Although San Francisco is only the fourth largest city in California (Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose are bigger if you are interested), in many people’s eyes it is the west coast’s most spectacular. Boasting breathtaking views and unique architecture, the city also has an abundance of must do things for anyone that visits. Below we pick out six of the best.
The Golden Gate Bridge A must see whilst in San Francisco, the city’s most famous landmark and arguably the world’s most famous bridge is a must see whilst you are there.
The bridge opened in 1937 after a prolonged construction period of over four years. At over 1.7 miles long and containing over 80,000 miles of wire, the bridge is a site to behold.
It is definitely worth walking or cycling over the bridge if you have time. There are multiple places to hire bikes around the city by the hour, with the concentration of these hire companies based around the tourist friendly Fisherman’s Wharf area.
If you do hire bikes, we would definitely recommend making the trip down to Sausalito, which brings us on to our next must do. It is still possible to walk or cycle the bridge, which is a must do.
There are multiple places to hire bikes around the city, with an abundance of hire companies based around the Fisherman’s Wharf tourist area. If you do manage to hire bikes, make sure you take the ride down to Sausalito, which brings us onto the next must do.
Sausalito Situated on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito is a picturesque small town which is home to many of the rich and famous of San Francisco. It has a resort like feel to it even though it is only a few miles from downtown San Francisco, and is made up of multiple boutiques, restaurants and art galleries.
Based on the water, there is a waterfront walk that takes in a stunning view of the San Francisco skyline and the yacht filled marinas of Sausalito itself. Once you are ready to come home, take the bike friendly ferry back to the city. The boat is open topped allowing a great photo opportunity of The Golden Gate Bridge, and even offers a fully stocked bar which always comes in handy.
Muir Woods Situated 12 miles north of San Francisco, Muir woods is one of the last Giant Redwood forests in California still standing. Muir Woods was given federal protection in 1908, preserving these spectacular trees, which are over 1000 years old and can be up to 260 feet tall. Giant Redwoods once covered most of the Northern Californian costal valleys but have since been cut down for timber and agricultural land.
Without protection, realistically these ancient giants would now be extinct. A great way of spending time away from the hustle and bustle of the city, a trip here takes you to a bygone era. Often foggy, and always shaded, the setting is covered in vegetation, with wildflowers making up the forest floor.
Alcatraz Island Accessed via a regular ferry from pier 33 (near Fisherman’s Wharf), it is possible for tourists to access the island and there is even a night tour of the famous prison for those who are feeling a bit braver than most. Known as ‘The Rock’, the famous island was used as the premier maximum-security prison in the U.S. from 1934 to 1963. Home to America’s most wanted and notorious convicts, prisoners had to earn their way to Alcatraz as a result of poor behavior at other prisons. The tour explains the difficulties in escaping the island and tells the infamous tale of the prisoners which inspired the film Escape from Alcatraz.
Lombard Street Coined ‘The crookedest street in the world’, Lombard street is made up of eight hairpin turns. The turns were implemented to counter the natural 27% gradient of Russian Hill, which was too steep for most road vehicles.
You are still able to drive down Lombard street, but with an average of 250 cars making their way down it an hour, and a 5 miles per hour speed limit, we would instead recommend walking up to the top and taking in the brilliant views. Whilst making your way up to the top, take in the beautiful gardens that have been planted between the hairpins.
A San Francisco Cable Car Ride No trip to San Francisco would be complete without hanging out the side of a historic cable car system. Although there are still three active routes to choose from, we would recommend the Powell-Hyde line.
This line runs from South of Union Square up to Fisherman’s Wharf, and has magnificent views of both Alcatraz and the San Francisco Bay. As you can imagine, the cable cars can be busy in peak periods, and most tourists board at one of the turnarounds (the beginning or end of the line).
If you want to escape the long queues join the line mid-way. Just make sure you have cash as you will have to pay the driver, and be aware that some trams will be busy, so you may occasionally have to wait for the next one.