Tips for San Francisco, California

Looking for some insider San Francisco travel tips?

We always like to ask our community for tips, so we put the question to our Facebook community who were willing to oblige.

The questions were based on the best things to do in San Francisco, where to stay in San Francisco ,and where to eat and drink. Their answers are down below, but firstly let us share our own tips.

San Francisco Travel Tips - Bay Bridge
Bay Bridge, San Francisco

San Francisco Travel Tips

We spent one week in San Francisco back in 2006, we had a great time exploring the city, and it reminded us a lot of our hometown Sydney.

It has a famous bridge, a harbor (the bay), it’s hilly, it has pockets of different cultures, great eating options, they love sports, and it has a big gay community – much like Sydney.

Walk, Walk, Walk

Whilst San Francisco is quite hilly, we found it a great city to explore by foot. It’s quite a compact place with lot’s of things to discover on every corner, and it’s a good way to get your exercise for the day.

Just be sure to take appropriate clothing as the weather can change pretty quickly.

Go Biking in San Francisco

One of our favorite things to do was bike the Golden Gate Bridge, continue through Sausalito and finish at the charming seaside town of Tiburon. Here you can dine in one of the fine restaurants with spectacular views, or get take out fish and chips and sit in the park.

When you’re ready to call it a day, return on the Tiburon ferry and as you’re cruising back, scan the horizon to reflect on the incredible journey you have just experienced.

Check out Blazing Saddles for your biking needs.

Ride a Cable Car in San Francisco

cable car San Francisco thing to do

A fun and historic way to get around San Francisco is by cable car. There are three cable car routes in operation and they cover the most important landmarks and destinations.

There is nothing like riding a cable car down one of the steep hills with awesome views over to Alcatraz.

Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco seals

Yes, it’s touristy, but places are popular for a reason.

It’s here where you can take the ferry to visit Alcatraz (be sure to do the tour with headsets), chow down on some clam chowder whilst over looking the Golden Gate, see the famed sea lions, and just people watch.

Go to Boudin Bakery & Cafe for the best clam chowder and sourdough bread!

For seafood, eat at Scoma’s Restaurant.

Chinatown, San Francisco

Chinatown San Francisco walking tour

Probably the best Chinatown and the largest Chinese community outside of China.

Lot’s of great eating options, activities going on, and tea tasting experiences. Whether you visit in the morning or evening, Chinatown comes alive.

Eat at Sam Wo, City View or the Great Eastern.

North Beach

North Beach is a well known for its eclectic cafe culture, Beat Generation history, great Italian restaurants, book stores, colorful characters, and that friendly, laid-back attitude that makes San Francisco a great place to be.

Eat at Calzone’s or Mama’s and grab a coffee from Cafe Trieste.

Want to dance? Some of the best clubs in San Francisco: Fuse – DragonBar – 443 – Bamboo Hut – Impala – Beat Lounge – Apartment 24 are here.

Train it to Berkeley

We love visiting college towns on our travels, and the University of California at Berkeley is an easy train ride from the city.

You can wonder around the beautiful campus, and Telegraph road is full of cafes, bars, shops, and characters.

We recommend a meal at Smart Alec’s for great healthy food at great prices. The salads are to die for, and almost all items are made on location including gourmet burger sauces.

Explore the Presidio

The Presidio San Francisco

There are some fantastic places to explore at the Presidio Park, a former military post, and a national historic landmark.

The Presidio San Francisco is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is a major outdoor recreation hub. It’s one of our favorite places to visit in San Francisco.

Read More: 14 things to do in the Presidio San Francisco

Tours, Sightseeing & Passes

Viator is the industry leader when it comes to tours, activities, tickets and passes with a list of hand-picked tours and things to do in San Francisco  from local insiders.

Check out the San Francisco City Pass which includes tickets to attractions, discounts and unlimited use of San Francisco’s cable cars and Muni public transport over three consecutive days.

San Francisco travel tips

Tips from our Facebook Fans

Here are the travel tips from members of our community:

Bubba GotPassport says:

Pier 39 for sea lion watching… Oh, they had a live webcam there, so you could call family and wave to them (with slight delay).

Rusty Harris-Bishop says:

We take everyone who visits on a whirlwind “Wanker Tour” to get all the tourist stuff out of the way. e.g. Pier 39, GG Bridge, The Windmills, GG Park, Sutro Tower view, the Castro, AT&T Ball Park, the Ferry Building.

THEN we go have drinks on the roof-top bar of Medjoul if it’s nice out, or some other bar. You have to drink in SF, and be prepared for a strong drink. It’s the only place I’ve ever taken a drink back and asked for some more mixer!

Free days at the DeYoung are great, one Friday per month the CA Academy of Natural Sciences has great parties with food, music, and a lively crowd. The SF MOMA has some great shows, too, but whatever is happening in Golden Gate Park is usually worth it.

Opera in the Park is the Sunday after opening night at the opera, and has all the stars performing and everyone drinking and having picnic lunch; and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is an amazing three-day concert for free the first weekend in October.

Then for the truly decadent there are the street fairs: Folsom Street Fair and Dore Alley, for the leather and S&M community. Fun for the whole family.

Erin says:

Have to try Irish Coffee at Buena Vista (birthplace of Irish coffee in America). If you go when it’s cold out, two of those and you’ll be nice and *toasty*.

Also, I really love the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park.

Kristin Kent says:

Best photo opp is in the Marin Headlands, right across the bay on the Golden Gate AND you get THE view of the bridge from high up.

Laura Dee says:

Visit Clarion Alley to see some amazing street art. The alley stinks of piss but the artwork is worth it.

Mick Sharpe says:

Grab a bottle of red wine and some al fresco pizza in north beach and just people watch and let the world drift by.

Sarah Edens says:

Go over to the Air Force Marina (you don’t have to have a military ID to get there) on the Marin Country side and get AWESOME pictures with the bridge in the background.

Laurence N says:

Go to the bar at the top of the massive bank building and admire the beautiful views over some seriously strong cocktails.

Debbie Beardsley says:

Riding GG Bridge is a must! WALK and WALK and WALK. There a great free walking tours offered. Google it, you won’t be disappointed.

ConnVoyage:

One of my favorite restaurants in SF is Cha Cha Cha for Cuban/South American. Go to the original on the corner of Haight and Shrader and don’t forget to order the pitcher of sangria! Great for groups! And YES, the wait is worth it!

For something a bit more fancy and special occasion, try Scala’s Bistro in the Sir Francis Drake hotel in Union Square. The food is always delicious and service impeccable!

Lorna MacMillan says:

have a cannoli (or anything!) at stella pastry in north beach! a mom & pop shop.

Two 4 Travel says:

Muir Woods is only an hour away…we loved it!

Ana Travels says:

Sourdough bread is delicious! Boudin is very touristy but their bread is out of this world.

Catherine Sweeney:

Hang out at Golden Gate Park and visit the de Young Museum

Traveling to San Francisco with kids?

Places to Visit near San Francisco

Looking to explore other places in California near the Bay Area? Start with these posts?

Plan Your Trip to San Francisco

Accommodation

  • Booking.com has over 550 properties in San Francisco including hotels, apartments and hostels worldwide. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.

Flights

  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

Car Rental

  • RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.

Tours & Sightseeing

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Do you have any San Fransisco travel tips? Share in the comments.

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