After LA, Vegas, Death Valley and Yosemite, it was time to drive onward to San Francisco. I had heard so much about San Fran I couldn’t wait to arrive, especially after a few days in the wild I was looking forward to being in a city again.
We only had 3 days and we wanted to make the most of it. So in such a big city and so much to see/do, what should be on your to-do-list..? If, like us, you are planning on visiting but only have a limited amount of time, here are my top recommendations…
Where to stay
We stayed in Pacific Heights, after doing a little research this sounded like the perfect place for us as we had a car. Parking can be extremely expensive in San Fran so if you have a car you need to find either a hotel with free and secure parking or an Airbnb in a safe area. Pacific Heights area was a great location with plenty of nice bars and restaurants close by. It also felt safe with most people living in the area being young professionals or families.
There are other areas like Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf and Mission District which all have their own character and charm. If you want to be in the middle of it all and close to the nightlife then Mission is for you. Union Square is a great central location, bordering China Town, Nob Hill and Financial District, so you get a good mix of people here.
What to see
If any of you are fans of the film ‘The Rock’ then I am sure Alcatraz is on your list. Even if you somehow haven’t seen or heard of The Rock before, then Alcatraz prison should still be on your list. Once a high security prison off the mainland of San Fransisco, it is now open to the public for tours operating from Pier 33. Prebook before you arrive as the tours get booked up quite quickly.
Pier 39 is bustling and teeming with charm, scenic views, sea-lion sightings, eateries, shops & entertainment. Perfect for an afternoon stroll and something to eat.
Lombard Street, also known as the most crooked street the world, is one of the most famous streets in San Fran, with several hairpin turns down a steep hill. One thing you’ll notice about San Fran is that every road it straight, so this street really stands out. My advise to you would be go early in the morning, it gets quite busy later in the day.
Back to films again, how can you visit this city without seeing Mrs Doubtfires house! This was and still kinda is one of my favourite films ever. It turned out we were actually staying on the same street as this house which I got a little excited about! If you want to find this charming house and reminisce about your childhood a little then you can find it along Steiner Street.
Also along Steiner Street you have the famous Painted Ladies. This row of beautiful pastel houses are know for their well kept Victorian features against the dramatic backdrop of the new downtown skyscrapers. Some serious house porn for you in San Fran!
It goes without saying really that you need to see the Golden Gate Bridge. The best way to see this amazing bridge that stretches across the bay, is either to drive or cycle across it. Once your across you’ll want to stop off at every single vista point and I’d encourage you to. Up in the hills you’ll get an amazing view of San Fran and the bridge.
One you are across you have to visit Sausalito for some frozen yoghurt and a pleasant stroll.
If you’re visiting in summer then there are also several lovely beaches you can spend an afternoon at. We went to Crissy fields beach to chill out for the afternoon.
Where to eat/drink
It turns out San Fran has plenty of my favourite restaurants – Italians! SPQR was recommended to us by our AirBnB host and I’m so glad she did. It is a lovely little Italian restaurant which has some yummy twists on classic Italian dishes. Perfect for an intimate dinner with candlelit tables or cosy seats at the bar. Another great spot for dinner was Pizzeria Delfina again in the Pacific heights area. I noticed that most of the nicer places to eat were a little further out of the centre.
If you are a fan of craft beer then you won’t be short of choices in San Fran either. The first pub we visited was called Toronado. If you are looking for a Sons of Anarchy vibe then this is your place, a little intimidating at first but worth it for a nice beer. We also went to Mikkeller’s bar for drinks which is more of a mainstream bar. Less intimidating but arguably has less character, good for a drink either way.
We found Jane on Filmore for breakfast which was a busy little cafe round the corner from our AirBnB. It was a great place to grab breakfast and fuel up for the day. It did the best matcha latte I’ve ever had and great healthy breakfast choices – avo on toast or chia bowls all the way.
If you are up for something a little different in the evening then I can highly recommend checking out Urban Putt mini golf in Mission. Cocktails and mini golf make a surprisingly good combo. Me and Tom went and had the best time.
After a busy 3 days it was time to drive onwards to the last leg of our journey – Highway 1. San Francisco was amazing and it feels like we only scratched the surface but everything that we did was so good. I’d definitely go back to explore more of this lovely city, who has had their own adventure in San Fran?