San Francisco is one of the most popular American cities to visit. There are many iconic landmarks and must see places in San Francisco, making this city a great tourist destination.
San Fran, nicknamed “The City” by the locals, was built on money from the gold rush. It expanded quite rapidly and gave this town a rich history, no pun intended.
There are so many things to do and see in this city. I’ve been here for more than two years and still feel I haven’t experienced it all!
So, I narrowed it down and compiled a list of the 15 must see places in San Francisco.
15 Must See Places in San Francisco
1. The Golden Gate Bridge
Could I really start this list anywhere else? When you think of SF, you think of the Golden Gate.
There are many locations to photograph this historical beauty from, but the best is across the bridge from the lookout. That way you can get the city in the photo too.
Tip: for an incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge consider going on a Golden Gate Bay cruise.
For more information about the Golden Gate Bridge visit Goldengatebridge.org
2. The Bay Bridge
The Bay Bridge is the bridge that leads from San Fran to Oakland and Berkeley.
The Golden Gate Bridge was made famous for being the largest suspension bridge of its time, but the Bay Bridge well surpasses that accomplishment.
There are actually two sections of this bridge, both connecting on Treasure Island. This is a great place to stop to photograph the city skyline and the bridges, and definitely a San Francisco must see!
Tip: if you want to admire both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge from the water then check out this bridge to bridge cruise.
For more information about the Bay Bridge: Baybridgeinfo.org
3. Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf is where you can get the freshest clam chowder.
There are also lots of fun activities to do here, like amusement rides and souvenir shopping. And you can find an In-n-Out here, which is a very famous chain of fast food restaurants!
For more information: Fishermanswharf.org
4. Pier 39
Pier 39 is another must see place in San Francisco, and it’s within walking distance from Fisherman’s Wharf.
It’s where you’ll find the resident sea lions!
There are numerous shops and restaurants here, fun street performances and the area has a lively vibe. San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay can be found here and the popular 7D Experience, which is a virtual roller coaster and video game combined.
Tip: you can buy skip-the-line tickets online for Aquarium of the Bay.
For more information about Pier 39: Pier39.com
Alcatraz is the most famous prison and an absolute must visit when in San Francisco.
The saying used to go “If you were bad you went to prison, if you were bad in prison, you went to Alcatraz”. Some of America’s worst criminals lived here on ‘the rock’.
Today it is a national park and open for tours. Make sure to book your tickets far in advance, I’m talking weeks or even months. They sell out fast!
Tip: you can buy several combo tickets with a discount, combining an Alcatraz ticket with another fun activity. For example:
- Early access to Alcatraz & a city tour in a converted cable car
- The Hop-On Hop-Off Bus plus entrance to Alcatraz
- A visit to Alcatraz & a helicopter flight over the city (or go for a Seaplane flight instead!)
- A visit to Alcatraz and a catamaran cruise
- A Segway tour and a visit to Alcatraz (or opt for a GoCar instead)
- A visit to Alcatraz followed by a craft beer tour
For more information about Alcatraz: NPS.gov
6. Presidio Park
This park is an old naval base.
There are still many bunkers and buildings here today and there are a few nice trails that lead through the eucalyptus forests.
If I have any Disney Fans out there, this is home to the permanent Walt Disney museum. Today many of the buildings are rented out to local businesses and as housing.
Tip: you can buy skip-the-line tickets online for the Walt Disney museum.
For more information about Presidio Park: NPS.gov
7. Twin Peaks
Trying to catch the best view of San Francisco?
Twin Peaks is a top contender. Head up here just before sunset to see the city lights come alive.
For more information about Twin Peaks: sfrecpark.org
8. The Full House House
This row of houses was made world famous by the popular TV show Full House and is now a much visited tourist attraction.
“What ever happened to the predictability?” I knew you were waiting for this one. All of the landmarks will work in your map by using its name, except this one. Alamo Square or the Painted Ladies is what you want to use.
Take a relaxing break on the field of Alamo Square with the locals. The higher you climb, the better the view you’ll get.
9. The Sutro Baths
The Sutro Baths was once an old bathhouse, which Thomas Edison used to frequent.
The building no longer stands, but the ruins do. It is a gorgeous place to see the Pacific Ocean and to get in a little exercise. On the lower left of the sea wall is a small cave- check it out!
For more information: NPS.gov
10. Coit Tower
Once an old lookout tower, now a small museum.
You are able to take a small elevator ride to the top for 360° views of San Francisco. I know I’ve listed a few viewpoints, but its because they’re all amazing in their own way. Don’t pass this one up.
For more information: sfrecpark.org
Many famous rock and roll artists made it big singing on the streets of Haight-Ashbury, a district of San Francisco, in the 60s and 70s.
A lot of those bars are still open today and this area is definitely one of the must see places in San Francisco.
There is a lot of great local shopping on Haight as well.
This is my favorite Chinatown in the USA.
There are a lot of cool stores with Chinese goodies, Chinese architecture, and great Dim Sum- yum!
My favorite part about Chinatown is their local produce stands. They have an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables that I didn’t even know existed.
13. Transamerica Pyramid
Probably the most iconic building in the city’s skyline is the Transamerica Pyramid.
It’s pretty cool to see up close, but unfortunately they don’t offer any tours inside the building.
14. Lombard Street
Lombard Street is the self-proclaimed “Most Zigzagged Street in the World”.
The street is so steep that developers had to make it curvy in order to drive down it safely. During the summer weekends they close it off to through traffic so go on a weekday and drive it yourself!
15. Golden Gate Park
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is comparable to Central Park in NYC – except, a little smaller.
There are great trails, open fields, sports centers, museums, gardens, lakes, Dutch windmills, and even a waterfall. Oh, and a herd of bison!
There is so much to do in this park, you could spend 5 days straight exploring this incredible place and still have plenty to do. But a simple drive through will bring you back to peace in the center of this large metropolis.
For more information: sfrecpark.org
How to Explore San Francisco & See All the Must See Places
In order to see all of these amazing landmarks and must see places in San Francisco, I highly suggest renting a car.
Tip: if you plan to buy tickets for several tours or attractions in San Francisco, check out the San Francisco Explorer Pass. It can save you a lot of money on many of the main tours and attractions.
While there is plenty more to do and see in the city, you gotta make sure to check these 15 out! Safe travels and enjoy San Francisco!
And if you want to see more than just the city, have you considered a San Francisco RV rental?
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And if you need a break from San Francisco, then I highly recommend visiting South Lake Tahoe for a few days!
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Featured image source: Getty Photography
With special thanks for letting me use this incredible picture of a San Francisco must see!
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