San Francisco Travel Guide
There's no denying that, at least in the 21st century, San Francisco is often thought of as the technology hub of America. And it's perfectly true that this city—which is home to Apple, Facebook, Google, Uber, and countless other technology platforms that impact our daily lives—is synonymous with big tech. However, San Francisco is home to revelatory architecture, the first established LGBTQ+ neighborhood in the country, and Michelin-starred dining, all of which are crucial components of San Francisco's legacy.
When in San Francisco, do as the Northern Californians do. Dress in layers, because the weather is constantly changing, and the fog—whose name, by the way, is Karl—often rolls in with little warning. Spend an afternoon lounging in a public park, taking advantage of San Francisco's seemingly endless green space. Take the BART—i.e., the Metro—to dinner in the Mission. Hike along the Pacific Ocean, or at least stroll on Ocean Beach at sunset. And if someone offers to let you test their app in beta, you've officially made it as a local.
Pacific Standard Time (Daylight Savings Time observed, timing varies)
Best Time to Go
Because San Francisco weather is moderate year-round, it's a destination you can visit all 12 months of the year. That being said, San Francisco records its warmest temperatures from June to October. The city tends to see a high season in July and August, which is why we would recommend visiting in May, June, September, or October. Generally, the fall is quieter than the spring and summer, and yet the temperatures are still in the 70s.
If you're visiting for a specific event, keep in mind that San Francisco famously hosts Outside Lands Music Festival in August each year, and other notable festivals include the San Francisco International Film Festival (April), Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival (April), and San Francisco Jazz Festival (June).
Things to Know
San Francisco is home to Golden Gate Park, which is the third most visited park in the U.S. and spans 1,017 acres.
San Francisco is a true food town: There are 62 Michelin-starred restaurants in the city, and seven restaurants with three Michelin stars (which is impressive considering there are only 14 three-Michelin-star restaurants in the U.S.). Michelin includes restaurants in the greater Bay Area (all the way up to Napa) in its San Francisco ratings.
The best way to get around San Francisco is to take the BART, San Francisco's metro network.
San Francisco is divided into more than 20 neighborhoods, the most popular ones for tourists being Haight-Ashbury, the Castro, the Mission, Chinatown, and Fisherman's Wharf.
The Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island are technically considered part of San Francisco's city limits. Marin, Oakland, and Palo Alto are not, though many visiting San Francisco still like to tour or stay in the surrounding areas, especially when coming to town for work.
How to Get Around
Trains: The BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit, is San Francisco's heavy rail metro, connecting five counties across 131 miles and 50 stations. It allows those on the greater San Francisco peninsula (in tech hubs like Los Gatos, Palo Alto, or Mountain View) to commute to the city center. It also transports tourists and locals around the city, connecting many of the city's top attractions. Find a BART map here.
Buses: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) operates buses, trains, and historic streetcars, among other essential inter-city transportation. The SFMTA's Muni transportation network includes "fuel-efficient Muni buses, light rail Metro trains, historic streetcars, and iconic cable cars." Find all the Muni bus and light rail stops and routes here. You can buy a Muni ticket for $2.50 on the MuniMobile app or on a Clipper Card, or pay $3 cash for a ticket.
Taxis: Find a full list of San Francisco taxi stands here. Uber and Lyft both service San Francisco as well.
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
The Castro: Known as one of the first established LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in America, the Castro is a vibrant neighborhood thanks to wonderful restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and a deluge of rainbow flags. You'll love walking through this ever-bustling neighborhood, from the crosswalks, which feature rainbow stripes, to the local businesses around every corner.
Haight-Ashbury: You'll find this neighborhood at the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets. Haight-Ashbury is an iconic neighborhood, because it was hippie central in the '60s, and it still gives off major peace-and-love vibes. You'll find great vintage clothing and vinyl shops, and more tie-dye than you'd ever know what to do with.
The Mission: Home to Mission Dolores Park, as well as some of the best taco and burrito stands in town, and trendy shops, restaurants, and bars, the Mission is a fusion of young San Francisco tech professionals and Latinx culture. Come to the Mission on a Saturday afternoon, and you'll see all of San Francisco out in full force.
Chinatown: This is the oldest and largest Chinese community outside the U.S. San Francisco's Chinatown is always bustling with locals and tourists, coming to experience authentic Chinese food (particularly for their Sunday dim sum fix) and shop exports from China.
Fisherman's Wharf: Next to North Beach (dubbed SF's Little Italy), you'll find Fisherman's Wharf, which is considered the tourist hot spot in San Francisco. It's not far from Pier 39 and the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, .
Presidio: Right by the water and the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio is a ritzy SF neighborhood that tends to be quieter and more residential. Nonetheless, you'll find stunning architecture here, as well as some high-end shops and restaurants, and of course, views of the water.
In San Francisco, the warmest month of the year is August, and the coldest is January. Because San Francisco is right on the water in its own microclimate, you'll rarely see temperatures above the mid-70s. That being said, lows rarely dip below the mid-40s, making San Francisco a year-round destination. The key to dressing for success in San Francisco is: layers. The temperature fluctuates considerably on any given day, thanks in large part to the famed San Francisco fog, Karl.
The following are average Fahrenheit lows and highs by month. Average annual precipitation is 8.91 inches.
January 44 - 57
February 46 - 59
March 48 - 62
April 49 - 64
May 52 - 67
June 54 - 70
July 55 - 71
August 56 - 72
September 56 - 73
October 54 - 71
November 49 - 63
December 44 - 57