If you find yourself in San Francisco for the first time with just three days to explore, follow this itinerary to make the most of its street art, park life, history and food.
San Francisco is a city of extremes, contrasts and flux. From the counterculture of the ’60s to the innovative tech hub of today, the City by the Bay has always been rich with real life. Get a taste in just three days, starting in one of the foremost LGBTQ districts in the US, the Castro, and stopping by one of the greatest engineering wonders of the modern world, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
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Dive into the very soul of San Francisco and head to the Castro, quite possibly the most famous LGBTQ neighbourhood in the US. It’s been at the forefront of the LGBTQ-rights movement since the ’60s and ’70s. It’s walkable, so spend the morning spotting all the double entendre store names and rummaging through the thrift stores as you stroll its rainbow flag-lined streets. A great route to follow is the Rainbow Honor Walk with plaques celebrating LGBTQ heroes.
Nightlife in the Castro can be wild and goes on late. Kick things off at Eiji, a Japanese restaurant near Dolores Park famed for its homemade tofu, before grabbing a table at the indoor beer garden in Willkommen and ending the night dancing at Toad Hall.
Next up is a ride on the Golden Gate Ferry (from the neighbouring pier) to Sausalito in Marin County, to the north of San Francisco. This 30-minute journey across the bay is a budget-friendly way to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Sausalito is a leisurely waterfront town with a ton of art galleries, beach walks and houseboats. You might think houseboats aren’t that big a deal, but Sausalito is home to about 500 – if you’re lucky, one or two of them will be open for tours.
The added bonus of visiting Sausalito is that it’s only a 10-minute Uber from Vista Point, at the north of the Golden Gate Bridge, from where the walk back over the crossing to the city is a must. The walk takes about an hour and is worth doing from north to south for the views of the San Francisco skyline.
On the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge is the Presidio, a former military post that’s been converted into a huge park, covering more than 2sqmi (6sqkm). It’s got viewpoints (Crissy Field is where to go for the best picture of the bridge), 24mi (39km) of trails and even beaches, including sandy Baker Beach and the more rugged Marshall’s Beach.
Round off the day with dinner at a San Francisco institution – Greens, a pioneering vegetarian restaurant that opened way back in 1979. Further along the waterfront by Fort Mason, it also has fabulous views of the bay and the bridge to round the day off nicely.
It’s hard to beat a Sunday morning spent in Golden Gate Park. Larger than NYC’s Central Park, this 3mi-long (5km) urban oasis attracts art lovers, music fans, hikers and bikers – and science enthusiasts love to visit the California Academy of Sciences located here, too. Food options within the park aren’t that great, so pick up a breakfast coffee and waffle from Rise & Grind Coffee and Tea on the north side before heading in.
If you’ve got time for one more thing, sign up for a street art tour through the Mission District. Just a couple of miles from the Haight, through Castro (jump on a Bay Wheels or Lyft hire bike and do the journey in 15 minutes), the Mission District is the oldest neighbourhood in the city and the centre of the gentrification debate. Vibrant murals and graffiti line the streets, and each piece has a story to tell. Fuel your tour with a Mission burrito – the best are at La Taqueria.
Find out more and start planning your trip now by visiting sftravel.com
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