If you have read one of my previous posts Exploring Los Angeles in Two Days without a Car, this article will be quite similar.
San Francisco is one of the most iconic and famous cities in the USA. The picture of red Golden Gate Bridge usually pops up in your head when you talk about this beautiful city. As great as it is, there are many more places that you cannot miss in San Francisco.
Naturally, you need to take buses or subway if you do not have a car. But unfortunately, unlike in LA, San Francisco does not offer any day passes for public transportation. You will have to carry cash and bear in mind that each ride takes 2.25 dollars.
Before you start your journey, you need a “starter pack” as below:
- Money (A lot of dollar bills and coins for the buses)
- A smartphone
- Internet access
- Google Maps Application
- Transit Application (to check when the buses will arrive in real time)
Now that you have left your luggage at your hotel or hostel, you are ready.
Most tourist attractions in San Francisco are located in the north and northeast. Even though most places seem to be in the same area, you will not be able to enjoy and absorb them all in one day. So I highly recommend you to separate your plan to two days as below:
Day 1: Union Square, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf (Pier 39) and Coit Tower
Day 2: Chinatown, Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Bridge and Lands End
Since most of hotels and hostels are in the center of the town, it will not be hard for you to find Union Square and start your first day there. I will talk about each place with the details below.
Union Square: The beautiful space in the middle of the city with Dewey Monument looking over it. This place is good for taking pictures, getting a map from Visitor Info Booth or just sitting and chilling for a while. You can also find many good coffee shops in this area.
Lombard Street: You will need to take a bus to get there. Lombard Street is the crookedest street in the world with its eight sharp turns. Funnily enough, there are actual people’ houses on both sides of the street. This is also a good place for capturing your memory in pictures.
Ghirardelli Square: You can easily walk down the hill here from Lombard Street. This little square is where the famous Ghirardelli’s chocolate store is there. You can buy bags or bars of chocolate with the discount promotion they have each day. Moreover, they serve delicious and luscious chocolate drinks and ice cream. I highly recommend you to order Sea Salt Caramel cocoa from the menu, whether you prefer it hot or cold.
Fisherman’s Wharf: It is probably the second most famous tourist attraction in San Francisco. You can find gift shops and restaurants along the northern waterfront area, which can be very crowdy on the weekend, so I would like to suggest you to come here on weekdays.
Pier 39: This is the most popular pier in Fisherman’s Wharf. As you can see, the place is well-decorated and completely dedicated to restaurants and gift shops. You should definitely have a chowder for lunch at The Hook and head over to watch sea lions at the end of the pier.
Coit Tower: It may seem quite far to walk from Pier 39, but you can enjoy the view of other piers along the way before turning right to Coit Tower. You will have to climb hundreds of stairs to get to the top, so please do not forget to bring water and give some time for yourself to rest along the way. Once you arrive at the top, you have an option to get on the elevator inside the tower. The fee is 5 dollars for residents and 7 dollars for non-residents. If you are not interested in losing money, you can enjoy the surroundings outside and take some pictures with the statue of Christopher Columbus.
After a long day, you should definitely end it here. It is always a good idea to walk back to Pier 39 and have dinner.
The second day is here and the plan I did suggest is good for both people who wake up early or late. Where else can be a better place to have the first meal of the day than at Chinatown?
Chinatown: One of the total 24 Chinatowns in the US. The area is full of Chinese restaurants and tropical fruits for you to buy on the footpath. As I talked a great deal about it in this post, you will not be disappointed to have some dim sum at Great Eastern Restaurant.
Palace of Fine Arts: After catching a bus, you will reach this monumental structure that was built in 1915. The architecture here will make you speechless and even more so when you see every detail up close. You will not be surprised to run into some grooms-to-be and/or brides-to-be who come here to take their pre-wedding photos. Palace of Fine Arts is good for walking around the lagoon and picnic on the grass.
Golden Gate Bridge: You cannot miss this when you are in San Francisco. You will have to take a bus for a very short time to arrive at Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. Please take as much time as you need to take pictures with this big red remarkable landmark.
Lands End: When you are done, you will need to take a few buses to get here, which is pretty much the only attraction on the list that is located on the far west. Lands End is a part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In my opinion, it is a very underrate sightseeing spot in San Francisco because people do not talk about it so much. There are so many interesting things here, such as the beach, a small cave, various hiking trails, and the ruins of Sutro Baths, which was a saltwater swimming pool complex that was built in 1896 and was burned down in 1966.
After leaving Lands End, it will take a long time to get back to the city, so I do not think you will have enough time to fit another place in. But if you have time, you can fit in Japanese Tea Garden, Painted Ladies and The Castro, or you can just go shopping at Westfield shopping mall.
Your trip is finally complete here and now you are able to tell everyone you know everything about San Francisco.