San Francisco is a city in the U.S. state of California and is one of the country’s most famous tourist destinations. Nicknamed “The Golden City”, San Francisco is the crown jewel of Northern California and is the main commercial, financial and cultural hub of the region.
Measuring only 49 square miles in size, it may be surprising for some to learn that San Francisco has an overwhelming amount of sightseeing spots and attractions that can keep you busy for days on end.
Its location by the ocean, along with the plethora of historical landmarks, eclectic neighborhoods, beautiful nature, and a host of entertainment opportunities make San Francisco one of the most exciting destinations in the world. To help you plan for your trip to the city, we’ve compiled our personal picks of must-see attractions in San Francisco.
(Note: If you happen to have excess bags that you don’t want to drag around while exploring the city, temporarily store them at a luggage locker beforehand.)
Golden Gate Bridge
When people talk about the city of San Francisco, the first thing that comes to mind is the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. The unofficial symbol of the city, the bridge features towers that stand 746 feet tall and arches over the Golden Gate Strait, thus its name. Its striking orange color is hard to miss, especially when sunlight hits the bridge and starts to glisten.
The Golden Gate Bridge extends nearly two miles and can easily be explored on foot or by car; if you want to also learn about the history of this iconic landmark, you can join one of the free walking tours offered on the San Francisco City Guides website.
The Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and offers visitors a glimpse into San Francisco’s colorful past. For over a hundred years, the waterfront served as the main hub for cargo ships and fishing fleets and was where many Chinese and Italian immigrants settled.
Today, the area is filled with several points of interest such as Musée Mécanique, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, and the Ghirardelli Square. But perhaps the most visited spot on the wharf is Pier 39, which is home to numerous shops and delicious restaurants. Additionally, you can spot some sea lions hanging out by the docks.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
No doubt one of the most prestigious museums in the city, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, also known simply as SFMOMA, is an art museum that boasts 170,000 square feet of exhibition space.
Although numerous big cities have their own version of Chinatown, the one in San Francisco is the oldest and biggest Chinatown outside of Asia and a definite must-see when visiting the Golden City. Spanning 30 blocks, the buzzing district is filled with colorful alleyways, historic buildings, street vendors, and restaurants where you can get some authentic Chinese fare.
If you’re looking for some unparalleled views of San Francisco, pay a visit to Twin Peaks. These two grassy hills are located in the heart of the city and stand 922 feet tall, providing panoramic views of several of the city’s best landmarks, including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
Visitors of Twin Peaks can easily follow the marked trail that will lead to the top of the hill. The spot is open from 5 AM until midnight so guests have the option to go during the day or in the evening.
Undoubtedly one of the most well-known prisons in the world, Alcatraz Island is one attraction you have to see when in San Francisco. Located on a rocky island nearly two miles away from the city, Alcatraz is a former federal penitentiary that once held some of the country’s most notorious criminals, including Robert “The Birdman” Stroud, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Al Capone.
Tourists can reach the island via a 15-minute ferry ride and go on a self-guided audio tour that is narrated by former guards and prisoners, where they tell the story of the happenings inside the prison, escape plans, and more. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour led by a professional tourist guide (see options here).
Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Park is San Francisco’s answer to New York City’s Central Park and is one of the loveliest public spaces in the city. The park covers over 1000 acres of nature – from gardens and trees to rolling hills – and boasts a range of recreational options, including disk golf courses, kids’ playgrounds, picnic areas, and hiking trails.
Moreover, the Golden Gate Park is home to some iconic landmarks in the city, including the California Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the Japanese Tea Garden.
This was a guest blog post written by Abigail from Bounce, Inc.