San Francisco's Top Things to Do - Best Places & Activities

San Francisco
Maarten van den Heuvel, Unsplash
January 6
Written by Carlos Rivera

Find the best recommendations for things to do in San Francisco, what to see, and places to visit in this comprehensive guide. Explore the city's most iconic landmarks and hidden gems!

Welcome to the city where hills appear like they've been sketched by a playful child, where the iconic Golden Gate Bridge proudly struts, and where diversity radiates from every corner. Yes, you've entered San Francisco, a wonderland offering a blend of culture, history, and natural beauty that's bound to leave every traveler enraptured.

From towering skyscrapers kissing the sky to watercolor-painted Victorian houses sitting humbly by the streets. San Francisco is a city of contradictions, and that's exactly what makes it so captivating. There's a smorgasbord of things to do in San Francisco, each offering a unique experience that is quintessentially 'Frisco.

If you're wondering what to see in San Francisco, don't fret. This San Francisco guide won't just lead you to popular spots, but deep into the heart of the city, unfolding hidden treasures and local favourites to create unforgettable memories.

As a trove of wonderful places to visit in San Francisco, the city's beat doesn't just stop at its beauty, but stretches to its appetizing food scenes, diverse communities, and invigorating vibes.

1. Golden Gate Bridge

Historical Monuments and Architecture
a large bridge over water with Mackinac Bridge in the background
Golden Gate Bridge / Maarten van den Heuvel, Unsplash

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of San Francisco's top tourist attractions. With its 2.7-kilometer length, this engineering marvel connects the city to Marin County, offering stunning panoramic views.

Built in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge is famous for its iconic red color, standing out against the blue of the ocean and the green of the surroundings. Taking a stroll across the bridge is a unique experience, enjoying the fresh air and the views of the San Francisco Bay.

Don't miss the opportunity to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and capture spectacular photographs of San Francisco from its viewpoints. Additionally, you can discover the history and architectural beauty of this impressive structure.

2. Alcatraz Island

Historical Monuments and Architecture
city escape near water during daytime
Alcatraz Island / Rodrigo Soares, Unsplash

Discover Alcatraz Island, one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco. This famous maximum-security prison is located in the heart of the bay, surrounded by crystal-clear waters and breathtaking panoramic views.

Things to do in San Francisco: Alcatraz is a must-visit for history lovers and culture enthusiasts. Explore the cells where some of the most notorious criminals in the United States, such as Al Capone and Robert Stroud, also known as The Birdman, were once confined.

Immerse yourself in history: As you walk around the island, you will discover the fascinating history of Alcatraz through interactive exhibits and compelling narrations. Learn about the daily life of prisoners and uncover the attempted escapes that took place in this iconic location.

3. North Beach, San Francisco

Entertainment and Pop Culture

Discover North Beach in San Francisco

North Beach, also known as San Francisco's Little Italy, is a lively and culturally rich neighborhood. With its cobblestone streets, delicious Italian restaurants, and vibrant bohemian atmosphere, North Beach is a must-visit destination during your time in the city.

Enjoy the Best of Italian Culture

North Beach takes pride in its Italian heritage and you'll find excellent authentic Italian dining options on every corner. From wood-fired pizza to homemade pasta dishes, you can indulge in delicious and authentic Italian cuisine here.

Nightlife and Cultural Experience

But North Beach is not just about Italian food, it's also famous for its lively nightlife. From cozy cafes to jazz bars and dance clubs, there's always something exciting to do in North Beach at night.

4. Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco

Historical Monuments and Architecture
a tug boat docked in a harbor next to a building
Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco / Yuval Zukerman, Unsplash

Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco is a must-visit for anyone exploring the city. Located on the northern coast of San Francisco, this picturesque neighborhood offers a unique maritime atmosphere and a wide variety of tourist attractions.

Known for its fishing history, Fisherman's Wharf is a gathering place for sea lovers and food enthusiasts. Here, you can enjoy boat rides, taste delicious fresh seafood, and explore museums dedicated to marine life.

In addition to its culinary offerings, Fisherman's Wharf features souvenir shops, street performances, street artists, and the famous Pier 39, where you can observe sea lions resting on the docks. Undoubtedly, a lively and entertaining place for the whole family.

5. Golden Gate Park

Natural Spaces and Parks
red and brown tree during daytime
Golden Gate Park / Jeffrey Eisen, Unsplash

Golden Gate Park is one of the most iconic tourist spots in San Francisco. Located in the heart of the city, this park spans over 1,000 acres and offers a wide range of activities for everyone.

Explore its lush gardens and landscapes, including beautiful lakes, waterfalls, and meadows. Have a picnic in the midst of nature or rent a bike to ride along its numerous trails. Additionally, the park is home to several museums and cultural attractions that are worth visiting.

Whether you're looking for a peaceful spot to relax or thrilling outdoor adventures, Golden Gate Park has something for every visitor. Don't miss this natural gem on your trip to San Francisco!

6. Lombard Street

Historical Monuments and Architecture
aerial photo of cityscape during daytime
Lombard Street / Jack Nagz, Unsplash

Discover Lombard Street in San Francisco, one of the city's most famous attractions. Known as the crookedest street in the world, Lombard Street stands out for its eight tight turns and impressive architecture. If you're visiting San Francisco, you can't miss this iconic place.

From the top of Lombard Street, you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the bay. The contrast between the brightly colored Victorian houses and the winding curves of the street make it a unique and photogenic location.

Be sure to visit Lombard Street during the day to appreciate all the details of its design and enjoy a pleasant walk down its curves amidst a charming landscape. Lombard Street is definitely a must-see stop on your visit to San Francisco.

7. Palace of Fine Arts

Historical Monuments and Architecture
white concrete building under blue sky during daytime
Palace of Fine Arts / Brett Wharton, Unsplash

The Palace of Fine Arts is an architectural gem located in the heart of San Francisco. This stunning building combines classical and Renaissance influences, and is known for its magnificent dome and impressive art exhibition. It is a must-visit for art and history enthusiasts.

Built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the Palace of Fine Arts has become a cultural icon of the city. Over the years, it has hosted numerous art exhibitions, concerts, and special events.

In addition to its impressive architecture, the Palace of Fine Arts also offers beautiful gardens and ponds, perfect for a peaceful stroll or a picnic. If you're visiting San Francisco, don't miss out on this wonderful tourist attraction that combines art, history, and nature in one place.

8. San Francisco Cable Cars

Entertainment and Pop Culture
grey cable car between buildings
San Francisco Cable Cars / Daniel Abadia, Unsplash

The San Francisco Cable Cars are an iconic part of the city and one of the most popular tourist attractions. These historic streetcars have been in operation since the late 19th century and are a significant symbol of the city.

Riding a cable car is a unique experience that allows you to enjoy the breathtaking views of San Francisco as you travel up and down the steep hills. It's a fun and thrilling way to explore the city and discover its charming neighborhoods and points of interest.

Explore the famous Lombard Street, known as the most crooked street in America, or visit the picturesque neighborhoods of Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown. The cable cars will take you to all these places and more.

9. Mission District

History and Cultural Heritage

Discover Mission District, one of San Francisco's most vibrant neighborhoods. This colorful neighborhood is known for its famous street art, ethnic restaurants, and lively nightlife. Learn about its history and multicultural culture as you visit its shops, art galleries, and community spaces.

Explore the history of Mission District. Founded in 1776 as a Spanish mission, this neighborhood has undergone a transformation over the years. Discover traces of its past in its historic buildings, churches, and local museums. Don't miss the iconic Mission Dolores, one of the oldest missions in California.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant food scene of Mission District. From traditional taquerias to upscale modern restaurants, this neighborhood has something for every taste. Enjoy authentic flavors from different cultures and discover new ingredients at local markets. Don't forget to try San Francisco's famous burritos.