top of page

25 Essential Places to see in San Francisco

The city of San Francisco was founded in 1776 by a Spanish friar and developed rapidly thanks to the gold rush. Currently the city has almost 1 million inhabitants and is one of the most popular destinations.

On our trip through this area of ​​the United States, apart from getting to know San Francisco, which we really wanted, we explored several of the National Parks in the area, we got to know Sacramento, San José and Lake Tahoe. So if you are going to do a road trip in the area, do not miss all the articles published on the blog about San Francisco and its surroundings.

In this post I will tell you what to see and do in San Francisco, best accommodation areas and hotels, tips to save money in the city and some other things. Let us begin!


1. Cross the Golden Gate

At 2.7 kilometers long and 227 meters high, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the longest and highest suspension bridges in the world and is a famous postcard of the city.

Before the construction of the bridge, the only way to cross the San Francisco Bay was by ferry. Finally, the bridge was inaugurated in 1937.

The Golden Gate Bridge can be seen from dozens of places, but the best of them is the H. Dana Bowers Lookout, also called vista point. From here you will have magnificent views of the bridge and the city of San Francisco, but it also has other interesting places such as the Blue Memorial Highway, a tribute to the United States armed forces. The Lone Sailor Memorial, a statue dedicated to the Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. And the Compass Rose, a figure used to show the orientation of the cardinal points.

To get to the Mirador H. Dana Bowers you only have to cross the Golden Gate in a northerly direction. A very cool way to cross the Golden Gates is by bicycle. In the city center you have the option of renting one or renting it previously online, which will be somewhat cheaper than doing it right away in the city. You can see bicycle rental in San Francisco and reserve yours from this link. You can also cancel up to the day before for free!

As a curiosity, the Golden Gate has so many wires forming its cables that they could go around the earth 3 times.

2. Stroll through Garden Gate Park

This huge park is 5km long by 1km wide. The park has hundreds of beautiful corners and it would take a long time to get to know them all. Although if you dare to dedicate a day or half a morning to it, the park has minibuses that serve as transfers to explore its corners and the tours are not very expensive.

Some of the most interesting areas that you should visit are; the great Dutch mill, the garden of fragrances, the wooded areas with giant ferns, the lakes and ponds, a Japanese garden decorated with bonsai and pagodas, the Shakespeare garden, with more than 200 flowers cited in his works, the beach or the area where a herd of buffalo lives.

It is a beautiful place that is worth enjoying, so set aside a few hours on your trip to get to know the park.

One of the best ways to get to know a new city is by taking a guided tour. If there is the option of free tour even better. This Free tour of San Francisco will be done by a guide in Spanish or English and you will visit the most emblematic places in the city center.

4. Stroll down Lombard Street

If there is a popular image of San Francisco, it is its streets full of steep slopes.

Located between Hyde and Leavenworth is Lombard Street, known as the steepest street in San Francisco. Although it is the reality, it is not the steepest street in the city, but an urban myth. It has a 40º zigzag incline.

5. Get to know the Mission Dolores

Mission Dolores is the oldest building in San Francisco. It is a Spanish colonial-style church that was founded in 1776 by Spanish missionaries who, under the supervision of Father Junípero Serra, sought to evangelize the Ohlone Indians.

The church is very austere and simple at first glance, with very little lighting inside and a very mystical air.

6. Visit Alcatraz, the most essential stop on your trip to San Francisco

Located in the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was a lonely island for thousands of years until it was turned into a fort; During the Civil War, more than 100 cannons and 400 soldiers were installed so that the island became part of the United States defense plan.

In 1934, Alcatraz was reopened for use as a maximum security prison, to which prisoners deemed incorrigible and dangerous were transferred. Some of the best known prisoners are Al Capone, George Kelly or Robert Straud.

Alcatraz prisoners tried to escape from the rock fourteen times, although the most important escape attempt occurred in 1962 when Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers managed to escape by water.

Almost 30 years later, in 1963 Alcatraz closed its doors permanently, because the sea water had damaged the structure of the prison and the maintenance costs were excessive.

Today you can visit Alcatraz, being a mandatory stop on your trip to San Francisco. During the visit you will tour the cells, common areas and they will tell you the history of the prison, the anecdotes, escape attempts and some successful escapes.

It is a very interesting sight that you cannot miss!

7. Marvel at the impressive dome of City Hall

San Francisco City Hall is the current city hall. It opened its doors in 1915, replacing the old town hall that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1906.

The imposing building stands out for its 90-meter-high dome. Once you enter the Hall, it gives you the feeling of being in a Royal Palace, full of details and decorations.

8. Visit Grace Cathedral

The Grace Cathedral, so similar to the Nostre Dame in Paris, was built between 1928 and 1964, in the Gothic style. Its simple interior stands out for its beautiful stained glass windows and for the organ that has been operating since 1934.

Even if you are not religious, visiting Grace Cathedral is an interesting visit. In the surroundings of the Cathedral is the neighborhood of Nob Hill. One of the most prestigious areas of the city.

9. Enjoy art at the SFMOMA Museum of Modern Art

In the city there are several interesting museums to visit; the Asian Art Museum, the Young Museum, the Cable Car Museum… but the SFMOMA Museum of Modern Art and the Legion Of Honor are the two most important museums to visit in San Francisco.

The SFMOMA Museum of Modern Art is located in Yerba Buena Gardens and is the second largest modern art museum in the United States.

Inside, modern and contemporary works are exhibited, ranging from painting, sculpture or photography, to the most avant-garde creations.

In some of its exhibitions you can see works by well-known artists such as Picasso, Dalí, Miró or Matisse.

The exterior of the museum attracts a lot of attention, and if you don't have time to visit the museum, at least come to see its exterior. It was designed by architect Mario Botta and looks like a huge box of bricks.

10. Legion Of Honor

This museum was built in memory of the 3,600 Californian soldiers who died in World War I.

The building was built in 1924 and is a scale model of the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Paris.

It exhibits ancient and European art with more than 4,000 years old. From paintings, sculptures, objects, engravings, decorative arts to illustrated books and posters, letters...

11. Aquarium of the Bay

I'm a bit of a freak when it comes to aquariums, I love them! And whenever I have the opportunity on one of my trips, I visit them. The San Francisco Aquarium has just over 20,000 marine animals, including sharks, rays, giant octopuses, jellyfish and hundreds of starfish.

There is the possibility at the end of the visit to pet some of the species, it is an educational area where you can touch sharks, rays and other animals. Personally, I don't like this area so much anymore, I prefer that the animals are not bothered just by our whim of touching them, however, if you travel with children they will surely love it.

12. Take a boat ride on the San Francisco Bay

The best way to see the city's skyline is to book a boat tour in San Francisco. In addition to being able to see the Golden Gate from below.

There are several options to enjoy the San Francisco Bay:

13. Enjoy beautiful views from Twin Peaks

The name of Twin Peaks is due to the fact that they are two practically identical hills. With an altitude of about 280 meters, they are the second highest peak in San Francisco.

From here the views of the city are spectacular and it is worth making the journey here. The best time is at dawn or dusk.

The best way to get there is by car, although if you don't have it, you can use public transport (although it is more complicated). First you must take the tube to Forest Hill station (lines K, L or M), once outside the station you must cross the street and take the 36 bus to the Marview Way stop with Skywiew Way. There you have to start walking up the street, to then take a dirt road until you reach the Twin Peaks.

14. Visit the USS Pampanito Submarine

This submarine is located in Muselle 45 of Fisherman's Wharf. It is about a World War II submarine that survived countless battles in the Pacific; he sank six enemy ships and managed to rescue 73 men and bring them to the United States.

During the visit you will visit the rooms in which the crew made their life; the kitchen, the dining room, a small office and the bedrooms still retain the period decoration.

15. Don't miss the merchant ship, SS Jeremiah O'Brien

Near the USS Pampanito Submarine, is this merchant ship. It was built in 1943 and was part of the army that stormed the beaches at the Normandy Landings.

During her time in service, her primary role as a "Liberty Ship" was to supply US and allied troops during World War II.

Today, Jeremiah is the only operational survivor of the navy that was once made up of 6,000 ships.

16. Don't miss Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf is the old port and fishing district. Here there are several places of interest such as the USS Pampanito Submarine, the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, Pier 45, the Musée Mecanique...

Here you can also see Pier 39, which has an open-air mall and a colony of sea lions.

It is an area with atmosphere and you can taste some of the traditional dishes such as clam chowder served inside a round homemade bread, in one of the restaurants along the port.

17. Hike and hike the Castro and Haight-Ashbury

The Castro and Haight-Ashbury neighborhoods are two great examples of the diversity and freedom that have long existed in San Francisco.

The Castro neighborhood was one of the places where the strongest fight was made for the rights of the LGTBI community in San Francisco and for the acceptance of sexual diversity throughout the country.

Here there are several Victorian houses, colorful streets, the old street of Harvey Milk…

The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood was where the hippie movement was born in the 60s. In a neighborhood that I love, full of second-hand shops, with a very relaxed air and beautiful colored Victorian houses.

18. Fall in love with the Painted Ladies

Speaking of Victorian houses, we cannot leave the Painted Ladies off the list of essential things to see in San Francisco. They are Victorian-style houses painted in various pastel colors.

The most popular area of ​​the city, are located near the Alamo Square Park.

There are 7 houses, located between 710 and 722 Steiner Street, and from the upper part of the park you will have the opportunity to take one of the best photographs of San Francisco, with the houses in the foreground and the silhouette of the city in the background. .

Although this is one of the best places to appreciate these houses, keep in mind that before the 1906 earthquake there were more than 50,000 houses of this style throughout the city. Today there are still several scattered around the city.

19. Visit Chinatown

San Francisco's Chinatown is one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. Highlights Stockton Street, Dragon Gate, Portsmouth Square and Grant Avenue.

If you want to get to know Chinatown with a guided tour, there is an option in English. You can see more information and book the guided tour of San Francisco's Chinatown from this link.

20. Other interesting neighborhoods in San Francisco that you should visit

In San Francisco there are other very interesting neighborhoods to discover. And if you have time, don't forget to add them to your itinerary around the city.

Among them, Little Italy stands out, which, although little by little it has been shrinking, here you can find traditional food places, the church of San Pedro and San Pablo and a lot of commerce and atmosphere on Columbus Avenue.

Another interesting neighborhood is Japantown, which has a large 5-story pagoda, the Japan Cener, which is a shopping center with Japanese shops and restaurants, and the Plaza de la Paz.

21. Silicon Valley

If there is a leading place in technology and the place of the "tech geeks" par excellence, it is Silicon Valley.

Currently, this area located in the San Francisco Bay is home to companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook or HP.

If you are interested in knowing a little more, I recommend this technology tour in Spanish. It lasts about 2 hours and you will go through a bit of history and this whole area.

You also have this full day excursion to Silicon Valley. This was the option that we chose, it was very interesting, but it seemed a bit long.

22. Visit Sausalito

Sausalito is a small and picturesque fishing town close to San Francisco. Here there are a handful of houses with a Mediterranean air, many art galleries, cafes, small restaurants...

Here you can enjoy the natural park and the landscapes of the area and one of the most beautiful views of the city of San Francisco.

23. Muir Woods, Napa Valley, and Sonoma Valley

In my travels I always try to visit as many natural places as possible. I am a traveler more of natural places than of cities, and in my days in San Francisco I already feel like breathing a little and enjoying a natural environment.

In our case, we rented a car in San Francisco and headed to the Muir Woords Forest. Here you will find an amazing landscape of giant sequoia trees, wooded paths and several streams. A haven of peace that leaves you wanting more. To access the park you must pay an entrance fee of about 10 dollars.

Our next stops were at several of the area's vineyards; the Sonoma Valley and the Napa Valley. With an impressive landscape of vineyards and several wineries scattered along the way. If you dare to go on your own, you can stop at the wineries and hire a guided tour of the vineyard, with a tasting included. Or just walk around the area and take the opportunity to buy the famous Napa wine.

If you are not thinking of renting a car you can take a guided tour. It is very complete and includes basically everything we did. It is a one day tour and at night you return to San Francisco.

24. Visit the California Academy of Sciences

It is one of the most impressive natural science museums in the world. Here you can walk through a tropical forest, see an immense collection of goldfish in the aquarium, learn more about the universe in the planetarium, and visit all the museum's exhibitions (which are not few).

It is located in the Golden Gate Park and is a very interesting visit to do in San Francisco. The visit can take about 4 hours, keep this in mind when preparing your itinerary around the city. (If you want to visit all of Golden Gate Park, I recommend that you dedicate just one day to visit it, including the visit to the Academy of Sciences).

25. Take an excursion to the outskirts of the city

You have several options for visiting the surroundings of San Francisco. You can visit the valleys of the vineyards, as I mentioned before, but if you want you can also add destinations such as Yosemite Park or visit Carmel and Monterrey to your trip.


I hope you enjoy your trip to San Francisco very much and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.

If you liked this article, subscribe to the blog so you don't miss the next destinations, curiosities, travel tips and inspiration for your trips.

A hug and see you soon!


bottom of page