The dreamiest San Francisco itinerary includes 4 days in San Francisco, taking in all the main sights, as well as some of the more unique things to do in the city.
If you have more time to spare, I’d definitely recommend making San Francisco part of a bigger California road trip.
However, if it’s just a short visit this San Francisco itinerary will give you 4 days of fun, fun, fun. In this 4 day itinerary you’ll find activities in San Francisco, places to stay and the best things to see. I had a great time and I’ve no doubts you will too.
4 Days in San Francisco
Day 1 in San Francisco
Get your bearings of the city by hiring a bike. I recommend a self-guided cycle with Blazing Saddles. They’ll give you a map with suggested routes.
Make sure you include a cycle to the famous Golden Gate Bridge. The notorious fog can often hide the bridge, so by coming today you’ll have time in your trip to come back if you need to.
I’d definitely recommend cycling over the bridge (a lot scarier than it seems in my opinion!) and taking a pit stop at the pretty city of Sausalito, before heading back.
Tip: Not in to cycling or want something a little kookier? Get your bearings on a Fire Engine Tour. Don a fireman’s jacket and enjoy the view from a vintage truck.
Are you ready for the best French toast of your life? How about potatoes from heaven? Brunch at Mama’s on Washington Square is legendary and it’s just round the corner from your next stop.
Expect to queue to get in and to be greeted with traditional decor, but to walk out happily stuffed and smiling.
Tip: If you’re travelling with someone else, take it in turns to queue whilst the other person does a bit of people-watching at Washington Square. I loved watching the local Tai Chi class!
Burn off some of those calories walking up Telegraph Hill. Get in the lift at Coit Tower and hop out at the top for views over the Bay. The gift shop also sells some lovely bits, so it’s a chance to buy some souvenirs.
Go on a tour of Alcatraz just as the sun goes down and darkness starts to creep in. The tour isn’t full of actors jumping out from cells, but it is eerie.
Alcatraz is the name given to the small island in the Bay Area of San Francisco. The tiny island was used as a prison for criminals who were deemed to be some of the worst.
The short ferry ride over is a choppy, but a beautiful one. And once on the island the guide sets the scene for the tour, letting you know a bit about the island in a fun and relaxed way.
A short walk up the steep hill leads you to the prison site and from here you’re handed a set of headphones so you can enjoy the audio tour at your own pace and in whatever language you like.
Tip: Make it extra special by pairing it with a helicopter ride above Alcatraz Island.
Want something a bit more low key, but fun? Go to Colibri for dinner, who claim to serve the best guacamole in San Fran. And then pop round the corner to stylish speakeasy bar, Bourbon and Branch for a few holiday drinks. Book ahead for both.
Recommended Reading: Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
Day 2 in San Francisco
Travel on the adorable Muni (a retro tram).
From the outside they look so sweet – painted in different pastel colours and inside it’s a vintage-lovers dream, with retro leather seats.
You’ll often find them crammed with locals, so be prepared to wedge yourself in or to wait for the next one. They’re usually frequent, with many of the routes interlacing with one another.
Alternatively, ride a cable car up and down the legendary hills of the city. It’s a bit of a novelty experience, but even so, it’s really fun!
Recommended Reading: My thoughts on San Francisco
Hop off the ferry and into Ferry Building. There are loads of stalls and independent sellers to choose from, but my vote goes to the amazing grilled cheese on toast from Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick and Cafe.
Recommended Reading: Top Lunch Spots in San Francisco
I think it’s overrated and a bit tacky, but if you’re really keen on seeing the famous Pier 39 this is the best slot in this itinerary. It’s a 10-minute ride on the tram from the Ferry Building.
Look out for the smelly, loud sea lions and grab a bread bowl of soup or chowder at Boudin Bistro (hyped as serving the best clam chowder in San Fran).
If you’re happy to skip that I’d suggest watching the cars crawl down the famous wiggly Lombard Street. It’s touristy, but definitely unique.
Watch a show or gig at one of the many theatres and venues. Just make sure you book well in advance if you have your heart set on a particular show. If you like pretty venues check out The Warfield to see what’s on.
Recommended Reading: 7 Top Places to Eat Out in San Francisco
Day 3 in San Francisco
Head to Golden Gate Park, which also happens to be the home of the California Academy of Sciences. This could easily fill a day as this site is home to beautiful gardens (including the Japanese Garden) and the science museum. Have a look at the website to see what’s on and what’s on display so that you can use your time wisely.
Tip: If you’re flagging at any point look out for Blue Bottle Coffee for some of the tastiest coffee in town.
Grab an organic lunch at eco-friendly, The Plant. Thanks to its popularity there are a number of branches in the city.
The menu is impressively big, serving freshly made, wholesome eats that all sound incredible, let alone look as pretty as pictures. It’s a tough decision deciding on just one dish. And the portion sizes are massive.
Lots of the dishes are adaptable for meat-eaters and veggies, so it’s a good place for groups and couples. Considering the delicious menu and the fact everything is 100% organic, mostly locally sourced and made from scratch, it’s very reasonably priced
Take a visit to China Town to see the home of the fortune cookie. If you fancy seeing how they’re made you could opt for a tour. Otherwise, just stock up on a little bag of luck.
Go for dinner at my guilty pleasure, The Cheesecake Factory. Hearty, feel-good food. Then up the glamour by going to Top of the Mark for jazz music, impressive views of the city and an extensive cocktail range.
Recommended Reading: The Best Christmas Spots in San Francisco
Day 4 in San Francisco
Get up early and head to ‘Postcard Row’ to snap the ‘Painted Ladies’, a collection of pretty Edwardian and Victorian houses that have become a well-known part of any San Francisco itinerary.
For the next part of your San Francisco itinerary walk or grab a quick taxi to Clarion Alley to see the Mission Murals.
Tip: Popular brunch places book out months in advance, so book ahead.
Enjoy the Anchor Brewery tour (with tastings, of course). This local brewery is super famous and the guys here are a friendly bunch. Plus, the beer is incredible.
Finish off your incredible 4 days in San Francisco with tacos and burritos in the Mission at La Taqueria. Then continue the beer theme from earlier at Monk’s Kettle. This place has received lots of industry praise and rightly so, given its craft beer list.
Tip: Visiting San Francisco in December? Enjoy outdoor ice-skating at the iconic Union Square. Book an evening session and skate underneath the stars.
Recommended Reading: Exploring Made Easy With CityPass San Francisco
Got More Time in your San Francisco Itinerary?
San Francisco has been used as a location for so many films, including Mrs Doubtfire, X-Men and more. If you’re into that sort of thing consider a film tour.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
There are loads of hotels in San Francisco to suit every type of traveller and location:
- Contemporary boutique – Clift
- Stylish and central – Hotel Diva
- Stylish and classy – Hotel Palomar
- Budget and European – Edwardian Hotel
- Modern and good views of the Bay – Hyatt Regency
- Budget, but nice – Cova Hotel
Tip: Accommodation in San Fran is expensive and popular. Book as far ahead as possible to get the best rate.
Pin this San Francisco itinerary 4 days
What do you think of my Ultimate San Francisco itinerary? Which bits have you done or would you like to see? Have I missed anything? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.