Ever since I was little, San Francisco was one of the cities I just had to go to at least once in my life. Especially the big red bridge was what drew me in. It just appeals to the imagination of the big, far away country America.
While San Francisco may be a big city, it never felt that way to me. It has a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Also, we were able to see every highlight of this city in just one day. Of course, we do have busy days that we fill to the brim but it’s definitely not a city like Paris or London where I feel like I could live for months and still haven’t seen and visited everything. But that’s of course part of the charm of the city.
So when you’re like us and you also have one day in San Francisco; don’t worry. You can definitely see most of the city. And to help you out, here is a list of six things you can’t miss:
1. Hire a bike and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge
Cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge is definitely the best memory I have of my time in San Francisco. Many people just go over it by car, but that’s only half as much fun as by bike and it’s over much sooner. Plus, by car you have to pay road tax, but bikes go over free! The left side of the bridge is for bikers only, so the atmosphere there is just great.
We hired our bikes at a tiny bike rental shop called ‘New Holiday Adventure Sale & Rentals’ (1937 Lombard Street) mainly because it was close to our hotel. The bikes were great and the man working was really nice and helpful to adjust the bikes to our height so I can definitely recommend that place. For two hours, you pay 22 dollars, but you can also rent a bike for an entire day for 28 dollars. You also pay afterwards, so if you’re back within two hours, you just pay 22, if you’re back later you pay the day rate. This way you are free to keep the bikes as long as you like.
At first we were in doubt about whether we wanted to go over the bridge by bike because it’s is quite a bit out of the center and we were afraid it would be a boring ride to the foot of the bridge. But since the weather was nice, we went for it anyway. And it was the best decision ever.
You can drive along the water the entire time, so you can see the impressive bridge coming closer and closer. It also isn’t all that far. I think we cycled about 20 minutes from the rental shop to the foot of the bridge.
Once you’ve crossed the bridge to the other side, don’t just turn around. It’s worth it to climb the hill up to the viewpoint. It is quite a strenuous climb, but the view is definitely worth it.
2. Have a chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf is – in my opinion – one of the most atmospheric places of San Francisco. There are many street musicians bringing a lot of ambiance while you’re browsing the souvenir shops and mingling in the crowd.
But one thing you can’t pass on is the crab chowder. There are many places to get one. You can either go to a more fancy restaurant, but the chowders they sell on the street are pretty good as well and cheaper (obviously). I’m not such a seafood person, but that was really delicious. Just writing about it makes me want another one.
3. Laugh at the sea lions at Pier 39
Okay, I admit it, they smell. Bad. But they’re also hi-la-ri-ous to watch. If they’re not pushing each other of the docks, then they’re crawling over one another or slapping their fins all over the place. Of course there are also peaceful sea lions who are just enjoying the sun and playing sort of dead as they don’t move while the others are fighting their wars.
4. Watch a caravan of cars drive down Lombard Street
Tourists are a herd of animals. That much is certain. And the most obvious proof of that is Lombard Street. There is literally a traffic jam around that street because of people who just want to drive down the most crooked street in the world. It’s quite absurd.
But yes, we did give in to the hype as well. As we were driving around the city at about 6:30am the next day, we ended up at the top of the street by accident. And since there was no car in sight at that time, we of course couldn’t resist driving down as well. So yeah, we made fun of those people but we did it as well. We’re part of the herd now! But still, there is no way in hell I would queue to just drive down that street in caravan after a bunch of other cars. It may be the most crooked street in the world, but in the end, it’s still a street.
So if you want to drive down, go really early or maybe really late because otherwise you’ll be stuck in traffic.
5. Admire the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square
If you want to relax for a moment, I definitely recommend going to Alamo Square. First of all, it’s such a lovely park to just sit and take in the atmosphere. Many San Franciscans (and tourists of course) are enjoying the sun while having a picknick or snack.
But the main reason why you want to go to Alamo Square, is because of the famous Painted Ladies. A Victorian or Edwardian house or building is a ‘painted lady’ when it’s painted in three or more colors which enhance their architectural details. Basically they’re just beautifully colored houses.
Of course San Francisco has many lovely houses which do look a lot like those Painted Ladies, but you can’t pass on seeing the real ones.
6. Stare at the city from Twin Peaks
As you may already know – because I’ve probably already mentioned it a thousand times-, I am a sucker for city views. So of course I tried to find the best views of San Francisco as well.
The view on the Golden Gate bridge is already very spectacular, but I loved arriving in San Francisco and immediately going to Twin Peaks. From there you get a lovely view of the city. You may not see any highlights up close such as the bridge or the Coit Tower, but it’s still very much worth it.
So that’s my little recommendatation list for San Francisco. There are many more things to see and do, but those were my favorite spots in the city.