San Francisco – Travel Guide

San Francisco is a stirring city with beautiful architecture and impressive nature all around. A city break in San Francisco allows you to combine chilling out by the ocean with relaxed sightseeing and a diverse cultural program. Besides famous sights like the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco offers you the right mixture of small-town flair and big-city life, good music and evergreen vegetation against the backdrop of the wide ocean.

San Francisco
San Francisco was considered a real hippie stronghold in the 60s. And even today, the approximately 120 square kilometre city on the west coast of the USA still conveys an incomparable feeling of freedom.

If you would like to know more about the districts of San Francisco, this article might interest you.


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Viewpoints in San Francisco

Coit Tower

The Art Deco style tower is a great starting point for your San Francisco explorations as it gives you a panoramic view: You can see San Francisco sights such as the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, the Transamerica Pyramid and the Ferry Building.

In short, you get a first glimpse of a lot of the sights you will encounter later on. So the Tower is the perfect starting point to spark your anticipation.

The Coit Tower is a 64 meter high observation tower on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. It was built in 1933 by Arthur Brown Jr. and Henry Howard.
The Coit Tower is a 64 meter high observation tower on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. It was built in 1933 by Arthur Brown Jr. and Henry Howard.
Coit Tower, San Francisco
Many visitors wonder what function the tower once had and the simple answer is: none at all. From the very beginning, it was intended to serve the sole purpose of beautifying the city, and with its interestingly decorated façade, it still fulfills this purpose perfectly today.

Twin Peaks

Another great viewpoint and big highlight are the Twin Peaks. As the name suggests, these are two hills located about 280 m above sea level and in the middle of San Francisco. A hike up to the peaks gives you a fantastic panoramic view. Unfortunately, public transportation is not easy here, but with a rental car or Uber you can get to the top quickly and enjoy the view of the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, Oakland and downtown San Francisco. That is, if the famous fog of San Francisco doesn’t bother you!

Our tip: While the Coit Tower is a great starting point, the view from the Twin Peaks is also overwhelming at sunset or at night!

Twin Peaks at the beginning of the sunset
Twin Peaks at the beginning of the sunset.

Places of interest in San Francisco

Lombard Street

From Coit Tower you can walk downhill to Lombard Street, which is about fifteen minutes away. This street runs right through the Marina District to Pioneer Park near the piers in San Francisco. The road winds down a narrow slope over several 180 degree curves.

Lombard Street in San Francisco
In combination with the planted flower beds at the edge of the road, Lombard Street became not only world-famous, but also a popular photo motif.

Chinatown

In the middle of downtown San Francisco is Chinatown. The center is Portsmouth Square, around which the first houses of the city of San Francisco were built. San Francisco’s Chinatown was founded in 1850 and is actually visited by more tourists than the Golden Gate Bridge! All buildings, really all of them, are in Chinese style and about 100,000 people live in Chinatown. This forms the largest Chinese community outside of Asia and is not only for eating out and souvenir shopping, but also for getting a taste of real Chinese life.

Chinatown San Francisco
The best way to explore Chinatown is to start at the tourist Grant Avenue with the Chinatown Gate.

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Union Square

On your journey you will find it hard to avoid Union Square, pretty much the most famous square in San Francisco. The square is in the center of the shopping and theater district and from here you can quickly get to the intersection of Market and Powell Street to watch the cable cars turning around.

Union Square San Francisco
In the 1860s, before the beginning of the American Civil War, the centrally located square regularly hosted rallies on California’s position in the dispute between the Confederation and the Union. Ultimately, the Unionists won the discussions, hence its name. Demonstrations still take place in Union Square today – traditionally, so to speak.

Golden Gate Bridge

You can explore San Francisco’s most famous landmarks – if not the entire West Coast of America – by bike, car, bus or even on foot. From here you have a great view of the city and the bay. At sunset we recommend you visit one of the beaches Baker Beach or Marshall’s Beach.

Golden Gate Bridge
You should keep that in mind: A walk across the Golden Gate Bridge is only for people with a head for heights. The walk can be a big conquest for you, but it is worth it!

Our tip: A tour with a rental bike is a great option to visit the Golden Gate Bridge and you can add several other San Francisco sights. Rent a bike in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, e.g. by simply reserving a bike and maps online in advance for 24 hours at Get Your Guide. If you want to pedal less, you can also rent an e-bike.

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Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39

Before you reach the legendary bridge, you can use your bike to explore the area of Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. Even though it is very touristy here, a visit to San Francisco is a must on a trip to the city. Pier 39 is where San Francisco’s famous sea lions gather, and the waterfront is full of restaurants where you can enjoy many fish and seafood specialties.

Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco
Souvenir shops and street stalls can be found on every corner, serving crab soup with mussels in a sourdough bowl.
Sunbathing sea lions in San Francisco
Sunbathing sea lions 🙂

More stops for your bike tour through San Francisco

Combine your visit to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 with a short walk along the promenade starting from Ghirardelli Square. This building of a former chocolate factory is filled with restaurants and shops on three floors.

On your further way towards the Golden Gate Bridge you will pass the Palace of Fine Arts.

The riverside path ends below the southern end of the bridge at Fort Point. To cross the Golden Gate Bridge, turn left just after Crissy Field.

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

After visiting the Golden Gate Bridge you have further options. For example, you could continue on to Sausalito and from there you could even drive to the Muir Woods National Monument to see the coastal redwoods. Of course, there are also many other viewpoints on this side of the Golden Gate Bridge with views of the bridge and the bay.

Golden Gate Park

Also the Golden Gate Park could be explored very well by bike due to its enormous size. The park extends over five kilometres from east to west and over 800 metres from north to south. In it you can walk around lakes, admire waterfalls and pagodas (Japanese Tea Garden), be amazed by an extensive art collection (De Young Museum) and much more.

Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is one of the largest inner-city parks in the world. With its 4.1 square kilometers it is even larger than Central Park in New York.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz is the infamous prison island in the Bay of San Francisco, which was home to such famous prisoners as Al Capone. Boats that will take you to Alcatraz depart from Pier 33 about every half hour (between 8:45 and 15:50).

Alcatraz, San Francisco
If you’re not interested in a tour of the island, but would still like to see Alcatraz up close, we recommend you take a ferry to Sausalito, which passes Alcatraz on the way! 
Inside Alcatraz
If you want, you can book a special night tour for the extra creepy factor! 

Our tip: Make sure to buy your tickets early before your trip, as they are almost always sold out in advance. 

Pro-Tip: There is also an Early Bird Tour offered, thanks to which you will be ferried to Alcatraz with the first tourist load. This way you share the prison island with your group for the time being. The more ferries dock at the island, the more people are spat out on the small island. So you can only explore the island in peace and quiet in the early morning.

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Haight-Ashbury

Haight-Ashbury was the epicenter of the hippie movement in the 60’s and many come here to see what is left of the vibe of that time. The alternative neighborhood that stretches around Haight Street was the adopted home of pop stars like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead and attracted many hippies, artists and alternative people.

Haight-Ashbury is a district of San Francisco named after the intersection of Haight Street and Ashbury Street.
Haight-Ashbury is a district of San Francisco named after the intersection of Haight Street and Ashbury Street.
Haight-Ashbury, birthplace of the 1960s counterculture, attracts a lively, diverse audience with its historic hippie flair.
Haight-Ashbury, birthplace of the 1960s counterculture, attracts a lively, diverse audience with its historic hippie flair.

Even though the vibe is still there today, parts of the hippie past are commercialized in such a way that the old hippies are likely to get sick. You will find many cafes and restaurants as well as shops selling vintage clothes, records or funny curiosities like Sex Pistols lunch boxes. Nevertheless – or maybe because of that – Haight-Ashbury still exerts an incomparable charm. It’s fun to just let yourself drift here, browse through quirky shops and let the many bright colors work their magic on you.

If you would like to know more about the different districts of San Francisco, we also recommend this article.

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Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies

The view from Alamo Square past the row of typically colorful Victorian houses – the Painted Ladies – onto the skyline is also one of the most famous sights of San Francisco. If you are a child of the 90s like us, you probably know the sitcom „Full House“. This one takes place in San Francisco and in the intro you can see among other things these fancy Victorian houses, which also served as a backdrop in many other movies or series. Actually you can find these houses all over San Francisco, but nowhere else you can have a picnic while admiring the impressive houses. 

Painted Ladies in San Francisco
Made famous in part by their appearance in the „Full House“ intro, the homes are among the city’s most photographed tourist sights.

Beside the described sights you can expect many more highlights like the Mission Disctrict, the North Beach, the Ferry Building and many many more!

Curious? You can find the full itinenary in the Discover section in the Lambus App!

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