San Francisco is neither the largest, nor the most exciting, and certainly not the most beautiful city in the United States. And yet there is hardly a person in the world who has never heard of her. We know San Francisco from movies, from books and from our favorite series. We sat on the sofa with the Tanners in “Full House”, cheered on “Mrs. Doubtfire” in the Pacific Heights neighborhood and held their breath as Godzilla destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge.
And indeed, the “Golden City” is as versatile as it is portrayed in the classics. The fact that it is also surrounded by some of the most beautiful outdoor spots in the USA is the icing on the San Francisco cake. Blogger Franzi shares some San Francisco insider tips with you.
What makes the hippie capital of San Francisco so unique
“If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair,” Scott McKenzie sang back in 1967. And indeed, the hippie capital has retained its relaxed flair to this day. In stark contrast to the often prudish rest of the United States, individuality and freedom of movement are very important in San Francisco.
This diversity is also reflected in the districts, which could not be more different. Art, culture and gastronomy are omnipresent here. In combination with the breathtaking nature that awaits right outside the doors of San Francisco, the city is definitely worth a visit.
Golden Gate Bridge: Explore the city’s landmark
The Golden Gate Bridge is the most famous sight in San Francisco and the symbol of the city. The 2737 meter long bridge was opened in 1937 after four years of construction. It spans the Golden Gate Strait and can be seen from almost anywhere.
The best way to explore the bright red Golden Gate Bridge is by bicycle, which visitors to San Francisco can rent at every corner. We cycle along the water over the bridge to the small neighboring town of Sausalito. The beautiful place is perfect for a visit to one of the cafés or a stroll along the sea.
Crissy Field East Beach offers a particularly great view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is also worth stopping just before the bridge at Battery Lancaster for a photo. Arriving on the other side, you get directly to the View Vista Point, which opens up the opposite perspective again.
Nature, culture and beaches in Golden Gate Park
On the way back to the city, a detour to Golden Gate Park is worthwhile , which at over 1000 hectares is one of the largest city parks in the world. Great hiking trails, lakes and gardens await everyone who needs a little break from the city. The rose garden and the Japanese Tea Garden are particularly beautiful.
If you want, you can also visit the MH de Young Museum (admission: $15, approx. 14 euros, for adults, as of: 2022) or the California Academy of Sciences (admission: $38, approx. 36 euros, for adults, as of: 2022) visit. Ocean Beach also borders Golden Gate Park. It is San Francisco’s largest urban beach.
Culinary insider tip
For decades, Java Beach Café has been serving locally sourced, home-cooked food on Ocean Beach. The various coffee specialties and the bagels and bowls for breakfast are particularly tasty.
Fisherman’s Wharf and the sea lions at Pier 39
Another centerpiece of San Francisco is Fisherman’s Wharf . Where there used to be only a boat dock, an entire district has developed over the decades. Both tourists and locals like to enjoy freshly caught fish by the water or watch the hustle and bustle from one of the many cafés. At Fisherman’s Wharf you can stroll from pier to pier along the shore, marvel at the colorfully painted houses and feast on an ice cream from the chocolate brand of the same name in the Ghirardelli Square shopping center (900 North Point St).
Only one of the piers is occupied, which you can probably hear and smell from afar. We are of course talking about the famous Pier 39, where countless sea lions relax in the sun every day. Although they smell a bit strong. But it’s fun to watch as they keep pushing each other off the planks to get the best seat themselves.
Culinary insider tips
Buena Vista Café : Tasty Irish coffee is served here. Breakfast is perfect in combination with French toast or Eggs Benedict. Those stopping by later in the day can sample San Francisco’s signature clam chowder (2765 Hyde St).
The Codmother Fish & Chips : Considered by many locals to be the best fish and chips in town (496 Beach St).
Fly non-stop with Lufthansa from Munich to San Francisco in 11.5 hours.
Neighborhoods for foodies: Chinatown and North Beach
In San Francisco it doesn’t get boring that quickly, because no district is like the other. An absolute must is, for example, the lively Chinatown, which you can enter through the Dragons Gate. It’s considered one of the oldest in the United States and has plenty of excellent, mostly cheap, restaurants. Here you can not only feast your way through Chinese cuisine. There are also Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean or Thai specialties.
Afterwards it is worth strolling through the traditional small shops where you can buy souvenirs for little money. A highlight is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (56 Ross Alley). Here you can not only stock up on a wide variety of fortune cookies, but also watch how they are made. Insider tip: Chinatown is one of the best spots for street art that San Francisco is world famous for.
Culinary insider tip in Chinatown
China Live is a real empire in San Francisco and operates a shop in addition to various locations. Dim sum lovers in particular will get their money’s worth here (644 Broadway).
North Beach: In the footsteps of the Beat Generation
Another hot San Francisco insider tip for foodies is North Beach – people here don’t like the term “Little Italy”. The neighborhood has been shaped by Italian immigrants, which you can tell from the traditional espresso bars and trattorias with red and white checkered tablecloths. Order a pizza at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana (1570 Stockton St), grab a drink at historic Bar Vesuvio (255 Columbus Ave), and browse the legendary bookstore City Lights (261 Columbus Ave), founded in 1953 by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti opened.
In the northern part of North Beach you get to Telegraph Hill. Here is the 64 meter high Coit Tower (open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., admission: $10, approx. 9.50 euros, for adults, as of: 2022), which offers you a great view over San Francisco and on the ocean offers. The interior is decorated with socially critical murals by 25 artists who were considered communist when it opened in 1934.
Food insider tips in North Beach
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana : As the name suggests, the Pizza Napoletana is particularly recommended here. The Margherita is limited to 73 pieces per day and winner of the “World Pizza Cup” in Naples (1570 Stockton St).
Vesuvio Cafe : The historic Vesuvio Cafe was a popular meeting place for Beat Generation artists and creatives in the 1950s. To this day, it remains a true San Francisco institution (255 Columbus Ave).
Hippy stronghold Haight Ashbury and the Painted Ladies
At the intersection of Ashbury Street and Haight Street is the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of the same name. Here, at the end of the 1960s, a completely new way of life, far removed from all bourgeois rules, emerged: the flower power movement. The flower children flocked to Haight Ashbury in their thousands in 1967 to take a step closer to their vision of a world without war and violence.
To this day, love is in the air in the district. Characterized by vintage shops, record shops and alternative cafés, visitors to Haight Ashbury are accompanied by the hippie attitude to life at every turn.
The district is made even more beautiful by the many colorful, well-preserved Victorian houses. If you want to see more of it, walk another quarter of an hour to Steiner Street. Here the famous Painted Ladies stand in rank and file, which were built in the 19th century.
The most beautiful excursion destinations at the gates of San Francisco
San Francisco is huge and incredibly diverse, so you can easily spend several days in the city. But it would still be a shame to ignore the breathtaking nature just outside the city gates. Therefore, here are a few insider tips for trips around San Francisco.
Muir Woods National Monument
Just 15 kilometers north of San Francisco is Muir Woods National Monument (open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., admission: $15, approx. 14 euros, for adults, as of 2022), founded in 1908 by President Theodor Roosevelt became. Here you can marvel at the last remaining specimens of the coast redwood in the region, which is considered the tallest tree species on earth and can grow up to 110 meters high.
Yosemite National Park
Perhaps the most beautiful national park in the United States is about three and a half hours from San Francisco. But the drive is worth it, because Yosemite National Park is a true natural wonder (open daily, admission: $35, approx. 33 euros, per car, as of: 2022). Highlights include Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Fall, and Verbal Fall. But the cliffs of El Capitan, the imposing Half Dome, Mirror Lake and the sequoias in Mariposa Grove are simply breathtaking.
Half Moon Bay and Mavericks Beach
Half Moon Bay is a city in San Mateo County, located about half an hour south of San Francisco. Here you will find some great beaches, of which Mavericks Beach is by far the most exciting. In the winter months, some of the biggest waves in the world are created here, which are regularly conquered by brave big wave surfers. Surfing competitions are also regularly held at Mavericks Beach.
Pistachio Beach and Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Another beautiful destination is an hour south of the “Golden City”. Pistachio Beach is a picturesque surf beach that invites you to take long walks – it is often too windy for swimming. Nearby is the beautiful Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which you can walk to from the beach.
17 Mile Drive and Carmel by the Sea
17 Mile Drive runs through a gated community for well-heeled Americans. As the name suggests, the route takes you along 17 miles of white beaches, fairytale forests, sheer cliffs and dramatic rock formations. On the way there are always seals, deer and waterfowl to be observed. 17 Mile Drive starts about two hours south of San Francisco. There is a road toll of $11.25 per car. However, this will be credited to you if you eat out in a restaurant on site.
Then it’s another fifteen minutes to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Little Carmel offers a sugar-sweet downtown with colorful shops, cafes, and restaurants. A breathtaking sunset awaits you on the beach.
Put a flower in your hair, we’re going to San Francisco!
Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe and many more: they all came to San Francisco and fell in love with the city. The “Golden City” simply has a very special vibe and you will feel it too when you walk through its streets. Just let San Francisco sink in and lose yourself in the neighborhoods of this extraordinary city. Your trip is guaranteed to be unforgettable.
One more San Francisco tip at the end: The city center can be wonderfully explored with the historic cable cars, which were the main means of transport in the city until the beginning of the 20th century. Today only three routes are preserved, an overview can be found here .
Away from the crowds – even more San Francisco insider tips
Last but not least, a few tips for anyone wanting to experience San Francisco off the beaten track. As in all American cities, the tourist rush can quickly be overwhelming – especially in summer and during the holiday season.
Stroll through Japantown
While most guidebooks rave about Chinatown and North Beach, Japantown is rarely mentioned. The historic district in the Western Addition has a lot to offer. For example Asian day spas with traditional hot pools (onsen), karaoke bars and great shopping opportunities. Those who like Japanese cuisine will be delighted by the sushi, ramen and shabu-shabu restaurants.
The Japan Center Malls (1737 Post St) are also worth a visit . There is not only very good Japanese food here, but also many shops with authentic products from Japan. If you want, you can fortify yourself with a matcha tiramisu or a mango-coconut bag in the Andersen Bakery after the shopping tour .
Just around the corner is the five story Peace Pagoda – also home to the annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival.
Ferry Building Marketplace
“Farmers Markets” are very popular in San Francisco. One of the finest takes place every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday until 2:00 p.m. in the Ferry Building at Pier 41. Here farmers and restaurateurs offer a wide range of organic products – including cheese, sweets, tapas and coffee specialties.
Only a few tourists get lost in the Mission District. Named after the Mission Dolores built in 1776, the Latino Quarter has long been a popular meeting place for San Francisco’s hipsters. The Mission District has great street art (especially on Balmy Street, 18th Street and Clarion Alley) and a great view of the skyline from Dolores Park. Another highlight are the salsa clubs with live music and the traditional taquerias.
Practical tips for a trip to San Francisco
- Is San Francisco beautiful ? Like most US cities, San Francisco has very nice corners, while others are pretty seedy. Nevertheless, San Francisco offers fantastic architecture and great views of the city and the ocean everywhere. The surrounding area, which is home to many state and national parks as well as fantastic beaches, is particularly beautiful.
- What must-sees in San Francisco? Some attractions are must-sees for any trip to San Francisco. These include the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf with Pier 39 and the districts of Chinatown and Haight Ashbury. Outside of town, don’t miss Yosemite National Park and Muir Woods National Monument.
- How many days should you stay in San Francisco? For San Francisco alone with its different districts, parks and beaches you should plan at least two, but better three full days. A week is the minimum if you also want to explore the surrounding area (Muir Woods National Monument, Yosemite National Park, etc.).
- When is the best time to travel to San Francisco? May, June and October are the best months to visit San Francisco. During this time, holidaymakers can look forward to little rain and many hours of sunshine. It also avoids the summer holidays, when prices are higher and accommodation is often fully booked.
- What is famous in San Francisco? San Francisco is particularly famous for the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, the former island prison Alcatraz and the cable cars. But the city is also world-renowned for its film locations, street art and unique hippie culture.
- What to do in San Francisco San Francisco is so diverse that it is guaranteed not to get boring. There are countless cultural sites, great beaches and a huge gastronomic scene. Another great way to explore San Francisco is by bike or on the famous cable cars. If you want, you can take a Segway tour through Golden Gate Park, a trip to the former island prison Alcatraz or a whale watching tour. Outside of the city, there are great state and national parks for all kinds of outdoor activities.
- What’s the best way to get around in San Francisco? The transportation network in San Francisco is well developed by US standards, so that a car is not necessary. Tickets are particularly easy to book with the MuniMobile app . A day pass costs $5 for adults (approx. 4.80 euros). Tip: If you would like to ride the historic cable cars more often, the 1-Day Visitor Passport is a good idea. Since a single tram ride costs $8 (approx. EUR 7.70), the day pass is relatively cheap at $13 (approx. EUR 12.50). The Visitor Passport can also be purchased for three or seven days.
follow us on