8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco

This is our first time in San Francisco. We had 3 days. I searched the internet and tour guides for most attractive must-see places and found out there is SO much to see in San Francisco… USS marine museums, funny streets/slides, Yoda Fountains, (I have a Star Wars fan), a castle with underground caves and much more. Unfortunately, we did not have time to see it all, but we did see the 8 most iconic things to see in San Francisco.

So if you are on a road trip and have a few days or maybe just a long weekend in San Francisco – this is a perfect guide for you.

1. Golden Gate Bridge

The iconic red bridge. We all know about it. Opened in May 1937. You are able to see the bridge from almost every angle – you can take a bay cruise to get under the bridge, a helicopter ride to see the bridge from above, you can stand on a hilltop to see it from land or finally you can get so close, so you can touch the bridge by crossing it by car (you need to pay toll), bicycle or even walk.

Tip: You can easily take bus line 28 from Fisherman´s Wharf to  Golden Gate Bridge/Parking lot to get some cool pictures of the bridge.

San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco

2. Alcatraz

The famous prison is located in San Francisco Bay, 1,25 miles offshore. Actually, it was only a prison between 1934-1963. Before this, it has been used for other military purposes and even just a lighthouse. You can take a tour with Alcatraz Cruises, which will take you into the prison.

Tip: Alcatraz Cruises opens for tickets 3 months in advance. During peak season, you have to purchase tickets when they open for sale, otherwise, you risk paying over price or not getting any tickets at all.
If you like us, were unable to purchase any tickets, a bay cruise is a fine alternative. Although on the bay cruise you will only see Alcatraz from the seaside… afterward you will get under the Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco
San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco

3. Pier 39

This pier has become the most popular pier in San Francisco. We walked from pier 1 to pier 47 and must admit the other piers did not have the same attention. Pier 39 is a shopping/restaurant/attraction-mecca. It has a two-story carousel, but it is actually not visible from the street. You have to get to the end of the pier. Pier 39 is also where you will be able to find the sea lions… although there was only 1 sea lion left when we visited in July. During summer they go south to breed.

San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco
San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco

4. Lombard Street

Lombard Street is a long street in the northern part of San Francisco – going east-west. But the famous part – the remarkable section of 8 hairpin turns you will see between Leavenworth St and Hyde St. The street is open for public, so if you have a car in San Francisco, you will be able to take the ride or you can simply walk down the steps.

San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco

5. Painted Ladies

Are you familiar with the Full House tv-series from the 90s? Don´t miss the “Painted Ladies”. You will find these beautiful colored houses on the east side of Alamo Square Park.

San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco

6. Fisherman´s Wharf

Fisherman´s Wharf is just a neighborhood but has become a huge tourist attraction. It covers the northern waterfront area of San Francisco with souvenir shops, restaurants, and street performances. It´s most popular sight is Pier 39 and Pier 33 from where you take your cruise to Alcatraz.

San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco
San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco

7.  Cable Car System

San Francisco´s cable cars are indeed on the list of most iconic things to see in San Francisco. There are three remaining lines back from between 1873 to1890 – the Powell-Mason line, the Powell-Hyde line and the California Street line. It is a remarkable thing to see when they on Powell Street put the cable car on a turntable and turn it manually.
Tickets to the cable car cost 7 USD per person (2018) for one way.

San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco

8. Chinatown

Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. You will find everything here, souvenirs, food, Chinese stuff, pearls and jewelry and much more.  My daughter is a huge fan of Naruto and BTS (a boy band) and I know that Naruto is Japanese and BTS is from South Korea, but she was in heaven. She did find so much stuff with her idols.

San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco

Spending 4th of July in San Francisco?

We planned our trip so we could experience the 4th of July in San Francisco. As a traveler, we did not have the opportunity to invite family over for a nice BBQ and such things, but we experienced the city changed. Shops closed at midday, transportation changed, music arrangement and a lot of people were out in the streets.
We asked several places, where the best place would be to see the fireworks from and everywhere they told us to go to Fisherman´s Wharf.
So we did, together with a bunch of other tourists and half of San Francisco. The spectacular fireworks lasted for 35-40 min.

San Francisco, 8 Most Iconic Things to See in San Francisco

Are you planning a trip to San Francisco? If so, I hope you found this article useful.
I´d love to hear from you, either if you have already experienced San Francisco…

If you´re planning to visit San Francisco for the first time, we have made this post about where to stay, transportation and more…

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