The icon of the Bay Area, the Golden Gate Bridge is one thing every traveller has to do in San Francisco. Connecting the San Francisco Bay and Marin County, this bridge has been declared one of the modern wonders of the world. Opened in 1937, it was once the longest suspension bridge ever created. Today, it’s probably one of the most Instagrammed bridges in the world. Walk or cycle across this 2.7km-long bridge, get your selfie, then head back towards Golden Gate Park. Home to some of the city’s most renowned cultural institutions, including the Conservatory of Flowers and the Japanese Tea Garden, this massive park is an awesome place to learn more about the history of the city, or just to hang out and drink a beer with friends.
Spend time at Union Square
One of the busiest squares in the US, Union Square is the central hub of San Francisco. Watched over by the Goddess of Victory on top of the Dewey Monument, this pedestrian plaza marks the centre of the city’s business district, with towering office blocks and fancy retailers all around it. If you’re looking to shop up a storm, this is the place to do it: big names like H&M, Urban Outfitters and Sephora all have flagship stores here. Both the commercial and cultural centre of the city, Union Square is also within walking distance to major museums like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Ride the San Francisco Cable Car System
One of the oldest cable car systems in the world – and the oldest manual cable car system still operated to date – San Francisco is super proud of its cable car system. Dating back to the 19th century, these old-school modes of public transport will give you a taste of the nostalgic vibes this city has. But it’s not just a trip to yesteryear; this is also a practical way to zip around the city. Jump on the back of a cable car at Union Square and ride all the way down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Not only are you seeing the sights, you’re doing it like a true San Franciscan.
Just 2.5km off the shore of San Francisco is Alcatraz Island, which is home to the Alcatraz federal prison. What was home to some of the most infamous criminals in US history, including Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly, this prison hosted some of the most dangerous criminals in the US, as its island location made it difficult for prisoners to escape. Alcatraz prison is now one of the most interesting and most-visited attractions in the city. Catch a ferry from Fisherman’s Wharf over to Alcatraz to tour this famous facility. Do book ahead though as tickets tend to sell out.
Explore crab stands and say hi to sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf
Could you really call it the Bay Area if it didn’t have an awesome wharf? Fisherman’s Wharf is the home of San Francisco’s fishing fleet, which over the years has helped it grow into the fun-filled commercial district it is today. Here you’ll find the Aquarium, but most of the sea lions you’ll see down at Fisherman’s Wharf will be lying around on the rocks near the edge of the dock. As well as being the home to different museums and attractions, Fisherman’s Wharf is also an awesome place to eat. Grab a crab roll or crab chowder at one of the many street stands out the front of the Crab House at Pier 39, or try some classic American staples like IHOP or Applebee’s.
Things to do in San Francisco
How Weird Street Faire
Culture & Music
Raising funds for the World Peace Through Technology Centre, the How Weird Street Faire is an outdoor street festival held each year in San Francisco. Occupying several blocks of the SoMa neighbourhood near Howard Street and the surrounding area, this event is a showcase of electronic music. You’ll also find many floats, costumes and installations at this colourful festival.
Noise Pop Festival
Happening between February and March each year, Noise Pop is a 12-day music festival in San Francisco. With a focus on promoting independent music and artists, catch a performance at one of several venues throughout the city. The festival also branches out a bit to include a showcase of independent films.
Haight Ashbury Street Fair
This colourful corner of the city comes to life every June with its annual street fair. Full of street vendors selling food, drinks, arts, craft and clothing, the Haight Ashbury district comes to life with heaps of musical and creative performances. Get there early because the street will pack out.
Taste of Potrero
Food & Culture
Beginning eight years ago, the Taste of Potrero is a food festival that aimed to fundraise for the Daniel Webster Elementary School. The event was a huge success and absolutely exploded, with Taste of Potrero now being the premier food festival in San Francisco. Happening every May, here you’ll find stalls from the city’s best restaurant, bars and eateries.
Mission Carnaval Celebration
Something like the Brazilian version of this event, the San Francisco Carnaval is held on the last weekend of May in the Mission district of the city. This street fair features music, dancing, food, art and craft and one massive parade to raise money for the community’s youth, family and senior programs.
Top 5 Festivals in San Francisco
With its hippy origins that were all about spreading love and connecting community, San Francisco’s roots are still strong in their festival culture. With many arts, music and food festivals happening year-round to benefit different community groups, go along and lend a hand. Here are five festivals in San Francisco that you should get around.
Walt Disney Family Museum
Dedicated to the life and work of Walt Disney, this museum is a celebration of everything Disney. Check out state-of-the-art exhibits narrated in Walt Disney’s own voice, see early drawings and cartoons and a massive model of Disneyland Park. Housed on the grounds of Presido National Park, this museum is too fun to miss.
De Young Museum
Located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum focuses on 17th – 21st century American Art. With more than 27,000 works in its collection, check out photography, textiles, costumes and art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas at this awesome museum.
Legion of Honor
Commemorating the Californian soldiers who died serving in World War I, the Legion of Honor is a museum that features more than 4000 years of ancient and modern European art. This collection is housed in a neoclassic building overlooking Lincoln Park and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Walk down to Pier 15 on the Embarcadero to find the Exploratorium, one of the most fun museums in the city. This amazing museum aims to ignite curiosity and inspire creativity. Check out the museum’s extensive collection of interactive displays, as well as enjoying breath-taking views of the Bay.
Asian Art Museum
San Francisco is home to many different Asian communities who have contributed to the life of the city. Get to know their story at the Asian Art Museum. This collection holds the world’s most diverse collections of historical art and objects from Asia – some up to 6000 years old – including paintings, sculptures, textiles, suits of armour and other artefacts.
Top 5 Museums & Galleries in San Francisco
As a city who loves culture in all its forms, lap up as much history and excitement as you can at one of San Francisco’s amazing museums. From exploring the world of Walt Disney to walking through 6000 years of Asian art, here are our picks for museums in San Francisco that you should visit.
Named after its area of origin, mission-style burritos are San Franciscan natives. This signature style is bigger than regular burritos and marked the inclusion of rice among its traditional ingredients, meat, beans, salsa and guac. Pick up the O.G. mission burrito at Taqueria La Cumbre in the Mission District.
Best eaten at Taqueria La Cumbre, 515 Valencia St, CA 94110
Anchor Steam Beer
The first and oldest brewery in the US, Anchor Brewing Company calls San Francisco home. Staying true to their heritage, they make a malt beer in traditional copper machinery. Take a tour of their facilities followed by a beer tasting, or pick up a glass of Anchor steam beer at one of the city’s many bars and diners.
Best eaten at Anchor Brewing Company, 1705 Mariposa St, CA 94107
If you’re visiting one of the most iconic donut shops in the States, it’d be weird to suggest getting a pastry, right? That’s because this apple fritter is actually a donut. And it’s huge. Filled with apples and covered in glaze, this hunk of donut is seriously addictive.
Best eaten at Bob's Donut & Pastry Shop, 1621 Polk St, CA 94109
Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake
For over 40 years, Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop has been serving up sweet treats in Japantown. The thing that put them on the map? Their coffee crunch cake. A light, fluffy coffee-flavoured sponge cake with whipped cream frosting and covered in crunchy, coffee-flavoured candy. Pick up a slice or two, but get there before lunch time because these cakes sell out early.
Best eaten at Yasukochi's Sweet Stop, 1790 Sutter St, CA 94115
Set inside an old train carriage, Grubstake serves up Portuguese-style favourites in San Fran. Our pick? Try the caldo verde. This kale soup is thickened with pork or Portuguese chouriço, with pureed potatoes and lots of garlic. It’s the perfect comfort food on a cold day.
Best eaten at Grubstake, 1525 Pine St, CA 94109
Food in San Francisco
With so many different cultures and communities calling San Francisco home, its food scene is seriously something else. Grab some of the staples of the city, including a mission burrito and Bob’s apple fritter, as well as some new-favourite fusion foods. Here are our picks for where to eat in San Francisco.