Updated: Jan 6
I confess the first thing that crossed my mind when thinking about San Francisco was the Golden Gate Bridge. It truly is iconic, and it's a pretty cool thing to be able to cross and see this postcard in real life. But San Fran has so much more to offer! Keep reading to learn about the attractions that make the Golden City one of the most visited places in the USA.
"Most people should be able to find something to connect with over there, because the city is certainly welcoming the new while trying as hard as possible to preserve its legacy."
Call me longing, but I come from a small town in Brazil which happens to have a cable car (believe it or not) and that felt nostalgic. I loved it. My great-grandfather was a cable car driver. It was special to me, it brought me memories from when I was 4 yrs old. That’s how I would describe San Francisco, as a city that is very, very special. Most people should be able to find something to connect with over there, because the city is certainly welcoming the new while trying as hard as possible to preserve its legacy.
A lot of diversity. It seems that the old town is trying to survive the tsunami that is the tech industry. There’s many new businesses popping up at every corner, which gives visitors a huge variety of options as to what to do, eat and see. It feels like the city is trying to keep up with such development. If you can, please support the local community. Progress is a good thing, but it does bring a lot of struggles for small business owners that have to compete with multi-million dollar corporations. Oh and you will need a sweater, no matter the season.
So, off to the good stuff. Here’s some of the places I was able to visit/see in San Francisco on one weekend. There’s much more to experience here, and hopefully I'll be back soon to check out more attractions:
It’s the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and one of San Francisco’s main attractions.
A maze of little streets and alleys filled with eateries, souvenir shops and karaoke bars that's well worth an afternoon of your time.
The iconic Dragon Gate (picture on the left) is located on Grant Av & Bush St.
This is the plaza of the famous heart sculpture "I left my Heart in Union Square", but there is a lot more to the blocks that make this the shopping and hotel district of downtown. Very walkable area in a city full of hills.
Cable car heads to Powell Street from here and this is also the place where the manual turnaround happens.
Cupid's Span is a 60-foot outdoor sculpture by artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, who happen to be married. Go for the skyline and bay views as well!
Location: Rincon Park - The Embarcadero & Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
“The crookedest street in the world”. It receives around 17 thousand visitors per day during the summer months!
The Powell-Hyde line stops at the top of the block on Hyde Street, allowing views of the street from up above. We walked the sideway all the way down, where I got the above picture, and we also drove down the street, so if you got a car during this trip, I recommend doing it, it's super fun!
Must see. Even if you don’t want to spend the $7 one way, at least check it out as the cable cars are a true part of San Francisco’s identity.
It’s the world's last manually operated cable car and certainly a vintage and fun way to see the city. Only 3 lines still run, and majority of users are tourists.
Golden Gate Bridge
One of the Wonders of the Modern World, the Golden Gate Bridge is considered a symbol of not only San Francisco, but also California and the United States. You can rent a bike and cross the bridge on your own, or you can drive from one side to the other, but make sure to park at one of the parks on each side to take in the views.
Here are my favorite stops to appreciate the beauty of the bridge: Chrissy Field, Vista Point, Battery Spencer, Kirby Cove (see below more details), Marshall’s Beach, Baker Beach and Fort Point.
Kirby Cove Beach
There’s a 1 mile long hiking to get to this beach. It’s a descent from Battery Spencer, and the Golden Gate views are arguably the best you can get on a clear day. Another plus, when you arrive at the beach, walk to your left towards the bridge and you will get to a secret swing!
Golden Gate Park
Fifth most visited park in the US. Their Conservatory of Flowers is one of the largest in the world and houses over 1700 types of plants.
Sutro Batha was a public salt water swimming pool complex, however, it burned down in 1966 and it remains in ruins. The place is beautiful and there are various photoshoots happening here every day, specially engagement/wedding.
Very busy tourist area. It offers beautiful views of the bay, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge (on clear days – this does not happen very often. San Francisco is known for the year-round fog).
Located at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf, this is another main attraction. It is a shopping center that offers many many restaurants, shops, street performances and arcade.
Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986, the Alcatraz Island and prison are open to tours, and it takes about 15 min on a ferry ride from Pier 33 to get there. I only took pictures from afar – from Pier 39.
It’s a public square with shops, bard and restaurants. Located where once was the Ghirardelli Chocolate factory at Fisherman’s Wharf.
I highly recommend visiting it, they give out many chocolate samples, there are tours available and the sundaes are just amazing!
With Love, Bella