10 Things To Know Before Visiting San Francisco (2023)











10 Things To Know Before Visiting San Francisco (1)

(Video) 10 MUST KNOW TIPS Before Visiting San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge in Fog | © Travis Wise / Flickr

Whether you’re visiting San Francisco from across the country or across the world, there are some things you should know about this unique, vibrant city. Here are 10 things no one tells you about visiting San Francisco.

(Video) San Francisco Travel Tips: 11 Things to Know Before You Go

Riding anywhere in a cable car can take a while

10 Things To Know Before Visiting San Francisco (3)

Cable Car at Hyde Street Hill | © Paul Sullivan / Flickr

Cable cars are definitely a novel way to traverse the city, but they’re best avoided if you have somewhere to be. They’re so popular that you can find yourself waiting in line for hours, and once you’re aboard a cable car, the route can be long and inefficient. In most cases, you’d be better off taking BART or Muni, but if you’re set on having the unique cable car experience, make sure you go when you’ve got some time on your hands.

It’s often cool and foggy – but not always

Many people already know that San Francisco can be chilly thanks to Mark Twain’s famous quote: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” But what they don’t know is that when the sun breaks through the clouds, a cool day can become pretty warm, even if only for a few minutes. To avoid feeling uncomfortable, throw on a t-shirt under your jacket or sweatshirt. In this city, layering is your best friend.

Be prepared to do a lot of walking

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Walking in the Castro | © torbakhopper / Flickr

Oftentimes in San Francisco, it’s more efficient — and more interesting — to walk. Make sure that you arrive in San Francisco wearing sneakers or other comfortable walking shoes, and maybe even bring a water bottle. In a city famous for its hills, rubber flip-flops and flimsy flats just don’t cut it. Luckily, if your feet do tire out, there’s always Uber. San Francisco is the headquarters and birthplace of Uber, and the city teems with drivers.

San Francisco Pride is absolutely wild

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Pride Parade Attendees | © torbakhopper / Flickr

(Video) TOP 10 Things to do in SAN FRANCISCO [Travel Guide]

San Francisco’s annual gay Pride parade is a gathering of color, energy, and acceptance that attracts more than one million people. And while some of those people show their support with a simple rainbow pin, many others go all out — think neon lingerie, tutus, body paint, and fairy wings. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to wear but never have, this is the perfect opportunity. Pack your sparkly body paint and show your support for the LGBTQ+ community in style!

BART trains don’t always run as often as you might like

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BART Train | © Domas Mituzas / Flickr

Depending on the day of the week, and the time of day, the BART train you need could pass through your station every five minutes — or every 20. To avoid waiting underground for too long, check the online schedules ahead of time and plan accordingly. It’s especially important to note that the last train of the day usually leaves around midnight, so late-night partiers will have to find another way home. Fortunately, missing your train isn’t all bad. Many San Francisco BART stations serve as venues for talented musicians who will make the wait much more pleasant.

The sea lions are the real stars of Pier 39

Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf are famous tourist destinations, but unless you’re really hankering for a new refrigerator magnet or baseball cap, the shops aren’t necessarily where most of the excitement is. Instead, try heading towards the bay for a look at the sea lions! These whiskered, vocal marine mammals provide endless entertainment for kids and adults alike. Watch them laze around on the docs and flop into the water and, if you’re lucky, you might see two males duking it out over a female.

Bring hiking shoes to the beach

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Baker Beach | © Thomanication / Flickr

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San Francisco has some beautiful beaches, but the water is often too cold to swim in. Even so, you don’t have to resign yourself to lounging around on the sand. Most of the fun of going to the beach in San Francisco comes from scrambling over the rocks in search of beautiful shells and tide pools, which are often home to crabs, anemones, small fish and mussels. Bring some sturdy shoes to the beach so you don’t miss out!

The Alcatraz night tour is truly creepy

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Alcatraz Cell Block | © Sean Hobson / Flickr

If you choose to visit Alcatraz Island at nighttime, be warned — the experience can be an eerie one. You’ll gain access to deserted cellblocks and the hospital wing, all while listening to haunting recordings of former guards and inmates recounting what they endured in the prison. Visitors interested in this ultimate Alcatraz tour should move fast — tickets for night tours tend to sell out months in advance. If you’re too late to snag a spot on the night tour, go during the daytime for an equally interesting and only marginally less creepy experience.

You don’t have to avoid the Tenderloin

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Mural in the Tenderloin | © Jay Galvin / Flickr

San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, located between Union Square and Civic Center, once held a bad reputation as a hot spot for drug activity. But the area is constantly evolving and, if you’re willing to overlook the district’s historic rough edges, you’ll find that it has a lot to offer. Here, you can have a delicious meal at an authentic Indian or Vietnamese restaurant, visit a funky dive bar, or do some cheap shopping. History buffs will also enjoy the Tenderloin, as it’s home to several historic speakeasies, jazz clubs, and theaters.

POPOS are San Francisco’s best-kept secrets

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Terrace of the Intercontinental Hotel | © Staeiou / WikiCommons

POPOS, or privately owned public open spaces, are urban gardens, plazas, terraces, and greenhouses where the public is welcome. Most are clustered around Market Street, and all provide some kind of seating to allow people to read, write, or simply hang out. Many POPOS are quite beautiful, and they’re the perfect place to rest if you’re exhausted from the day’s excursions. Try the garden at 199 Fremont Street for a tranquil forest setting or the terrace at 343 Sansome Street if you’re looking for a view.

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What you should not miss in San Francisco? ›

Golden Gate bridge:

Probably one of the most famous bridges in the world! This is definitely a visit not to be missed when you travel to San Francisco. The bridge can of course be crossed by car (which we did when we left for our road trip) but also on foot or by bike. Notice to the dizzying, the bridge is moving!

What is the most famous thing about San Francisco? ›

A trip to San Francisco would be incomplete without visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge is over 80 years old and has long been one of the most famous sights in San Francisco. For a unique perspective on the bridge, take to the water with the Golden Gate Bay cruise.

What do I need to know before going to San Francisco? ›

10 Things To Know Before Visiting San Francisco
  • Riding anywhere in a cable car can take a while. ...
  • It's often cool and foggy – but not always. ...
  • Be prepared to do a lot of walking. ...
  • San Francisco Pride is absolutely wild. ...
  • BART trains don't always run as often as you might like. ...
  • The sea lions are the real stars of Pier 39.

How much do you tip in San Francisco? ›

SO HOW MUCH SHOULD I TIP? Since we're Real San Francisco Tours, our guide to tipping in the U.S. is based on what we tip in SF. Restaurants: 15-20%. An easy way to estimate the tip is to double the sales tax (in SF it's 8.5%).

What food is San Francisco known for? ›

San Francisco is as famous for its restaurants and food trends as it is for its Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars. Among the unique or regionally typical foods to be sampled in San Francisco are abalone, Dungeness crab, sand dabs, bay shrimp and crusty sourdough French bread. Many local restaurants serve Joe's Special.

Why do people like San Francisco? ›

The city is chock-full of charming sidewalk cafes, stunning city parks, miles of hiking trails, breathtaking viewpoints, and some of the best restaurants the county has to offer, moving to San Francisco was an easy choice. Also worth mention, I've always had an easy time finding folks to hang out with.

Should I visit LA or SF? ›

For glitz and glamour and some cutting-edge culture in the SoCal sunshine, it's got to be LA. But for a smaller-town feel with big-name sights, you're best off in San Francisco. Better still, rent a car, drive the spectacular coastal highway that connects the two, and take in both cities on one trip.

What colors can you not wear in California? ›

You should better not wear clothes in red and blue colors. Although people in Los Angeles can also wear clothes with these colors. They just need to avoid having any interaction with the gangs or walk into these gangs' areas.

What shoes should I wear in San Francisco? ›

If You're Going to San Francisco

For shoes, opt for a comfortable pair of boots, sneakers, or flats you can wear with any outfit. For clothes, layers are key, and a jacket or sweater for after the sun goes down is always a must.

What do people wear in San Francisco? ›

San Francisco is a casual city, so people usually dress in jeans, t-shirts, and comfortable shoes. To prepare for San Francisco's weather, wear layers all year long. It's not as hot in the summer, and it's not as cold in the winter.

What is the most visited place in San Francisco? ›

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge's vaulting, orange arches amidst the rocky seascape of the San Francisco Bay have made it one of the West Coast's most enduring symbols and the city's most popular tourist attraction.

What's the best time of year to visit San Francisco? ›

The best time to visit San Francisco is from September to November. Believe it or not, fall offers some of the city's warmest temperatures year-round, not to mention fewer crowds than summer. Spring is another good time to visit thanks to its mild temperatures and lack of rain (compared to other parts of California).

What should I not call San Francisco? ›

They also dislike “Baghdad by the Bay,” “Fog City” and “The City.” Other nicknames include “Golden Gate City” or “The Golden City.” Of those who call San Francisco “San Fran” or “Frisco,” 84% of respondents said that they heard the nickname in popular culture.

Can you walk the Golden Gate Bridge? ›

Visiting the world famous Golden Gate Bridge is a unique experience for everyone. Whether you hike, walk, bike, shop, take a guided tour, or just sit back and take it all in, there is something for everyone. The Bridge's Welcome Center offers merchandise and historical information.

Is it safe to walk around San Francisco alone? ›

While many people think that San Francisco is a destination best visited with a partner, or friends, or family, it works just as well as a destination to enjoy solo. I've been traveling to San Francisco since I was a teenager and traveling solo here since I was in my twenties.

Do you tip taxis in San Francisco? ›

Estimated Trip Costs for San Francisco Taxis

It's common to tip cab drivers about 15% to 20% of the fare. I do not tip on the $4 service fee that is added for all trips from SFO. Costs in and around the city are usually anywhere from $15 to $25.

Is it cheaper to take a taxi or Uber in San Francisco? ›

According to a RideGuru analysis, Uber is cheaper than a taxi in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Detroit, while taxis are cheaper in New York City. It's a near-draw in cities like Washington, D.C., and Nashville.

When should you not tip? ›

You Should Always Tip Something, Even If Not 20%

While 20% is the gold standard for a good tip, you can leave less if necessary, as long as you leave something. Experts suggest tipping is just the cost of doing business when going to a restaurant, regardless of service.

What dessert is San Francisco known for? ›

Ghirardelli's Hot Fudge Sundae

Although there are several Ghirardelli stores around the city now, go to Ghirardelli Square for the full experience of eating an ice cream sundae in an old-fashioned ice cream parlor with gorgeous bay views just steps away.

What is interesting about San Francisco? ›

Founded in 1776, the city of San Francisco wasn't named so until 1846. Prior to the renaming, the city was known as 'Yerba Buena', which means 'good herb' in Spanish. The city got its original name from the wild mint that grew around the areas where the first European settlers pitched their tents.

What are the best parts about San Francisco? ›

Ten Things I Love About San Francisco: My Favorite Things to Do in the City by the Bay
  1. The Colorful Street Art and Murals. ...
  2. Summer Street Fairs. ...
  3. The Food. ...
  4. The Golden Gate Bridge. ...
  5. The SF Bay & Its Islands. ...
  6. The Quality & Variety of Our Museums. ...
  7. The Free Attractions & Activities. ...
  8. Its Historic Victorians.

Why is SF so beautiful? ›

Locals appreciate nature, sustainable food, and art. The weather is about as perfect as weather can get — never too hot nor too cold.” From its signature Victorians and iconic landmarks such as cable cars and crooked streets, fog-strewn San Francisco is nothing if not photogenic.

Where do the Kardashians stay in San Francisco? ›

The Fairmont San Francisco is a regal, historic hotel with classic rooms, stellar views, and past guests that include US presidents, Mick Jagger, and the Kardashians — here's what I loved about my stay, and what I'd do differently next time. The letter F.

Is San Francisco better than New York? ›

While both are relatively safe for a major city, San Francisco has a higher rate of property crime and violent crime than New York. Based on a crime scale compiled using FBI data, San Francisco scored 79.2 for property crime and 39.6 for violent crime. New York scored 24.9 for property crime and 28.2 for violent crime.

How can I spend 4 days in San Francisco? ›

How to Spend 4 Days in San Francisco, Detailed Itinerary
  1. Take a tuk-tuk tour.
  2. Visit some of San Francisco's Famous Neighbourhoods.
  3. Climb Coit Tower.
  4. Take an Evening Ghost Tour.
  5. Explore Fisherman's Wharf.
  6. Cruise San Francisco Bay.
  7. Shop til You Drop at Ghirardelli Square.
  8. Ride the Cable Car.
7 Mar 2021

Is Chinatown San Francisco worth visiting? ›

San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest one in North America and covers 24 city blocks. This neighborhood is one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco, and for good reason. It's easy to spend a day here, exploring the streets and alleys, browsing the shops and enjoying the authentic Chinese food.

How long does it take to walk across Golden Gate Bridge? ›

How much time will it take? Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge at a steady pace will take you about 30 minutes to walk the entire route. You will want to leave plenty of time, though, as the walk is usually slow and steady, so plan for it to take you at least 45 minutes each way.


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