San Francisco in 2 Days: everything you need to know

San Francisco is undoubtedly one of the most famous cities in the United States. There is so much to see and do in this city, pack your bags and join me on this two day tour of the highlights that San Francisco has to offer its visitors.

Ana C.R.

Ana C.R.

10 min read

San Francisco in 2 Days: everything you need to know

San Francisco | ©Leticia Roncero

If you are wondering what to see and do in San Francisco in just two days, you will see that there are plenty of activities available for all ages, tastes and budgets. San Francisco is a city with a lot of culture, history and excellent cuisine, not in vain is one of the most visited destinations in the United States, not only by domestic tourism but also by international visitors.

To get to know the most important of San Francisco in two days, you should optimize your time and plan your itinerary well. If you don't, with all that this city has to see and do, you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed and end up not making the most of the two days you have.

Day 1: Bus tour, gourmet lunch, visit to the Muir Woods and night tour of San Francisco

Muir Woods, entrance fee| ©Vinay Shivakumar
Muir Woods, entrance fee| ©Vinay Shivakumar

On the first day of our San Francisco tour, you'll get an overview of what the city has to offer.

You will be able to see the most important sights, in a short time and most importantly, without rushing, but you should start early. Otherwise, you won't have enough time to take in all the sights on the itinerary for your first day in San Francisco.

Morning Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

You have two days and you want to explore the city to the fullest, the best way to do it is with a San Francisco sightseeing bus.

The great advantage of touring the city on a tour bus is that in a short time you will have an overview of the city and you will know what to see and do in the hours after.

That is why I recommend you to take the bus tour early in the morning. The estimated time dedicated to this activity is 2.5 hours and I recommend you get on the bus at the bus stop closest to your hotel around 10:00 or 10:30, so you will finish your tour around noon, with time for lunch.

These tours are available with audio guides in Spanish and take you to the most interesting places in the city of San Francisco.

The complete tour, which lasts two hours, takes you from one side of the city to the other, showing you the Golden Gate, Chinatown and Pier 39, among other places.

The bus has 16 stops where you can hop on and off throughout the day. The tickets have a duration of one day, so you can get a lot out of it if you are well organized.

It has an approximate price of 50 euros, but its purchase is worth it because you can use it as a means of transportation within the city, saving you the cost of other means of transportation. In addition, the bus has trained staff in the area of tourism that will be willing to answer your questions and doubts about the city.

Buy your ticket for the tourist bus

Have lunch at one of San Francisco's excellent restaurants

Restaurant in San Francisco| ©Doug Belshaw
Restaurant in San Francisco| ©Doug Belshaw

San Francisco is a city known worldwide for its multiculturalism. It is precisely this characteristic that makes it one of the best gastronomic destinations in the United States.

Some of the best chefs in the world have their restaurants in San Francisco and the world famous Michelin Guide does not spare praise to several of the restaurants you have to visit in the city.

Do you want Indian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian or Chinese food, San Francisco has the one you prefer. The limit to the gastronomic options is only your imagination.

Have lunch at some of the excellent San Francisco restaurants recommended by the Michelin Guide and then continue your tour of the wonders to see and do in the city.

Many of the restaurants have months-long reservation lists, so if you intend to eat at one of them specifically, you'll want to reserve a table well in advance. You can make your reservation online from home without any problems, this way you will avoid disappointment if you don't find a table at the restaurant.

Now that you have lunch sorted out, you have 1 hour for lunch before continuing with our tour of the best things to see and do in San Francisco in two days.

Book a food tour of San Francisco

Be enchanted by Muir Woods

Muir Woods| ©Bill Taroli
Muir Woods| ©Bill Taroli

If you are keeping to the schedule of our itinerary you should have finished your lunch around 14:00. Now, there's nothing better than to take a leisurely stroll through Muir Woods National Park, where you 'll be amazed by the centuries-old sequoias. Undoubtedly, one of the best national parks near San Francisco.

Remember to wear comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes, sunscreen, hat and insect repellent to make the route through the National Park in total comfort and safety. Muir Woods National Park is a must-see for nature lovers.

The hours of operation are ample, from 08:00 to 20:00, so you can tour it at your leisure. If you prefer to take a guided tour to Muir Wood, there are many options available that also include visits to other points of interest such as Sausalito, but keep in mind that these tours last between 5 to 10 hours.

If you want to continue touring San Francisco and also visit Muir Woods with a guide, you will want to book the shorter tour, so that you have time to do other things.

Book your tour to Muir Woods

San Francisco Night Tour

It's around 8:00 pm and it's time to enjoy the city of San Francisco at night. This city has a lot to offer and the nightlife is no exception.

If you still have energy after such a busy day, I recommend you to go out at night and tour San Francisco. Visit its restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, you have hundreds of different nightlife options to enjoy in the city. You can also opt for a guided night tour. There is a highly recommended tour that is done in a hippie van, with super fun guides that give you a lot of interesting information.

You must keep in mind that this tour is only for people over 21 years old and also that San Francisco is a very open and free city, do not be surprised by the contents of this tour.

It is already late, go to rest because tomorrow you will have another day full of activities, because there is still a lot to see and do in San Francisco in two days.

Book a night tour in a vintage van

Day 2: Alcatraz, Aquarium Bay, San Francisco Bay Sunset Cruise and San Francisco Mysteries Night Tour

Alcatraz| ©Jitze Couperus
Alcatraz| ©Jitze Couperus

On this second day you will visit one of San Francisco's main attractions, the Alcatraz prison. You will also visit one of the best aquariums in the country.

In the evening, nothing better than watching the sunset on a romantic cruise on the bay to recharge the energy you will need later to face the mysteries of San Francisco on a scary tour.

Visit Alcatraz, the most famous prison in the history of the United States

The mythical Alcatraz prison is located on an island that is also classified as a Natural Park, which is only accessible by ferry. This is a visit you cannot miss if you are in San Francisco.

Alcatraz prison is also famous for the countless escape attempts of the prisoners, all of them failed, since no one ever managed to escape from Alcatraz.

This prison had as illustrious guests some of the most famous criminals in the United States, such as Al Capone, for example. At the time it functioned as a prison, the most dangerous criminals were sent to Alcatraz prison, precisely because being located on an island, escapes were impossible.

If you are going to visit Alcatraz prison, you should take a guided tour of the island, so you won't miss any detail of its amazing history.

There are many different tour options to Alcatraz and other attractions combined. The tours last between 3 to 7 hours, so I recommend leaving early to make the most of the day and include other activities as well.

The tours to Alcatraz, which also include other activities, range from 155 to 170 euros and are really worth it. If you opt for the 4-hour tour, in which you can also do a gastronomic tour together, the departure time is around 10:00, so by 14:00 you will have finished the tour and had lunch.

You will have time to do other activities that I propose in this trip for everything there is to see and do in San Francisco in two days.

Book a tour of San Francisco and Alcatraz

Enjoy one of the best aquariums in the United States, Aquarium of the Bay

San Francisco Aquarium| ©Clotee Pridgen Allochuku
San Francisco Aquarium| ©Clotee Pridgen Allochuku

At the San Francisco Aquarium, considered one of the best in the United States, you will enjoy an immersive and interactive experience in which you will learn everything there is to know about the marine fauna of the San Francisco Bay.

To visit it in its entirety, you will need about two hours and the aquarium **is open from 10:00 to 18:**00. If you arrive at 15:00, you will have more than enough time to visit the aquarium before closing time.

An advantage of this itinerary is that the ferries to the Alcatraz prison depart and arrive from the same dock where the Aquarium of the Bay is located, so you will not lose time in transfers.

To optimize the time of the visit and to be able to do more things afterwards, I recommend you to plan ahead what you want to see and do at the aquarium.

You can't miss the "Under the Bay" exhibit, where you will go through a 90-meter long glass tunnel system and see giant octopuses, rays, sharks and much more.

This aquarium is an excellent activity to do with children, who will enjoy from the first to the last minute they spend touring the aquarium.

Buy your tickets for the Aquarium of the Bay

San Francisco Bay Sunset Cruise

The best way to end a tiring day and recharge your batteries for the evening's activities is to cruise the calm waters of San Francisco Bay on a sunset cruise.

On sunset cruises in the San Francisco Bay you will be able to see a beautiful sunset from the sea. You will also see the famous Golden Gate Bridge from a totally different angle, sailing underneath it. You will discover a totally different city from the sea, seeing the silhouette of San Francisco drawn on the horizon with the rays of the sun setting over the city.

The best boat trips on the San Francisco Bay cost between 120 and 165 euros, with a duration ranging from 2 to 3 hours.

Some of the available options include dinner and also dancing on board. It is an unforgettable experience, if you are making this trip with your partner, this is a very romantic activity that you will surely remember for a lifetime, it is really a wonderful experience.

Book your sunset cruise in San Francisco

San Francisco Mysteries Night Tour

At the beginning of the Tour| ©Rick
At the beginning of the Tour| ©Rick

This last activity of your tour of the best things to see and do in San Francisco in two days is optional, depending on how much energy you have left and if you like the theme of this original tour.

It is an open air tour, in which you will walk through the streets of San Francisco listening to spooky stories that have happened in the city.

The guide will tell you about strange deaths, villains, famous ghosts, serial killers, in short, all the horror you can imagine you will have in 1 hour and a half of tour.

You should note that this is not a tour suitable for children under 10 years old and not for those who are easily impressed. The approximate price of the tour is 37 euros. Don't let yourself be scared and go through the darkest part of the city.

Book your San Francisco Mystery Tour

Useful tips to organize your two-day visit to San Francisco

Bay Bridge at Night| ©Eric Kilby
Bay Bridge at Night| ©Eric Kilby

To get to know the highlights of San Francisco in just two days you have to organize yourself well. It is best to start your day as early as possible, even if it means getting up early.

There are many activities that start early in the morning, so if you take advantage of those early hours of the day you will be able to see and do many more things during your two-day trip.

It is also highly recommended not to go to sleep too early, so that you can also do night activities. You will end these two days very tired, but it is the only way to get the most out of your trip.

To optimize your time in the city and not waste hours in transportation, use the Hop on Hop off bus, is an excellent alternative, because it takes you from one end of the city to another and you can use any of its 16 stops, as many times as you want while the ticket is valid.

When the travel time is short, it is best to hire guided tours toavoid wasting time. When visiting the city for the first time, if you do not know it, you can lose many hours trying to get from one place to another, it is best to hire someone who knows the city and can guide you.

An excellent option to get even more out of the city is to buy a San Francisco Pass or any other pass to visit the main attractions of the city.

With these cards you not only save a lot of money in the purchase of tickets for the different activities, but you also save a lot of time, because the card offers several attractions with the option to skip the line.

With these special passes, you will not only have the possibility to enter several attractions totally free of charge, but you will also get great discounts on other activities that are normally expensive.

You are also entitled to discounts or special menus in several restaurants in the city and in a wide variety of stores.

Book a San Francisco Sightseeing Pass