3 Days in San Francisco
Last summer we visited San Francisco, the coast, and Yosemite in five full days. In typical A+K fashion, it was a whirlwind of a trip, but one of our favorite ones yet. The trip was filled with city strolls, coastal drives, and hiking beautiful and breathtaking mountains (you can read all about it here!).
The first two days of the trip were spent in San Francisco, where we explored many neighborhoods, classic tourist attractions, went to a Giants game and Alcatraz, and so much more!Since then, I (Kathryn) have gone to San Francisco one other time and using both trip experiences, along with tons of research, we’ve crafted this 3 days in San Francisco itinerary and guide that covers the must-see, classic spots in the city, as well as explores different neighborhoods and gems outside of the tourist bubble.
It’s a busy itinerary, filled with lots of walking (those SF hills are no joke!), but will give you a chance to experience many of the things that make San Francisco unique.
We hope this guide helps make planning your San Francisco adventure a little easier! And as always, feel free to send us a message on Instagram if you have any questions!
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Where to stay
Lodging (and food) in San Francisco is EXPENSIVE! To save money and experience more of San Francisco’s culture, check out Airbnb for your stay.
Here are some good Airbnb options that are close to many of the items on our guide:
- North Beach (near Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, Coit Tower)
- Nob Hill (close to Chinatown)
- Marina District (close to Golden Gate Bridge, Ghirardelli Square, and Fisherman’s Wharf)
- Outer Sunset District (close to Golden Gate Park and Lands End)
PS: If it is your first time staying at an Airbnb, click this link to get $40 off your first stay!
If you’d rather stay at a hotel, we recommend checking out:
- Hyatt Regency San Francisco (right next to the Ferry Building!)
- The Inn at Union Square
- The Westin Union Square
- Hotel Zoe Fisherman’s Wharf.
Day one hits up a ton of the main attractions you think of when you think of San Francisco. We recommend taking the cable car when you can for an authentic San Francisco experience and to save yourself time!
- Get an early start with breakfast at the Ferry Building. Some options:
- Coffee at Blue Bottle in the Ferry Building
- Take a scenic boat ride over to Alcatraz Island. Make sure to book far in advance!
- Visit the Coit Tower ($8)—the line can be long, but the view is awesome!
- Lunch in the North Beach area. Some options:
- See the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf (they’re smelly, but so amusing!). The area is super touristy, but you have to at least make a quick stop if it’s your first time in the city! While you’re in the area, check out Ghirardelli Square and snag some chocolate samples.
- From Fisherman’s Wharf, take the Powell/Hyde cable car to Lombard Street and admire the zig zag road. Make sure you walk to the top for a great view of the city!
- From Lombard Street, make your way to Chinatown and stop at City Light Books along the way.
- Walk around Chinatown. Make sure to stop at Golden Gate Bakery for an egg tart and go to Golden Gate Fortune Cookies to see them make fortune cookies and even customize your own!
- Dinner Options:
- Ice cream at Humphry Slocombe
- Drinks at Local Edition or Bourbon & Branch
Day two in San Francisco will take you to the coastal side of the city, where you’ll explore parks and see many views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Make a quick stop at the 16th Ave Tiled Steps on your way to breakfast. It’s a quick and cool photo opportunity!
- Grab breakfast at Devil’s Teeth Baking Company (get the breakfast sandwich!)
- Coffee at Andytown Coffee Roasters (known for their Snowy Plover drink. No matter what drink you get, make sure you try their homemade whipped cream!)
- Lands End–An easy hike that explores the Sutro Baths and has amazing Golden Gate Bridge and coastal views.
- Grab sandwiches at Lou’s Cafe for lunch and head to Crissy Field for a picnic with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
- From Crissy Field, walk across part (or all) of the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Rent bikes and explore Golden Gate Park. Some spots to check out:
- After working up an appetite biking all around Golden Gate Park, grab some dinner. Here are some options nearby:
- Drinks at Bar 821
On your final day in San Francisco, you’ll explore tourist spots, as well as explore some of San Francisco’s local culture and neighborhoods.
- Breakfast at Plow, Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, or Mama’s on Washington Square–all three are popular, so get there early!
- Coffee at Sightglass Coffee
- See the Painted Ladies, known for being featured in the opening credits of Full House.
- Walk around The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, which was the center of the 1960s hippie movement. It has lots of shops you can explore, such as Amoeba Music.
- Explore The Castro District, one of the first gay neighborhoods in the US. Make sure to walk across the rainbow crosswalks!
- Lunch at Super Duper Burgers
- Coffee at Philz Coffee–get the iced mint mojito!
- Drive up to Twin Peaks for an amazing view of the city.
- Walk around the Mission District and see all of the murals. You can find a guide to the murals here.
- While in the Mission District, stop by Mission Dolores Park for another great view of the city. This is a great sunset spot as well!
- Dinner Options: Cheap: El Farolito or La Taqueria (both are cash only!)
- Dessert: Bi-Rite Creamery
- Grab a cocktail at Bond or test your mini golf skills at Urban Putt, a mini golf bar!
If you have extra time…
- Tartine Bakery
- Taylor Street Coffee–make sure to get the Millionaire’s Bacon!
- Mission Beach Cafe
- Garden Creamery
- Mitchell’s Ice Cream
- Catch a San Francisco Giants baseball game
- Explore the Marin Headlands and Sausalito
- Muir Woods–a 30 min-1 hr drive from downtown San Francisco.
- Palace of the Fine Arts
- Visit wineries in Napa Valley–a 1-2 hour drive from downtown San Francisco.
- Drive down the California coast–This can be up to 8 hours round trip of driving depending on how far you go. Stop in Santa Cruz, Monterey, Pebble Beach, Carmel, Big Sur, and McWay Falls. Read our blog about our day on the California coast here.
- Yosemite National Park–One of our favorite places in the world! It’s between 3.5-4.5 hours from San Francisco. We recommend hiking the Four Mile trail to Glacier Point and then do the Panorama trail to the Mist trail. It’s around 14 miles total and the most stunning hike we have ever been on! You can read all about our time at Yosemite here.
Heading to San Francisco?
Pin this 3 Days in San Francisco itinerary to help plan your trip!