San Francisco is a city that everyone seems to love. It isn’t as daunting or crowded as New York, the vibe has more California coolness than hustle and bustle, the architecture is stunning, each neighborhood seems to have its own personality, and the food is incredible. I have been to San Francisco a couple of times in the past few years, and today I am compiling all of my recommendations into a complete San Francisco Travel Guide. This post has enough suggestions to keep you busy for 5-6 days.
Where to Stay
We have stayed in three different hotels in San Francisco, and our favorite by far was the Loews Regency. The hotel offers some of the best views of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.
The Parc 55 is a nice option if you want something more affordable.
Where to Eat
The Ferry Building Marketplace – It’s part market, part shopping center, and part food court. It also offers excellent views of the Bay Bridge. I highly recommend checking out the Cowgirl Creamy Cafe. If you can go on a Saturday you can check out the additional vendors that are part of the Farmer’s Market. We loved Primavera Mexican Food and Hog Island Oysters.
Yank Sing – It is the place to go for dim sum. They have two locations, and their dumplings are out of this world!
Homeskillet – A classic diner where I feasted on huge chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon.
State Bird – Make a reservation ASAP since this James Beard Award winning restaurant is hard to get into. The food is fantastic. They are known for the fried quail (which is California’s State Bird), and they have an a la carte menu and dim sum offerings. Every bite was delicious.
Burma Superstar – A Burmese restaurant has a cult-like following if the number of people who recommended this restaurant is any indication. They are famous for their tea leaf salad, which is exceptionally good.
Pork Store Cafe – It’s a funky diner in Haight Ashbury and a good place to people watch.
Nopa – This restaurant is a short walk from Alamo Square and it pairs creative and sophisticated food with a casual atmosphere. We loved the Sunday brunch.
A16 – Charles and I were impressed by this Italian restaurant that serves up pizza cooked in a large pizza oven in the center of the restaurant.
Vive La Tarte – A delightful little café that specializes in tarts. I love the concept, and it’s perfectly executed.
Colibri Mexican Bistro – This little restaurant right off Market Street serves traditional Mexican food, not the Tex-Mex that is so common in America.
Garden Court at The Palace – This is a stunning space and the perfect place for afternoon tea, or an evening cocktail.
Fred’s Place – This little diner is in Sausalito and they make the fluffiest scrambled eggs and the most gigantic pancakes!
Bar Bocce – A bar/restaurant with plenty of outdoor space right on the water in Sausalito and a perfect spot for a date.
What to Do
See the Painted Ladies, a row of colorful homes across from Alamo Square. This park is where the opening credits of Full House were filmed.
If you want to see the house from Full House walk to 1709 Broderick Street, it’s near Alamo Park.
Hike up to Coit Tower. The walk involves going up lots of steps, you definitely want to be wearing sneakers and be prepared to work up a sweat.
Golden Gate Park is a massive park containing a Flower Conservatory, the Botanical Garden, the Dutch Windmill, and a Japanese Tea Garden. It’s huge so I recommend renting a bike.
Wander around the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. This is where the hippie culture was born and still lives today. You can check out some fun shops, and admire some absolutely incredible architecture.
Alcatraz should be number one on your list. The ride out to the tiny island offers beautiful views of the city, and the audio tour is so well done – it includes stories from former inmates and guards. The tour is very popular, so you might want to book ahead – especially if you want to go on a weekend.
Sausalito is across the bay from San Francisco and it couldn’t be cuter. Take the ferry past Alcatraz and enjoy perfect views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Then walk around the little town, watch seals play in the harbor, and get lunch. It’s a great way to spend a few hours. If you are feeling sporty you can rent a bike and bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to get back to San Francisco.
Where to Go Out
Local Edition – A speakeasy in the basement of the old Heart Building on Market Street with a solid drink list and decor inspired the newspaper offices.
Noir Lounge – This Hayes street cocktail lounge features live jazz and screens old black and white movies.
Where to Shop
Market Street – This is the main shopping area in the city and it is where you will find everything from big box stores to designer boutiques.
Hayes Street – I think this is my favorite area in San Francisco. There’s a mix of independently owned boutiques and restaurants to explore.
AG Denim – Charles will only wear jeans by this brand.
Tanner – A shop specializing in leather goods and clothing for men.
Wingtip – This men’s boutique in the Financial District sells everything from suits to whiskey.
Do you have any San Francisco recommendations? I would love to hear them in the comments! Next week I will be sharing my guide to Napa and Sonoma!