San Francisco, a city that feels close to anyone coming here, is located at the tip of a peninsula between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Coast. Many tourists who traveled here share the same comment that having not visited San Francisco is like not coming to America. Because this place is known as the most attractive city on the West Coast of America, there are many beauftiful places to visit. San Francisco is famous for its summer fog, Victorian architecture, cable car and stunning views. So, what to do and how to visit San Francisco? Let’s check out our San Francisco travel blog (San Francisco blog) with the fullest San Francisco travel guide (San Francisco guide) from how to get there, where to stay, top things to do, best places to visit … to clear the answer!
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San Francisco travel blog: Overview of San Francisco
San Francisco is the leading cultural and financial center of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, USA. This is one of the most visited cities in the world. According to historical records, the city of San Francisco dates back to 3000 BC. Currently, San Francisco has an area of about 121.4 square kilometers with approximately 900 thousand residents. San Francisco is famous for its cool, foggy in summer, steep hills, diversity in architecture and unique landscapes such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the old prison on Alcatraz Island or Chinatown …
People often say, “Only in San Francisco” has a reason for it. Well-known for its diverse culture, music and picturesque scenery, San Francisco is an inspiring city that attracts many visitors from all over the world to visit. Here you will see various mixed styles, from Hippie people to university students and other cultures (French, Spain, Asian, Latino…). San Francisco is one of the most exciting and great cities in America and it is also the most expensive city in America.
San Francisco travel guide: Is San Francisco traveling safe?
San Francisco is a dynamic but quite complicated city, and full of dangers like Los Angeles. Especially when we went to the subway station in downtown. OMG, this place is extremely messy because tourists are crowded and homeless people are no less crowded. As far as I know, there are nearly ten thousand homeless people in San Francisco, so you can meet them anywhere, especially downtown area. And you must be extremely careful when strangers come enthusiastically to guide the directions, like us, when we just got off the subway, they came and ask where to go and give directions, so I thought they helped us, but when we said thanks, they ask for money. Not to mention that some people ask for money, we did not give, then they were following and cursing. In this case, we also dare not say anything, just quietly go quickly and find ways to avoid crowded places like this.
San Francisco blog: When to visit?
San Francisco’s climatic character is reflected in writer Mark Twain’s quote “The coldest winter I have ever experienced is a summer in San Francisco”.
The city is endowed with a Mediterranean-like climate, characterized by mild, humid winters and warm, dry summers. Because its three sides are surrounded by sea, the climate of San Francisco that is strongly influenced by the cold ocean currents of the Pacific tends to be less different in terms of climate between the seasons.
The average temperature in summer: Highest: 70°F (21°C) and lowest 20°F (9°C). In winter, the highest temperature is 60°F (15°C) and the lowest temperature never reaches freezing. The combination of the cold seawater and the heat of continental California creates fog in the western half of the city in all day during the summer, with less fog in the east. There are about 160 clear days and 105 cloudy days a year.
The best time to visit San Francisco is spring or autumn (September to November). Coming here in the summer, you will experience exciting activities such as swimming, surfing, scuba diving … You should not travel to San Francisco in winter, although the cost may be cheaper but the inclement weather will interfere your trip.
San Francisco travel guide: How to get?
San Francisco International Airport (SFO), located 21 kilometers to the south of the city. Some airlines in Vietnam operating direct flights to San Francisco must be mentioned such as Vietnam Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Asiana Airlines …
- Hanoi – San Francisco (connecting flights) with fares ranging from $859.38 – $3,222.67. You can buy airline tickets such as Vietnam Airlines, American Airlines, ANA All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Asiana Airlines, Korean Air …
- Ho Chi Minh City – San Francisco (connecting flights) with the fares ranges from $730.69 – $3,440.97. You can buy tickets from some airlines such as: Philippine Airlines, American Airlines, ANA All Nippon Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Japan Airlines, EVA Airways …
How to get from San Jose to San Francisco?
From San Jose you can take a free bus to the train station to get to San Francisco. We take the Dash bus number 201. Note: only the bus with word “Dash” take you to the station, do not be confused with other buses.
Then from the station you can take the Caltrain’s train from San Jose to San Francisco costs $10.5 per person and takes about 1 hour 30 to 1 hour 45 minutes to arrive. This fare is valid for 4 hours, which means if you buy the ticket at 11AM, you have to take the train at that time until you get off the train at 3pm will expire, so during this time instead of going straight to San Francisco, you can get off at the mid-road stations to visit, such as stop by Redwood city, then catch the next train to continue going to San Francisco.
The ticket cannot be pre-purchased but must be purchased within the same day. That means you have to use it immediately. Every 30-45 minutes there will be 1 trip from San Jose to San Francisco.
From the Caltrain train station to the hotel, you have many options. If you have abundant time like us, you can take the bus, train, high-speed train, subway … But before take public transport to your hotel, you have to walk across the street, the opposite side Caltrain train station to catch N train.
Note: If you do not see the security guard to ask, you should try to find them, do not ask the stranger lest you get in trouble. This is also the advice of the guard I asked, she wrote the instructions very detailed on a paper, I went straight to my hotel just thanks to her guide without asking anyone else.
Getting from downtown San Francisco to the airport
To getting from the city center to the airport you can choose shuttle that pick you up at the hotel for 15 USD or take the train to the airport like us. Or go by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train, every 15 minutes with a trip, travel time to get to the airport about 30 minutes. Tickets can be purchased from BART vending ticket machines at subway stations, with a one-way fare of $9.65. After that, you will go to SFO by take the yellow train line, the last station is the airport so you can rest assured.
Check-in at the airport is also quite takes time, although the notice board opening check-in time was from 6am, so we queued long, but until 6:30am, the staff shows up and they finished pretty soon, so it’s best if you come 3 hours before flight time for the long-haul flight.
San Francisco guide: Public transportation in San Francisco
The public transport in San Francisco is quite developed, giving you many choices in moving from one street to another. You can choose public transport: F-Street Cars, Trains, Buses, Streetcars, Cable cars… in which, bus and cable car are the two most used means in this beautiful city.
You should buy MUNI tickets to use all public transport (except iconic cable cars). It covers 30 bus routes as well as subway services to all corners of the city. Ticket price: $1.5 / adult, children under 5 years old are free, and valid within 2 hours.
If you travel a lot, you should choose MUNI Passport, you can travel for free unlimited, applicable to all buses, street cars and cable car with its prices: $11 for 1 day passport, 18$ for 3 days, 24$ for 7 days. If you have any question, you can contact: +1 (1) 415 – 673 – MUNI or +1 (1) 415 – 673 – 6864.
The route starts from Castro Street and Market Street to Jones Street and Beach Street. The car runs from 6 am to midnight. Ticket price: $1.5/person/trip. For this type of vehicle you can also use the MUNI Passport.
This is a popular means of transportation in San Francisco, BART is The heavy rail elevated and subway system connects San Francisco with the East Bay, Oakland and surburbs. BART only runs until midnight. In the city center, BART trains run underground along Market Street. Contact phone number: +1 (1) 510 – 465 – 2278.
Serving route from San Francisco to Marin County and parts of Sonoma. Ferries depart from a wharf located at the end of Market Street to Larkspur and Sausalito. For more information call: +1 (1) 415 – 455 – 2000.
There are 3 routes running from 6:30 am to midnight. Ticket price: $5 / person (from 7AM – 9PM) and $1 for the rest of the day. There are two popular cable car routes:
- The Powell – Hyde (Line 60) runs from a terminal at Powell Street and Market Street, through Nob Hill and Russian Hill, to Hyde Street and Beach Street at Fisherman’s Wharf. See details here.
- The Powell – Mason (Line 59) also departs from a terminal at Powell Street and Market Street, via Nob Hill to North Beach to the Bay and Taylor at Fisherman’s Wharf. See details here.
San Francisco travel blog: Best places to visit and top things to do
From the downtown you can easily take the bus or other means to all the attractions in San Francisco.
This is an experience that no one definitely wants to miss when traveling to San Francisco, as these cable cars cover all routes of the city, and pass through many tourist attractions or beautiful landscapes with up and down slopes are very romantic. In downtown, I chose to take the cable car on the Powell-Mason Line 59, in near Powell Street and Market Street in downtown. If you could, you should wake up early to catch the trip at 7 a.m., even though we arrived at 7 a.m., but when we got there had to line up for an hour before our turn, during rush hours you might have to wait up to 3 hours. Of course, to take beautiful pictures and videos, you should enlist early to get the best seats in front.
Cable car ticket price: $7/trip or a one-day ticket is 20 USD.
Tips: You just sit and head to the Fisherman’s Wharf stop, not get off at the middle of the road, because it will be difficult to get on the next ones because they are always full. When you reach the last stop or choose to stop at Lombard Street, you can head up to explore this most beautiful, winding road.
Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, and Ghirardelli Square
This is an area covered with many rocks along the riverbank and is one of the most visited places in San Francisco. There are quite a few street art performers here, souvenir shops, and many upscale restaurants. This is an attractive place to visit and explore but do not eat here, the food is too expensive and not delicious.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a good place for anyone who likes to eat seafood but the price is quite high, as far as I remember 1/2 lobster costs up to $25, excluding taxes, a portion of fish and chips is $17. There is also a sour bread with clam chowder that costs more than $8 per/portion. You can try the delicious fresh seafood in San Francisco, I really like to eat it at Waterbar and Anchor Oyster Bar.
Mechanical Museum: In Fisherman’s Wharf, there is also a museum of old games / equipment for you to visit and can be played for 25 cents or more per game.
Then we headed towards Pier 39, which is the busiest piers in the San Francisco, and there is also selling fresh fruit of farmers (this place is also known as the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market). I bought 2 oranges, 2 peaches, 12 strawberries, 4 figs for expensive price of $32, so to buy cheap fruit, you just go to Chinatown. For example, I paid $7 for 2 oranges at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, but the previous day I bought it in Chinatown for only 82 cents.
Ferry tickets to gettingn around the bay are also available at Pier 39 to visit San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz Prison with traveling time on board is 1-2 hours.
Mission District is the perfect place to visit at night. After a busy day of visiting, let come and relax in Dolores Park and enjoy stunning views of the city, tasting Mexican food, and relax at vibrant bars, clubs and food court.
Golden Gate Bridge
The very famous symbol all over the world of San Francisco. To get to the Golden Gate Bridge, we took the blue tram from Pier 39 towards Fisherman’s Wharf. Then continue to took the red bus No. 28, this is the easiest route to go because the bus only stops at the Golden gate bridge. To the last stop you just step down to visit. You should come here in the afternoon to be able to see the bridge in the beauty of the day and in the evening, each time has its own beauty.
Note: The wind here is very strong and with the addition of sea smoke from the sea, so remember to bring your jacket to keep warm.
Golden Gate Park
You also should spend a day to explore Golden Gate Park, visit Rose Garden, Japanese tea garden, De Young museum, and many trekking, hiking trails… MUNI bus number 28 with the last stop is Road 19 will stop at Park Presidio Boulevard and Fulton street, from here you walk through Rose Garden and turn left at John F. Kennedy Drive to get to the De Young museum.
With a length of 3 miles stretching about 30 blocks (units of measure) towards the sea, this park is 20% larger than New York Central Park. If you walk through the park it will take about half a day.
The Palace Of Fine Arts
This Roman-style art palace is a remnant of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. This is one of the most photographed spots in San Francisco.
Address: 3601 Lyon St, San Francisco, CA 94123, United States
Hours: 10AM–5PM/Monday: Closed
Besides Chinatown in New York, this is the famous and largest Chinatown in America. The first Chinese immigrants arrived on the west coast and opened stores in San Francisco. Because of the racial segregation, this neighborhood has become an all-Chinese neighborhood, and even though the racism had been abolished, the area is still only Chinese. Chinatown is a great place to enjoy Chinese food. There are also teahouses, bars, souvenir shops, and cookies. Well, on Stockton Street there is a lot of food and fruit.
You can take bus number 30 to get to Chinatown. To get back to downtown and end the day in San Francisco, you can take bus 30 to Powell Street.
Take a ferry around the Bay
Let take a ferry and cruising around the bay in the afternoon to see the city from the water. You will take a lot of beautiful photos, learn more information about the bay or wildlife and river life. There are many tourist businesses here, but the economical way to visit the harbor is to use a public ferry for about 7 USD. You can refer to the prices and routes in advance on the website of the ferries.
Castro is a gay area in San Francisco and a great place to go out at night. This area has a number of ethnic and modern restaurants that serve quite famous organic food.
Haight Ashbury District
As the birthplace of the anti-cultural movement in America, Haight became a vacant lot during the summer of 1967, also known as the Summer of Love. The Hippies used to live here, but since the young people moved in, they bought all the colorful houses in Haight-Ashbury and replaced the old shops into upscale and most modern boutiques, restaurants and cafes.
Is the tallest skyscraper in San Francisco. Located in the heart of the financial district, another famous landmark of San Francisco apart from Golden Gate Bridge.
When riding a cable car, you definitely will recognize Lombard Street and find it the most winding road in the world. Watching cars and bicycles alternately move through the zigzag-shaped road is also a pretty enjoyable experience.
One more landmark of the city is the Coit Tower, located at the top of the Telegraph hill. Built in 1933 with the main purpose to adorn the city, Coit tower walls are painted by 27 paintings by contemporary artists. From the top of the tower, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city (ticket to the top of the tower is 8 USD). If you do not want to spend money for the ticket, you can also explore the grandeur of the monuments and paintings painted on the walls.
This is an old federal prison on Alcatraz Island, where the most serious criminal inmates in America are held. The prison closed in 1970 and became a national monument where everyone can visit. There is no fee to visit the island, but you have to pay to take a boat to get there. I recommend you take a tour, go to meet the site manager for more interesting information about this island. You should book a ferry early to reach the island if you travel in the summer because this season is quite crowded (Daytime ticket is $36 USD, night is $43).
If you walk along the harbor towards the center of town, you will find a park with stretch of beach and restaurants, fishing docks and discus play areas, locals jogging, dog walking, or lying on the beach. Here you also get a panoramic view of the harbor.
Quite close to the city center, Napa and Sonoma are world-famous as wine lands, if you like wine and have time, give it a try. There are many day trips to the Napa valley, but you should try to stay and explore one night here, which is very enjoyable.
Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods is the closest area to San Francisco where you can see the giant maple trees. You won’t find large conifer trees here (only available in Sequoia National Park but quite far away). However, if you want to explore the green areas near the center then this is a great suggestion.
Just cross the Bay Bridge from San Francisco (about 5 minutes drive) to reach Oakland. With its own history and culture (including arts, music, festivals, food, and sports teams), Oakland is famous for its hippie and bars and specialty restaurants. You will explore many things if you stay here for a day or two.
Across the bay and near Oakland is the exciting city of Berkeley: Home to music, hippies, students, and left-wing college of Berkeley. There are many vegetarian restaurants, street art performances, and eclectic shops (including jewelry shops and other street items).
San Francisco blog: What to eat?
One of the most legendary foods in San Francisco is Dungeness crab. You can go to Crab House at Pier 39 to enjoy the best Dungeness crab in the city.
Pizza is a famous dish of San Francisco people. You can easily buy pizzas in the food stores of the city.
San Francisco is widely known for its international culinary culture. And Thai food is no exception. The city has many restaurants for you to enjoy great Thai curries and delicious pad Thai.
Ghirardelli Ice Cream
The ice cream here is extremely delicious, guys. At Ghirardelli, remember to order Banana Split to try (this dish here is also called the Golden Gate). If you go with two of you, you should only order one part is enough, because they also promote two more chocolate ice cream. In addition to ice cream, Ghiraredelli is also famous for its chocolate, also yummy.
Address: 2 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105, United States
Dining at Ferry Building
Ferry building is one of the top culinary paradise worth trying in San Francisco. There are usually lots of food and drink stalls outside the building, and a farmer’s market on weekends. Inside the building, you will find a restaurant or a food court that sells local dishes, as well as cheese stalls, wine bar, and more.
Address: 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111, United States
Relax with alcohol drinks
After all the exploration trips, you should not miss the moment enjoying the great taste of beer at regional breweries. There are also many bars and beer clubs in the center. Mission and Castro neighborhoods are two of the best nightlife venues.
There are delicious sushi here, popular with Japanese and Korean food. Shabu Sen restaurant has delicious ramen you should not miss!
Note: Food costs in the US are quite expensive. A normal meal (for example in Mc’s Donald) costs about $5 – $10, but if you eat in other restaurants, in addition to the cost of the meal, you have to tip 5 – 10% because this is American culture. In short, if you eat out, you will likely spend 50 – 100 USD for food every day!
San Francisco travel guide: Shopping
Shopping in San Francisco is very convenient. Nordstrom Rack (Address: 901 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103, United States) has a lot of discounted brand items, from a few tens to thousands of dollars per each. Macy’s (Men and Women) right in the city center, near Union Square filled with clothes and cosmetics, the price isn’t too expensive either. Bloomingdale’s on Market Street are just as plentiful, but there may be more premium brands with higher of prices compare with Macy’s. In addition, on Market Street, there are various stores of clothing, shoes, accessories, supplements.
You can also buy essential items at Target on Mission Street, with the symbol of a red-white circle-shaped with red dot at center, exactly like the meaning of the its name (target). For electronics, Best Buy is a true paradise, at 13th Street and Harrison Street, take the bus number 49 to street 14th Street and walk down to 13th Street to come. There are also iPhone, iPad, smartphone, laptop, all kinds of accessories for electronics, cameras … However, the price is not very cheap. After buying, if you don’t like, it can be returned, but it seems like no more than 3 times. In general, the culture in America is that after you buy, and do not like, let keep the label, the invoice, easy to return, get refund to your credit card or in cash. That’s why I told you will crazy with shopping.
If you want to buy medicine and supplements, you should go to Costco (Address: 450 10th St, San Francisco, CA 94103, United States), waiting for their promotions. For clothing, shoes and bags are the easiest to buy at outlets, otherwise wait every month in 1 or 2 days, the shopping malls will have discount programs, tourists are normally given a voucher of 10% discount, you remember to go upstairs of Macy’s and Bloomingdale and ask Customer Service, show your passport and receive the voucher.
City Lights Bookstore (Address: 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133, United States) still owned by the talented poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti is also worth a tour and chooses to buy some of the best books for your favorite genre.
Some souvenirs you should buy for loved ones are: San Francisco Pictures, Keychains, Postcards, Golden Gate Bridge model, T-shirts, or paintings, Ghirardelli Chocolate, Canned Fog, Napa and Sonoma Wine.
San Francisco travel blog: Where to stay?
Below we recommend more best cheap, budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Staypineapple, An Elegant Hotel, Union Square, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $149/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Fairmont San Francisco, a top rated 5-star hotel with room rates from $325/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Club Quarters Hotel in San Francisco, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $99/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- San Francisco Marriott Marquis, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $159/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Grand Hyatt San Francisco Union Square, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $159/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
San Francisco travel blog: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to San Francisco you can refer to
- San Francisco Grand City Tour (with Optional Muir Woods and Sausalito Combo Tour)
- Go San Francisco – All Inclusive Pass
- San Francisco CityPASS
- San Francisco Mega Pass
- Go San Francisco – Explorer Pass
- San Francisco City Tour & Golden Gate Bay Cruise
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Ticket
- Golden Gate Bay Cruise
Are you looking for more top things to do in San Francisco: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out here. And San Francisco itinerary 3 days — What to do in San Francisco in 3 days & How to spend 3 days in San Francisco?