There’s a lot on offer in San Francisco and each area of the city has its own distinct feel, you could quite easily spend a couple of days exploring and still not have scratched the surface! So here’s a quick guide on what you can find in each neighbourhood to help:
We stayed in a budget hotel in Chinatown, which was a great location to stay in and we could easily get around from here. San Francisco's Chinatown was the first Chinatown in North America and is the largest outside of Asia. Our hotel was located in Chinatown and its a great location near Union Square, North Beach, Nob Hill and Fisherman's Wharf.
Guarded by a large dragon gate, the streets of Chinatown are so bright and colourful with beautiful decorations, and traditionally ornate buildings and temples. There are so many alleys with little souvenir shops and stalls selling dim sum as well as larger traditional restaurants and karaoke bars. Take part in a culinary walking tour or visit the fortune cookie factory!
There's so much to look at once you pass the Dragon Gate in Chinatown!
This is the central shopping area, with high street brands, chain restaurants and large department stores. There’s also plenty of entertainment venues here and events are often held in the centre of Union Square.
Fisherman’s Wharf is perhaps the most visited tourist attraction in the city. Sitting on the edge of San Francisco Bay with views out to Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate bridge, it ticks a lot of boxes.
There are so many places to grab a snack or a coffee and watch the world go by along the waterfront, or observe the sea lions as they bask on the pontoons next to Pier 39. There are also many shops and restaurants in this area.
Tip: Catch the vintage Cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf for a bit of extra fun!
Strolling around Fisherman's Wharf , taking in the sights!
Situated on the waterfront, overlooking Alcatraz Island and Golden Gate bridge and next to Fisherman's Wharf, the Marina District is a popular area to relax or take a gentle stroll around Great Meadow Park or Marina Green.
On the edge of the district is the Palace of Fine Arts theatre, which is a popular spot for instagrammers and photo shoots due to the unusual architecture, with roman style columns and domed roof overlooking a small lake.
The Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
Golden Gate Recreational Area / The Presidio
A former military base, The Presidio is now a 1500 acre park, with areas of forest, walking trails, a golf course and beaches that make up part of the Golden Gate Recreational Area. The area also has a number of great viewpoints of the Golden gate bridge. There are many places to grab a bite to eat here too, so you could take half a day and really explore the area to get a bit of peace and quiet from the lively city.
North Beach & Little Italy
North Beach doesn't actually have a beach, it does, however, have a fantastic selection of restaurants and cafes and is home to ‘Little Italy’, where you will find the best authentic Italian food. A visit to North Beach is not complete without a stroll through Little Italy to pick up some pizza, gelato or cannelloni and heading to Washington Square to sit and enjoy it.
After all that food, walk down Filbert street towards Coit tower, walking up the leafy Filbert street steps to Telegraph Hill. You can also pay to access the observation deck of the tower for 360 degree views over the city and across the Bay.
In the evening, head to the area around Broadway and Grant Avenue for live music and bars.
Climb to the top of Coit tower for views over the city
The Mission District is a bright, lively, energetic neighbourhood that reflects it’s Latino roots. Here you’ll find live music venues, cocktail lounges, bars and a range of restaurants, where you have to try a Mission-style burrito or empanadas! There is also a wide variety of shops with a ‘hipster vibe’.
Nob Hill / Russian Hill
This is where you’ll find the famous Lombard Street (known as the world’s most ‘Crooked street’). After a steep climb up Lombard street, lined with residential houses, you will reach the section where the street zig-zags. Try to avoid heading here at rush hour, as the residents need to commute to and from work, so the roads can be busier and it’s more inconvenient for the residents.
Tip: After taking photos of the ‘worlds most crooked street’, don't forget to turn around and take in the view from the top of Lombard street, as you look back across the city.
If you're looking for more recommendations for San Francisco, check out this post on the top things to in this diverse city.
All links on this website are my own recommendations or sites I found useful when planning and are not affiliated. I do not receive any commission from including these links within this blog.