- Don’t call it “San Fran”. It’s “SF” or “Frisco” for short.
- Very hilly. In most cases, if you go one more street down, you will miss ALL of the thigh-burning hills.
- Jump bikes! They scream tourist (locals hate them), but they are a great way to fight the hills and see more of the city. Log on to your Uber app. In the drop down menu, select “Bike”. Reserve a bike within walking distance of your current location. The app will give you a code to unlock the bike. The bike is electric which helps with the crazy hills in SF.
- Masks? If you are keeping up with the news at all, several parts in California have been severely impacted by wildfires. Before the rain came on our trip, we wore particle masks. After the rain, they seemed unnecessary, but it was definitely needed towards the beginning of our trip. The smoke also caused many businesses to stop their operations including the Alcatraz tour and Muir Woods which are some of SF’s must-sees.
Areas of town:
- The Castro. This is a fun, hipster neighborhood that celebrates all identities. Great places to eat and beautiful homes.
- The Mission. Similar to Castro, but more upscale.
- Haight (pronounced like “hate”). Butts up to the lovely, Golden Gate Park. Lots of indy and vintage shopping. People-watching is fun with lots of hippies and whiffs of marijuana.
- Chinatown and Little Italy. Self-explanatory. Mostly food found here.
- Embarcadero. Tourist central. Lots of piers with souvenir shops and restaurants. Along the water and linked to Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Building (other tourist spots with trinket shops).
Self-Guided Walking Tour of San Francisco via Practical Wanderlust (with a few edits):
- The Embarcadero
The tour begins at the Ferry Building. We walked here from our AirBnb in Castro via Market Street. Market street is full of fun coffee shops and breakfast spots. It is bustling with locals, which is fun to watch on a weekday. We stopped at the Market Square which is basically a grocery store/health food store surrounded by food vendors. They have a coffee shop with homemade kombucha and turmeric lattes (my fav), a sandwich shop with freshly cut meats, and a pizza shop. Its a hip vibe and extremely aesthetically pleasing if you are an insta foodie.
We were greeted at the Ferry Building with a farmers market (try the Korean pears)! After getting a few snacks, we headed into the building to find cute shops and yummy food offerings. It was early and we were satisfied with our pear, so we grabbed some souvenirs and headed to the dock in the back for a beautiful view.
Some local favorites in the Ferry Building Marketplace are: Cowgirl Creamery, Boccalone Salumeria, Humphrey Slocombe, Paramo Coffee, or Blue Bottle.
Turn right out of the Ferry Building heading along the water towards Fisherman’s Wharf. Some stops along the way include The Exploratorium (fun museum), Pier 39 (seals), and other great photo ops!
2. Fisherman’s Wharf
This is home to: Musée Méchanique (arcade), Boudin Bakery (sourdough factory), In-N-Out, and other iconic tourist attractions. You can also check out Ghiradelli Square and Buena Vista Cafe (home of Irish Coffee).
This was pretty underwhelming and overcrowded for our liking, but it’s worth a walkthrough.
3. Russian Hill
Walk up Hyde street (or ride the $5 cable car) until reaching Lombard Street! This is the famous curvy street you may recognize from a lot of movies.
The tour takes you next to Telegraph hill and Coit Tower. We saw it from a distance and decided that was enough (and we were hungry). So, we walked down Lombard Street and turned right onto Columbus Ave. This is home of Little Italy and The Beat Movement.
Once reaching the famous garlic restaurant called The Stinking Rose, we turned to head down Grant Ave to experience Chinatown! This is the largest Chinese community outside of Asia, and the oldest Chinatown in the United States. They have a Fortune Cookie Factory, too! We stopped at Rock Japanese Cuisine to grab some great (and cheap!!) sushi!
The rest of the tour takes you to Dragon’s Gate and Union Square. This is the financial district with lots of expensive stores such as Tiffany’s and Gucci, etc. We decided to hop on jump bikes instead. There were plenty to pick from throughout Chinatown.
We headed towards Crissy Field along Mason Street and the views did not disappoint!
This inspired us to bike the Golden Gate bridge, so we continued along Mason Street which takes you to the Golden Gate Bridge path for bikes. This was such a euphoric and magical experience, I forgot to take any pictures! We hung out at Vista point where there are other hikes to get better views of the city too if you have time.
After biking it back and forth, we continued along the dirt path through the Presidio along Lincoln Boulevard and El Camino del Mar to Lands End at Eagle Point. We parked our Jump Bikes and walked through Lands End a few miles to Sutro Baths where we saw the most beautiful sunset we have ever seen in our lives.
We walked along the Great Highway to the Dutch windmill at Golden Gate Park, where we called an Uber to take us back to Castro. We asked him to drop us off at Castro and Market Street where we people watched in order to choose a yummy restaurant.
We had an amazing Indian meal at Kasa! Highly recommend! I was so full of goodness afterwards!
Dolores Park. A green space full of colors and life. A great overlook of the city.
Tartine Bakery. Great pastries and coffee. Be ready to wait in line!
Yoga class at Yoga Tree. Lovely staff and beautiful space. They had a community class, which is just donation-based. It was only $13 (drop-ins are typically $23). Well worth an hour of your time!
Spike Coffee for vegan banana bread. Yum!!
This is the day that we headed off to Santa Cruz and Monterrey for the next week. If I were to fill the rest of this day, I would have visited Alcatraz, Muir Woods, and/or Sausalito (mentioned later in this post).
Jump bike to In-N-Out at Fisherman’s Wharf. Because it’s California, and us Easterners are deprived of its goodness. Order a double double with animal fries!
Jump bike across the city stopping at Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies, a beautiful set of buildings with amazing architecture and ornate colors.
Continued our Jump bike adventure to Golden Gate Park. This is a lively park full of bikers, scooters, walkers, athletics, and lounge-ers. Fun buildings are scattered throughout such as Bison Paddock, Stow Lake, and the Japanese Gardens. You could spend all day here! We watched a roller skate party!
We ended our loop of Golden Gate Park at Haight Street (Whole Foods is the marker that begins the Haight). Haight is full of unique shops such as music stores, vintage fashion, tarot readings, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
Parada 22 has great Puerto Rican food and is located in Haight district.
What we missed:
- Sausalito. Heard great things about this area, but because it was across the Golden Gate Bridge from SF, we decided not to go.
- Muir Woods. This was due to the smoke from the Camp Fire. All tours were closed.
- Alcatraz. This was due to the smoke from the Camp Fire. All tours were closed.
AirBnb in the Castro for 2 $250
Flight from ATL to SFO $500
Food, souvenirs, etc. $150