Embarking on a whirlwind adventure through the iconic streets of San Francisco? Planning a seamless exploration of the city’s renowned landmarks and hidden gems within a limited timeframe? Look no further – whether you’re searching for “San Francisco one day itinerary,” “1 day San Francisco itinerary,” or wondering “What to Do in San Francisco in 24 Hours,” we’ve crafted a comprehensive guide to ensure your day is packed with the best experiences the city has to offer. From the historic cable car rides to the picturesque vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the lively ambiance of Fisherman’s Wharf to the cultural richness of Chinatown, this curated itinerary promises a perfect blend of must-see attractions, delectable dining, and memorable moments. Join us on a journey through the City by the Bay, maximizing every moment of your 24-hour San Francisco adventure.
Best Time to Visit San Francisco
It’s possible to enjoy San Francisco year-round, but you might want to consider the city’s unusual weather when planning your trip. In any season, San Francisco’s temperature rarely gets lower than 50 degrees or higher than the mid-70s. Summers are usually chilly, with daily highs often below 70. Fog keeps it from getting sunny for most of the day, and winds coming off the Pacific will make you shiver if you have your heart set on the beach. San Francisco isn’t for you if you’re looking for a traditional sunny beach destination.
Summer brings the disadvantages of crowds and higher prices due to tourism. Spring might be better in terms of crowds and prices, but don’t expect dry, warm, comfortable days. If you don’t mind carrying an umbrella, winter is a great time to visit San Francisco. It will be windy and rainy, but it rarely actually freezes, and storms are unusual except around the holidays. San Francisco receives the fewest visitors in the winter, so it’s the least expensive time to visit.
However, the very best time to visit is in the fall, which is often the warmest and sunniest season. Fall is also outside of the peak tourist season, making it less expensive and less crowded. Whenever you visit, you’ll need to bring a jacket. Even in the warmer months, it tends to get cold quickly as evening sets in. The unique weather is just one of the things that make San Francisco such an interesting place to visit.
Where to Eat in San Francisco
There’s pretty much an awesome restaurant at every corner in San Francisco, and there are constantly new restaurants popping up. So, my list is constantly changing, but I got my act together and put together this list. So hopefully, there’s something in here for everybody.
Farmhouse is hands-down the best Thai restaurant in San Francisco. The dishes are so unique that you won’t find them anywhere else. I recommend coming here with a group of friends so you can try everything family-style. If you have a birthday celebration, ask for their loud table where the chef’s best dishes are. The menu can be pretty intense, so I’m gonna give you my top two recommendations. The first is a chai tea fried chicken with blue rice and roti dipped in yellow curry, and the second is the short ribs in Panang curry sauce that literally falls off the bone. Don’t even question it, just order these two items, and you’ll thank me later.
Located in the Financial District, The Bird’s Burgers is where you want to go for cheap bomb fried chicken sandwiches. You order at the counter, and they call your name when it’s ready. It only costs 8 bucks for this free-range chicken sandwich, or you can order regular or spice. Cool, that’s right, over the spice if you can handle the heat. And if you’re feeling adventurous, get the combo meal that comes with fries and a beer for only 12.15. The seating is limited, so be prepared to take your food to go if they’re packed, which they usually are during lunch hours, but totally worth the wait.
Tartine Manufactory started off as a small bakery in the Mission, but they recently expanded into this gorgeous space in the Dogpatch. The lines during any afternoon are insane, so I highly recommend coming during their off-hours. The space itself is huge and holds a bakery, a restaurant, a bar, and a coffee shop. They’re known for their morning buns, which often sell out right before noon. Get the almond croissant, and if you’re into sandwiches like I am, you have to get the porchetta sandwich topped with the name.
Hawker Fare is one of my favorite spots for a fusion brunch. They have everything from omelets to burgers to breakfast burritos. Oh, and that millionaire’s bacon, geez, see how thick it is and dusted with brown sugar and cayenne pepper? Don’t judge, but we like to get an extra order on the side. Now, make sure to also get the marscapone-stuffed deep-fried French toast with mixed berries and real Vermont maple syrup. It’s the real Instagram page. Now, if you go on a weekend, don’t say I didn’t warn you because there will definitely be a wait. I recommend going right when they open or wait too long.
Rooh is where you want to be if you love spices and can appreciate the art and creativity that goes into each dish. They serve upscale Indian food with a California twist, and to be honest, I was completely mind-blown. I’ve been so obsessed I’ve written about Rooh on my blog, posted about them on my Insta, and even made a YouTube video just for them. I’ll leave the link in the descriptions below so you guys can check it out if you want more info.
Hog Island Oyster Bar is where you want to bring friends and family visiting from out of town. Why? Because it’s a destination inside the Ferry Building, which is where you’ll probably end up, especially if you’re playing tour guides. They’re known for their fresh oysters, grilled cheese, and clam chowders. I mean, have you seen this many real clams in a bowl of clam chowder? Didn’t think so. Pro tip: dip the grilled cheese into your bowl for a magical experience.
House of Prime Rib is a San Francisco classic. They’ve been open since the 1940s and continue to live up to the hype every time. We have a family celebration like my mom’s birthday; we always make a reservation here a month in advance. The menu is exactly what you think it is. You choose your cut of prime rib, how you like it cooked, and how thick you want it cut. The best part of all, everything is prepared tableside as you watch them make your salad and cover your meat right in front of you. Pro tip: pace yourself because they will come around and offer you seconds.
Dumpling Time is where you want to go if you’re craving Asian food. The ambiance is fun and casual with great energy and vibe. You can watch the chefs making fresh dumplings through the window as you wait for a table. I recommend getting the shrimp toast, spicy shumai wings, tom yum soup dumplings, and the infamous IG Bao. The triple XL Xiao Long Bao, which is basically the biggest soup dumpling ever, and you have to slurp the TC juices out with a straw.
International Smoke is where you want to be if you’re looking for an elevated dining experience. This is Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina’s globally inspired barbecue restaurant that draws in celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, and our former President Barack Obama. Their menu is constantly evolving, but some of my favorites are the rack of ribs, ribs chat mac and cheese, doubled up wings, smoked burrata with Joes’ sticks. Oh, you know I could go on forever, but then we’d be here all day. If you want more info on International Smoke, check out my last YouTube video. I’ll link it in the description below. This place is perfect for groups and ordering everything family-style so you can try a bit of everything.
Walking into Loló’s on a weekend is like being transported into Mexico City. The decor is quirky, fun, and the walls are colorfully decorated. While you wait for a table, you can order drinks at the bar. Come here for the fun vibes and get one of each taco. My favorite? The tres leches taco, tropical avocado and tuna chicken. And that concludes my list of current favorite restaurants in the city. Hope you guys enjoyed the video. Let me know in the comments if there’s anything here I missed so I can include them in my next list.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
Well, San Francisco is not a big city, but it’s not a small city either. It has several regions and neighborhoods. It’s good to do some research before locating yourself so you don’t get too far away from the sights and attractions. And there are some regions that are a little ugly in San Francisco. San Francisco is a beautiful city; the sights, the coolest areas, the most charming neighborhoods are beautiful. But there are some regions that are a little abandoned and a little dangerous as well, and they are close to the tourist area. So it’s good to be careful about where you are, and we will help you a little bit with this location.
Best Location – Union Square
In our opinion, the best location in San Francisco is Union Square. Union Square is the name of a square, which is the main square of the city, and is the name of the area around Union Square. It’s the best place to stay in San Francisco in terms of location. You’ll be located near most of the tourist attractions. Some points you will have to get around by Uber or rent a car because in California, the car is very good so you can get around quickly. There are a lot of hotel options there. That’s good in this region of Union Square; there are many hotels, so you’ll find many options. There are very expensive options too. San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the world, along with New York in the United States. They are the most expensive. So do some research by the lodging.
Union Square – Everything You Need
In this area of Union Square, there’s practically everything: restaurants, stores, bars, supermarkets—you name it, everything you need, you will find there. You don’t have to go anywhere to go shopping. You have the malls nearby; you have the stores; you have everything there. So it’s a very good location.
Alternative – Fisherman’s Wharf
There is another location that some people like, which is the Fisherman’s Wharf. We don’t recommend it so much for the first time in San Francisco because it ended up being a little bit far away from downtown San Francisco, from the tourist center of San Francisco. But there are some people who like it because it’s close to Pier 39, which is one of the main attractions in San Francisco, and it’s already up there to the part that has the Golden Gate, the Alcatraz Island. It’s a quieter region, a more beautiful region, more organized, cleaner than the center of San Francisco, which has a lot of big building stores, restaurants. It’s a little bit different, but it’s an option if you want to search, and if you like the style and stay a little closer to the sea in a quieter area from the tourist center of San Francisco. It’s there, but it also depends on what attractions you want to visit. There is no way to define which is the best and which is the worst. Each one has his or her preference. You just have to research and get the best place for you. There’s no way; you have to just take a look at all the options.
1 Day Itinerary San Francisco
- Breakfast at Westin St. Francis Hotel in Union Square:
- The Westin St. Francis Hotel, an iconic establishment in Union Square, offers a luxurious breakfast experience. This historic hotel, dating back to 1904, combines classic elegance with modern amenities. The breakfast menu features a range of delectable options, from hearty classics to healthier fare. The hotel’s central location allows for convenient exploration of Union Square’s shopping district, making it an ideal starting point for your San Francisco adventure.
- Cable Car Ride:
- The cable car system in San Francisco is a symbol of the city’s charm and history. Starting your day with a cable car ride from Powell Street is a quintessential San Francisco experience. These manually operated cars traverse the city’s steep hills, providing not only a practical means of transportation but also breathtaking views of iconic landmarks like Nob Hill and Alcatraz Island. Morning rides offer a quieter and more immersive experience, allowing you to absorb the unique atmosphere of the city.
- Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown:
- If your visit coincides with the Chinese New Year, the parade in Chinatown is a dazzling spectacle. Known as the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia, this event features vibrant floats, traditional lion and dragon dances, martial arts performances, and a burst of fireworks. The parade winds through the heart of Chinatown, enveloping spectators in the rich cultural tapestry of Chinese traditions. It’s a sensory feast of colors, sounds, and festive energy, providing a memorable start to your day.
- Coit Tower and Aina Bridge Park:
- Coit Tower, perched atop Telegraph Hill, is both an architectural gem and an observation tower with panoramic views of San Francisco. Built in the 1930s, the tower is adorned with beautiful murals depicting scenes of California life during the Great Depression. Surrounding Coit Tower is Aina Bridge Park, a lush green space with winding paths and well-maintained gardens. It offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city below, allowing visitors to connect with nature while enjoying stunning vistas.
- Lombard Street:
- Lombard Street, often called the “Crookedest Street in the World,” is a postcard-perfect attraction with its serpentine curves and meticulously landscaped gardens. The street is a marvel of urban planning and a testament to San Francisco’s unique topography. A leisurely stroll down Lombard Street provides not only a visual spectacle but also an opportunity to appreciate the charming architecture of the surrounding neighborhood, complete with historic homes and scenic overlooks.
- Umbrella Alley:
- Nestled in Little Italy, Umbrella Alley is a delightful hidden gem that adds a touch of whimsy to your itinerary. Adorned with a canopy of colorful umbrellas suspended above the alley, this artistic installation creates a magical and Instagram-worthy setting. It’s a testament to the city’s vibrant art scene and a perfect spot for capturing memorable photographs while immersing yourself in the creative spirit of San Francisco.
- Lunch at Ghirardelli Square:
- Ghirardelli Square, situated in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, is a historic landmark that was once the site of the original Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory. Today, it’s a bustling square filled with shops, restaurants, and, of course, the irresistible aroma of chocolate. Indulge in a leisurely lunch at one of the eateries, where you can savor not only delicious meals but also decadent Ghirardelli chocolate treats. The square’s red-brick buildings and waterfront location create a charming ambiance for a culinary experience that pays homage to San Francisco’s sweet history.
- Boudin Bakery at Fisherman’s Wharf:
- Boudin Bakery, founded in 1849, is a San Francisco institution celebrated for its sourdough bread. The flagship location at Fisherman’s Wharf not only serves as a bakery but also offers a unique dining experience. Witness the art of sourdough bread-making as skilled bakers craft loaves in various shapes, including the famous “Bread Lagoon.” Enjoy a meal surrounded by the delightful aroma of freshly baked bread, and savor the distinctive flavor of Boudin’s sourdough creations.
- Pier 45 and Maritime Attractions:
- Pier 45 is a maritime haven, home to fascinating attractions that transport visitors back in time. Explore the USS Pampanito, a World War II submarine that provides a glimpse into naval history. Adjacent to it is the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, a fully functional Liberty Ship, offering a living museum experience. Both vessels serve as poignant reminders of the wartime era, providing a hands-on and immersive journey through maritime history at the heart of San Francisco’s historic waterfront.
- Pier 39 and Sea Lions:
- Pier 39, situated along the bustling Embarcadero, is a vibrant waterfront destination offering a diverse array of shops, restaurants, and entertainment. One of its most famous attractions is the lively sea lion colony that has made the marina its home. Watch as these charismatic marine mammals bask in the sun, playfully interact with each other, and entertain onlookers with their amusing antics. Pier 39’s lively atmosphere, combined with its stunning views of the bay and Alcatraz Island, creates an immersive experience for visitors of all ages.
- Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point:
- As the day transitions into evening, head to the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point for an unforgettable sunset experience. This iconic vantage point, located on the Marin County side of the bridge, provides unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge against the backdrop of the San Francisco skyline. As the sun paints the sky in hues of orange and pink, the bridge transforms into a breathtaking spectacle. It’s a serene and picturesque setting that captures the essence of San Francisco’s natural beauty.
- Chrissy Field:
- Chrissy Field, a scenic waterfront park along the northern shore of the city, offers a tranquil escape in the evening. Take a leisurely stroll along the sandy shoreline, with unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. The open space, combined with the calming sounds of the bay, creates a serene atmosphere for relaxation and contemplation. Whether you’re enjoying a quiet moment by the water or engaging in a leisurely walk, Chrissy Field provides a picturesque retreat in the heart of the city.
- Palace of Fine Arts:
- The Palace of Fine Arts, an architectural masterpiece, takes on a mesmerizing quality as night falls. The monumental structure, designed by Bernard Maybeck, features a majestic rotunda surrounded by reflective lagoons and colonnades. Illuminated against the darkened sky, the palace exudes a timeless elegance that is truly enchanting. Whether you’re taking an evening stroll around the lagoon or simply admiring the architecture from a distance, the Palace of Fine Arts offers a serene and captivating experience that transports visitors to a bygone era.
- Chinese Lunar New Year Parade (if not experienced in the morning):
- If you missed the morning parade, consider attending the Chinese Lunar New Year Parade in the evening. Chinatown comes alive with illuminated floats, traditional performances, and a lively procession celebrating the arrival of the new lunar year. The streets are adorned with vibrant decorations, and the air is filled with the rhythmic beats of drums and cymbals. Immerse yourself in the festive spirit, witness the dazzling displays, and join the community in ushering in good fortune and prosperity. It’s a dynamic and culturally rich experience that showcases San Francisco’s diverse and vibrant tapestry.
Tips before visiting San Francisco
San Francisco, a city characterized by its ever-changing identity, has undergone transformative epochs like the gold rush, the summer of love, and the tech boom. Born and bred in this dynamic environment, I’ve witnessed its evolution and the varied impressions it leaves on visitors. The city, compact at seven by seven square miles, thrives on microclimates, necessitating a wardrobe strategy that adapts to sudden weather shifts. The best time to visit is often considered to be during the mild months of September and October.
San Francisco prides itself on a culture of non-conformity. Eccentricity is embraced, whether it’s donning unicorn costumes for a stroll through Golden Gate Park or participating in the flamboyant Folsom Street Fair. The city’s neighborhoods each have their distinct personality, from the frat-bro culture of the Marina to the tech sector’s uniform of startup-branded t-shirts and puffy vests.
Transportation within the city is best achieved through its reliable public transit system, including buses, trains, and the iconic cable cars. While having a car is an option, the city’s renowned hills and the availability of affordable parking through apps like SpotHero or Parking Panda make walking and public transit attractive alternatives.
However, San Francisco’s charm is not without challenges. The city’s homeless population is visibly dispersed throughout, making areas like the Tenderloin, dense with homelessness and drug-related issues, advisable to avoid for some visitors.
Beyond the urban landscape, San Francisco offers a wealth of natural beauty. Hiking the hills provides not only an excellent workout but also stunning panoramic views of the city and the bay. Additionally, the city boasts numerous free attractions like the Palace of Fine Arts, Baker Beach, and Land’s End, allowing visitors to enjoy its beauty on a budget.
For those with an adventurous spirit, San Francisco’s proximity to various attractions makes it an ideal hub for exploration. Day trips to Muir Woods, Napa Valley, and Yosemite National Park provide diverse experiences, from redwood forests to renowned wine regions.
In essence, San Francisco, with all its quirks, promises an unforgettable experience. Locals, feel free to share your tips with fellow explorers. Thanks for joining me on this journey, and if you haven’t already, consider subscribing for more insights into the vibrant tapestry of San Francisco.