San Francisco is a glorious city.
I’ve had it on my bucket list for years, and I’ve been lucky enough to cross it off recently!
I visited San Francisco for 5 days in May. It was enough time to give me a great taste of what the city is all about, and to check out most of the usual toursity things to do in San Francisco.
I’ll have a blog post about that shortly.
But for now, I want to share a list of my favorite 10 things about San Francisco.
10 Things You’ll Love About San Francisco
1. San Francisco is BIG on food. Lots and lots of food
I don’t think you can walk more than a few minutes without seeing a place to dine or drink.
As I toured around San Francisco, I was amazed at all the places I could eat at every corner of every block.
Even the most random neighborhoods had food joints in areas you’d think would be reserved for something else.
I ended up eating a lot of Thai food during my trip, because my hotel was right across a Thai restaurant called The Old Siam. The food was just like I had in Thailand and the prices were really good ($8-$11 per dish).
Whatever food we felt like, we could walk around and find it pretty quickly.
If you LOVE food (like who doesn’t!), you’ll love the amount of restaurants and the variety of restaurants and food joints all over San Francisco.
2. San Francisco is a walking and biking city
I love cities where I can walk just about anywhere.
San Francisco is one of those cities that will keep you in shape. Almost all the major touristy things to do are walkable.
You may not want to walk to every single destination, but you always have that choice.
The only thing that isn’t too close is the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a far walk from Union Square (center of San Francisco).
I suggest renting a bike around Fisherman’s Wharf and biking to the bridge, and then across it.
Or take a Big Bus Tour. They of course will drive you across the bridge. There is a stop right after the bridge where you can take incredible photos of the bridge.
You can also hike around the area to get different looks of the bridge. Great for photos as well.
Other than that, you can walk or bike everywhere.
I spent my 5 days mixed between a Big Bus Tour (to get me around and show me where all the main stuff was), riding a bike around the city, and walking all over the place. This combination was a great way for me to see a lot of the city.
3. San Francisco is visually beautiful and unique
There are very few places that have the charm and beauty San Francisco has.
The homes and buildings here are one of a kind. Walking around and gawking at colorful homes built in old Victorian fashion is something I really missed when I got back home.
San Francisco is also a very hilly city. Hilly places make for excellent views whether you’re at the top or bottom.
There are SO many places to get amazing views of this city. A lot of times I just stumbled onto scenic places just by wandering around and checking out popular things to do.
But I also found a lot of random unique things to look at roaming around.
Isn’t it a stunner?
You’ll find a bunch of picturesque locations as you check out this city. don’t forget your camera in your room!
4. San Francisco has many free things to do
San Francisco is an expensive city. I think only NYC is more expensive.
And with any tourist city, you have to pay for literally everything. San Francisco’s biggest economic driver is tourism. So yea, they know how to many money from their visitors.
Fortunately though, San Francisco is many things to do that are free.
This city is kind of like an outdoor museum. There are a lot of places to walk around and chill out in for free.
You have to pay to go into museums or go to Alcatraz, but you can see these things from the outside, take a few photos, and enjoy the vibe around these areas.
Here is a few extremely popular tourist destinations in San Francisco that are free to do:
- Visit Union Square – Union Square is pretty much the center of San Francisco as far as being a tourist is concerned. It’s the center of where many hotels are located. It’s close to the BART (subway). Many people begin their Big Bus Tour from here (because lots of people stay here), and this location is the meeting point for all of the free walking tours I looked at. Most of San Francisco’s hotels are located in and around Union Square. You’ll also find popular retailers like Macy’s and the Apple Store here as well. The square itself is like a chill area I guess. I didn’t spend much time here (only waited for my Big Bus Tour while here). But I walked passed Union Square a LOT and it’s worth a visit (almost unavoidable actually haha!).
- Visit Golden Gate Bridge – The number 1 tourist attraction in San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge. And for good reason! It costs money to drive across it (have to pay a toll). But to walk across it, bike across it, or take a Big Bus across it, you don’t have to pay a toll. 100% absolute must visit touristy thing to do. If you go to San Francisco and don’t visit the bridge, I don’t know what’s wrong with you!
There’s a ton to see and do around the Golden Gate Bridge. Like private sailing tours, Segway tours, biking tours, etc. Click here to check some out.
- Walk around Fishermans Wharf – Fishermans Wharf is a stretch of land right beside the shoreline. You’ll find lots of seafood restaurants here, lots of tourists, families, school kids on a day trip, and other touristy businesses like Ripley’s Believe it or not. Also a must check out thing to do while in San Francisco.
- Walk through Haight-Ashbury District – This district used to be the hippy central of San Francisco. It still is, without the drugs (maybe) and Summer of 67. Today, it still has that hippy and alternative vibe. It has hipster shops selling alternative things as well as modern stores selling non-hipster stuff. It’s a little bit out of the way from other things and you’d go here specifically for this. I think it’s pretty cool. The Big Bus Tour goes through here as well.
- Visit Pier 39 – The second most popular thing to do in San Francisco is visit Pier 39. Pier 39 is located in Fishermans Wharf. It’s a pier that has a lot of food places, stores, and things to see and do. Basically, think of it like a little Disneyland without the rides. 100% you need to visit Pier 39 when you’re in San Francisco.
- Walk through Chinatown – One of the best (maybe the best) Chinatown in all of the United States. Just think of the coolest street you’ve ever been on in Chinatown, and multiple that by like 15. That’s Chinatown San Francisco. You can buy groceries here and eat cheap asian foods (there are more than just Chinese restaurants here). Chinatown is a great place to roam around, take photos, and get something to eat.
- Walk Lombard Street – The most winding street in the world is Lombard Street. Many people line up just to drive down it. You can walk up or down it easily. It’s not a big street and there are stairs. Much easier than walking up Nob Hill for example!
5. San Francisco has many events going on year round
If you have time to do stuff that is outside of the usual tourist things, San Francisco is a great place for it.
San Fran is very multi-cultural and “accepting” of different people and beliefs.
So naturally, the arts and entertainment variety might be better than what you typically get at home.
There’s always things going on in San Francisco. I guess that’s just the bottom line.
So if you’re looking for something to do in the evening after a day of sightseeing, check out what’s going on locally in San Francisco.
6. San Francisco people are super nice and friendly
The people here are some of the friendliest’s I’ve met.
I like to interact a lot with the locals and I usually do that by asking random people on the street for directions or recommendations.
EVERYONE was very willing to help me.
It’s like they love their city and want to make sure I have a good time here.
It felt very pleasant to be a tourist here because the people are so nice.
7. San Francisco has a lot of transportation options
So walking is the main way you’ll get around here.
But of course, you may not want to walk all the time because you’re short on time or lazy or your feet hurt.
San Francisco is actually not a very big city. I believe it’s only 49 square miles big. With that said, there’s always traffic it sees, so it will like still take time to get anywhere.
Having said that, you have a lot of transportation options:
- Cable car – The cable car is the most touristy way to get around San Francisco. And yes you need to take a cable car because it’s just the cool thing to do here! There are only just a few routes that run now (there used to be a lot back in the day). But I recommend taking one from the beginning of Powell station (near Union Square) and going all the way to Fishermans Wharf. Takes about 30 minutes and it’s the most scenic ride (get your moneys worth!)
- Bus – There are busses and cable busses. I was surprised at how late they ran too. I saw some at like 2 or 3 in the morning. There didn’t seem to be a lot of busses but I’m sure they run the popular routes and are easily accessible
- Big Bus – I always take a Big Bus tour in a city that provides it. First of all, I just like being on double decker busses. And secondly I like getting an “overall” feel of a city the first day or two, so then I can really dig into areas and tourist things to do in more detail once I know where things are. Big Bus tours helps me do that the easiest. If you don’t know how Big Bus tours work, they take you around the main attractions in a city, and you can hop on and hop off any time. You can buy a one day or two day pass for unlimited rides
- Uber/Taxi – Still a great way to get around the city is by car. If you need to get any where the quickest or to a specific location, Uber is the best way to go. Use the app on your phone and you’re good!
- BART – The BART is a subway system connecting metropolitan areas in the Bay Area. It runs through San Francisco (of course) and will help you get to further parts of San Francisco, as well as other cities like San Jose and Oakland. You’ll likely take the BART during your stay here, since some things are a bit further (like partying on Mission or going to a Warriors game)
8. There are a lot of weird people, but in a good way
I’ve been to many places, but there’s no city like San Francisco.
They have the most “different” people I’ve seen in any city I’ve been to.
I saw lots of dudes dressed as women. Overtly too.
The fashion here is all over the place. People dress in all kinds of weird clothing to express themselves. There’s basically no dress code when you go out at night.
There are also a lot of crazies and homeless people too. I didn’t enjoy this part of San Francisco, but non the less, they add to all that is about San Francisco.
I think the biggest takeaway from this is that it helped me “grow up” a little. It reminded me that not everybody/everything in the world is like how it is back home.
I actually came home feeling a little more liberated. And more willing to express and show the different sides of me that I hide away to “fit in” the mould of environments I’m accustomed to.
So yea! More than just a city with touristy things to do, that’s for sure.
9. Lots of parks for chilling and getting away
As busy as San Francisco is, they have a lot of GREAT parks (they’re free!)
The biggest and best park is the Golden Gate Park. It’s just huge and glorious.
You also have Alamo Square Park (where the painted ladies are), Dolores Park, Crissy Fields, and Ocean Beach.
There’s more. But these are the biggies.
I really recommend renting a bike to get to these parks. Then you can picnic and ride around the parks. Relax here. Take photos. And enjoy some chill out time, while still checking an item off the toursity thing to do list.
10. Nearby major cities just 30 minutes away
Living in Canada, the next closest major city is usually hours away (at best).
But in San Francisco, you have MANY cities nearby.
And you can reach them with ONE ride on the BART too.
There are smaller metropolitan areas all around to check out.
But the MAJOR cities are Oakland and San Jose. Both are reachable in like 30-40 minutes on the BART.
I would love to live in this area for that. You have another city to explore and have fun in just a short ride away.
These other cities have major sports teams (along with what San Francisco has), and their own events going on. There’s literally an unlimited amount of things to do.
If you’re spending more than a week here, you could spend some time in a nearby city, especially if there’s something major going on, like a Warriors game in Oakland!
Where I stayed in San Francisco
I always stay central in any city I’m visiting.
This the most important thing for me when deciding where to stay, because it helps me get around most easily (and usually makes getting around cheaper too).
I stayed in Parc55 Hotel, a property by Hilton.
It was about $189 a night for a 30th floor room (paid more for a high floor). We had two double beds in this room.
The location was PERFECT. It was about 2 blocks away from Union Square, and close to Market Street (where the BART subway is located). It’s also really close to the Cable Car start point at Powell Street, the tourist information center, LOTS of shopping, Big Bus location, and food locations.
So again, the location of Parc55 was a 10/10. There are many other hotels in this area too. I would 100% stay around this area again.
The hotel itself was great. It’s everything I expected from a $200/night room. I definitely recommend Parc55.
Leave me a comment
Hey you! Have you been to San Francisco? What do you love about it?
Or of you just have a comment about this blog post or San Francisco in general, let me know in the comment box below. I love hearing from people who read my blog posts!