San Francisco Travel Guide

By Getting Stamped,

The dynamic duo behind travel blog Getting Stamped has complied a San Francisco travel guide of must-see and dos for your trip to the iconic city on the Bay. Be sure to wear flowers in your hair!

Getting In

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Getting around San Francisco by public transport is easier than most US cities! Photo by Author.

Bus: Purchase BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) vouchers in advance. Vouchers can only be redeemed at the SFO Information Booth located in the International Terminal G-side, near the AirTrain escalator.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily.

Cost: $8.10-$8.65 Adult

Shuttle Van: Shared-ride vans provide service between SFO Airport and passenger-specified locations. Van service is available on a walk-up basis, but arrivals after 11 p.m. should book ahead.

See the Van Directory

Cost: approx. $17 for a 35-90 min ride

Taxi: The quickest, yet most expensive ways to get from the SFO Airport to San Francisco is by taxi.

Cost:$42-$63, approximately 20 mins

What To Eat

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Seafood is what’s on the menu in San Francisco. Photo by Author.

Try San Francisco’s famous Sourdough Bread  | Boudin Bakery

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Sourdough in a must-try in San Francisco. Photo by Author.

Boudin’s has been baking bread in the Bay Area since the 1849 Gold Rush. They have locations all over San Francisco, but most convenient for visitors is their location at the Fisherman’s Wharf. Come for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Make sure to get a sandwich served on sourdough or order the soup in a sourdough bread bowl.

  • Location: 160 Jefferson St (Fisherman’s Wharf)
  • Hours: Daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Clam Chowder at the Wharf | Cioppino’s

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Try the iconic clam chowder down by the Wharf. Photo by Author.

Cioppino’s Restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf boasts a decadent cream-based chowder with potatoes and pancetta (Italian bacon) seasoned to perfection and made fresh daily. Cup $6.95 / Bread bowl $10.95

  • Location: 400 Jefferson Street
  • Hours: Sunday–Thursday: 11 a.m–10 p.m., Friday, Saturday: 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.

A Taste of Chinatown | House of Nanking

The famous Nanking Sesame Chicken ($9.95) is a must. However, be prepared to put yourself into the hands of head chef/owner Peter Fang. The Chef is known for getting patrons to ignore the menu and allow him to determine what’s best and order for them. See the Menu!

  • Location: 919 Kearny
  • Hours: Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat 12 p.m.-10 p.m., Sun 12 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Grab a drink | Rogue Ales Public House

With over 40 beers on tap Rogue Ales Public House is a good spot for happy hour in a fun part of San Francisco. Grab a beer after a long day exploring the city before catching the sun set over the harbor.

  • Location: North Beach, 673 Union Street
  • Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 12 p.m.-12 a.m., Friday and Saturday: 12 p.m.-2 a.m.

What To See

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Sunsets on the Bay are one of a kind. Photo by Author.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz San Francisco

Floating up to Alcatraz. Photo by Jennifer Boyer CC BY

Situated a mile and a half from Fisherman’s Wharf lies one of the most notorious pieces of land in the country. This small island in the Bay was once home to a federal prison. Alcatraz  housed some of the most dangerous criminals of the day including Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly. Take a tour of the historic prison and see what it was like to live on “The Rock.”

  • Hours: Departures start at 9:30 a.m. and are available every half hour throughout the day. Sellouts in summer and holidays are frequent, book in advance during these times.
  • Cost: Adults age 12-61$31,  kids age 5-11 $19.25,  Seniors age 62+ $29.25, Kids under 4 Free

Fisherman’s Wharf

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Head down to Fisherman’s Wharf for some fresh seafood and people watching. Photo by Author.

San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf is the focal point of tourism in San Francisco. Home to numerous shops, restaurants and attractions,  this waterside attraction is a must-see on any San Francisco itinerary. Plan an afternoon here souvenir shopping and stay for dinner. Most tours of the city can be arranged here as well.

Sunset At Coit Tower

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Coit Tower is a great vantage point for the City. Photo by Sarah Sammis CC BY

Since 1933, the Coit Tower has been a welcoming landmark to visitors and residents alike. A trip to the top of the tower yields stunning 360-degree views of the city. The tower is situated nicely for catching sunsets looking out over the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Location: 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd.
  • Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Cost: Residents: $6 adult $3 Youth 12-17 & Seniors 65+$2 Child 5-11 under 4 free, Non-residents $8 adults $5 Youth 12-17 & Seniors 65+$2 Child 5-11 and under 4 free

What To Do

Walk across Golden Gate Bridge

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Walk across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Photo by Author.

Take a walk across one of the world’s most famous bridges. From the Golden Gate Bridge there are great views of the city and Alcatraz island. This walk is not for those that have an acute fear of heights since it has a noticeable shake that can be felt while walking on the 200 foot high structure.

  • Note: No pets or roller skates/roller blades/skateboards are allowed on the bridge sidewalk.
  • Hours: 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. winter, 5 a.m.-9 p.m. summer
  • Cost: Free

Ride the Hop on Hop off bus

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Ride the Hop On Hop Off bus in San Francisco. Photo by Author.

The hop-on-hop-off bus allows visitors to tackle all the best things in San Francisco quickly. All the tours are accompanied with an audio tour and the guides are very informative. The San Francisco Hop-off-Hop-on buses have two routes to choose from: the downtown tour hits Fisherman’s Wharf, the Ferry building and Farmer’s Market, Union Square, Chinatown, and North Beach. The Golden Gate Tour takes guests over the bridge to Sausalito. Passengers can decide whether they want to get off and explore further at any stop.

Ride Cable Car Powell Street

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Ride the iconic San Francisco Cable Cars. Photo by Dennis Jarvis CC BY

Of all the iconic things in San Francisco, riding a cable is near the top of the list. Hop on one of the three lines that course through the city. The Powell/Hyde line will take you past Lombard Street and climb the steep streets that give great views of Alcatraz Island. The California / Van cable cars ride through the hills of the Financial District.

  • Expert Tip: For the best views from the cable car, try to ride on the side of the car that faces the bay. On the Powell cars, this will be the eastern side or right-hand side when leaving from Downtown and left when leaving from the Wharf.
  • Hours: 6 a.m.-12:30 a.m.
  • Cost: $7 one-way trip or $17 one-day pass

Lombard Street

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See the curves of Lombard Street. Photo by Author.

The eight switch-backs packed into a single city block gave this street its claim to fame as the world’s crookedest street. Come gawk as cars make their way down this one of a kind street. In addition to the road itself, the medians are beautifully gardened with beds of brightly colored flowers.

  • Location: 1070 Lombard Street
  • Cost: Free

Chinatown

Chinatown San Francisco

Red Lanterns decorate Chinatown streets. Photo by vhines200 CC BY

Wander around San Francisco’s Chinatown and transport yourself to another world without leaving the city limits. San Francisco is home to America’s oldest Chinatown and the largest Chinese community outside of Asia.

Where to Stay

5 Star | Taj Campton Place

Union Square

Located in Downtown San Francisco in Union Square and a short drive to Interstate 80, the Bay Bridge and Oakland in the impressive Taj Campton Place. This 5-star beauty is dripping in opulence and is conveniently located just five miles from the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Amenities: Designer toiletries, bathrobes, slippers, room safe, direct dial telephone, Nespresso coffee machine, flat screen television with cable TV channels, and AM/FM/CD surround sound system. Wireless high-speed internet access is available throughout the hotel and is free of charge.

4 Star | Holiday Inn San Francisco Golden Gateway

Lower Nob Hill

Golden Gateway is a 4-star hotel located in the Lower Nob Hill area and next to the California Street Cable Car turnaround. The Fisherman’s Wharf, Downtown and Chinatown are all a short drive and the Golden Gate Bridge is just three miles away. The hotel has 26 floors and has views of the San Francisco skyline and the Bay.

  • Amenities: Air-conditioned guest rooms and suites with en-suite bathroom, hair dryer, coffee maker, direct dial telephone with free local calls, flat screen television with cable TV channels and Pay-TV, and wireless high speed internet access which is free of charge. An American buffet breakfast is provided every morning and lunch and dinner are offered in the restaurants which serve Californian cuisine and Juliana’s specialty pizzas. On the 6th floor there is a heated outdoor swimming pool with sun terrace and sun loungers available for guests to relax as well as a fully-equipped fitness center which is open 24 hours. Car parking is possible but charges apply.

3 Star | Castle Inn Neighborhood

Russian Town

Castle Inn is located in San Francisco’s Russian Town. The hotel is one mile from Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown.

  • Amenities: Free Wi-Fi access, flat screen television with HBO, telephone with voicemail, a refrigerator, coffee maker, hair dryer, and iron and ironing board, use of a nearby fitness center (added fee), a safe, air conditioning, heating, an elevator, and baggage storage. On-site parking is free. The hotel also offers a daily complimentary continental breakfast.

2 Star | San Remo

North Beach

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Stay at the sunny San Remo Hotel in San Francisco. Photo by Author.

Located near Fisherman’s Wharf, the smoke-free San Remo combines modern comfort and historic charm. The bathrooms are shared and free Wi-Fi is available. Walking distance to some of the city’s best attractions like Lombard Street, the Wax Museum at the Wharf, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the ferry to Alcatraz, which can all be reached in less than eight minutes by foot.

  • Amenities: TV, housekeeping, mini refrigerator, off-site parking at discounted rates.

trivago’s top hotel picks for SF

Drisco

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Stay at the opulent Hotel Drisco in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of the Hotel Drisco.

The Hotel Drisco is all about the little things, and guests have taken note, making it the highest rated 4-star hotel in the city.  Located in a prime spot in the Pacific Heights neighborhood, the Drisco is dedicated to the kind of service that is hard to find these days. The hotel offers a decadent spread every night complete with local wines from the region and gourmet cheeses. The impeccable service doesn’t stop there — guests can order anytime off the hotel’s Pillow Menu and are also welcome to borrow bicycles for a ride around the city. The guestrooms are dressed up in classic charm with warm colors and views overlooking the hotel courtyard, Downtown San Francisco, or the infamous Twin Peaks.

  • Amenities: Gourmet continental breakfast, evening wine reception with artisan cheeses, coffee and tea available 24 hours a day in the Sitting Room (with homemade biscotti), weekday morning chauffeur service to select destinations, bicycles to borrow, and free WiFi.

Inn On Castro

Among colorful restored Victorians and vibrant streets of the Castro neighborhood, lies the friendly Inn on Castro. The Inn is a restored Edwardian building complete with fireplace and modern furnishings. It’s cozy but chic, adorned with fresh flowers daily. Each of the eight guestrooms boast spectacular views and eclectic charm.

  • Amenities: Private bath, WiFi, complimentary full breakfast.

Insider / Getting Stamped Tips

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Buy the City Pass

There are enough sights in San Francisco to keep you busy for a week or longer so if you’re trying to see all the sights it can be worth it to buy the SF City Pass. The CityPASS is valid for nine days, granting access to just about all of the city’s top sights.

  • Includes: – 7-day Cable Car and Muni Bus Passport – California Academy of Sciences – Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise – Aquarium of the Bay- OR -Monterey Bay Aquarium – Exploratorium- OR -de Young Museum
  • Cost:$94 Adult, $69 Child

Stay in Fisherman Wharf/North Beach

If you book a room in this area you will have quick access to all of the main attractions of the city right from your hotel. Staying in other areas of the city can lead to spending too much time in transferring from one area of the city to another. Stay central and make the most of your trip.

Where to Next:

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The arches in the sea at Elk. Photo by the authors.

Consider a trip down one of the world’s best roads the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). If making the trip to Los Angeles, be sure to check out the hidden gems along the PCH.