Things to do in San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is at the top of every visitor's to-do list – and for good reason! Opened in 1937 and initially dubbed ‘the bridge that couldn't be built', today the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the United States' most recognisable structures. After a walk across the bridge, visit the gentrified former Presidio barracks for a coffee.
Golden Gate Bridge surrounded by Karl the Fog
Alcatraz was once home to America's most notorious criminals. These days, the inescapable penitentiary, also known as ‘The Rock', is open to the public. Explore the beautiful island in the shade of the legendary prison walls. Venture inside on a guided tour and take a glimpse at how infamous inmates like Al Capone lived while on the inside.
Alcatraz Island surrounded by San Francisco Bay
Fisherman’s Wharf – Pier 39
Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 are everything you need for a postcard-perfect view of the bay. A short stroll from Chinatown, take in the marvellous views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy street performers, seaside dining, and market shopping. Make sure to keep an eye out for the local sea lions that often hang out around the boardwalk.
The Pier 39 Sea Lions at Fisherman's Wharf
Alamo Square is home to San Francisco's most peculiar women. At Hayes and Steiner Street, you'll find a tight, escalating formation of Victorian houses painted in sweet pastels standing before a backdrop of city skyscrapers. The stunning contrast makes the ‘Painted Ladies' one of the most photographed locations in the city. The area is also home to several lovely B&Bs for those wishing to spend some time in one of San Francisco's most picturesque locales.
The iconic painted ladies of San Francisco at sunset
As one of the oldest settlements in San Francisco, the Mission District has been the epicentre of some of the most iconic music, art, and performance to come out of the Bay Area. Inspired by traditional Mexican art, the Mission's buildings and walls are stunningly decorated by colourful intricate murals. On nearly every street you'll find bookstores, cafes, and restaurants to explore. These mesmerising murals are most concentrated in Balmy Alley. The first murals appeared in the mid-1980s as expressions of political distrust from the marginalised people of San Francisco. Today, big cultural and human rights issues still grace the walls of Balmy Alley. The alley is best seen on foot, with every detail on display and at your fingertips.
Some of the street art at the Mission Murals
Inspired by the social-realism art movement, the Coit Tower stands proud perched atop historic Telegraph Hill. Praised by architectural critics, from the top of the tower you can look out over the magnificent views of the Bay Area's greatest landmarks. By night, a trip to the top is a spectacular way to marvel at the lights of the city.
Coit Tower on top of Telegraph Hill, overlooking San Francisco Bay
Baker Beach is a scenic stretch of sand nestled at the foot of rugged cliffs on the Presidio's western shore. The beach offers a spectacular alternative view of Golden Gate Bridge. From the white sands no buildings are visible, leaving the bridge to loom over the pastoral headlands. The northern end of the beach is also frequented by ‘clothing-optional' bathers, so venture that way at your own discretion.
Surfer with the Golden Gate bridge from Baker beach
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Internationally recognised for its world-renowned collection of modern and contemporary art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is a palace of human creativity and imagination. The building itself is a work of art, jutting out from the cityscape in spectacular fashion. Engage your mind with artworks that are elsewhere unparalleled.
Terrace Fountain with Museum of Modern Art and the city in the background
Geary Street Art Galleries
Running parallel with Union Square, Geary Street in San Francisco's city centre is virtually overflowing with art galleries. In a city where art is at the forefront of the cultural palate, Geary Street is the home of the local art scene. With so many spots to explore, why not take a chance and pop in wherever takes your fancy?
Geary Street in Downtown San Francisco
Cable Car Museum
The historic and humble cable car is a fixture of San Francisco's famously hilly city streets. It also happens to be a very reliable way to get around. The Cable Car Museum houses a collection of classic cable cars, photographs, and displays of the world's last manually operated system of its kind.
Inside the Cable Car Museum, San Francisco
Step inside a mad scientist's penny arcade! The Exploratorium is San Francisco's self-described public learning laboratory. Overlooking the bay on Pier 15, explore science, art, and human perception. Learn and create in what the New York Times once called the most important science museum of the 20th century. If you've ever wanted the answers to the universe, the Exploratorium might just have what you're looking for (or it'll come pretty close!).