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Things to do in San Francisco

Things to do in  San Francisco

Welcome to San Francisco

San Francisco is seven square miles of fog-shrouded magic. Travelers come for cable-car rides and the Golden Gate Bridge—and stay for edgy neighborhoods, cultural diversity, and beautiful open-air spaces.

Top 15 attractions in San Francisco


A former federal prison that held notorious criminals Al “Scarface” Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Alcatraz is now a national historic landmark and one of the most sought-out (and sold-out) attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Highlights include touring what’s left of the maximum-security facility, hearing stories from former inmates, and sailing past the Golden Gate Bridge to reach the craggy isle.More

Golden Gate Bridge

The red-orange Golden Gate Bridge is a San Francisco icon, which spans 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) across and connects the city’s northernmost point to Marin County. While the suspension bridge is a major route for Bay Area commuters, the famous landmark also attracts visitors from around the world with its panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the Marin headlands, Alcatraz, and San Francisco.More

Muir Woods

Home to one of the world's last remaining coastal redwood forests, Muir Woods National Monument allows travelers to hike, relax, or picnic among giant Northern California trees only minutes from the city. This protected nature reserve is also part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, home to Stinson Beach—the park's only lifeguarded beach—and Fort Baker.More

San Francisco Bay

A natural harbor spanned by the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the picturesque San Francisco Bay is the defining feature of California’s Bay Area. Get out on the chilly, choppy water—or just savor the views from the shoreline as the fog rolls in.More

Fisherman's Wharf

Once the stomping ground of Italian fishermen, Fisherman’s Wharf is now one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist destinations. The bustling waterfront strip is filled with souvenir shops, seafood restaurants, and a wealth of family-friendly attractions—most notably a colony of sea lions that sunbathes and poses for photos on Pier 39.More

Palace of Fine Arts

San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts dates to the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition. One of the only remaining buildings from the World’s Fair, the Greco-Roman–inspired ruin is a favorite Bay Area venue. Walk under the picturesque rotunda, wander the grounds, and visit lagoons that are home to ducks, swans, and geese.More

San Francisco Chinatown

San Francisco’s Chinatown, one of North America’s oldest and largest, has long been one of the city’s top attractions. Highlights of this bustling neighborhood that dates back to the California Gold Rush include shops, dim sum restaurants, temples, and markets.More

North Beach

Despite its name, San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood does not border the water and has no sandy spots. But its position between Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and the Embarcadero makes it one of the city’s most popular areas for visitors and locals, all of whom enjoy its Italian eateries, Beat history, quiet park, and nightlife scene.More

Bay Bridge

Though the San Francisco Bay Bridge doesn't share the fame of the Golden Gate, the beauty of its recently reconstructed east span is beyond debate. Locals know it as the best way to cross between Oakland and San Francisco, while travelers enjoy its storied history, Yerba Buena Island connection, and stunning light displays.More

Union Square

Union Square is the city’s main dining, entertainment, and shopping district. Visitors can shop at department stores and designer boutiques; stop into various art galleries; grab a bite to eat at any of a number of restaurants; and see a live performance at a nearby theater.More

Lombard Street

Lombard Street runs more than 20 blocks across northern San Francisco, but only one block—between Hyde and Leavenworth streets—gives the thoroughfare its nickname, “the crookedest street in the world.” Lined with well-manicured flowers and trees and tidy million-dollar homes, the red-brick-paved road zigzags its way down Russian Hill.More

Golden Gate Park

The 1,000-plus acres (412 hectares) of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park are home to museums, picnic sites, lakes, golf, hiking and biking paths, concerts, and more. From the attraction-laden east end to the wilder west side where bison roam, the park offers plenty of ways to relax, get a culture fix, exercise, or gather with friends.More

Pier 39

One of the most visited sights in San Francisco, the multilevel Pier 39 complex is home to shops, restaurants, street performers, and a video arcade. Its waterfront setting on the San Francisco Bay means visitors can take in panoramic bay views, breathe fresh sea air, and watch sunbathing California sea lions.More

Coit Tower

Visitors flock to Coit Tower to take in views of downtown San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other landmarks. With its perch in Pioneer Park atop Telegraph Hill, the 210-foot-high (64-meter-high) tower, built in 1933, offers some of the best panoramic photo ops in the city.More

Yosemite National Park

One of the United States’ most popular national parks, Yosemite National Park is packed with natural beauty and views that never cease to amaze. From the majestic mountain peaks to the green meadows on the valley floor (plus all the waterfalls and groves of tall Sequoia trees in between), there’s no shortage of outdoor and leisure activities set against the park’s epic views. And whether you spend a single day or stay for a multi-day camping trip, you’ll feel a deeper appreciation for the nature at this national treasure.More

Trip ideas

An Exploratorium Employee's Guide to San Francisco

An Exploratorium Employee's Guide to San Francisco

Know Before You Go: Tips for Visiting Alcatraz

Know Before You Go: Tips for Visiting Alcatraz

Top activities in San Francisco

Muir Woods & Sausalito Half-Day Tour (Return by Bus or Ferry from Sausalito)
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Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Full-Day Tour from San Francisco
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GoCar San Francisco Tour

GoCar San Francisco Tour

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Small Group Yosemite and Giant Sequoias Day Trip from San Francisco
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San Francisco Love Tour

San Francisco Love Tour

Wine Country Small-Group Tour from San Francisco with Tastings
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San Francisco Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise
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Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in San Francisco

Late March boat trip
JonaDela_C, Apr 2023
Straight to the Gate Access: San Francisco Bridge-to-Bridge Cruise
This was a great way to see the landmarks!
GoCar is a MUST
Lisa_G, Apr 2023
Early Bird San Francisco GoCar Tour
There’s so much to see and learn from San Francisco and the guided tour does a hell of a job!
Added bonus to your day/trip
Kewanda_M, Apr 2023
Hidden Stairways of San Francisco
The Hidden Stairways of San Francisco was delightful two hours of history, breath taking views, and an awesome guide with great suggestions for food and activities.
A must!
Davina_F, Mar 2023
1.5-hour San Francisco Bay Sailing Tour
A great way to see the beauty of this area: Angel Island, Alcatraz Island and of course the skyline of San Francisco.
Our first trip in San Francisco for our anniversary
Greg_S, Mar 2023
San Francisco Ghosts Gold and Ghouls Tour By US Ghost Adventures
Only downfall is that the hills in San Francisco suck.
Great way to spend a day in San Francisco
PamTaylor, Mar 2023
Alcatraz Inside and Golden Gate Bridge Bay Boat Cruise
Great trip, Alcatraz is really interesting- great recorded guide, lots to see Bay cruise - good to see San Francisco from the water
Loved the Love tour!
Mari_K, Mar 2023
San Francisco Love Tour
We enjoyed this tour, it was a fun way to see and learn about San Francisco.
Even in the rain...
Margaret_O, Mar 2023
Muir Woods, Sausalito AND San Francisco, All in One Day
My two nieces, both in their twenties wanted to see San Francisco for the first time.
A Fantastic Day, So Much To See and Experience
Glen_S, Feb 2023
Alcatraz Inside and Golden Gate Bridge Bay Boat Cruise
We throughly enjoyed the Bay Tour, a great way to see San Francisco from the water.
Fruitful city tour
Stella_H, Feb 2023
San Francisco Grand City Tour
Thorough concise SF city tour we had a very knowledgeable tour guide Joseph and our lovely driver Gerald 😍 a great way to explore the main attractions of San Francisco
Awesome day tour
Lynda_W, Feb 2023
Small Group Yosemite and Giant Sequoias Day Trip from San Francisco
We were unable to visit the Sequoias due to weather (it was winter) but it was still a really great day and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, marvelling at all the natural beauty of the park.
See a bit of everything in a short time.
Sonja_P, Feb 2023
Straight to the Gate Access: San Francisco Bay Cruise
My most memorable parts is that this is a beautiful tour with the opportunity to see the city ski line, golden bridge, and Alcatraz while traveling on the beautiful bay of San Francisco
Sharon_K, Feb 2023
San Francisco to Yosemite One-Way Transfer
We were fortunate to see Horse Tail Falls— Fire Fall.
Loved this tour! Had a...
Jacklyn_S, Feb 2023
Painted Ladies San Francisco City Tour
Had a limited time in San Francisco before heading to Napa Valley, so this was a great way to see some of the SF sights and hear more about the city's history.
This was my first time...
Katherine_M, Feb 2023
San Francisco Love Tour
The tour was the best way to see major sites.
Highly recommended from an excursion Snob
Catina_A, Jan 2023
Private City Tour of San Francisco
I felt like I had the opportunity to see everything San Francisco has to offer in style.
Very low stress and fun...
Amy_A, Jan 2023
Small Group Tour: San Francisco and Muir Woods with Lunch in Sausalito
Very low stress and fun way to see the main sites in San Francisco.
Amazing experience
Sana_K, Dec 2022
GoCar San Francisco Tour
This was such a unique way to see San Francisco!!
Great way to see the Christmas lights
Stella_O, Dec 2022
San Francisco Fire Engine Holiday Lights Tour
Great tour to see the lights in San Francisco with our guides Victoria and John.
A great experience!!
Susan_H, Nov 2022
San Francisco Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise
A great experience and opportunity to see San Francisco from a different perspective.
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All about San Francisco

When to visit

Mark Twain famously said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. In truth, the fog is unpredictable but you can expect a relatively seasonless climate year-round.

Cool summers are perfect for bike rides across the Golden Gate Bridge, or row boat rentals at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

Fall brings Indian summers and the warmest weather, ideal for checking out the produce harvest at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market.

Winter is the heart of whale watching season, and the best time to try Dungeness crab served whole at Fisherman’s Wharf.

With spring come cherry blossoms at the Japanese Tea Garden, and offseason wine country trips—with fewer tourists.

Getting around

Walking: San Franciscans take pride in walking (or biking) instead of driving, and for good reason: they live in one of the most compact and traffic-congested cities in the US. Thankfully, most neighborhoods are perfect for exploring on foot, with lively street life, public spaces, and restaurants and cafes to explore.

Bus and rail: It’s reasonably easy to get around the city on MUNI buses and streetcars, though many lines run infrequently depending on the time of day and stop after midnight. Cable cars take limited scenic routes, while BART rapid rail is the fastest connection from downtown to the Mission, airport, and surrounding Bay Area.

Rideshare: Uber and Lyft services are most widely used, and will save you the trouble of driving and parking. Taxis can be hard to flag down—but they don’t charge surge pricing during peak travel times. Bike shares are common and growing in popularity, especially downtown and along the waterfront.

Traveler tips

San Francisco is known today for being the home of techies rather than hippies; it’s a city in flux, but with time-tested attractions that easily show why it’s a special place. Alcatraz Island, Muir Woods, and Golden Gate Park are worth visiting for their natural beauty alone. Chinatown and North Beach have blissfully held on to their cultural roots, while the Castro, the heart of the city's LGBTQIA+ community, is walkable, sunny, and anchored by the lovely Castro Theater. To see a truly classic side of the city, we recommend visiting the Beach Chalet, Cliff House, and Sutro Baths ruins near Ocean Beach.

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