What do SF people do on the weekend

14 Must-Do Things to Do in San Francisco

From TRAVELBOOK | September 09, 2017, 12:31 p.m.

"If you're going to ..." - San Francisco was a dream destination for tourists from all over the world even in the hippie times. The Californians themselves are extremely proud of their exciting city, which today is home to around 830,000 people. In the "City by the Bay" there is also a lot to see and do. So that you don't lose track of things on your “San Fran” visit, TRAVELBOOK has put together 14 things that you should definitely do there.

“No city makes your heart soar as San Francisco. Arriving in San Francisco is an experience of a lifetime. "

These words by William Saroyan (1908-1981), one of the most important US writers of the 20th century, describe very well what so many feel when they travel to San Francisco for the first time. On the one hand there is the impressive location on the Pacific Ocean and the Bay of San Francisco, whose opening to the open sea is spanned by one of the most beautiful and most photographed bridges in the world: the Golden Gate Bridge.

With its Victorian houses, the historic cable cars that rattle up and down the steep streets, a lively art and music scene and numerous parks, San Francisco is a place to be anyway - some for a short visit, others for always. TRAVELBOOK has compiled a list of 14 things you should absolutely do in the most liberal city in America.

1. See the city from above

The best way to approach a (still) foreign city is to get an overview from above. Because San Francisco is built on and between a total of 42 hills, there are conveniently many places where you can enjoy fantastic views over the city and the bay. The best way to do this is from the so-called Twin Peaks, which rise south of the more densely populated urban area and offer a view of the Pacific, the bay, the skyline, downtown, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge. More is not possible. Other beautiful vantage points in the city include the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill and the Bernal Hights Summit south of the Mission District.

2. Bike tour through the city

Admittedly, with its many hills, San Francisco is not an easy place for cyclists. But exploring the city by bike is worth it! There are rental stations in many places, 24 hours cost around 30 US dollars (27 euros). There you can also get route suggestions and maps. A nice round tour leads through Golden Gate Park, Lincoln Park and Presidio over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and back. Cycling over the 67 meter high bridge with its red pylons is an experience that shouldn't be missed anyway. In the middle, the cars whiz over the city's landmark, the hard shoulder is shared by pedestrians and cyclists. It's a bit like slalom driving, but the view is terrific.

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3. Golden Gate Bridge in all its variants

The Golden Gate Bridge is almost like the Berlin TV tower: You can see it from almost every point in the city, and one photo motif seems more worthwhile than the next. Provided, of course, that the bridge is not sinking into fog, but that also offers exciting motifs.

The bridge shows its best side in the following places:

  • Battery Spencer: The former military post is on the opposite side of the bridge. From there you can snap the typical postcard motif that you see so often from the Golden Gate Bridge - with the skyline of San Francisco in the background.
  • Baker Beach: If you want to hide the city itself from the motif, Baker Beach in Presidio is the right place for you. The beach is surrounded by cliffs and offers a beautiful backdrop, especially at sunset.
  • Fort Point: This lookout point is at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The closest thing to the bridge is on the site of the American Civil War fort.
  • Alcatraz: The bridge in all its glory can also be seen wonderfully from the prison island of Alcatraz to the east.
  • Boat tour through the bay: The Golden Gate Bridge can of course be admired from all possible perspectives, including from below, on a boat tour. The starting point is Fisherman’s Wharf, information and tickets here.

4. Visit Angel Island

Everyone goes to Alcatraz - but another island in the San Francisco Bay is definitely worth a visit: Angel Island. From there there are also fantastic views of the city skyline, and the Golden Gate Bridge can be photographed WITH Alcatraz in front of it. From San Francsico there are daily ferries to Angel Island, on the island it is possible to rent bicycles. And after the ascent to the highest point, the 240 meter high Mount Livermore, the view is even more magnificent.

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5. Chill out in Alamo Square

With so much sightseeing, a breather is a must. Either you spend it in one of the city's many parks. Or you can enjoy the view of the famous Painted Ladies, a street of Victorian, multi-colored wooden houses that date from the 19th century. The steep street with Victorian houses, which used to house gambling dens and brothels, is one of the most beautiful in San Francisco.

6. On the steepest street in town

Ok, you don't have to cycle up. Not necessarily going down either, but you should have seen it: the steepest street in the city with a 31.5 percent gradient and one of the steepest in the world. Filbert Street begins in Presidio and goes east up Russian Hill to Telegraph Hill. The last piece consists of stairs that lead a long way to the Embarcadero Dam, where the actual end point of Filbert Street is. It would take a little over an hour to walk up Filbert Street from start to finish - and be in pretty good shape. The street has already served as a “ski jump” for daring stunts in several action films.

7. On the winding street in town

Aside from the steepest, you shouldn't miss the most winding street in town: Lombard Street. At the point that is particularly steep, drivers have been allowed to meander through serpentines for 90 years. The city had this part of the street converted into a winding one-way street in 1923, because the original gradient of 27 percent had become a torture for the residents. Today Lombard Street with the cars parked at an angle in the curves is a popular and worthwhile photo opportunity.

8. Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39

The port district of Fisherman’s Wharf should definitely be part of a visit to San Francisco. In addition to many fish restaurants, there are also a number of shops, galleries and museums here. And of course one of the main attractions of the city: Pier 39, on which hundreds of sea lions lie crisscrossing on top of each other. The sea lions first appeared on the harbor pier in 1989 after an earthquake. Reason: They felt safer there. They stayed and multiplied. In the meantime there were up to 1700 animals. The bay is a paradise for the sea lions: In addition to plenty of food, they find shelter here from weather, currents and natural enemies such as sharks. Their smell is less beautiful than the animals - but that's part of it.

9. Culinary wonderland

If you have had enough of burgers and the like, you will find a culinary wonderland in the Ferry Building Marketplace on the Embarcadero with a wide range of organic products from local production as well as great gourmet restaurants. Sustainable agriculture is now very important in California. In the beautiful building, which was built at the end of the 19th century and extensively renovated in the 2000s, there is a farmers' market every Tuesday and Saturday, and Thursday evenings in summer.

10. A visit to Chinatown

Visitors can find culinary highlights of a completely different kind in Chinatown, one of the largest of its kind in the USA. Here, almost only Cantonese and Mandarin are spoken and cooked as well. Around 80,000 people live in the quarter, which is characterized by Chinese architecture and decoration. The district was founded in 1850, and you can actually experience a bit of real China here.

11. Take photos of cable cars

The historic tram has been rattling through the city center at 15 kilometers per hour since 1873. Of course, you can also get on board yourself and let yourself be driven up and down the hills. But to be honest: You can save yourself the 5 dollars (4.50 euros) each way and a waiting time of up to 30 minutes to get a seat on the 60 line, which is most popular with tourists. In any case, the historic wagons are the most beautiful to look at from the outside and make a wonderful photo opportunity. The cable cars, which have been a national monument of the USA since 1964, even have their own museum.

12. Visit to Alcatraz

A visit to the legendary prison island Alcatraz, the setting for exciting Hollywood films and now a museum, is definitely worth it. The crossing by boat takes about 20 minutes and is a highlight in itself because of the great view of the skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. On the island you can move around freely and, accompanied by an audio tour, you can wander through the cells in which gangsters like Al Capone or Machine Gun Kelly were sitting. Make a reservation in advance! If you don't order the tickets at least a week in advance, there is no chance of a quick boat trip to the island - unless you queue up for tickets in the middle of the night.

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13. Shopping

Market Street, San Francisco's main thoroughfare, is full of restaurants, cafes, and shops. The largest shopping area is on the corner of Powell Street and around nearby Union Square with large department stores such as Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s or Barneys New York. Those who like it more individual can shop on Haight Street. Especially in the old hippie quarter in the section around Ashbury Street you will find unusual clothing stores, bookstores and record stores, as well as numerous nice cafés and restaurants. If you are looking for bargains from Asia, shop in Chinatown: Almost everything is sold here, from clothes to Asian furniture and Buddha statues in all variations to kitschy decorations and electronic gadgets of all kinds.

14. Mission District

One of the coolest neighborhoods in San Francisco is the Mission District in the western part of downtown, named after Mission Dolores, the oldest surviving building in San Francisco. The Latino neighborhood is known for its street art, graffiti, and murals, most of which can be found on Balmy Street, Clarion Alley, and 18th Street. Here is the famous Womans Building, a house painted from top to bottom. It shows famous women of different skin colors who have campaigned for world peace. The Mission District is also home to many cafes and reputedly the best Mexican restaurants in town.

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