What to see in San Francisco: the best attractions in 1 day, 2 or 3 days.
San Francisco, one of the most colorful cities in the United States, began as a small settlement of Yerba Buena, where everyone wanted to instantly get rich. Unfortunately, almost everything that was built before 1906 collapsed as a result of a powerful earthquake. San Francisco’s modern attractions include parks, business districts, squares, and skyscrapers. And, of course, its symbol is the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco Attractions on Map
Golden Gate Bridge
I’ll start with the business card of the city. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was opened in 1937. A hanging structure connects San Francisco and the southern part of Marin County. The project was developed by several architects. Until 1964, this bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Its total length is 2737 m. Pedestrians and cyclists can cross the bridge for free. For cars, a fee of $ 6 is introduced when moving towards the city.
The Golden Gate of San Francisco can be seen in many American films: Terminator 4, Superman, The Hulk and other films.
Another “attraction” is fog, which can envelop a bridge in just a few minutes. At the same time, the city may have clear, warm weather. This phenomenon is especially popular in the summer. But even in winter (in February) we managed to see this miracle of nature.
After an hour and a half, when we reached the bridge, the fog completely disappeared, giving us the opportunity to take pictures.
Observation platforms with a view of the bridge are both from the side of the city, and on the opposite side. They are easy to find on google maps, just look for Golden Gate Viewpoint.
You can get from pier 39 or from Girardelli square by buses 4, 27, 54. Traveling when paying for the driver costs $ 3, the ticket is valid for 2 hours, so you can go back on it.
Also, both routes of the BIG BUS tourist bus (from $ 49) stop at the observation deck
Read also my California Travel Guide
Walt Disney Family Museum
In San Francisco, about 2 km from the Golden Gate, there is the Walt Disney Family Museum, which opened in 2009. It was founded by the animator’s daughter Diana. These are 10 galleries, thousands of exhibits (sketches for cartoons, personal items, documents) that tell about the life and work of the brilliant animator. There is a cinema hall for 1200 people. It often features Disney cartoons. It will be especially interesting for children from 2 to 18 years old. Entrance ticket is $ 25 for an adult and $ 15 for a child under 17 years old.
Japanese tea garden
If, after visiting the bridge, you decide to take a walk in the Golden Gate Park, then you can visit the Japanese tea garden, which grows a huge collection of rare plants native to Asia. Its area is 2 hectares. It is the oldest of Japanese gardens, which is located outside of Japan.
It consists of an external and internal garden. The first one has an entrance gate, lots of greenery and flowers, a stone walkway that leads to the inner garden. Much attention is given to creating vibrant compositions from natural elements. There are also pagodas, ponds, a rock garden, alleys from Japanese plants. The task of the garden is to give the visitor peace, distract him from everyday rush.
Here you will see many squirrels, butterflies and birds. Take bread and nuts with you, the proteins are completely tame, you can feed them. Entrance ticket is $ 8.
One of the main attractions of San Francisco and one of the most multinational areas of the city, Haight Ashbury, covers an area of 80 hectares. In the middle of the 20th century, it became a place of hippie concentration. Now there are hundreds of vintage shops, authentic bars and cafes, music salons in the area. Here you will find the home of the iconic American rock band Grateful Dead.
Haight Ashbury is one of the few places that did not destroy the earthquake in the early 20th century. He retained his original appearance and color.
The area is really colorful, therefore, do not be surprised at the large number of local crazy, stoned people and endless graffiti on the walls. Someone loves such places, but I wanted to leave there quickly.
In the Haight Ashbury area, on Alamo Square, there are authentic buildings in the style of “painted ladies” (translated as “decorated ladies”). This is a single architectural composition of six three-story Victorian houses. The second name is “six sisters”.
Active construction of such buildings took place during the reign of Queen Victoria. There were thousands at that time. The idea of construction was presented by the architect Matthew Cavan. For such houses, they took a single material – the California sequoia tree. The inner walls were red, and the outside of the room was painted either in plain white, or different bright colors were selected. Facades must be decorated with balconies, towers, verandas.
The 1906 earthquake destroyed almost all Victorian homes in San Francisco, and only the “six sisters” were unharmed. Without going into the hippie quarter, taking a walk and browsing at home is really very interesting.
The most winding street of the city, very narrow, stretches for 400 meters. It starts near Fort Presidio and reaches the port promenade and Embarcadero highway. The street is an absolute attraction of San Francisco and is included in all tourist routes. It has a speed limit of up to 8 km / h. One-way traffic, parking is prohibited throughout the site.
Lombard Street is quite picturesque, clean, paved with red brick. There are lawns on both sides. Their condition is monitored by utilities. In spring and summer, flowers bloom in abundance, while bright houses add color. Interesting place! BUT! Take pictures of the “tortuosity” will not work either from above or from below.
In San Francisco, on a hill, there is an expensive residential area called Russian Hill. It got its name in the first half of the 20th century, when emigrants from the Russian Empire came here. Today, a large number of Russians are not here.
It is in Russian Hill that Lombard Street is located. Here you will find Holy Trinity Cathedral – the oldest Russian Orthodox church in the city. From Russia Hill, a beautiful panorama opens onto the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Prison. Walking in a hilly area is not easy. Wear comfortable shoes.
Cable cars in San Francisco USA are the only surviving mode of transport. The first route was launched in 1873. Today, trams can drive around 69 city blocks in three directions!
The cars move on the principle of a funicular. The central rope lies underground, something like a “buried” rail. The gear wheels of the tram are attached to it, and the transport begins to move. By the way, the speed is always the same – no more than 15 km / h.
Trams are always packed with passengers. They ride not only tourists out of curiosity, but also many locals. Fare – $ 6 one way.
Alcatraz (The Rock)
Alcatraz is the first US long-term prison. Over the entire history of the existence of the place, 14 escape attempts were organized, only one was successful, and then according to unconfirmed reports.
It is located on a small island in the bay of San Francisco. The first settlers appeared here in the middle of the XIX century. By 1920, the three-story building was completely filled with prisoners. Known as a place with special requirements for rigor and discipline. The average age of local prisoners was 24 years. The majority of people were serving sentences for desertion. Famous people were also in Alcatraz, including the legendary Al Capone.
As a prison, the place ceased to exist in 1963. Today it is a popular attraction, annually hosting about a million tourists. It offers a beautiful view. It will take about 2 hours to inspect the entire room. The cost of an all-day ticket is $ 39.9 (ferry from pier 33 and back is included in the price). It’s almost impossible to buy tickets locally during the season, so I recommend buying in advance. You can buy a ticket on the official website: https://www.nps.gov/alca/index.htm
My opinion is that visiting Alcatraz is worth it: 1. If you are very interested in this, 2. If you are in the city for at least 3 days.
I can’t say that I was delighted with the visit and would prefer to walk around the city for these 3 hours.
What else to do in San Francisco? Explore Fisherman’s Wharf, a port area in the northeastern part of the city. Typically a tourist place: crowded, noisy, with lots of entertainment. Here are located the Marine Historical Park, the entertainment district Pier-39, the old chocolate factory, hundreds of cafes and shops.
Fisherman’s Wharf has a symbol – a crab. During the Gold Rush, thousands of fishermen went from these places to catch crabs. The many marina-style restaurants serve delicious fresh fish and seafood dishes. Classic – crab soup in a bread plate (about $ 15).
Here are some more prices at the marina kiosk.
Pier 39 (Pier 39).
Pier 39 San Francisco – a shopping and entertainment complex, huge in area. Here you will find 14 restaurants, an aquarium, hundreds of shops, a mooring for ships and a promenade. Various performances are organized on the streets, 3-D rides, carousels, a slot machine hall work.
Another San Francisco symbol, Californian sea lions, are located here. Funny live cats lie closer to the edge of the pier. They first appeared here in the autumn of 1989. According to scientists, a total of 1,500 animals live on the pier. They periodically leave their home in search of food, but always return.
Of interest is the San Francisco Aquarium – a two-story exhibition complex where you can get acquainted with the mysterious underwater world of the city. It is divided into three parts. In the first are representatives of the fauna. The largest is the second zone. There is a glass tunnel with a length of 90 m. 20 thousand different marine animals live in it. In the third section, rare animals of the underwater world live: leopard shark, some species of stingrays and starfish.
Aquarium address: PIER 39 The Embarcadero &, Beach St, San Francisco. It is on the edge of Pier 39. Opening hours: during the summer period (second half of May – September) from 09:00 to 20:00, in the autumn-spring (September – October, March – first half of May) from 10:00 to 19: 00, in the winter period (from November to February) from 10:00 to 18:00. Entrance ticket – from $ 29.
I tell you what else to see in San Francisco. Girardelli Square (the second name is Chocolate Square) occupies an entire city block. The place is very crowded, especially at weekends. 40 specialized confectioneries and shops are compactly located on the square, where you can taste and buy great chocolate and confectionery from it. The delicacy has a rich taste and delicate aroma. In addition, the area offers beautiful views of the ocean.
Prices in the Girardelli cafe:
The chocolate of this company is also sold in large supermarkets. The cost is about $ 6 per package (180 grams), in duty-free (seen at the Los Angeles airport) – more expensive and only large packs.
Grace Cathedral is located on Knob Hill. Date of construction – 1906. The architectural style is Gothic. The visiting card of the attraction is the massive bronze doors, called the “Gate of Paradise” (a copy of the “Gate of Paradise” of the Florentine Duomo ). The temple is generously decorated with stained-glass windows and frescoes, telling about the history of the foundation of the cathedral and the life of saints. Many tapestries dating from the 17th century. On the floor you will see a florid maze. Free admission.
The central city square is Union Square. You will find first-class hotels, galleries, cinemas and theaters around it. However, she is best known for the luxury boutiques.
The construction of the square began in the 19th century. In the center is a granite column. Its upper part is crowned with a capital and a ball, on which a beautiful girl stands on one leg. She has a trident in one hand and a laurel wreath in the other. The monument was erected in honor of the American admiral Duy. He won a great victory in the Gulf of Manila during the war against the Spanish invaders at the end of the 19th century.
Union Square is not only not an area, but also the adjacent shopping and entertainment district. Come here after 10am when the stores are open!
If you want to see something unusual in the city, welcome to San Francisco Chinatown. You will be happy to be greeted by red lanterns, pagodas, the famous Dragon Gate. By the way, this is the oldest Chinatown in North America. The first residents settled here in the middle of the XIX century. Today, a total of more than 100 thousand people live in the quarter, mainly refugees from Gauandong province.
Look for Chinatown in the city center. Next to it are such streets and areas:
- Kearney Street
- North Beach
- Nob Hill.
Union Square is bordered by Chinatown in the south.
Chinatown is an enclave in which they adhere to Chinese traditions, speak their native language. There are social clubs, 2 Chinese hospitals, post offices, parks, gardens and schools.
The Castro District of San Francisco is the compact home of local sex minorities. The roofs of the buildings are decorated with rainbow colors (an international symbol of representatives of non-traditional sexual orientation), pornographic posters are clearly visible on the windows. Every object in the area shouts “Freedom of manners!” Many bars and noteworthy cafes. There are also enough tourists here. In San Francisco, in principle, a very loyal attitude to representatives of gay orientation. Every year, at the end of July, a large-scale gay parade is held in the city.
Mission Dolores Park
Mission Dolores Public Park is a splendid observation deck in San Francisco. The place is very popular among tourists and locals. You will find it in the western part of the Mission area.
Throughout the park there are 6 tennis courts, two football fields and a basketball court. There is an excellent play area for children and a place for walking dogs.
The park often hosts sporting events, theatrical performances, exhibitions and festivals.
Modern Art Museum
His address is 151 3rd St, San Francisco. It carefully stores a collection of works of art of the XIX-XX centuries – a total of 29,000 works. These are paintings, sculptures, design installations, photos and graphics. The architect of the building made of glass and concrete was the famous Swiss Mario Botta. Around the museum grows a picturesque park in which original sculptures of modern American masters are exhibited.
Admission to the museum for an adult is $ 25.
The city’s interactive science museum is located at Pier 15, The Embarcadero. It was founded in 1969. The motto of the complex is “Boring Science!”
The building is divided into galleries. In the South Hall, all exhibits are allowed to be touched. Here are the first clockworks, communicating vessels, home appliances. There is also the Eastern Gallery, which tells about the development of the planet, the Western Gallery with its phenomenon of human life and the Central Gallery, which tells about the senses. The inspection of the entire museum will take about 2.5 hours-3 hours.
Entrance ticket – $ 29.95.
De Young Museum
This is a good art museum in San Francisco, opened in March 1985. 2 million tourists visit it annually. The old museum building was destroyed by an earthquake, and he moved to the Golden Gate Park. Specializes in the collection of paintings, national costumes, objects of decorative art from the Americas. There is a restaurant and a shop on site.
Entrance ticket is $ 15. Opening hours: Monday – day off. From Tuesday to Sunday you will be glad to see from 09:30 to 17:15.
City Hall is an American Renaissance architecture town hall in the Civic Center area. Opening date – 1915. The local town hall works in the town hall. The building occupies two blocks. The total area is 46 thousand m². The baroque dome, which rises above the ground by more than 93 m, attracts attention.
Marriage is officially registered at City Hall. It was in this town hall that Marilyn Monroe married baseball star Joe Di Maggio.
Attraction Address: Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco. You can visit the City Hall for free. Opening hours: from 8:00 to 20:00 from Monday to Friday.
San Francisco’s skyscrapers are some of the most beautiful in the world. I want to talk about one of them – the skyscraper Transamerica (San Francisco). It is a 260-meter pyramid-shaped building of 48 floors. Construction began in 1969 and lasted 3 years. The skyscraper is clearly visible from different parts of the city. It stands a few dozen meters from Chinatown. You cannot get inside the building; you can visit the visitor center, the entrance to which is located on Clay Street. Come on a weekday from 8:00 to 17:00.
Twin Peaks in San Francisco are two hills 282 m high. There is a 200 m distance between the North and South Twin Peaks. There are many buildings and simply bright objects near the hills. From the peaks of Twin Peaks offers a beautiful view of the metropolis, skyscrapers, Golden Gate Bridge are clearly visible. An asphalt road is laid to the top of the hills. You can get here by renting a car, bicycle, as part of an excursion group or by bus number 37, following from Forest Hill subway station.
In the city of San Jose, on Winchester Boulevard, stands a remarkable house No. 525. It was built by a relative of the inventor Oliver Winchester, Sarah. The girl designed the building herself. It was a 7-story building with narrow corridors and secret rooms. They say that spirits roam here. After the earthquake, only 4 floors remained, but the mystical atmosphere of the house did not change.
If you want to tickle your nerves, come to San Jose from San Francisco. The distance between cities is 67 km in a straight line. You can get from one destination to another by bus. You will spend about an hour on the way, the fare is $ 12.
Entrance ticket from 39 $.
San Francisco Zoo
In the southeast of the city there is a beautiful zoological park, in which 250 species of animals live. Many of them are listed in the Red Book. The zoo covers an area of 40 hectares. Established in 1925 Construction lasted 10 years. The territory is divided into zones: Africa, Asia, Europe, etc. Here you can see marsupials, representatives of the cat family, zebras, bears, hippos, giraffes. For children, trips are organized in trailers on a mini-train. On a large playground, zoo employees often organize quests and competitions.
Opening hours of the zoo: every day from 10:00 to 15:00. The price of an adult admission ticket is $ 23, for children over 4 years old – $ 17. Visitors under 4 years old are free.
That’s all! I wish you a great trip to San Francisco and cloudless weather!