Your first trip to San Francisco can be a bit daunting if you don’t know where to go and what to see. Make sure to plan ahead. Follow our guide on how to get the best out of the City by the Bay, and what you can’t miss in just five days!
Peruse the streets of Union Square to satisfy all of your big city shopping needs. From stores like Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, from Louis Vuitton to H&M, you’ll have all of your bases covered here. Take a break from shopping and grab dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Located on the 8th floor of the Macy’s building, a table outside will give you a breathtaking view of the hustle and bustle of Union Square.
A tourist must-see, Fisherman’s Wharf is sure to be one of your favorite highlights of your trip. Approximately eight blocks long (wear comfortable shoes!), Fisherman’s Wharf caters to your shopping, dining, and entertainment needs. Start at the corner of Jefferson and Leavenworth, where you can find multiple gift shops as you make your way towards Pier 39. Along the way, take in the sights like street performers and artists creating and selling their one-of-a-kind art pieces. When you finally reach Pier 39, you will find more shops, restaurants and attractions. Ride the carousel, make your way through Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze or visit the Aquarium of the Bay.
San Francisco is famous for having crazy steep hills and interesting landmarks, and Lombard Street is just that. Known as being ‘the crookedest street in the world,’ Lombard Street is one block that has eight sharp turns. Feel free to drive through the turns (beware there will be traffic), or be adventurous and get some cardio in by walking it.
Spend the day taking in a bit of culture in what is known as the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinatown aside outside of Asia in San Francisco’s very own Chinatown district. Take your group along for a journey covering over 100 years of Chinese history, check out the Stockton Street markets where locals buy their groceries and herbs, and see the famous fortune cookie factory. Fun fact: they sell ‘adult’ fortune cookies. Also, stop at one of the many souvenir stores and pick up some fun trinkets to take home.
Hop on board and ride a San Francisco gem on the historical Cable Car that runs from Union Square all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. Take in the sights as you travel through the shopping center of Union Square, then through the historic Chinatown and finally ending up in Fisherman’s Wharf. After you hop off the train, indulge and treat yourself to a hot fudge sunday in Ghirardelli Square.
Walk the golden gate bridge (then go to Vista Point)
Take in one of San Francisco’s greatest attractions by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. Put on your walking shoes and a light jacket (it gets a bit chilly) to trek across this 1.7 mile long bridge. As you reach the end, follow the signs to Vista Point where the real treasure lies. Vista Point allows visitors to marvel at a spectacular, quite famous, view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco is notorious for being called “Fog City” due to the inevitable fog that frequently rolls through. Fingers crossed you catch the city on a sunny day, and head over to Baker Beach for some fun in the sun. Make it a barbecue day as nearby Cypress Grove provides visitors with grills, tables, and restrooms for all your picnic needs. Hiking trails nearby also make this destination a popular spot on sunny days.
Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, San Francisco | Courtesy of The Presidio Trust
Reminiscent of ancient Roman ruins, the Palace of Fine Arts serves as both a historical San Francisco landmark and one of the city’s most popular photo opportunities. Surrounded by water and vast greenery, the Palace of Fine Arts serves as a great spot for photo shoots and picnics. Catch a comedy or music show at the theatre if you have a chance.
‘Whatever happened to predictability? The milkman, the paperboy, evening TV?’ Full House fans travel far and wide to visit the 700 block of Steiner Street where the opening credits of the show were filmed, more famously known as the Painted Ladies. If you couldn’t tell, San Francisco is fond of its parks, so head just across the way to Alamo Square park and do a bit of people watching.
Head over to San Francisco’s Mission district and plan a day at Mission Dolores Park. The park presents things for all ages to do, whether it be children playing on the newly renovated playground or families taking part in a match of tennis at the one of six tennis courts. Plan ahead and pack lunch and a blanket to have a picnic, and do as the locals do and get your sunbathing on! After you’re done, either head down 19th Street and explore the multicultural Mission district or head in the other direction up 19th and explore the colorful world that is the Castro.