San Francisco Tourist Information – Our San Francisco tourist Guide

San Francisco is renowned for its iconic landmarks. It’s a city instantly recognisable to most people in the western world, and beyond. But for all its well know landmarks most people know very little in terms of practical information. With over 18 million yearly visitors that is something, we hope to change. Our San Francisco Tourist guide will help you understand all the Basic San Francisco tourist information, so you can better plan your Trip.

Of course, this one post can never be exhaustive its intention is to just guide you through the basics to help you on your way.

The City

San Francisco is a remarkably small city, especially by USA Standards. Most of the City itself is nestled on the San Francisco peninsula. The total area being a tiny 7miles by 7 miles. This makes it a very convenient place to visit as most places of interest are fairly close to each other.

San Francisco tourist information

 

As you can see from the Image above which shows nearly all the city’s main locations all from one vantage point, the Coit Tower. The View shows the Pier and Dock Areas, Downtown, Alcatraz, the Oakland Bay Bridge and you can just about make out in the distance the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

DistrictsSan Francisco districts map

Furthermore, of the 7×7 miles square, not a lot of it is of vast interest to tourists. Really the Tourist area of San Francisco is very small. Mainly concentrated Between Fisherman’s wharf and Union Square. The upper right-hand corner of the City.

This is just a very quick run down of the different districts see our Guide to the Districts here

Click the Image to the right to expand >>>

Union Square

The Heart of the City. This is where all the action happens. Shopping, Restaurants, Hotels Its all here. Union Square is actually the small City plaza, but it commonly refers to the surrounding few blocks, full of hotels and shopping centres. Many Transport links pass through or terminate here.

Fisherman’s Wharf

This Tourist hotspot is located at the north end of the Peninsular. Crammed full of amazing food and great attractions here is where all the fun happens. Although considered to a tourist trap, and that is kind of true, for the visitor to the city it still holds a lot of charm.

North Beach

Also Called “Little Italy” is the area just behind Fisherman’s wharf. Home to a host of Italian restaurants and Most of San Francisco’s Nightlife. A young vibrant district. Great for slightly cheaper hotels that are still close to most things.

Russian Hill / Nob Hill View from Russian Hill

Home of San Francisco’s Famous near vertical streets. Lombard Street is the most famous for it’s Wiggly Nature but all surrounding streets are STEEP. Hotels are well priced Mainly as walking anywhere could be hard work!

One of the Main tram lines runs right through Russian and Nob hill which make for a very interesting ride!

SOMA

Or “South Of Market” is mainly a business district. But also home to several Museums which may be of interest. We mainly included it as you will hear it mentioned often, and it helps to have an idea where it is! Located the other side of Market Street from Union Square. Hence the Name.

Chinatown

San Francisco has the Largest Chinatown District anywhere outside of Asia. It’s also the oldest Chinatown in America. A testament to San Francisco’s, and Americas, multiculturalism. Its frantic bustling busyness is something to behold and a Trip to San Francisco would not be complete without a trip to Chinatown. Oh, and the Food is pretty good too!

Situated mainly along Grant Avenue Stockton Street and Kearny Street. Its array of Junk Shops, Markets, and Restaurants is a blast to walk around.

Haight

The Birth location of Hippy Culture! Although there is little evidence remaining of its past. The area is now a very young, cool, area. Still a hotbed for new emerging musical talent. The main reason for tourists to visit is to simply visit the place where Hippism (is that a word?) was born.

Other…

The are many many more districts in San Francisco but the above are the most of the interest to Visitors certainly with an eye to hotels and entertainment. Most of the other districts mainly cater to the Residents and businesses of the area.

You can Read a full list here and see why we can only mention so many …

 

Where to Stay

Most hotels are concentrated in the Financial / civic districts at the heart of the City. There are a smattering of hotels spread out from there all in differing Districts.

Our favourite places to stay are either one of the many hotels close to Union square and in the heart of things or within a quick walk of fisherman’s wharf. An evening stroll with a sourdough bowl of clam chowder is one of our favourite things to do in San Francisco

Read our full guide on where to stay in San Francisco here

Airport

San Francisco is served by one Major Airport. San Francisco International Airport is a Very busy international Airport with all the amenities you would expect. Car Hire, Eateries and great transport links Right into the City.

Read here for our guide on getting to and from San  Francisco International Airport.

Transport / Getting about

Read our full guide to getting about in San Francisco

Foot

Due to the relatively small size of the City getting about is not too much of a chore. Walking is the best way to get around most places. We tend to set off walking and switch to powered transport when we want to get back or change location. From fisherman’s  wharf to Union Square for example.

Cable Car

The Classic Cable Cars of San Francisco are fantastic fun, but they are not overly practical. Unfortunately other than at very quiet times they are just too busy. Expect over an hour wait at peak times! You absolutely must have at least one ride but treat it as an attraction, not transport.

Bus

Buses are the Primary option for transport in San Francisco. The bus network is extensive and convenient and cheap. You will find many locals all utilising the Bus network.

Taxi

As is usual in most US city’s Taxis are regular, convenient and only modestly expensive.

Uber / Lyft

The 21st century’s Rival to Taxis. Uber, Like most tech firms, originated from the Bay area so it’s unsurprising to see a large presence here. Cheaper than Taxis and arguably more convenient you should definitely consider them if you are a Uber/Lyft user.

Hire Car

Having a Hire car is not necessary if you are only staying in the City. In fact, the limited and expensive parking make it a bit of a pain. The Transport links are perfect for getting around anywhere you want to go. However, The surrounding area has so much to see and do Its great to have a car so you can get out exploring! We find it best to Just hire a car for a few days for exploring.

Airport Transport

Getting to and from the Airport is very simple without a Car. The BART transit system will deliver you right into the heart of the city for around $9. Then use the Bus/taxi/uber to your hotel is you are not staying in Union Square.

OF course Taxis or Uber are also an option as are Shuttle Services which are cheap. However, they can be a little slow if you are last to be dropped off.

 

Food

Read our full guide to Food in San Francisco

Food in San Francisco is Incredible. Being such a blend of cultures the Food really represents this. Almost any whim is catered for but a few San Francisco Delicacies really Stand Out.

Clam Chowder bread bowl

Clam Chowder (in Sour Dough Bowl) – You haven’t really been to San Francisco unless you have eaten Clam Chowder from a Sour Dough Bread Bowl. All Restaurants claim to have the best. Some are little more than canned. But find a good one and it’s incredible.]

Also be Amazed at the Size the Sea Gulls grow to Feasting on the leftovers.

Chinese – In a City with the oldest and largest Chinatown in America it’s no surprise to find an abundance of fantastic Chinese restaurants. From incredible Dim Sum to more conventional fare and fantastic Salt and Pepper Crab. You must have at least one Chinese during your stay.

Cioppino – This Delicious Fish Stew is a San Francisco invention. And like Clam Chowder every restaurant has the best! Created for the Italian Immigrant sailors it’s a tomato based Fish Stew using local seafood like Crab, Clams Shrimp and Scallops. Served with a Big hunk of Sourdough Bread.

Sour Dough Bread – While not really from San Francisco its part of the Culture and has been made here since the Gold rush. You will be served this hearty bread with most things and we can’t get enough.

Dungeness Crab – San Francisco Fishery’s catch ALOT of Dungeness Crab and piles of them are regularly served down on Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Can be messy to eat and it’s mesmerising watching locals pulling one apart to eat!

These are just a few of the local delicacy the Food options are extensive and varied. It’s a great place to find food, especially seafood. The City also has a good selection of high-end restraints including Michelin Starred establishments

Attractions – Things to Do

Read our full guide to San Francisco Attractions

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco attraction Pass

San Francisco’s most iconic landmark. The impressive engineering feat straddles the Golden gate entry to the bay. Whether you Cruise under it, drive ride or walk over it or just find one of the great viewing points its got to be on everyone’s list. You can’t leave San Francisco without a Golden Gate Bridge photo.

AlcatrazAlcatraz Island at Sunset

The infamous, inescapable,  Federal Penitentiary now stands Dormant in the bay as nothing more than a tourist hotspot. A fantastic place to have a tour. Despite being disused for decades it’s still quite foreboding and intimidating, and the boat trip out provides fantastic views of the bay

Pier 39

Apart from the host of restaurants and shops, the Pier is renowned for its resident colony of California sea lions. While noisy and actually really smelly. They are great fun to watch.

Union Square – Shopping

Union Square is the shopping epicentre of San Francisco. Filled with high-end stores and top Department stores it’s easy to spend a day just looking around the shops and emptying the contents of your wallet/purse. Or you could head to one of San Francisco’s Discount Outlet villages for some bargain discount shopping.

Ride the Trams

We mentioned before the Trams are not the most useful transport system anymore. But they are really super fun. Hanging off the rail as they clang up and down incredibly steep hills is actually quite exhilarating. A real highlight.

MuseumsCalifornia Academy of Sciences San Francisco

San Francisco is not renowned for its Museums but there are a good selection of good museums available. The California academy of Science is a fabulous day out. The De Young Museum and the Exploratorium are also both well worth checking out.

 

There is so much more to see in San Francisco this is only a quick run down see our San Francisco Attraction Page for more Info

 

Hopefully, now you feel a little better armed for your San Francisco Trip. Feel free to continue searching our site to find more detailed information on Hotels, Food, Attractions, Transport, and ways to save money.

Do you have any Information to share on San Francisco? A favourite Hotel? A Must see attraction? Favourite restaurant? Feel free to share your experiences below. We would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

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4 comments

  1. Thanks Steve for your great sharing about San Francisco city. I first heard about this city is through Jackie Chan movie.The Chinatown is the place that I wanted to visit some day as I am quite curious about the assimilation of Asian and American culture happen there.

    North Beach is another place that I want to visit. Going for a drink and immersed myself with the local entertainment activity is what I like to do most when travel oversea

    1. Hi, Thanks for reading. Yes we find a lot of interest in city’s is found from one movie or another. Film really is a god send for the tourist industry! Chinatown is one of the highlights of the city, especially the food, but also the mix of cultures is a great thing to see.

      And north beach is our favourite part of the city, just nice and chilled, perfect for the evening.

  2. Hello, this is a great, brief post about San Francisco. A city I have always wanted to visit, but have yet to. I am a huge fan of sixties music and the counterculture, and I have always been drawn to the Haight to visit. It’s interesting that you mention the Haight is nothing like it was in the hippie area, I am so interested to visit there. I also didn’t realize how small San Francisco is in terms of area. I also did not know Chinatown is the countries biggest, I always thought New York’s Chinatown was the biggest. Good stuff, thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi, Eric thanks for reading.

      Hope you manage to get to San Francisco Soon. Unfortunately Haight isn’t what it was in the 60’s and 70’s but what is? Its still a great retro throwback to those times though and if you are into that scene we are sure you will still find it a very rewarding place. It really was the centre for the culture at the time.

      Yes it really is quite a small city. The Bay area is very large and as an urban population its very big but the actual city itself is very self contained upon the peninsular. New York’s China town is certainly large (and Famous) but its got nothing on San Francisco’s Chinese community.

      We hope you enjoy your visit one day!

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