1. Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge isn’t just a bridge. As one of San Francisco’s most iconic sights, it is also widely regarded as an engineering masterpiece. The orangey-red suspension bridge has been marking the entrance to San Francisco Bay since 1937 and spans 2,737 metres (8,981ft) long. With six vehicle lanes, and pedestrian walkways on each side, this bridge connecting San Francisco to Marin County should be seen both from a distance as well as close up.
2. Pier 39
Located along the northeast waterfront, Pier 39 is one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions. A stroll along the Pier is worth battling the crowds for the many shops, restaurants, street performances, rides, and best of all – sea lions! As part of Fisherman’s Wharf, the Pier is easily accessible via a cable car or the historic F line streetcar.
Closest station: Beach St & Stockton St
3. Cable Cars
In 1869, the British born Andrew Smith Hallidie witnessed a terrible horse-drawn carriage accident on the dangerous hills of the city that inspired him to use his wire- ropes business to invent the world’s first cable car. Of the former 23 lines, only three survive today – two that run from below Union Square to the Fisherman’s Wharf area and one that runs along California Street. Hop on, enjoy the ride and be sure to stand outside for the most fun!
4. Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz, located in San Francisco Bay, is one of the most famous prisons in the world. Former residents include Chicago crime boss Al “Scarface” Capone, Robert “The Birdman” Stroud, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Also known as “The Rock,” the prison shut down in 1963 but visitors can still enjoy a trip to the legendary island from Fisherman’s Wharf, with night trips especially popular.
5. Golden Gate Park
At 4 km² (1.583 sq mi), San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is larger than Central Park in New York City. Locals and visitors alike enjoy biking, skating, jogging, and relaxing in the lush green space. The park is also home to the California Academy of Sciences, the MH de Young Museum, a Dutch Windmill and the Japanese Tea Garden – the oldest in the United States and a peaceful retreat with bamboo, cherry trees and koi ponds.
In the trendy SoMa (South of Market) district, a vibrant art scene is in full swing. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has been showcasing modern and contemporary art since 1935 with works by artists such as Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Ansel Adams. Unfortunately from 3 June 2013, the museum is set to undergo a massive expansion and won’t reopen until the beginning of 2016. SFMOMA will be on the go however, so keep an eye out around town for the museum’s works!
Closest station: Market St & Kearny St
7. Coit Tower
Sitting on top of Telegraph Hill, the art deco Coit Tower gives visitors 360-degree views of the city. The 64m (210ft) tall tower was built in 1933 with funds from Lillie Hitchcock Coit, an eccentric woman whose affinity for her local fire company has led many to (incorrectly) assume that the Coit tower was built to resemble a fire hose. In addition to the great views, the Depression-era murals inside the tower’s base are also well worth a visit.
Closest station: Sansome St & Lombard St
8. Lombard Street
Known as the world’s most crooked street, Lombard Street was originally too steep for vehicles to pass, so eight sharp turns were added in 1923. The street is steep, but the truth is that it isn’t even the steepest street in San Francisco, let alone the world! It is however certainly the most photogenic. Situated between Hyde and Leavenworth streets, visitors can either drive down the street in a car or walk up and down it for a real work out.
Closest station: Jones St & Beach St
9. San Francisco Giants
Even if you know nothing about sports, the San Francisco Giants’ stadium is sure to impress. The AT&T Park in the South of Market (SoMa) neighbourhood can hold 41,500 baseball fans and offers great views of the Bay Bridge. If you can, try to score some tickets to a game, because even from the cheap seats you’ll still have a decent view of the field and the home runs.
Closest station: King St & 2nd St
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia and the oldest in North America. Most of the action is centred on Grant Street, but wander around the many alleys and streets in this downtown neighbourhood to get a real sense of how unique it really is. Enjoy exploring the shops, restaurants, temples and of course the Chinatown Gateway, also known as the Dragon Gate.
Closest station: Market St & 2nd St
Looking for budget accommodation close to all these sites? Check out our budget Hostels in San Francisco.