Saturday, 7 July 2018

A Guide to San Francisco

During our time in San Francisco we learned and discovered a lot about the city and the best ways to see the sights. I have put together some helpful tips for you guys and divided them into different categories. 


I didn't arrive at the airport,because San Francisco was our last stop on the road trip. SFO airport is very big with different terminals. I obviously left from the international one. It's quite big, but spreads evenly and doesn't seem big. There are shopping possibilities, but not very fancy. There was a great Sushi place and also a Joe and the Juice right by my gate. I took a taxi to the airport, Uber is always a possibility as well and also the train/underground. Of course there are also other airports around SF, like OAK or SJC. 


I guess for most people the taxis are quite expensive, for a Swiss person like me it's not. The taxi to the airport was $55. Uber is always a possibility too, especially when you're in a group. I made some bad experiences with the drivers there and I'm more of a taxi person anyway. You don't really need taxis or Ubers in San Fran though, which leads me to the next point. 

Public transport

The bus and metro system in San Francisco is called Muni. It's great and you basically can get anywhere. There are also the cable cars and street cars. The F-Line runs up and down Market Street to Fisherman's Wharf. You can easily get to a lot of places using that line, by either walking afterwards or taking a bus, it's so easy. A single ride is $2.75 and it's valid for 90 minutes, also when you change lines. The cable cars run from the water into downtown. A single ride is $7 and it's totally worth it. Muni line 21 is great, it takes you via Alamo Square, all the way to Golden Gate Park. There is also BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). 


Tours in general are always a question in a new city. I actually like discovering a city first in a hop on hop off bus tour. I didn't do that in San Francisco, because we had our Contiki City tour, which was perfect. I probably would have done a Hop on Hop Off tour, it's the best way to see all the important sights and you get a great overview. There are lots of fab walking tours or food tours you can do in this city. For tours outside the city, I book with GrayLine and I was very happy with them . I did tours to Muir Woods, Monterey ad Carmel and I loved them. The have great guides and they are also the driver. I wouldn't book with extranomical, because they cancelled my tour one day before ad didn't offer me anything else. I had to call them several times, which was annoying and expensive. Of course you can also hire your own car and do day trips. One I would recommend as well, if you don't have that much time: Yosemite National Park, it's amazing!!! Bike tours are also very popular in San Fran, especially of Golden Gate bridge. 


Hotels in San Francisco are very expensive! Also airbnbs. I wanted to stay in the centre, because you can can anywhere very easily, but it costs a lot. I guess you could book a hostel, but that's not my thing. I stayed at the Villa Florence, right by Union Square, it's a great location, but overpriced for what you get. The problem?! That's the case with most of the hotels in the centre. 


San Francisco has so many great restaurants and food places, it's amazing. There is the Stinking Rose, where they have all kinds of garlic dishes, even ice cream. At Boudin you have to try Calm Chowder in a sour dough bread. Clam Chowder is a big thing in Sa Francisco. There are lots of great Sushi places as well. The Ferry Building Marketplace has all kinds of foods, you can try so many things. Fisherman's Wharf and Pier39 are full of great food places, from a French Crepes place, to Italian restaurants, everything! Apparently the crab is delicious as well, I didn't try it though. If you are into seafood though, you definitely should try it. Then there is Ghirardelli, the chocolate factory, where you can try chocolate and of course buy it. They have different entries and if you are clever you can try something in all of them. There are also other chocolate stores and brands, but I'm Swiss and nothing compares to our chocolate ;). 

Golde Gate Bridge

It's a must in San Francisco right?! There are so many ways for experiencing that bridge. We did a bike tour along the water and then over the bridge. You can stop along the water and take pictures, you can stop on the bridge or then afterwards on Vista Point, a fab location for taking pictures. The bike tour is easy and doesn't have to many steep hills. Another way is going on the water and actually sailing under the bridge. We did a sunset cruise and I'd definitely recommend that. On the last day I even saw the bride covered in fog, that's great as well. The view onto the bridge from Alcatraz is fab as well. There are also beaches in the south, where you get to see a different perspective of the bride. I would have loved going there, but I just didn't have enough time. 


There are a lot of different ways of enjoying the city views. First up is Coit Tower. You get a 360° view of the city, Alcatraz and Golden gate bridge. Twin Peaks is another possibility. The two hills provide a fantastic view of the city and its surroundings. The view from the water is spectacular as well: going to Alcatraz, sunset cruise, ferry back from Sausalito etc. Vista Point is another one of those fab views. You have the bridge on side and the city on the other. You get a wonderful view from Alcatraz as well and up on Lombard Street or Alamo Square. A few hotels have rooftop bars downtown: magnificent views and a drink! ;) Unfortunately, I didn't make it to one. 


San Francisco is fab for shopping. The big department stores are located around Union Square: Macy's, Saks 5th, Blooming Dales, Neiman Marcus. In Westfield Mall down the street there is also a Bloomingdales. The shopping center has great stores as well. The street leading down from Union Square to the mall is full of shops too. Then there are some on Market street close to the mall and also around Union Square. 

Other Sights

A definite must see are also: Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies, Lombard Street, Golden Gate Park (it's huge though), Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 and many more. This city has so much to offer.


You have to book and get your Alcatraz tickets before hands, if possible months before. They are sold out quickly and you have to go at a certain time. Usually the cruise over, as well as the whole "island" and an audio tour are included. 
I haven't bought the CityPass for San Fran. It includes a three day MUNI and cable car pass, the California Academy of Sciences, a cruise adventure, the aquarium and you chose between the exploratorium or the museum of modern art. The pass is $89. If you are interested in these things buy the pass, otherwise don't. 

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