fresh seafood, unique drinks, and live music.

Swan Oyster Depot

Swan Oyster Depot is widely considered to be the very best seafood spot in the city. Opened over a century ago by four Danish brothers using a horse-drawn carriage, the siblings delivered fresh seafood throughout San Francisco. The tiny restaurant has just 12 bar stools and six cooks working behind the counter, but it also has lots of charm along with amazing seafood, including everything from clam chowder and shrimp cocktail to oysters and crab salad.


Leo’s Oyster Bar

Highly recommended for fresh seafood!


Epic Steak

Contemporary steakhouse with breathtaking views of the Bay Bridge combined with innovative cuisine.


The Fairmont Tonga Tiki Bar

Above ground, San Francisco’s esteemed Fairmont Hotel is every bit the prim, posh wonderland you’d expect. But if you ride the elevator to the basement, you’re in for a tropical treat at the Tonga Room, arguably the city’s last great Tiki bar. It’s the most ambitious and best-preserved of the Tiki bars remaining in California.


The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

Gourmet grilled cheese! Won seven national championship awards for their grilled cheese.

Bob’s Donuts

Bob’s has been voted the second-best donut shop in the nation as well as many other awards. Highly recommend the Maple, loaded with maple glaze and decadently sweet. The ratio of frosting to donut is perfection.


XOX Truffles

The shop is owned by a French chocolatier who takes his work very seriously. It’s evident in every chocolate produced. XOX was ranked as one of the top ten chocolate makers in the United States by prestigious Chocolatier Magazine. Their chocolate is grown on Africa's Ivory Coast, processed in France and shipped to the United States. I recommend ordering a coffee because you’ll get a truffle on the house.



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