When I came to San Francisco for the first time, I was impressed and fascinated how different the city is compared to other American cities. You don’t just find there beautiful gardens, wonderful beaches, and a nice harbor, but you also get from A to Z super easily. The infrastructure in San Francisco is fully developed with electric busses, trains, and the famous cable cars. So I really enjoyed my time there since I didn’t rent a car. But still, I could visit the city with all its beautiful places.
Besides the well-built out infrastructure, the good weather and the laid-back people are further reasons why this city had me within seconds. San Francisco is located in the north of California and although it’s colder than in Los Angeles or San Diego, it’s sunny and pleasantly warm with averagely 15-25°C (50-80°F) all year round. No wonder people are so friendly and live out the American way of life to the fullest at a place like San Francisco.
So find here a few more reasons why it’s worth it to visit The Golden City. And if you don’t have to be convinced by the city – since you’ve always wanted to go – then use my suggestions as helpful tips and inspiration for your next visit!
What to see & do in San Francisco
The Golden Gate Bridge
First things first: the Golden Gate Bridge. It is clearly the city’s landmark and connects San Francisco with the County of Marin to the north. But the famous bridge is not just the iconic symbol of San Francisco; it is also the most photographed bridge in the world. And even in 1937 when the bridge was opened it broke all records. At that time, it was both the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world with a length of 1.280m (4.200 ft) and a height of 227m (746 ft). Today, the beautiful art deco elements still bring millions of visitors to the city.
Right at the waterfront, the Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular neighborhood that you shouldn’t miss out on. It offers plenty of food stands, souvenir shops, and nice restaurants at the water. There you will also find the Pier 39 where you can find street performers, the Aquarium of the Bay or do virtual 3D rides. Fisherman’s Wharf is definitely a place for everyone who wants to have a little fun. That’s for sure!
Powell Street Station
One thing you can’t get around in San Francisco is cable cars. The Powell Street Station is the starting point from where you can have a ride on them all the way through the city to the Fisherman’s Wharf. Lean out, enjoy the view and get carried through the city in a special way you haven’t experienced before.
Golden Gate Park
If you’re a nature lover or just looking for a green spot to spend a wonderful day at, the Golden Gate Park is the place to go. It has a similar shape than the Central Park in New York, but it is about 20% larger. The park is also the 5th most-visited city park in the United States – with good reason! The Golden Gate Park has so many things to offer such as the Japanese Tea Garden, the Academy of Sciences or the De Young Museum with fine arts. Furthermore, the park is rounded off with beautiful flowers, sculptures, windmills and a carousel for big and small.
Lombard Street or in other words “the crookedest street in the world” is just that – a famous one-block section with eight sharp hairpin turns that got famous due to its shape. The street was built in 1922 to reduce the hill’s natural 27% grade, which was too steep for some vehicles. Now it’s nice to watch cars driving down the street.
If you know the TV series Full House, you probably know the Painted Ladies. Since I’ve been a little kid who loved watching the TV-show “Full House”, it was my dream to visit the Painted Ladies once in my life. It’s a house front in Victorian and Edwardian style painted in different colors. The term was first used by the two writers Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen in their book “Painted Ladies: San Francisco’s Resplendent Victorians” from 1978. Since then the houses appeared in more than 70 movies and series and have become an institution in San Francisco.
Palace of Fine Arts
In the Marina District in the north of San Francisco, you can find the Palace of Fine Arts. It’s a very beautiful monument in amazing scenery. The palace is surrounded by water, decorated with flowers and is a favorite wedding location for locals. I recommend sitting on one of the benches and enjoy the magnificent and peaceful garden.
No matter if you’ve been to Chinatown before or not, the Chinatown in San Francisco will be definitely your most historic visit. It’s not just the oldest Chinatown in the USA, but also the largest Chinese territory outside Asia. It was established in 1848 and developed throughout the years in a historic and important neighborhood for many Chinese immigrants. When you visit Chinatown you literally feel like you’re in Asia due to the different languages, shops, and houses. And it’s just amazing stepping into a new world in the middle of San Francisco.
Besides Chinatown, an Italian district and so much more, San Francisco is especially known for the hippie culture. Haight-Ashbury is a neighborhood that embodies the hippie community and makes you feel the love that the people spread out right away. You can buy second-hand, go to bars and listen to punk and indie bands.
Or you can just walk around and explore the district with all its pop-art houses. If you’re looking for a special background for your photos, go to Piedmont Boutique on Haight Street. There you can take a photo of you with the famous out-looking legs in the backdrop.
The Castro village was one of the first gay neighborhoods in the USA. That hasn’t changed until now. So you will still see lots of gays, lesbians and transgender people as well as rainbow flags hanging on streetlights. If you visit Castro, make sure you go to the Castro Theatre. It’s a premier movie palace built in 1922 that hosts repertory movies, film festivals, and special events. So it’s definitely worth a visit and maybe you find a classic movie to watch.
A tour to Alcatraz
Last but not least, there is Alcatraz, probably the most famous prison in the world. It housed some of America’s most ruthless criminals including Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. The prison is located on Alcatraz Island about 2 km (1.25 mi) offshore from San Francisco. There are daily tours to the island that should be booked in advance because it’s very popular and likely to be sold out. But it’s absolutely worth it! You can walk into the cells and see how the prisoners lived once. That will definitely be a historic and pensive moment in your life.
My favorite place in San Francisco
I hope you got some inspiration for what to do in San Francisco, what else it has to offer and why there are good reasons to visit the city. Of course here you just find the most important and popular things, because even in two weeks you can’t see everything. But still, you get a good picture of the city and I’m sure you’re going to find a favorite place that makes you never want to leave San Francisco.
Mine was on the viewing point of the Golden Gate Bridge. That moment let me forget anything else and showed me how beautiful the world is and how happy I can be to experience this place. I hope I get back soon. But since it’s a new year, who knows?