San Francisco in 1 Day: all you need to know

I leave you with this itinerary specially designed to get to know the best of San Francisco in just 24 hours.

Ana C.R.

Ana C.R.

9 min read

San Francisco in 1 Day: all you need to know

San Francisco | ©Edward Stojakovic

San Francisco is located on the west coast of the United States and is one of the most famous and beautiful cities in the country. Famous for the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, is a tourist destination that surprises.

If you want to know the city of San Francisco, but you only have 24 hours, do not worry, it will be enough to visit the main sites. Here is a guide to help you organize your route and make the most of your time.

Cross the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge| ©rulenumberone2
Golden Gate Bridge| ©rulenumberone2

The Golden Gate Bridge is the emblem of the city of San Francisco, a bridge of 227 meters high, which connects the two sides of the San Francisco Bay. The special thing about this site is that you can contemplate the enchanting views from several viewpoints distributed in the surroundings and discover landscapes that will leave you speechless.

The best option to see the bridge from different perspectives is using a car, but another ideal proposal is to book a bike tour of the Golden Gate and Sausalito in San Francisco.


  • Having only one day in the city, I suggest you visit what I consider one of the best views of San Francisco, which is the Battery East overlook.
  • A must on your visit to San Francisco is also to walk some part of the bridge and see it all from above. There is a lane on the right hand side of the bridge exclusively for pedestrians and it will take you about half an hour to cross it, without taking into account the time to take pictures.
  • If you are staying in the center of the city, keep in mind that the Golden Gate Bridge is about 6 kilometers away. You can get there by bus or bike very easily, and it will take you about 20 minutes.

Book a bike tour of the Golden Gate Bridge

Visit Alcatraz Prison

Alcatraz| ©Jitze Couperus
Alcatraz| ©Jitze Couperus

Once you finish your visit to the Golden Gate, you can visit the historic and unique Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco's most famous jail. Although today it no longer functions as a prison, it is a place full of history and holds many mysteries and curiosities. For example, the legendary Al Capone served his sentence here.

When it comes to visiting it, you have several options:

Of all of them, the best is to hire a tour or excursion with a guided tour, where your guide will tell you relevant information to complement the visit and learn even more about this important place in San Francisco. I recommend our article on how to visit Alcatraz, to know everything you need to know before your visit.

Book a tour to Alcatraz

Explore Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf.| ©Andrew Ward
Fisherman's Wharf.| ©Andrew Ward

After visiting Alcatraz, your day of sightseeing in San Francisco continues at Fisherman's Wharf, an old port and fishing district. Getting lost in its picturesque streets is a must during your visit to the city, where you can also taste some of San Francisco's native delicacies.

There are endless plans in Fisherman's Wharf:

  • There are numerous stands serving clam chowder, a creamy clam chowder with a spectacular taste and a typical dish of the city.
  • Or, if you prefer, you can also head to the Crab House, where they serve delicious crabs.
  • For movie buffs, very close to the pier you will find the famous bench from the movie Forrest Gump, where the protagonist spends several moments throughout the film. So do not hesitate to take a picture. Remember, also, that you can book a movie tour in San Francisco.
  • Another characteristic site of Fisherman's Wharf, is the Coit Tower, which measures 64 meters and is one of the best viewpoints in the area.

Book a van tour in San Francisco

Take a visit to Pier 45

Pier 45, San Francisco| ©Patrick Nouhailler
Pier 45, San Francisco| ©Patrick Nouhailler

Pier 45, which is also part of Fisherman's Wharf, is one of the most popular piers in San Francisco, and where you can do some interesting activities during these 24 hours touring the city:

  • You can see two submarines from the inside: a USS Pampanito and the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, two vessels that participated in World War II.
  • You can visit the Musée Mécanique, one of the best museums in San Francisco. It is completely free and you can see the large collection of arcade machines from the early twentieth century. In addition, there is an exhibition of mechanical artifacts that still work with coins, something that is most curious. But the undisputed jewel of this San Francisco museum is a steam-powered motorcycle built in 1912. To the surprise of many, it still works!

Book a cruise between the bridges of San Francisco

Be amazed at Pier 39

Pier 39, San Francisco| ©Lars Plougmann
Pier 39, San Francisco| ©Lars Plougmann

From Fisherman's Wharf you can walk about 5 minutes to Pier 39. This pier is the most recognized in San Francisco and owes its popularity to the colony of sea lions that inhabits the area. You will see them everywhere, as they usually sleep on the wooden planks of the harbor.

Sea lions are a very common species on the coast of California, and although you can see them in other places, all tourists come to observe this colony because of its proximity to the city.

In addition to meeting these friendly friends, you can take a stroll through the Pier 39 outdoor mall, where you will find souvenir stores and restaurants that will take you back in time. Pier 39 is also an ideal place if you want to get panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz Prison Island. Also, remember that during your stay you can also book your ticket to the San Francisco Zoo.

Recommended places to eat at Pier 39

At this point of the day you are probably already hungry. After so much sightseeing in San Francisco it is time to stop for a snack or lunch. Pier 39 is a good place for that, so here are some recommendations of places with good food:

Wipeout Bar & Grill

This restaurant is frequented by both visitors to the city and locals, as they offer good food, has a relaxed and nice atmosphere. In addition, the price-quality ratio of their dishes is very convenient.

If you are looking for a place with a wide menu, Wipeout offers both American food and some Mexican dishes.

  • Address: Pier 39 #A02
  • Hours: daily from 9am to 9pm. Saturdays and Sundays until 10 pm.
  • Average spending: 30 € per person.

Fog Harbor Fish House

This place is considered one of the classics of the city. They also offer a wide menu with varied options, but I recommend the clam chowder and the seafood platter with lobster, which I liked very much. The value for money is very good and you can also enjoy one of the best views of San Francisco while you feast on their dishes.

  • Address: Pier 39 #A202
  • Hours: Every day from 11 am to 9 pm.
  • Average cost: 40 € per person.

Book your ticket for the San Francisco Zoo

Walk along Lombard Street

Lombard Street| ©Hannes Flo
Lombard Street| ©Hannes Flo

The city of San Francisco is a challenging city for both pedestrians and cyclists. One of the main characteristics of the city are its steep streets or the slopes around the corner.

LombardStreet is popularly known as the steepest street in San Francisco, and it resembles a roller coaster for all those who dare to take a walk there.

You will see hundreds of tourists every day photographing the curves of this hill, a real zig zag in the middle of San Francisco. Despite its fame, I regret to say that it is not the steepest slope in the city, as it only has an incline of 40 degrees.

Don't miss the opportunity to stand at the bottom of the street and be part of this San Francisco phenomenon yourself. To get here from Pier 39, simply take the historic streetcar, which will take you directly to Lombard Street. Another option is to book an electric bike tour in San Francisco so you can negotiate the hills without difficulty.

Book an electric bike tour in San Francisco

Don't miss Little Italy

North Beach, San Francisco| ©Patrick Nouhailler
North Beach, San Francisco| ©Patrick Nouhailler

Just 700 meters from Lombard Street, you will find Little Italy, the little Italy lost in the North Beach district. This walk will take you only 10 minutes and will allow you to discover a very picturesque little neighborhood in the city of San Francisco.

North Beach is an area of the city with a lot of personality, with many colorful Victorian houses and modern and avant-garde graffiti. You'll also find stores, ice cream parlors, cafes and Italian restaurants where you can sample some delicacies. In fact, I highly recommend booking a food tour of Little Italy.

You can take a tour from Columbus Avenue to Broadway Street to see the best of Little Italy in San Francisco. Getting lost in its streets full of charm and color is one of the best things to do on this day touring the city.

Book a food tour of Little Italy

Discover the treasures of Washington Square

Washington Square, San Francisco| ©Mario Sánchez Prada
Washington Square, San Francisco| ©Mario Sánchez Prada

Washington Square is a park in the North Beach district that hides some secrets and curiosities worth discovering. In addition, it is a place frequented by locals where you can feel the daily life of the inhabitants of San Francisco.

You can also find the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, famous for being the site where Marilyn Monroe married baseball player Joe DiMaggio. This park is a gathering place in the neighborhood, where you can also, if you are lucky, listen to street performers and feast your eyes on different artists.

Book a vintage van tour of San Francisco

Admire the Columbus Tower

Columbus Tower, San Francisco| ©Scott Schiller
Columbus Tower, San Francisco| ©Scott Schiller

If you keep walking along Columbus Avenue, you will come across Columbus Tower, one of the most beautiful buildings in San Francisco. This green building delimits different districts of the city, so it is a main neuralgic point.

Its style is quite similar to the Flatiron Building in New York andwas built for political purposes, as it housed the headquarters of the famous Ruef Abe, a local figure at the time.

A curiosity of the Columbus Tower is that it houses the restaurant 'Caesar', site that is claimed to be the creation of the world famous Caesar salad. A few meters from this tower, you can also contemplate the Transamerica Pyramid, the second tallest skyscraper in the city.

Reserve San Francisco City Pass

End the day in Chinatown

Chinatown, San Francisco| ©Ken Lund
Chinatown, San Francisco| ©Ken Lund

Finally, you will visit one of the must-see neighborhoods in San Francisco: Chinatown. One of the largest Chinese communities in the world lives here. It's always a good time to wander its streets filled with colorful, eye-catching signs, snap photos of the red lanterns adorning every corner, and observe the dynamics of this popular district.

Must-see places on your Chinatown itinerary should include:

  • Grant Avenue.
  • Stockton Street.
  • The must-see Dragon Gate.
  • In addition, you can head to Portsmouth Square, where locals gather to practice tai chi and play games of Chinese chess.

At dinnertime, don't miss the opportunity to binge on dumplings at a restaurant. This Chinese dish is simply delicious and the most famous outside China.

Tips to optimize a 24-hour trip to San Francisco

San Francisco| ©Nicholas Cole
San Francisco| ©Nicholas Cole

As you have read, there is a lot to see and do in San Francisco. A good option to optimize this day visiting the city is to book your seat on one of the best tour buses in San Francisco. It is definitely the most convenient way to cover the most important areas of the city from the comfort of your seat.

Getting your bearings in a new city can be difficult at times. This itinerary is designed to include all of San Francisco's landmark stops on a single tour, and you can hop on and off as many times as you like during the validity of your pass.

In addition, you have the chance to learn all about the most important sites thanks to the on-board audio guide in English, with the best commentary on the main attractions as you stroll through the city.

Book a San Francisco Big Bus tour bus