San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge panorama from a distance
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50 Best Things To Do In San Francisco

By Sasha Yanshin | Updated on 13 November 2019

If you're spending a few days in San Francisco, it can be hard to choose what to do, where to go and how to plan your day.

That's why we thought we'd put together a definitive list of the 50 best things to do grouped by type.

Whether you love unusual museums, exploring nature, unique experiences or strolling through interesting neighbourhoods, there is something for everyone.

If you plan on visiting the California Academy of Sciences, Aquarium of the Bay and the Exploratorium or the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and use the cable cars (which you really must!), check the cityPASS which offers free entry to the above and allows free unlimited use of the cable cars.

Alternatively, there are a number of options with the San Francisco GO Card which offers discounted pricing on a large number of sights around the city.

Also check out these articles to help you plan your San Francisco trip.

Let's get to the list!

Experiences and things to do in San Francisco

1. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge

If you are travelling to San Francisco and you are going to visit just one sight, the Golden Gate Bridge is the obvious choice. In fact, we would be highly surprised if this is not already at the top of your list of things to do in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in the evening light
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The iconic bridge joins the city of San Francisco with Marin County, going across the Golden Gate strait that connects the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay.

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge is probably the best known, most photographed and most picture perfect bridge in the world, so make sure you take your time and walk along it. Sure - the best views of the bridge come from the parks either side of it, and many tourists never make it onto the bridge itself, but we'd really recommend it.

You can see Angel Island and the infamous Alcatraz as well as amazing views of the city and boats sailing underneath.

To make a day of it, combine it with visits to the Presidio of San Francisco park on the south side including the Palace of Fine Arts and climb the Lyon steps for a good view over the bay.

Price: Bridge is free to access 24/7

When to go: Evenings offer spectacular views of the city of San Francisco, but go during the day to see a lot more across the bay and beyond!

2. Ride the San Francisco cable cars

Public transport around San Francisco may not be the easiest and driving is still the easiest way of exploring the city, as with so many major cities in the US.

However you choose to get around, you absolutely must use the cable cars if you get the opportunity even if you don't actually need to.

San Francisco cable car tram going downhill with Alcatraz in the background
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The unique cable cars (streetcars or trams in other parts of the US and the world) run up and down the San Francisco hills in the north-east part of the city. They are great for getting between areas such as Russian Hill, Union Square, Chinatown and down to Fisherman's Wharf.

The cable cars have a quirky old school design and are easy to hop on and off. Remember that you have to buy your ticket before getting on and in most locations you will need exact change.

Price: Single rides cost $7, you can buy daily tickets allowing unlimited rides online for $12 through MuniMobile.

When to go: Cable cars run from 6 a.m. to midnight and come about once every 10 minutes.

3. See the Sea Lions at Pier 39

San Francisco's Pier 39 is a popular destination with shops, restaurants and street performers.

The most famous attraction, however, is the group of sea lions that have decided to call the pier their home in 1989.

Sea lions relaxing on Pier 39 in San Francisco
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Scientists still can't pinpoint the reason for their migration, but a number of sea lions from Seal Rock moved into the San Francisco Bay and made the various wooden platforms their home ever since.

The numbers of sea lions kept growing over time even though other parts of the pier are actively used and boats have to navigate their way through the Sea Lions coming and going to the pier.

The number of sea lions living on the pier changes over time and ranges from 150 to 1,700 depending on seasonality and migratory patterns.

The Aquarium of the Bay has an entire Sea Lion Center dedicated to the residents so check it out if you want to find out more about the Pier 39 sea lion population.

Price: Entry to the Pier is free

When to go: Towards the end of the day - you get to catch the Sea Lions relaxing during day light and visit the restaurants, cafes and shops of Pier 39 at the same time.

4. Go on a food tour at the Ferry building.

The San Francisco Ferry building is an acting ferry terminal for commuter ferries across the San Francisco Bay that also has a fantastic food hall.

San Francisco's Ferry building built in 1898 with a 245-foot tall clock tower
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The food hall has 50 different establishments ranging from independent cafes to large restaurants open every day of the week.

As well as the restaurants, there are a few shops and an outdoor Ferry Plaza Farmers Market that has stalls on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays - we'd highly recommend stopping by on one of these days if you have a choice.

There is a lot of vegetables, fresh catch and other cooking ingredients on sale if you want a night in or are staying somewhere with a kitchen. You'll also find some great hot food stalls - perfect for a lunchtime snack.

Price: Reasonable and really depends on how hungry you are!

When to go: Food hall open 7 days a week, Farmers Market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays

5. Watch the San Francisco Giants at the Oracle Park (renamed from AT&T Park)

The San Francisco Giants are one of the best known baseball franchises in the US. Originally based in New York, the Giants moved to their San Francisco home in 1958 and hold the record for most games won in the history of American baseball.

San Francisco Giants playing at AT&T Park at night
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Their current stadium is Oracle Park and the team moved here in 2000. For a long time, the stadium was known as AT&T Park and was recently renamed in a new naming deal in 2019.

Located right on the Bay, higher seats may not offer the best views of the match, but do compensate by amazing views beyond the stadium.

If you've not been to a baseball game before, allow the entire day as the games typically last about 3 hours with breaks and you'll need time to get to and from the stadium.

Remember that tickets can be hard to get towards the end of the season, especially if the Giants do well so keep a close eye on their progress if you plan on going.

Price: Tickets start at $15-25 depending on the game and go up to $300 and higher for premium seats

When to go: The baseball season runs from late March to the end of September - check the San Francisco Giants website for the latest schedule.

6. Drive the 49-Mile Scenic Drive around San Francisco

If you want to spend a day going around a number of great sights in an around San Francisco, the classic 49-mile Scenic Drive is a perfect way to go.

Scenic 49-mile drive in and around San Francisco - sign post
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While the route might not be long in terms of miles, the drive goes through some busy parts of San Francisco and can take the best part of 4 hours without stops - more if you hit some traffic.

Navigation is mostly easy because there are signs pointing which way to go all the way around. Make sure you have the route on your phone or a print out as it's easy to miss a sign while navigating the city or find that one's gone missing.

The route starts in Union Square and ends at the City Hall - if you actually stop at a few locations, get lunch and visit one of the museums, this will easily take the entire day, but it's definitely worth it!

Price: Price of petrol + hire car if you haven't got your own

When to go: Pick a day with good weather!

7. Discover the Musée Mécanique

This San Francisco museum's name might not be hugely descriptive, but it's a real gem and is an amazing place to visit. The museum is a collection of over 200 coin operated and antique arcade game machines throwing you back across a span of several decades.

San Francisco Musee Mechanique classic coin operated slot machines
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The game machines offer a full spectrum of different types of arcade games and offer an amazing parallel to the complex console and phone games of today.

The museum is tucked away at Pier 45 and is a real must if you love to see quirky and unusual places on your travels.

Located right in the Fisherman's Wharf area means you can easily combine your visit with the other attractions in the area including the sea lions and large number of interesting restaurants.

Price: Entry to the museum is free but you have to pay to play the different Arcade games. Games range from 1 cent to $1 with most in the 25-50 cent range.

When to go: Open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

8. Cross the Bay Bridge

The Bay Bridge is not mentioned in your standard lists of things to do in San Francisco, but we think it's a great thing to do, especially if you're already hiring a car or visiting San Francisco on a road trip.

View of San Francisco from across the Bay Bridge
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The bridge's full name is the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge and it's actually a series of bridges carrying cars on two decks between the two cities.

It offers stunning panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay and the city itself. You can combine it with driving along the Golden Gate Bridge and do a full circle instead of backing up on yourself. You can add in a stop in Berkeley to see the grounds of the famous university or visit one of a number of big parks on your way.

Price: The toll on the bridge is scheduled to gradually rise from $7 in 2019 to $9 in 2025 during rush hours ($5 going to $7 outside rush hours and $6 going to $8 over the weekends)

When to go: Go in the middle of the way to steer clear of commuter traffic

9. Climb the Lyon Street Steps

The Lyon Street Steps is a long walk up a hill in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.

While you won't see the Golden Gate Bridge from here, the views are some of the best in the city and you can see the Alcatraz island and the Palace of Fine Arts down below.

Lyon Street Steps in San Francisco going up to Billionaire Row in Pacific Heights
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Snaking their way up, the steps pass Lyon street with some of the most expensive properties in the country, home to many of San Francisco's billionaires.

If your fitness is up to scratch, start at the bottom and make your way up to get more views as you go. Otherwise arrive at the top and take the stroll down.

If you really want to keep going, you can go even higher on Vallejo, but the steps are narrower and steeper (and much less well known by tourists)!

Price: Free

When to go: Any time during the day with good visibility

10. Try the Mission Burrito

If there is one food that is truly endemic to the city of San Francisco, it's the Mission Burrito. You might not have heard of it before visiting, but you will definitely remember it.

Mission burrito is a very popular snack in San Francisco
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The locals have a saying that San Francisco may not have invented burrito, but they definitely perfected it. The Mission-style burrito is served up in taquerias across the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco.

The Mission Burrito is different to other kinds of burrito and here is how. Firstly, it's larger than its counterparts forming a more substantial roll. Then the tortilla is traditionally steamed before making the tortilla to make it softer and the ingredients are more broad including larger amounts of rice.

If the weather is good when you're visiting, why not grab a Mission Burrito of your choice and settle down for a picnic in the Mission Dolores Park overlooking the city!

Price: Most cost $7 to $10 depending on the burrito and where you get it.

When to try it: Lunch or dinner depending on preference!

11. A great evening out at the San Francisco Symphony

Whether you're a classical music aficionado or just like to experience different cultural things in places you visit, the San Francisco Symphony is a fantastic way to spend an evening, especially if you combine it with a great dinner!

San Francisco Symphony Hall - part of the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center
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The orchestra of the Symphony was formed in 1911 and has been based at its current location in the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall since 1980.

The main reason to go and listen is the quality of the performance of one of the best orchestras in the world with an Emmy award and 15 Grammys in the last 26 years.

The Symphony Hall is located in San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood right in the heart of the city with easy access from most areas so if you have a free night, be sure to check out what's on and make it a night to remember!

Price: Tickets typically range from $20 to around $150

When to go: Check their website for what's on

12. Listen to Jazz at San Francisco's Jazz Festival

There are a few famous jazz festivals around the world and the one San Francisco hosts in June is right up there with the best.

Street performance at the Fillmore Jazz Festival in San Francisco
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Even if you don't come during the two weeks when the festival is on, San Francisco is a great place to listen to Jazz. Sure - it's not as famous in this space as New Orleans, St Louis, Memphis or Chicago, but the San Francisco Jazz Center (also in Hayes Valley!) runs shows all year round and you can find other quality venues around the city.

You can normally choose from over 30 different concerts during the course of the festival and as it's run by a non-profit organisation, ticket prices are affordable or you can catch free shows by up and coming artists in open air venues.

Price: Varies a lot depending on what you go to see

When to go: The SF Jazz Festival runs for two weeks every June, for other shows see what's on.

13. Get a unique sound experience at the Audium

If you want to experience a truly unique sound-based experience, the San Francisco Audium is the place you need to go to.

The Audium experience in San Francisco with sound sculptures played on 176 speakers
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The Audium is a small theatre which performs immersive music shows in complete darkness.

Visitors get to experience a mix of different sounds with senses apparently heighted due to a lack of other sense inputs such as sight, touch, taste or smell.

The music is produced by 176 separate speakers and combines electronic music sounds with acoustic and different sounds of nature.

Unlike any other musical performance you have likely ever been to, the Audium is certain to make you feel different and experience something totally new.

Price: Tickets cost $20 per person

When to go: Shows run daily at 8.15pm - check in advance as the Audium occasionally closes for periods of time.

Best museums to visit in San Francisco

14. Explore Alcatraz Island

The Alcatraz Island houses the famous prison that is now a functioning museum and experience venue.

Alcatraz Island prison and lighthouse in San Francisco
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The tour takes you across the water to the small island on a 15-minute boat ride. Once on the island, you can visit the various buildings comprising the abandoned prison, the oldest working lighthouse on the West Coast, the military installations and a seabird colony.

While the island is most famous for the prison and the aptly named movie, it has a much longer history as a military fortress and was occupied by Native American protesters in the 70s. It started housing military prisoners in 1859 and only started acting as a federal prison in 1934.

Over time some of the most famous US criminals were imprisoned here including Al Capone,

Getting to the island and the visit is managed by Alcatraz Cruises who offer all in one packages for your visit including transport from San Francisco. If you want to visit Angel Island as well (see below!) you can buy a ticket that includes both at a discounted price.

Price: $39.90 for a standard ticket including ferry, $47.30 for the Night Tour and $92.30 Behind the Scenes Tour

When to go: Open all year round - tours take 2 hours 30 minutes (longer for the Behind the Scenes Tour)

15. Visit Angel Island

Angel Island is located in the Bay of San Francisco, north of Alcatraz and close to Tiburon.

Angel Island California State Park pier in San Francisco
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There are a number of different sights on the island including Camp Reynolds, the Nike Missile Silo and Fort McDowell.

The main things to see are the Immigration Station which processed over 1 million immigrants between 1910 and 1940 and the National Park which is perfect for hiking and a picnic.

The island is surprisingly big and offers 13 miles of hiking trails and a 5-mile walk around its perimeter. To avoid the walk, you can catch trams that run regularly between the main sights. The cafe and tram tours run from spring to autumn so the summer months are best for visiting.

Price: Different sights and ferry companies all have individual prices

When to go: Open all year round

16. Stop by the San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Often overlooked by visitos, the San Francisco Cable Car Museum is a fantastic small working museum that covers one of the coolest public transport facilities in the world!

Old cable car at the Cable Car Museum in San Francisco
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The museum will surprise you with a number of classic carriages, all manner of technology relating to running the cable cars and cable car memorabilia.

Best of all, the museum is completely free.

One of the main things to see is a large engine room that turns huge winding wheels that pull the cables operating the cable cars. True to their name, these do not have an engine of their own and are pulled by these engines located along the cable cars' paths.

Price: Museum is free!

When to go: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (5 p.m. November to March)

17. Discover the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal and aimed to push the city forward after the devastating San Francisco earthquake in 1906.

View of the Palace of Fine Arts across the water in San Francisco
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The Palace of Fine Arts was fully rebuilt in 1965 using modern materials after the old structure fell into disrepair.

After serving a multitude of functions across the decades including the distribution of phone books and as a storage unit, it is now a popular venue for art fairs and exhibitions as well as being one of San Francisco's most popular wedding venues.

It's great to visit and see whether you're attending an exhibition or not and as it is located on the edge of the Presidio, there is a lot of other sights you can combine into a walk around this part of the city.

Price: Depends on what you're going for!

When to visit: All year round

18. Go to the Natural History Museum at the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences doubles up as a museum and an active educational establishment in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

The interior of the California Academy of Sciences natural history museum
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The Museum includes an Aquarium, a Planetarium and a Natural History Museum all in the same location.

Tickets include entry to all parts and it's a great day out with a very visual exhibition combined with a great aquarium which has large coral reef installations populated with a wide range of colorful fish.

The museum is located near the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Japanese Tea Garden which you can combine into a day of discovery of all things nature right in the heart of the city.

Price: Tickets vary by day and month between $30 and $40, small discounts for under-18s, students and over-65s.

When to visit: 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (opens late at 11 a.m. on Sundays)

19. Explore art at the Legion of Honor

The Legion of Honour is part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco which also includes the de Jong Museum in Golden Gate Park.

Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco
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The building is an exact replica of another San Francisco building - the French Pavillion built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The French Pavillion itself was a 3/4 replica of the Palais de la Légion d'honneur building in Paris.

The museum has a large collection of 6,000 years of art from Ancient and European sources.

The art collection includes sculpture and paintings spanning the ages including famous pieces by the likes of Rembrandt, El Greco, Renoir, Monet and Cezanne.

Collections often include modern art by European artists so you will get a comprehensive history lesson on your way around.

Price: Adults - $15, over-65s - $12, students - $6, under-18s go free

When to visit: Open Tuesday to Sunday 9.30 a.m. to 5.15 p.m.

20. The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco

The Walt Disney Family Museum tells the story of the life and work of Walt Disney and is located in the Presidio of San Francisco within the Golden Gate Recreational Area.

Walt Disney Family Museum entrance in San Francisco
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This museum tells the story of how Walt Disney moved across country to Hollywood and became the most famous animator in the world.

Don't let the name confuse you -Walt Disney never actually lived in San Francisco and this museum was opened as a non-profit tribute to his life by his family in 2009.

The museum has a lot of interesting things to see with thousands of individual exhibits which include his various prizes and awards including his record smashing 22 Academy Awards, most in the Best Short Subject (Cartoon) category.

In 1939 Walt Disney won the Cartoon category from a list of 5 nominations. 4 out of 5 were all Disney's cartoons.

Price: $25 for adults, $20 for over-65s and students, $15 for under-18s, children under 5 go free. Temporary exhibitions cost extra.

When to go: Open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

21. Experience the amazing Exploratorium Museum

The Exploratorium is a unique museum that gives its visitors a complex experience combining science, art and human perception.

Exploratorium Museum of Interactive Science in San Francisco
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Originally based at the Palace of Fine Arts, the museum has moved to its current location at San Francisco's Pier 15.

There are over 1,000 individual exhibits and the museum shows around 600 of these at any one time.

There is something for everyone and the museum is really interactive and involving with the New York Times calling it the most important science museum to have opened in the last 70 years.

There is a lot more to the Exploratorium than just the physical museum. There is a huge website full of supporting materials that you can sink into for hours and apps that can help you as you get around.

Located between the Fisherman's Wharf and the Ferry Building, you can have a long day exploring the neighbouring wharfs alongside your museum visit.

Price: Adults - $29.95, Over-65s and Under-18s - $24.95, children under 13 - $19.95, children under 4 go free

Opening hours: Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday nights 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. (18+)

22. Walk through the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is one of the best known in the world for all kinds of contemporary and modern arts.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in downtown San Francisco
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There are over 33,000 exhibits so this museum is big and includes everything from paintings and sculpture to photography, design and modern media formats.

The museum recently underwent a major expansion, reopening in 2016 and regularly hosts additional temporary exhibitions by famous 20th and 21st century artists.

Don't forget to visit the large rooftop garden which hosts exhibits and collections all year round and offers some good views of the surroundings and the San Francisco skyline. There are sculptures and a glass pavilion to explore as well.

Price: Adults - $25, over-65s - $22, young adults (19-24) - $19, 18 and under - free; temporary exhibitions cost extra

Opening hours: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., open late to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and in the summer also on Saturdays. Closed on Wednesdays.

23. Make your way to the Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco – Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture is one of the most in-depth collections of Asian Art in the world ranging from ancient pieces to more modern art.

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco building, California
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The museum started out as part of the de Jong museum and the majority of its collection came from Avery Brundage - a Chicago-based millionaire and passionate collector of Asian art.

In 2003 the museum moved to its current home - a building that used to house the San Francisco city library.

It regularly hosts important collections of Asian Art from museums and private collections around the world and is expanding its premises to offer visitors even more space to absorb the cultures of Iran, Central and Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea.

Price: Adults - $25, seniors (65+), students and under-18s - $20, children 12 and under go free

Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays from February through to August, closed on Mondays

Exploring San Francisco's nature and parks

24. Relax in the Golden Gate Park

San Francisco's Golden Gate Park is a huge green space right in the middle of the city measuring 3 miles in length and half a mile wide making it 20% larger than New York's Central Park.

Sun beaming through the trees of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
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The Golden Gate Park is one of the most visited urban parks in the United States and is home to a number of other attractions. Visiting everything in the park can easily take more than a day with the de Jong Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Botanical Garden, the California Academy of Sciences and the Dutch Windmill just some of the places to visit.

The east side of the park reaches San Francisco's Ocean Beach and the west goes as far as the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The Pannhandle park is a narrow extension of the park to the west that is just one block wide and is popular with runners and cyclists.

There is a lot of wildlife around the park - a number of lakes are home to various species of birds, there is a part of the park dedicated to the preservation of Bison and there is a population of wild coyotes living throughout.

Alongside oak trees that are endemic to the area, there is a full spectrum of other trees planted throughout including tall north american redwoods.

25. Go to the Japanese Tea Garden

The Japanese Tea Garden may be inside the Golden Gate Park, but so are a lot of places that deserve a special mention and a visit of their own.

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
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Originally built for the 1894 Midwinter Fair held in San Francisco, the Japanese Garden is a pretty arrangement of ponds, winding paths, traditional Japanese style buildings and pagodas and sculptures.

The main building is the Tea House and the arched Moon Bridge is commonly the subject of tourist photo snaps. The Tea House actually serves tea and snacks with various types of oriental jasmine and green teas on offer. It can get busy in the summer months so see if you can get a spot!

The gardens exhibit all the traditional elements of Japanese outdoor design with asymmetrical lines, miniature plants and trees and stone lanterns.

26. Check out the views from the Presidio of San Francisco

The Presidio of San Francisco is a large park covering the north part of the city from which the Golden Gate Bridge goes across the San Francisco Bay.

Couple walking in Presidio park with stunning views in San Francisco
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The Presidio started out as a large military base first belonging to Spain from 1776, then Mexico and eventually to the U.S. Army from 1848.

It was only in 1994 that the military base was shut down and the Presidio was transformed into a large public park overlooking some of the best views in the city.

There are great beaches at Chrissy Field (facing the bay) and Baker Beach (facing the Golden Gate strait) and not too many other major sights other than the Walt Disney Family Museum.

Just outside the Presidio are the Palace of Fine Arts and the Lyon Street Steps as well as the Presidio Heights neighborhood to the south.

The Presidio is great for strolling and enjoying a day out in nature - the California Coastal Trail cuts through along the ocean and you can have a picnic overlooking both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge.

27. Watch the waves at Ocean Beach

Ocean beach is the largest of San Francisco beaches and stretches for miles along the Pacific Coast.

Sunset over the water at San Francisco's Ocean Beach
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Running from the Cliff House in Land's End, the beach continues all the way down past the San Francisco Zoo.

The beach attracts a mix of people - it's most known for its surfing with ocean waves crashing onto the shore and the water not being as warm as other beach facing the Bay of San Francisco.

The beach is actually not a good place for swimming - cold water and very strong rip tides mean that people drown here every year - even if you don't go far from the shore and are just wading.

You will see a few locals fishing - especially further down the beach and in the mornings or at sunset.

There is a path that runs all the way down behind the beach which is great for a stroll or a run and picnics and bonfires are encouraged with special bonfire pits provided. Remember that alcohol is strictly forbidden on the beach.

28. Explore the Maritime National Historic Park

The Maritime National Historic Park includes a number of historic ships , the Maritime Museum and a visitor center making for a perfect exploration of the history of local seafaring.

Hyde Street Pier in Fisherman's Wharf - part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
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The park is located between Fisherman's Wharf and Fort Mason along the coast of San Francisco Bay. The large ships docked here range from 1880s to 1910s and include sail and steam boats.

The Museum has a lot of exhibits specific to the shipping history of San Francisco and is located in a beautiful Art Deco building. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the museum focuses on the skills and techniques of the sailors' trade.

If you want to learn more, the local rangers do tours around the ships and you can go aboard the Balclutha square rigged ship.

Price: Tickets for the park and museum cost $15 and last for up to 7 days if you want to come back!

29. See the giant redwoods of the Muir Woods National Monument

The Muir Woods National Monument may not be strictly speaking in San Francisco, but just a short drive across the Golden Gate Bridge is definitely worth it!

Hiking trail through tall redwoods in Muir Forest in San Francisco
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The huge redwood and sequoia trees that grow here are only found along the west coast of the United States and these are the tallest trees in the world reaching over 300ft (91m) tall. These giants grow for hundreds of years and can reach over 2,000 years in full maturity!

If you love hiking, the Muir Woods Natinoal Monument is a perfect spot - it is a vast area with great trails on and around Mount Tamalpais.

The redwoods offer a lot of shade in the summer and through the park, you will find the Redwood Creek which is home to a local species of salmon as well as a few species of wild birds including spotted owls. Redwoods are not insect friendly and their shade limits other plant growth which in turn restricts other wildlife.

The only animals you are likely to see are the Sonoma chipmunk and squirrels as well as an occasional deer although these keep away from people.

The park charges a $10 entrance fee and remember that if you drive or get the shuttle, you need to get your tickets booked in advance.

30. The best view of San Francisco from Twin Peaks

The Twin Peaks are two adjacent hills that rise 1,000 feet above the rest of San Francisco offering the best views of all the main sights of San Francisco and beyond.

View of San Francisco at sunrise from Twin Peaks
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Located right in the middle of the city, just south of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, you can see as far as the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin County across the water, the Bay Bridge and Alcatraz.

The Salesforce Tower was completed in 2018 and is San Francisco's tallest building but it's only marginally taller than the Twin Peaks.

The peaks have a parking lot near the top and stairs that lead you all the way to the summit.

While views are great during the day, you can come and enjoy the sun setting behind the Pacific from here - access is open until midnight. Just remember to look at the weather forecast and avoid foggy days that are common in San Francisco!

31. Hike along the waterfront at Lands End

Lands End is a park in the north-west corner of San Francisco with hiking trails and sheer cliffs down to the waterfront.

Path through Land's End in San Francisco with views of the Golden Gate Bridge
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The Park is less well known and less popular than many others around San Francisco so it is relatively easy to get to and park at.

The park is a long but thin stretch along the coast and offers the best views of the Golden Gate Strait and the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Coastal Trail passes through the park and runs from the Cliff House along to Sea Cliff - the 1.5 mile route can be done in an hour if you're going one way.

While the start of the path is well paved, a lot of it is muddy and rugged with a couple of precarious spots so good footwear is recommended.

There are three main sights along the path through Lands End. First is Lands End Point which a great spot for a picnic with the best views of the bridge. Further along is the Lands End Labyrinth and the Mile Rock beach (not suitable for swimming).

Depending on the time of year and the tide, you can also see ship wrecks of at least 3 old ships, migrating whales and a colony of seals on Seal Rocks.

32. Walk along the California Coastal Trail

Talking of the California Coastal Trail, it's worth noting that there are a whole lot more places in and around San Francisco that you can join this path.

Family on the Coastal Trail overlooking San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge
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The California Coastal Trail is an ongoing project that aims to have one hiking trail that runs all the way from Oregon to Mexico through the state of California.

30% of the route is already complete with neat paths and proper signage and 60% has paths with some or no signage along the way.

San Francisco sits right along this trail and has one of the most complete sections that runs all the way from Point Reyes down to Mussel Rock Park.

We mention a few of the locations along the way above, but you can join any of the trail to find amazing scenery and good hiking crossing the Golden Gate Bridge will mean more wilderness and nature than the more urban parks along San Francisco.

33. Take in the views of San Francisco from Mission Dolores Park

The Mission Dolores Park is located a couple of blocks from the cool Mission neighborhood (see below) and to the east of Twin Peaks offering amazing views of San Francisco and a perfect place to have a picnic at the weekend.

View of San Francisco from Mission Dolores Park with people relaxing
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Much smaller than many other San Francisco urban parks, the Dolores Park as it is commonly known has become a favourite with the locals with as many as 10,000 city residents coming to relax at the weekend.

The park's slope offers a large grass area to relax on with clear views of downtown San Francisco and parts of the bay.

Between 2014 and 2016 the Mission Dolores Park underwent a major set of reconstruction and improvements leading to a new design and a number of areas dedicated to sports.

Originally known as the Mission Park, its proximity to the Mission Dolores and Dolores Street have led to the name adjusting over time and eventually being adopted by the authorities.

34. Drive along the San Francisco Bay

Here is another thing to do in San Francisco that strictly speaking may be outside the city although that really depends on how far you want to go.

Sailing boats in San Francisco Bay between Angel Island and Tiburon
Kevin Bermingham/Shutterstock.com

Similar to some other west coast cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco seamlessly blends into its neighbouring towns and cities as an urban sprawl, so you never really feel that a clear point at which you've left and gone somewhere else.

The San Francisco Bay is a fascinating area with San Jose at one end and the Sacramento river flowing through several other bays at the other.

You can spend days if not weeks exploring the area with everything from wildlife parks on the east side of the bay to the beautiful classic campus of Berkeley (part of the University of California) to the center of the world's tech industry in Palo Alto and Menlo Park (Google and Facebook's headquarters are both located right along the bay).

If you have a day spare, explore the various areas along the bay of San Francisco and depending on time, go further. One top tip is to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and then take a right to continue along the bay to the town of Sausalito. At the top of the hill, there are houses on incredibly long metal stilts seemingly hovering above the valley.

Sights and activities in San Francisco

35. Go up the Coit Tower

The Coit Tower is a reinforced concrete structure in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood in San Francisco's north east.

Coit Tower on a hill overlooking San Francisco
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This is another amazing spot to see far and wide across the city but the Coit Tower offers views from a very different spot to the Twin Peaks and Mission Dolores Park.

Completed in 1933, there is an elevator that takes you to the observation deck at the top which offers 360 degree views that include most of San Francisco Bay, the two bridges and the Alcatraz, Treasure and Angel islands.

Getting to the tower by car can be tough as parking is hard to get and can involve a long wait. The Muni #39 bus is a great option from Fisherman's Wharf or you can work up an appetite and scale the Telegraph Hill on foot instead.

Price: Adults - $9, Senior (62+) and under-18 - $6, children under 12 - $2, children under 5 go free

Opening hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (5 p.m. November to March)

36. Look at the Painted Ladies buildings

Painted Ladies has become a commonly used term for Edwardian and Victorian houses that have been repainted since the 1960s to give them a unique look, but the trend started right here in San Francisco.

Painted Ladies buildings in San Francisco
Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock.com

The Painted Ladies buildings near Alamo Square in the Lower Haight neighborhood are infamous appearing in dozens of movies and setting a colorist trend in the mid-20th century.

Traditionally painted in plain colors with many repainted in dull gray during World War II, people began painting them in loud colours from bright reds and oranges to dark gray. Most have 3 or 4 different colors throughout to accentuate the architectural features of the buildings.

Unfortunately these are all privately owned and you can't go inside, but it's the outside that you really want to see and that's free and easy to view from the street.

37. Spend a few hours at the San Francisco Zoo

The San Francisco Zoo may not be one of the world's best known, but it is definitely worth a visit, especially if you have kids to entertain!

Lions relaxing in the San Francisco Zoo
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The zoo is split into zones that don't follow a specific pattern - there is the African region, the South America zone, South American region, a section dedicated to cats and animals that didn't fit into the other regions and an Exploration Zone which is a mix of everything.

One of the highlights is the Black Rhino enclosure - these are extremely rare and endangered and the San Francisco Zoo is part of the global effort to preserve the species.

The zoo has also successfully bred gorillas and has over 250 different species represented. You will also come across peafowl that roam freely through the Zoo's grounds.

The zoo is situated between the Pacific coast and Lake Merced to the south of central San Francisco. Note that the entrance is from the west - if you have time on your hands, you can stroll down Ocean Beach to get to or from the zoo.

Price: Adults - $23, seniors (65+) - $19, children under 15 - $17, children under 4 - free, parking costs $11 on weekdays and $13 on weekends

Opening hours: Daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

38. Visit the St. Mary's Cathedral

The St Mary's Cathedral is the main Roman Catholic Cathedral of San Francisco and surrounding counties and is located in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood.

St Mary's Cathedral and square in San Francisco's Chinatown
Sundry Photography/Shutterstock.com

To make matters confusing there are two cathedrals with the same name and close to each other. The Old St Mary's Cathedral (pictured) was built in 1854 in the Gothic Revival style and was replaced by a new cathedral of the same name in 1891.

Known as the Old St Mary's Cathedral, the old building continued to stand and was demoted to a church - a status it continues to have today.

The cathedral that was built in 1891 and burned down in 1962 following an arson attack.

In its place was built the newest St Mary's Cathedral - a modernist building that was completed in 1971.

Whether you only go to one of these or view both, it's definitely worth a visit to see the history of the Catholic church in San Francisco.

39. Stop by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and Waterfall

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is in the Yerba Buena Gardens - a small park in downtown San Francisco.

Martin Luther King Jr. memorial and waterfall in Yerba Buena Park
Luz Rosa/Shutterstock.com

Yerba Buena was the name of the Mexican Town that later became San Francisco after the United States took over in 1846.

While the park is small and will not be frequently found in your typical guidebook, it is definitely worth stopping by on your exploration of the city with a visit to the memorial inside.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the waterfall in front of it are dedicated to the memory of the famous activist for equality. Famous parts of his speeches have been translated into the languages of San Francisco's sister cities around the world and are etched onto the memorial.

The fountain is actually the largest on the West Coast and offers a peaceful and serene place to reflect and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city around you.

San Francisco neighborhoods you have to visit

40. Explore the sights of Fisherman's Wharf

We have mentioned the Fisherman's Wharf a fair few times above because there are a lot of great things to do in this small part of north-east San Francisco.

Traditional boats in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf
Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock.com

From the sea lions of Pier 39 to the multiple shops and restaurants of the area to the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park and the curious Musée Mécanique arcade games, there is something for everybody.

At the end of one of the cable car routes, Fisherman's Wharf is easily accessible and is popular with tourists and locals alike.

You should try a local speciality - a chowder made from crabs or clams served in a San Francisco sourdough bread bowl.

The Ghirardelli Square is a pedestrian area with an old chocolate factory converted into a number of different restaurants and cafes. You also get fantastic views of Golden Gate Bridge and the rest of San Francisco Bay.

41. Pass through San Francisco's Union Square

Union Square may not be a neighborhood but it definitely feels like one and is a must stop on your way around San Francisco.

San Francisco's Union Square with cafe tables in the sun
Lucky-photographer/Shutterstock.com

The square takes up a whole block and is famous for its shops with a lot of boutiques and high end stores including the 11-story Tiffany building.

In fact the area is so well known for shopping that the term Union Square generally covers the surrounding streets and malls.

The central part of the square has a statue of the Greek goddess Nike and a number of cafe tables.

The look and feel of Union Square changed a lot over time with a park-like area with trees giving way to a more open design you can see today.

The large open area is a popular venue for city events and large concerts so check if one is on while you are visiting!

42. Stroll through the streets of San Francisco's Chinatown

The Chinatown neighborhood in San Francisco straddles Grant Avenue and Stockton Street in the north west of the city.

A street in Chinatown in San Francisco with the Oakland Bay Bridge in the background
Michael Urmann/Shutterstock.com

First formed in 1848, San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest in North America and is the largest population of Chinese expats in the world.

This large population means there is a lot of things to see and do here from restaurants, cafes and shops to exploring the events and culture of this unique place.

The large 20 block area covered by Chinatown largely leads a life of its own, separate from the rest of the city around it - the vast majority of the residents do not speak English with Mandarin or Cantonese the primary languages.

You will find unusual shops and men spending the weekend playing Chinese chess sat along the street. The vibe and feel of the place could not be further from the surrounding neighborhoods and in a city full of steep hills, this is one of the most walkable areas.

43. Shops and restaurants of Ghirardelli Square

The Ghirardelli Square is within the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco (see above) and is the most popular tourist destination in San Francisco.

Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco with shops and restaurants
f11photo/Shutterstock.com

While we covered the overall Fisherman's Wharf area and the individual sights, the Ghirardelli Square deserves a special mention.

The square used to have over 40 different restaurants and while the number may not be quite as high today, there is still a lot of choice.

A major regeneration project, the square houses a large chocolate shop and a 5 star hotel - one of a few in this Marina part of San Francisco.

Instead of some of the restaurants, there are now a few more shops as well as places serving craft beer and a winery.

44. Feel the hipster vibe of the Mission District

The Mission District, commonly known as the Mission, is possibly the oldest in San Francisco, but is also one of the most vibrant and diverse.

Graffiti street art in Mission District, San Francisco
EQRoy/Shutterstock.com

Originally formed as part of the religious Mission San Francisco de Asís, established in 1776, the original Mission building is the oldest in the city.

The mission church dates back to 1791 and the area around the Mission has gone through centuries of development since.

Today, the Mission District is known as a center for arts, culture and food with a large Mexican population.

There are a lot of independent shops from small clothing boutiques and vintage clothing shops to fascinating book stores.

Some of the best burritos in San Francisco can be found here due to the population mix and some really great Mexican restaurants.

The Mission Dolores Park is up the hill and a great place to relax in the afternoon after a morning strolling through the neighborhood.

45. Explore the vibrant district of the Castro

The Castro neighborhood is unmistakeable in its boldness and pride. Rainbow flags hang throughout and the shops and bars will leave you in no doubt with names using LGBT-related puns.

Aerial view of a cross-roads in the Castro with rainbow pedestrian crossings
bezikus/Shutterstock.com

The hilly Castro sits in the middle of San Francisco neighboring the Mission and Haight-Ashbury with the Twin Peaks flanking from the south.

The neighborhood is served by classic streetcars which are an attraction in their own right. Other than that, the two things to do in the area is clothes shopping in various independent and discount stores as well as a vibrant set of bars and nightclubs.

The Castro Theater is the only movie palace in the city and shows everything from musicals to obscure indie films - well worth the experience if you have a couple of hours spare.

46. A throw back to hippie times in Haight-Ashbury

Named after the famous intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets, this is the San Francisco neighborhood that started the world's hippie counterculture in the sixties.

Haight Ashbury district with colorful buildings in San Francisco
Sergio TB/Shutterstock.com

Vintage shops and various hippie-themed coffee shops and bars are spread throughout including themed pubs and nightclubs.

The area is also famous for its comedy clubs - the world famous Whoopi Goldberg Robin Williams started their careers here so you might want to check out the young talent making their first steps.

The Haight-Ashbury Street Fair runs every June with a lot of events, three music stages and an amazing selection of street food - definitely worth going to if you're in San Francisco when it's on.

47. Lombard street's hairpin turns

This might just be one small part of one street and technically it's in the Russian Hill neighborhood (sell below), but it deserves a special place on this list for its crazy design.

Car driving down the steep Lombard Street in San Francisco
Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock.com

A lot of people visiting the city will drive to the area just for the opportunity to drive down this street.

Lombard street is long and crosses through a large part of San Francisco, but it's the one block with 8 hairpin turns that really draws the crowds in to the locals' dismay.

There is a cable car stop right at the top of the block so getting here is easy from surrounding areas on foot as well.

The area is so popular with drivers wanting to drive down, you can wait as long as 20 minutes for the opportunity to drive down the steep section. A road sign at the top sets the speed limit to a mighty 5 miles per hour.

On good days, thousands of visitors will visit to watch the cars make their way down - you can combine your visit with a walk a few blocks north to Fisherman's Wharf.

48. See San Francisco's historic Nob Hill neighbourhood

Nob Hill is right in the heart of San Francisco and has a number of the best known sights and luxurious hotels.

Grace Cathedral on San Francisco's Nob Hill with a cable car in front of it
Luz Rosa/Shutterstock.com

The area is named after the Nobs who were the Big 4 businessmen owners who built the Pacific Railroad in the 1800s.

The affluent status has remained through to today with some of the city's finest hotels such as the Fairmont and the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins located here.

One of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the United States has led to the development of art galleries, Michelin-starred restaurants and cultural evening venues including the large Masonic Center.

Small parks can be found throughout and attractions such as the Grace Cathedral and the Cable Car Museum make it great for a day of exploration.

49. See the big houses of the San Francisco Pacific Heights

The Pacific Heights neighborhood in San Francisco stretches from the Presidio to the Van Ness Avenue overlooking San Francisco Bay and most of the city.

Colorful Victorian houses in San Francisco's Pacific Heights
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Home to a number of billionaires, tech company owners and rich families, Pacific Heights are known as the wealthiest neighborhood in the United States.

The houses here certainly live up to that tag - huge mansions start at the top of the Lyon Street Steps along the Billionaire Row - if big houses are not enough, there is an actual French Baroque 27-room chateau - the Spreckels Mansion.

Tech magnates from Silicon Valley often move here after making it with people like Oracle's Larry Ellison and Apple's Jony Ive living here.

The neighborhood offers some of the best views being the first hill from the bay overlooking Golden Gate Bridge and the various parts of the bay as well as the Presidio and other surrounding areas.

There are some great bars and cafes but with houses and apartments in the area often costing north of $10 million, you might not get the best value coffee in San Francisco in Pacific Heights.

50. Walk up and down the steep Russian Hill neighbourhood

Sat between Nob Hill to the south and Fisherman's Wharf to the north, San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood is one of the original 7 hills on which the city was built.

Russian Hill neighbourhood - view from a rooftop in San Francisco
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Be prepared to walk up and down some steep inclines if you intend to explore this neighborhood. Not only is it home to the famous Lombard Street hairpin turns (see above), the rest of the area is equally steep with main streets and avenues running up and down.

The main things to do involve food and drink - there are a lot of unique and independent coffee shops, ice cream parlors and the Cheese Plus shop where you can pick up some gourmet cheese for a picnic or dinner.

Named after an old Russian cemetery that was located at the top of the hill when it was first formed, the area has no real connection to Russia despite its name - even the Russian expat community largely lives in Richmond, across the city.

Like many other places in San Francisco, the top of Russian Hill offers views of the bay with both bridges and the Alcatraz island on display. Much like the rest of the city, walking up and down hills and exploring the local independent shops and cafes is one of the best things to do in San Francisco.