A few months ago I traveled to the west coast of the United States. This part of the U.S. already fascinated me as a child and last year, I managed to map out a nice and perfect route that went through 3 major cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. In December last year, you may have seen my Los Angeles travel guide appear on my social media channels. Although Los Angeles had a very different atmosphere than San Francisco, this city also appealed to me. Not only because of the many sights, but also because of the more relaxed people who walked around. In this travel guide, I would like to tell you what you need to know before you travel to San Francisco so that you can experience the time of your life there.
Sights you must see/experience
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge
Perhaps the most important reason why people travel to San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge and the icon of this city. Many people travel to this place to challenge their sporting hearts to walk or cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge. However, it is only reserved for the die-hards, since this bridge is no less than 2737 meters long. For those who want to be more relaxed, driving is perhaps a better option.
Alcatraz, a prison on an island
In addition to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz is also a highlight and must-do of your trip to San Francisco. From 1934 to 1963, Alcatraz, which was placed on an island, was used as a highly secure prison. Now it has become a national park and you can visit it with a transfer from a small cruise ship that will take you to Alcatraz Island. I also recommend that you purchase the Behind-The-Scenes tour because you get more value in return. You even come to places where the other visitors are not allowed to come and you learn more about the island and the history of the prison.
Fisherman’s Wharf, the neighborhood in San Francisco
Do you want to go to the heart of San Francisco? Then forget about ‘Union Square’ and go straight to Fisherman’s Wharf. Contrary to what many think, this place is not only packed with tourists, but locals can also be found here. There is something to do every evening, there are plenty of (souvenir) shops and places to eat. Most of the people appear in the evening. Are you more an animal lover? Then you can take out your camera to photograph the sea lions, who are usually sunbathing at Pier 39.
Discover the Muir Woods National Park
If you follow me on social media and more specifically on Instagram, then you probably know that Muir Woods National Park has become my favorite place, close to San Francisco. We drove early in the morning with our rental car to Muir Woods (which goes by the way of the Golden Gate Bridge) and I cannot emphasize enough how beautiful this national park is. The tall Redwoods are trees that seem to reach the sky and so wide that even the tallest arms cannot hug the tree.
Leave early enough (if possible when it opens) and enjoy the total tranquility that this park has to offer. Also, walk the reverse route and you will not meet anyone if you go early enough!
Lombard Street, the most crooked street
A more tourist attraction, but also something you should definitely see is Lombard Street. You can easily reach this street by tram that stops in front of it (if you are on top of the hill, at least). Lombard Street is also called the most crooked street because of its many sharp turns on one piece. I recommend walking down from the top of the hill like this, instead of the reverse. Not only does this save you an immense muscle ache, but you can enjoy two views: the one from the top of the hill that has a view of Alcatraz (if you look closely) and the one below that has a view of the Lombard Street that goes up.
For the daredevils and those who can brake and turn well: you can also try to drive on this street yourself.
Things to do
Walking in front of the Painted Ladies
The Painted Ladies are really just houses. But it is called so because these houses have either a Victorian or an Edwardian style and are painted in three or more colors. Immerse yourself in history while walking in a bustling city. I could certainly live in such a house!
Passengers are on the famous tram
Come on, is a trip to San Francisco complete without moving yourself via a cable car? I don’t think so, and despite this being a huge draw, it’s a lot of fun. Unfortunately, you belong to the lucky ones when you sit outside and/or hang on to the rails because we were sitting inside the majority of our day with the cable train. This is probably the only disadvantage if you use such a popular means of transport.
Fish watching in Aquarium of the Bay
I am not the person who likes going to zoos, or to aquariums since I prefer to see the animals living in their natural habitat. But the Aquarium of the Bay was somehow different. Not only was it nice to find out more about the fish in this area, but it was also nice to see that the fish and marine animals had enough space to be “free”.
Various dining options at Pier 39
Pier 39 can also be found under the name Fisherman’s Wharf. Pier 39 is a real attraction and offers an enormous number of eateries: from cream shops to pancake houses and from real restaurants to small fast-food stalls.
Planning your trip to San Francisco
On this trip to San Francisco, I worked with SFTravel, the tourism board of San Francisco. They sent me a lot of information so that I knew for sure what I wanted to visit. In addition, I have received the San Francisco CityPass and I recommend that you purchase it. Not only does this pass offer you discounts and access to many important attractions, but you can also travel unlimited with the cable car.
For $74 you already have a CityPass to travel San Francisco.
I actually liked San Francisco. This city is full of attractions, fun must-sees, and great people. And despite the fact that the Muir Woods National Park was the highlight of this trip, I thought the inner city was worth the effort as well. Feel free to email me for questions!
What are your thoughts on San Francisco?
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Sanne Grieten is the travel blogger of Mostly Abroad. Just like any travel blogger, she loves to travel and discover new places. In addition, she also fights every day with her mental health. To end the stigma, she also writes about this regularly.