San Francisco is one of those places that everyone loves and raves about. There is something for everyone and it is a really interesting city to travel to and explore. Ian and I visited San Francisco on April 18th, in order to celebrate the end of tax season and we had a blast! We stayed for a total of three nights and fit in as much as we possibly could during our time there. Although we were not there for a long time, I do think that we have a pretty good understanding of the city and we found some of the best spots in town. Below, you will find our San Francisco GoPro video, as well as all of my recommendations on what to do, what to know, what to eat, and where to stay in my text travel guide. I hope that this San Francisco Travel Guide will allow you to prepare for your trip to the bay and have the best time, just like we did!
San Francisco Travel Guide
What to know
- SF is known for its hills, but thankfully, it is still very walkable. The best ways to get around is by walking and taking public transportation (take advantage of the SF City Pass and Big Bus Tour!). Uber and Lyft are also available, but your bills will rack up, so we preferred public transport and walking.
- Know the weather before you travel to San Francisco and come prepared. I didn’t realize how windy and cold it would be, so I came in a short summer dress my first day and I was freezing (especially on Alcatraz Island!).
- Find a hotel in the city. You may save money by booking an Airbnb or hotel across the bridge, but you will lose out on a lot of time (and a lot of money, if Ubering).
- Do your research on the Tenderloin District before walking there. We were told many times to just steer clear, but we drove through and it seemed fine. Just do your research before going! 😉
- Don’t fall for tourist trap restaurants. San Francisco is known for its amazing culinary scene, so just research before you go, and/or visit the places that I went to (info below!).
- San Francisco is filled with tons of parks and greenery spaces. Explore and you will find really cool spots to hang out in!
What to do
Alcatraz Island // Alcatraz is just one of those things that you have to do at least once in your life. It was so, so cool. Alcatraz Cruises is the official concessioner to the National Park Service, offering tickets and transportation to Alcatraz Island. It is easy to grab tickets – reserve them online in advance, or if it is not a busy day, you could even grab tickets the day of (but I wouldn’t risk it, because the cruises book up fast). I’m very pleased to say that we had a great educational day on The Rock and thankfully escaped! 😉
Fisherman’s Wharf //The ultimate ‘tourist’ to do in San Francisco is Fisherman’s Wharf. Here you will find tons of eateries and shops, fun activities, and even the Sea Lions at Pier 39 (which is a must-see!). We visited the Sea Lions, walked around, and grabbed a coffee and a pastry at Boudin Bakery.
China Town + Little Italy // China Town and Little Italy are more must-see places in San Francisco. From the Dragon Gate to amazing restaurants, you need to at least walk through to check it out. It was so cool!
Washington Square Park // Washington Square Park is about six blocks north of the Dragon Gate. We walked through China Town and Little Italy on our way to Fisherman’s Wharf and found this gem of a park on our way. We thought it was just a normal park until we saw all of these people practicing tai chi. I had never seen anything like it before and I could not stop watching. This is definitely the best place to people watch in the morning!
San Francisco Giants // We, unfortunately, did not get to go to a Giants game, but that just means that we have to go back to experience it!
The Ferry Building Marketplace // The Ferry Building is somewhat similar to a Ponce City Market, or Krog Street in Atlanta. When we first walked in, I knew I had to include this place in this San Francisco Travel Guide! It was just so cool!
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art //We LOVED the MOMA in San Francisco. I typically travel for food and to explore the city, so the SFMOMA was not at the top of my bucket list, but we went and I am so, so glad we did. The entire building was very unique and beautiful! If you have a rainy day, if you want air conditioning for a day, or if you want to add something really cool to your to-do list, I highly recommend checking it out.
Muir Woods // Okay, Y’all. I am SO disappointed that we did not have time to fit Muir Woods into our schedule (once again, this means that we need to go back). I’ve heard amazing things about it and it was really high on my to-do list, but we just did not have the time. This is #1 on my bucket list for my next trip to San Francisco.
Golden Gate Park // Golden Gate Park in San Francisco gets about 13 million visitors, each year. It is huge and gorgeous – they say it is one of San Francisco’s Treasures, and I completely agree. Golden Gate Park is made up of 1,017 acres and it is filled with gardens, playgrounds, lakes, trails, monuments, and more. We were in San Francisco during 420 and they had a huge festival at Golden Gate Park, so we were somewhat limited to what we saw during our time there, but from what we did see, it was amazing. We loved our time in the park!
City Pass //The San Francisco City Pass was so useful during our time. It includes 3-day cable car and muni bus transportation passes, as well as included tickets to a few great places around the city such as the MOMA, Exploratorium, Aquarium of the Bay, California Academy of the Sciences, and more. I highly recommend getting a City Pass to save money and make the most of your time.
Big Bus Tour // We loved the Big Bus Tour! It goes to most/all of the famed tourist attractions and it will save you money and sore feet. Definitely check it out while you are traveling to SF.
Where to stay
The InterContinental San Francisco is my only recommendation for the city. As you know from my full hotel review, we loved staying there. The gorgeous building boasts 550 guest rooms, including 14 suites. Club level rooms are located on the top three floors of the building, which also happen to have the best views. You will also gain access to the 6th floor of the building, which includes complimentary breakfast, snacks throughout the day, happy hour, specialty coffee, and more. The Intercontinental San Francisco is a quick drive to all of the major tourist attractions in San Francisco, and it is also very easy to walk to most, as well. If you are planning to spend your time in the city, please do not think it is a good time to stay across the bridge. If you want to optimize your time, you need to stay in the city of San Francisco and The InterContinental San Francisco is the perfect place to do so!
Where to eat + drink
Oooh, this is my favorite section of this travel guide. We have SO many good places to eat! I am working on full reviews of each place in this list, so bear with me, but for now, here is my list:
- Okane: Amazing high-end sushi and Japanese cuisine. Highly recommend! The picture above is from Okane, so you can see how good it is!
- Dumpling Time: Probably my favorite place we ate in San Francisco. Fantastic dumplings! Don’t miss out on the dessert dumplings.
- Pesce e Riso: Italian with a Japanese twist. We loved the creative menu at this restaurant!
- Boudin Bakery: A great quick spot for a pastry and coffee at The Wharf. Ian got a loaf of sourdough (haha) and the chocolate croissant was fantastic!
- Hog Island Oyster Company: Amazing oysters, fantastic clam chowder. Go here!
- Il Fornaio: Great Italian in a convenient location!
- The Riddler: This is a champagne bar in Hayes Valley. I really wanted to go here, but we didn’t have time.
- Mr. Holmes Bakehouse: A classic must-visit when you travel to San Francisco. I’m very disappointed that I was not able to make it here during my trip.
- In-N-Out Burger: You know, if you are on the West Coast, a visit to In-N-Out is a must. This was Ian’s first time and he loved it!
- Hardwood Bar and Smokery: This bar is really close to Okane and it was amazing! The bartender was SO nice and welcoming and helped us navigate the local San Francisco beers that were on tap.
- Roam Artisan Burgers: Roam Burgers was recommended to us by an Uber driver. It is supposed to be amazing!
- Flour + Water: Really high up on my visit list, but once again, we ran out of time. flour + water serves a daily changing menu of house-made pasta exposing the regional variety found throughout Italy, Neapolitan-style pizzas prepared in a wood-fired oven and carefully crafted dishes utilizing seasonal ingredients.
- The Chieftain Irish Pub: This was on Ian’s bucket list for SF since it was so close to our hotel and it was a really cool place! The bartender was great and it was full of SF locals.
- Servino: Servino’s menu looks fantastic. Located in Tiburon, it was close to where we stayed across the bridge for a night. The brunch menu looks amazing!
- Lazy Bear: I actually almost booked a reservation here, but it was really pricey. Once in San Francisco, we actually visited another Michelin Starred restaurant and paid just under what we would have paid at Lazy Bear, so I am very sad that we didn’t just suck up the price and book it anyway because I’ve heard that it is amazing! Our other Michelin star restaurant is not on this list because I do not recommend it. Next time, we will definitely visit Lazy Bear!
Day 1: We arrived at the airport in San Francisco around 10:30 in the morning and grabbed an Uber! We dropped our bags off at The Chancellor Hotel (they will store bags for you for free, as long as you tip!!!!). We took an Uber to The Ferry Building Marketplace to visit Hog Island Oyster Co. and grabbed a quick lunch before walking to Alcatraz Cruises. We explored Alcatraz Island for about 2-3 (or so) hours before heading back to pick up our bags and get settled in before dinner. We had dinner at Okane and then walked over to Hardwood Bar and Smokery to grab drinks.
Day 2: We checked into The InterContinental San Francisco, explored the club lounge and the rest of the hotel and then walked to Dumpling Time. It was a decently long walk, but we saw a lot of San Francisco on the way, which was really neat! After our lunch, we walked to the MOMA and claimed our tickets using our City Pass. We explored the MOMA for a while and then headed back to the hotel to relax and recharge before dinner. For dinner, we visited Pesce e Riso and went to The Chieftain Irish Pub & Restaurant for drinks.
Day 3: This was 420, so the city was crazy (but not as crazy as expected!). This is the day that we woke up early and walked all the way from our hotel to Fishermans Wharf. We stopped at a lot of places on the way, such as China Town, Pier 39, etc. and had a blast! We went to Il Fornaio for lunch and then took a Big Bus tour, which took us to a few places like Alamo Square, Lombard Street, and Haight Ashbury. Then, we walked from Alamo Square to Golden Gate Park to see all of the festivities. It was a blast!
You cannot go wrong when traveling to San Francisco: the history is so abundant, the food scene is out of this world, and the city is rich with culture and fun. I hope this San Francisco Travel Guide helps you plan your trip! Please let me know if you have any questions – I am more than happy to help you plan.
Thank you so much to San Francisco Travel for sponsoring this post. We had a blast visiting SF! Of course, all opinions are my own and I appreciate you supporting destinations and brands that partner with The Berger Bungalow.