There is so much for visitors to do in San Francisco’s 6 square miles so doing 10 great things in a day is a cinch for most people. Here is an itinerary that will guide the first-timer to the must-see places in San Francisco.
1. Eat Breakfast at Fisherman’s Wharf
Have a great breakfast at Fisherman’s Wharf, before the tourists arrive. Get up early and head down to Fisherman’s Wharf and check out the sea lions that hang out at Pier 39. Afterward, walk off all that deliciousness and head down Stockton St. into North Beach, the formerly Bohemian part of the city.
2. North Beach
North Beach is just under 1 square mile and has a rich in Italian heritage. The area is comprised of cabarets, jazz clubs, galleries, inns, restaurants and gelato. North Beach is San Francisco’s playground by night with live music and dancing. In the morning practice tai chi with the regulars or just people watch in Washington Square and from here, walk up the (very steep) hill on Lombard Street from North Beach or catch the No. 39 bus at Washington Park and head to the top of Telegraph Hill.
3. Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower
Telegraph Hill was the home to sea captains in the days of the Golden Bough in North Beach. Coit Tower, perched atop historic Telegraph Hill, offers some of the best views of the city. But you can’t leave before checking out the murals, which were commissioned by the federal Works Progress Administration, and completed in 1933. They are done in the social-realism style of Diego Rivera. Pay special attention to the depiction of the newsstand for glimpse of a bygone era.
The monument is owned by the city of San Francisco and it is free to go inside, but if you prefer to take the elevator to the top to check out the views, it’s $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $2 for children aged 5 to 12.
Once you’ve seen Coit Tower and the city views, take the 377 stairs on the east side of the tower down. And enjoy the blossoming gardens and historic San Francisco homes on your way down. Be sure to keep an eye open for the wild parrots hat live on Telegraph Hill. Walk all the way to the bottom of the hill, then head east toward the Bay, to the Embarcadero, where you can pick up the trolley.
4. The Cable Car to the Castro
This is the best $2 you will spend in San Francisco. Jump the on the historic F line cable car on the Embarcadero and ride it all the way to the Castro. Rest your feet and enjoy the sites as you pass the Wharf, down the Embarcadero and onto Market Street, one of the city’s main thoroughfares. Take it to the Castro Street station, the end of the line. Visit the famous Castro Theater, a pristine, 1920s movie palace that shows excellent art and repertoire films and has a real live Wurlitzer player some nights.
From the Castro, you can walk to the Haight — it’s a little less than a mile — or take Muni bus 33.
The Haight-Ashbury district is noted for its role as a center of the 1960s hippie movement, having been the birthplace of America’s counter-culture and central to the summer of 1967, a.k.a. The Summer of Love, The area is now popular amongst affluent people because of the rows of colorful “Painted Lady” Victorian homes throughout Haight-Ashbury.
The area still maintains its bohemian character. The neighborhood remains a prosperous center of independent local businesses, including a number of independent restaurants and bars, as well as high-end boutiques, booksellers, and record stores including Amoeba Music, which is in a former bowling alley and boasts one of the biggest collections of CDs (new and used) in the world.
From Amoeba Music, go west one block along Haight Street to the end and cross the street to. Golden Gate Park’s famous Hippie Hill,
6. Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park’s 1,017 acres contain lakes, gardens, playgrounds, picnic areas, trails, and monuments, plus a vast number of cultural venues, events, and activities. Be sure to visit the oldest Victorian greenhouse in the US, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden and the Music Concourse, where you can attend a free concert held on Sunday’s during the summer.
If you’re feeling spry, walk to the western edge of the park to check out the herd of bison at the the Bison Paddock, then hop a trolley or bus back east, or call for a cab. Next stop: the Exploratorium
7. The Presidio
The Presidio used to be a military facility for 230 years until the end of 20th century. It was used at different points to house soldiers from Spain and Mexico before it became a U.S. military base. Now, it is a park boasting lavish eucalyptus trees and vast lawns.
From the Presidio, you can walk to the Golden Gate Bridge.
8. The Golden Gate Bridge
Probably THE most famous bridge in the world, with its remarkable 746-foot tall towers, sweeping main cables, signature orange color, and Art Deco styling. The Golden gate Bridge is an absolute must-see in San Francisco. The all new visitor experiences are centered around an all new Bridge Plaza at the south east end.
Walking is the best ways to experience the immensity of the Bridge. It is 1.7 miles long and it takes approximately 45–60 minutes to walk across or rent a bike to ride across and return on the ferry. The sidewalk is open to pedestrians seven days a week between sunrise and sunset. The Bridge is open to autos and cyclists 24 hours a day.
9. Ferry Building
The Ferry Building is located along the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street and is the center of a transit hub that connects all of San Francisco’s neighborhoods and the surrounding bay communities. The marketplace is accessible by MUNI, BART and Ferry Boat. The historic trolley cars (Line F Market) stop directly in front of the Ferry Building.
The Ferry Building houses many shops large and small celebrate food in all its forms, offering everything from artisan cheeses to the freshest of local fish. There’s also an excellent farmers market on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday until 2 p.m.
10. Union Square
Union Square is the heart of the downtown shopping, theater and hotel district. This 2.6 acre public plaza and surrounding area has one of the largest collections of department stores, upscale boutiques, gift shops, art galleries, and beauty salons in the United States. The off-Broadway, and single-act theaters also contribute to the area’s dynamic atmosphere.