City of San Francisco view from hill

San Francisco Travel Guide

By Maya Kachroo-Levine
March 02, 2021

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.

Time Zone

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.

Car service: In addition to rideshare services, you can also arrange for black car service via companies like Black Lane or SF Black Car.

Lobby of San Francisco Proper Hotel
Credit: Courtesy of Proper Hospitality

Best Hotels

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Lobby of San Francisco Proper Hotel
Credit: Courtesy of Proper Hospitality

San Francisco Proper

Address: 45 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 735-7777
Website

San Francisco Proper has modern design, a charming rooftop, and a restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Jason Fox. With 131 rooms and suites, ranging from their 200-square-foot Deluxe Queen all the way up to their Premier Suite, this hotel is a see-and-be-seen hotspot with California charm.

St. Regis San Francisco

Address: 125 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 284-4000
Website

You’ll find SF’s St. Regis property in the SoMa neighborhood of the city, not far from San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Oracle Park. The St. Regis has an impressive art collection of its own, a fine dining restaurant on-site, and a lavish Lobby Bar that serves craft libations and afternoon tea.

Mansion on Sutter

Address: 1409 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: (415) 213-2746
Website

Mansion on Sutter offers a boutique hotel experience in the heart of San Francisco. The hotel has only 12 rooms and is housed in a spectacular Victorian mansion.

Inn San Francisco

Address: 943 S Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 641-0188
Website

Inn San Francisco is a bed-and-breakfast within a Victorian mansion. Leaning into Victorian-era decor, this hotel on Mansion Row has just 27 rooms. For accommodations, guests have their choice of small rooms, medium rooms, spacious rooms, or the inn’s garden cottages.

Hotel VIA

Address: 138 King Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
Phone: (415) 200-4977
Website

Stay right across from Oracle Park in San Francisco’s South Beach neighborhood at Hotel VIA. The hotel has a rooftop lounge overlooking the San Francisco Bay, and suites with equally impressive views.

Parker Guest House

Address: 520 Church Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Phone: (415) 621-3222
Website

This 21-room guest house on Church Street offers a young, boutique atmosphere nestled between two of SF’s most vibrant neighborhoods: the Castro and the Mission. The property has beautiful gardens where guests can relax with a cup of coffee in the morning before exploring the city.

Interior of the Nobu Palo Alto Hotel
Credit: Courtesy of Nobu Palo Alto

Nobu Palo Alto

Address: 180 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone: (650) 798-8396
Website

Nobu Palo Alto features gorgeous, high-concept design and 73 guest rooms in Silicon Valley. The property is conveniently located in downtown Palo Alto and offers exclusive Ryokan suites on the hotel’s seventh and eighth floor.

Waters Edge Hotel

Address: 25 Main Street, Tiburon, CA 94920
Phone: (415) 789-5999
Website

San Francisco travelers opting to stay across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin can check into the Waters Edge Hotel, which boasts gorgeous views of the water and the San Francisco skyline.

Waterfront Hotel Oakland

Address: 10 Washington Street, Oakland, CA 94607
Phone: (510) 836-3800
Website

Stay in Oakland along the water in Jack London Square, not far from downtown Oakland. Waterfront Hotel is pet-friendly, with spacious rooms and an intimate, boutique hotel feel.

Bibimbap at San Ho Won in San Francisco
Credit: Courtesy of San Ho Won

Best Restaurants

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Mission Chinese Food

Address: 2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 863-2800
Website

A San Francisco foodie institution in the Mission district of the city, Mission Chinese Food serves innovative and wholly unexpected takes on Chinese cuisine. Under renowned chef Danny Bowien, who has significant culinary cachet after founding Mission Chinese in 2010, the restaurant has expanded to New York City, but the SF Mission location is the original.

Nopalito

Address: 306 Broderick Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Phone: (415) 437-0303
Website

Bringing an authentic taste of Mexico City to San Francisco, Nopalito now has two locations and a James Beard Award-winning cookbook. At the Broderick Street location, order up their fried brussel sprouts al pastor, slow-cooked carnitas, and of course, the chicken mole.

Pastries and salad with sandwiches from Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco
Credit: Courtesy of Tartine Manufactory

Tartine Manufactory

Address: 595 Alabama Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 757-0007
Website

Tartine now has a nationwide following, thanks in large part to the Tartine cookbook and their ever-Instagrammable pastries. But the manufactory on Alabama street is where this bread-based empire started. Visit Tartine Manufactory for breakfast or lunch, where you’ll enjoy great coffee, exceptional pastries, and sandwiches served on rustic, freshly baked bread.

Wako Japanese Restaurant

Address: 211 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: (415) 682-4875
Website

One of the most impressive Japanese restaurants in San Francisco, Wako is known for its omakase offerings. A mecca of uni, toro, and other sushi delicacies, every course Wako serves is plated with care and precision. Since opening in 2014, Wako has received one MIchelin star.

Atelier Crenn

Address: 3127 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94123
Phone: (415) 440-0460
Website

One of the only three-Michelin-star restaurants in San Francisco, helmed by renowned chef Dominique Crenn, Atelier Crenn serves luxurious French cuisine. The restaurant typically serves a prix fixe, 14-course meal, focusing on sustainable and in-season ingredients for more than $300 per person.

Baia

Address: 300 Grove Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 861-0625
Website

Only in California will you find revelatory plant-based cuisine that nudges vegan eats into the must-try fine dining category. At the newly opened Baia, you’ll enjoy vegan Italian food by chef Matthew Kenney, which the restaurant calls “plant-based culinary art.”

Reem’s Mission

Address: 2901 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 780-1953
Website

Reem’s Mission has been recognized as a James Beard Award semi-finalist, and is known for their delectable Middle Eastern fare. They have a strong following throughout the Bay Area, thanks to their meze spreads, baklava, falafel, and more.

Bibimbap at San Ho Won in San Francisco
Credit: Courtesy of San Ho Won

San Ho Won

Address: 2170 Bryant Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Website

San Ho Won is known for exceptional Korean Barbecue in the Mission District. New on the SF restaurant scene from chef Corey Lee, San Ho Won serves a modernized take on classic Korean dishes as well as Korean charcoal barbecue.

Mamahuhu

Address: 517 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: (415) 742-4958
Website

Mamahuhu is working to marry Chinese-American cuisine with healthy, sustainable living. They serve dishes made from only sustainably sourced ingredients, and their menu is all about making delectable Chinese-American that’s healthy and affordable.

Flour + Water Pasta Shop

Address: 3000 20th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 471-2998
Website

Flour + Water is a minimalist Italian restaurant, in that they source only the highest quality ingredients and serve a pared down menu. Diners are in awe of their handmade pastas, from filled agnolottis to perfectly crafted pappardelle served beneath ragu bolognese, pesto, or homemade meatballs.

Hotbird

Address: 1355 Market Street, Suite 180, San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 562-4817
Website

Nashville hot chicken has officially come to SF at Hotbird. Hotbird is serving just one sandwich that’s in extremely high demand. Get their fried chicken sandwich original style (without the heat), hotbird style (“your choice of heat”), or protein style (served with slaw on the side and no bun). 

The Palace of Fine Arts in the evening with reflection from pond in San Francisco California.
Credit: Getty Images

Things to Do

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Alcatraz Island

Phone: (415) 561-4900
Website

Alcatraz Island served as a federal prison from the 1930s to the 1960s—and before that was a military fort and military prison. Today, it’s operated by the National Park Service, and the NPS offers tours and transportation to the island.

Golden Gate Bridge

Address: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA
Website

The Golden Gate Bridge goes from the Presidio in San Francisco across the Bay to Marin. The art deco suspension bridge, built in 1933, extends more than a mile and a half, and accommodates cars, foot traffic, and bicycles.

The Palace of Fine Arts in the evening with reflection from pond in San Francisco California.
Credit: Getty Images

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

Address: 3601 Lyon Street, San Francisco, CA 94123
Phone: (415) 360-3731
Website

Experience a rare display of Greco-Roman architecture at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. The stunning rotunda is set on a lagoon, offering visitors a healthy dose of old-world serenity. Now used primarily as a private event space, visitors can still buy tickets to explore the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, built by renowned California architect Bernard Maybeck.

Twin Peaks

Address: 501 Twin Peaks Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94114
Website

Twin Peaks are two summits at nearly 1,000-feet elevation that offer 360-degree views of the city by the bay. The north peak, which most travelers choose to drive up, is called Eureka, and the south peak is called Noe. It’s a free attraction and one of the city’s best lookout points.

Sea Lions of Pier 39 at Fishermans Wharf - San Francisco, California, USA
Credit: Getty Images

Fisherman’s Wharf

Address: The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133
Website

Attracting tourists year-round, Fisherman’s Wharf is a shopping area right on the water and San Francisco’s Embarcadero. It’s two blocks from the bustling Pier 39, and while there are a number of tourist trap souvenir shops and eateries here, you can find some long-standing SF institutions, too.

Golden Gate Park

Website

Golden Gate Park stretches for 1,017 acres and is the United States’ third most visited park. Points of interest within the park include the Japanese Tea Garden, the windmills at the west end of the park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and the Conservatory of Flowers.

Land’s End Lookout

Address: 680 Point Lobos Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121
Phone: (415) 426-5240
Website

Land’s End is a lookout point within Golden Gate National Recreation Area, not far from the Sutro Bath ruins. From the lookout point above the Sutro Baths, take the Coastal Trail toward the Golden Gate Bridge for magnificent views of the San Francisco Bay.

Mission Dolores Park at Dawn
Credit: Chris LaBasco/Getty Images

Mission Dolores Park

Address: Dolores Street & 19th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Phone: (415) 554-9521
Website

Spending an afternoon lounging in the park is something of an art form in San Francisco. Mission Dolores is one of the most popular parks in San Francisco—it covers 16 acres and locals gather here on weekend afternoons when the sun comes out. You’ll find Mission Dolores Park (often just referred to as Dolores Park) on the western edge of the Mission District.

Sutro Baths

Address: 1004 Point Lobos Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121
Phone:  (415) 426-5240
Website

Right near Land’s End, just north of Ocean Beach, you’ll find the remains of the Sutro Baths. The Sutro Baths and adjacent Cliff House were erected in the late 1800s, though now ruins are all that’s left of the baths. Once a swimming facility with seven pools of varying temperatures, each filled naturally by the waves of the Pacific Ocean, the waterfront cliffside ruins are still exciting to explore prior to visiting Land’s End.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art exterior of building
Credit: JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Address: 151 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 357-4000
Website

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, better known as the SFMOMA, was the first modern and contemporary art museum on the West Coast when it opened in 1935. The SFMOMA has since undergone an elaborate redesign by noted architecture firm Snøhetta in 2016 and is home to more than 33,000 works of art.

Mission District Murals

Address: Multiple locations
Website

The Mission District is known not only for their great restaurants and vibrant atmosphere, but for their art scene as well. Take a self-guided tour of the Mission District’s murals and you’ll get to appreciate firsthand the powerful display of public art in this neighborhood. To start, check out The Women’s Building MaestraPeace Mural and the artwork on Balmy Alley (between 24th and 25th streets and Treat and Harrison streets).

Bike Tours Extranomical

Address: 501 Bay Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
Phone: (415) 357-0700 
Website

Biking around San Francisco is a great way to see the sights, but because this is such a high-tech city, your adventure calls for a high-tech bike. Rent an electric bike from Bike Tours Extranomical, so you can take a self-guided electric bike tour of the city. They’ll provide bikes, safety gear, maps of the city, and expert guidance before sending you off on an e-bike-fueled adventure.

Inteior view of Gravel and Gold shop in San Francisco
Credit: Courtesy of Gravel and Gold

Best Shopping

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Ferry Building Marketplace

Address: 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111
Website

Along the Embarcadero and the San Francisco Bay, you’ll find the historic Ferry Building Marketplace. The Ferry Building has everything: it’s simultaneously a food hall, farmer’s market, and shopping hub, filled with local merchants selling souvenirs and San Francisco delicacies (like the sourdough at Acme Bread Company).

Westfield San Francisco Centre

Address: 865 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 512-6776
Website

Westfield San Francisco Centre is a nine-story mall with more than 170 shops. You’ll find all your favorite retailers at Westfield (think: Nordstrom, Kiehl’s, Lululemon, and J.Crew), plus plenty of places to eat and a rooftop terrace.

Crocker Galleria

Address: 50 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone: (415) 393-1500
Website

Crocker Galleria is both a design feat and a shopper’s paradise. It’s known for the remarkable glass-dome covering the three-story shopping center, and within the dome, you’ll find luxury retailers and a farmer’s market.

Canton Bazaar

Address: 616 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94108
Phone: (415) 362-5750
Website

In San Francisco’s Chinatown, you’ll find Canton Bazaar, a buzzing market where you can find exports from all over Asia. Find diamond-in-the-rough shops selling authentic Chinese tea sets, souvenir stores, and of course, great food stalls.

The Metreon

Address: 135 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Website

In downtown San Francisco’s Yerba Buena neighborhood, you’ll find this four-story shopping center. The Metreon has a futuristic design and houses not only some of your favorite retailers, but also a movie theater and a dining terrace with a myriad of culinary options from around the world.

San Francisco Mercantile

Address: 1698 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Phone: (415) 757-0677
Website

Nestled in Haight-Ashbury, the charming San Francisco Mercantile feels like a hyper-local souvenir shop, selling one-of-a-kind SF souvenirs made by local artists. Come for the hand-painted mugs, stay for the eclectic ambiance of the shop itself.

Love on Haight

Address: 1400 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Phone: (415) 817-1027
Website

If you didn’t buy tie-dye in Haight-Ashbury, did you even go to San Francisco? Love on Haight—on Haight Street in this iconic artist district of San Francisco—sells tie-dye everything, even face masks.

Dog Eared Books

Address: 900 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 282-1901
Website

Dog Eared Books, in the Mission, sells new and gently used books in a store covered in iconic music posters and rows upon rows of books. You can find used books here for as little as $5, and you’ll be impressed with their selection of books from small, independent publishers.

Kenneth Wingard

Address: 2319 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Phone: (415) 431-6900
Website

Kenneth Wingard is a renowned designer whose work is now sold by the likes of Restoration Hardware and Crate & Barrel. Visit his flagship store in San Francisco, which sells beautiful home decor pieces, some of which you can’t find anywhere else.

Inteior view of Gravel and Gold shop in San Francisco
Credit: Courtesy of Gravel and Gold

Gravel and Gold

Address: 3266 21st Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 552-0112
Website

Gravel and Gold, a woman-owned boutique in the Mission, is a perfect fusion of upscale and purely funky. Their eclectic array of clothing, accessories, and designer goods is expertly curated by women with a keen eye for design. Overall, their aesthetic is California-chic, with a dash of Haight-Ashbury eccentricity.

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.

Weather

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

Apps to Download

BART App: Bay Area Regional Transit app
iOS | Android

MuniMobile: SFMTA ticketing app
iOS | Android

BART to Airport: Tickets for affordable, shared rides to the airport
iOS | Android

Uber: Rideshare servicing San Francisco
iOS | Android

Lyft: Rideshare servicing San Francisco
iOS | Android

City Explore San Francisco: An on-the-go guide to arts and culture in SF
iOS | Android