San Francisco is the type of city that’s fascinating for a weekend, a week or a lifetime. With just a couple few days you can get a delicious taste of this lively city. A weekend here is like an amuse bouche that leaves you wanting more. Then each return provides an opportunity to explore new corners of the city and observe how the city evolved. My last visit has already left me with a new running list of what to do in San Francisco.
This city is constantly morphing and changing with new technological innovations from Silicon Valley and influences from dozens cultures from around the world. I love that this city is so open to what next. Be it cuisine, art, green living or social justice San Francisco makes you feel like you’re on the bleeding edge of the future.
Despite being the quintessential definition of city life (and gentrification), San Francisco is also naturally beautiful. The foggy haze may obscure it, but on a good day you’re surrounded by parks, beaches, ocean views and you’re just a skip away from the giant redwoods of Muir Woods National Monument.
So if you’re ready for a San Francisco treat here’s my photo guide to what to do in San Francisco. I’ve included notes on spots around the city so you can hit them on your next trip to SF.
What to Do in San Francisco
Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market
If you’re in the city on a Saturday make sure to get to to the Ferry Plaza for the Farmer’s Market. Inside the Plaza check out Cowgirl Creamery and my fave Frog Hollow Farm (their marmalade is insanely good). Then wander through the farmer’s market and sample EVERYTHING! It’s better than hitting up Costco! And if you want something more substantial they have food stalls from all over the world, from Iran to Nepal to Sweden.
Pier 39 & Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are mostly overrun with touristy joints that aren’t particularly unique, but there’s still a few places worth checking out. Stop to see the adorable sea lions laying out bathing, barking and frolicking in the sun. There’s also no shortage of tasty seafood. I’d recommend Scoma’s and their delicious cioppino. And if you’re into museums and naval history, you’ll want to see the SS Jeremiah O’Brien and USS Pampanito.
Golden Gate Bridge
The bridge is a fixture in the San Francisco skyline so of course you have to see it! We biked across the bridge as well as sailed underneath on a tour with Bay Voyager. Both were amazing ways to experience the beauty of the bay. You can also visit Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz is fascinating, but it does eat up nearly half a day so if you’re on limited time it may be one you can skip.
Don’t sleep on the Mission District. It’s an eclectic and vibrant part of the city with Latin roots. You’ll find dive bars next to ecclesiastic churches across the street from taquerias and gourmet ice cream. Grab some ice cream from Bi-Rite creamery then wander the streets to check out all the beautiful murals or do some vintage shopping. Once you’ve worked up an appetite hit up La Taqueria for a classic SF-style burrito.
This was one of my favorite stops in the city. Down an unassuming alleyway you’ll find hidden treasures like mahjong halls and fortune cookie factories. Just explore. You really can’t go wrong. I found something I wanted to see or buy on every block. Take a walk along Grant Avenue and drop into the Golden Gate Bakery, the Wok Shop or stop at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory for free fresh samples.
Hayes Valley & the Painted Ladies
There are so many great places in San Francisco to eat and shop that it’s nearly impossible to just pick one. But since our time is finite I decided I chose one that kills two birds with one stone! Hayes Valley is a cool little neighborhood filled with upscale boutiques and yummy restaurants.The bonus is that you’re just down the street from Alamo Square and the iconic Victorian houses known as the Painted Ladies. So after you cop your new swag you can hang out in the park and take selfies.