San Francisco is one of those cities capable of captivating you from the beginning. This charming, beautiful and energetic city has plenty to offer both to its visitors and to its locals. It’s not a surprise that so many people list San Francisco as their favorite city to spend a long 3 day weekend. The City by the Bay’s neighborhoods, each with an interesting history and cultural heritage have a unique and exhilarating vibe.
Moreover, the exciting art and food scene topped with the surrounding nature also makes this city particularly interesting and attractive. Regardless of the time of your visit, chances are you’ll fall in love with San Francisco, just as many others do. Even if you have only 3 days in San Francisco, that’s enough time to have an unforgettable experience in this vibrant city.
If you’re planning to visit San Francisco, organizing the trip might be a bit challenging because of the huge variety of things to do and see. To make your trip planning easier, we put together this San Francisco itinerary including all the things you shouldn’t miss when visiting San Francisco for 3 days.
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Tips for Visiting San Francisco
Before we begin, here’s a helpful tip – make sure to pack some warm layers because, after all, you are heading to Fog City. There’s a fair chance you will experience the infamous Karl the Fog, as the locals call it, so, it’s important to bring the right clothes.
When it comes to getting around San Francisco, there is a variety of public transportation options. From subway, buses and even the famous Cable Cars! Of course, you could always use a rideshare app or you may choose to rent a car in San Francisco if you plan to drive around and explore outside of town too. You could ride a bike; however, San Francisco is INCREDIBLY hilly — and riding a bike doesn’t seem like a lot of fun on those hills!
Fill your first day in San Francisco with some of the most iconic landmarks and attractions.
Admire the Golden Gate Bridge
Of course, one of the most classic things to do in San Francisco is to see and or cross the Golden Gate Bridge. You don’t necessarily have to be in a car to cross it, as there are several ways you can try and get a great view from the famous bridge. For example, you can cross it by foot through the pedestrian walkway or also by bike. This is a free path you can take that runs along the east (bayside) of the bridge.
If you prefer just to admire the bridge from afar, you can get an awesome view from the dog-friendly Crissy Field Beach from where you’ll also be able to spot Alcatraz and a stunning view of the bay. This is a great beach area to soak up the local vibe while enjoying the amazing views of the bridge and the city around you. However, if you go during the weekend, you might find it a bit crowded.
No matter how you decide to experience it, make sure you include the Golden Gate Bridge in your itinerary. I mean, you can’t say you’ve been to San Francisco if you haven’t stopped by to see the Golden Gate!
Pay A Visit To The Presidio
When you are around the Golden Gate area, why not pay a visit to the charming Presidio? After having served as a military area for several centuries, it is now a beautiful park that hosts several interesting attractions such as the Walt Disney Museum, the Palace of Fine Art and Lucasfilm.
The park is great for families, for adventure seekers and also for those looking for relaxation. Indeed, the Presidio has plenty of things to offer. There are mountain biking trails, and several interesting museums, that depending on your taste might be worth a visit. If you are a Star Wars Fan, look for the Yoda Statue!
With so many fun things to do here, you can easily spend half a day in the Presidio.
Explore Fisherman’s Wharf
After a full day of activities, head to the Fisherman’s Wharf and enjoy the sights (and the smells of the freshly caught crabs and fish). Though very touristy, Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco is definitely worth a visit.
There are several attractions at the Wharf area, including spotting sea lions, visiting the aquarium and the Embarcadero. Also don’t forget the popular Pier 39, a playground for kids and adults, full of bars, restaurants, and games resembling those in amusement parks.
But that’s not all! In Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll find some of the best clam chowders in the state, which, if you have never tried it, you should give it a try. Spending your evening at Fisherman’s Wharf is a nice way to finish off your first day in San Francisco in style. However, there’s quite a bit to do here – so depending on how much time you spend at the Golden Gate and Presidio, you may want to come back another day to visit some of the attractions around the Wharf. No matter what time of day you decide to visit Fisherman’s Wharf, it is a great area to have a delicious meal!
Take A Tour Of Alcatraz
Featured in many movies and surrounded by a sort of mythological halo, in San Franciso you’ll have the chance to visit one of the most talked-about prisons islands. Because Alcatraz has become a very popular destination, it’s advisable to book your tickets in advance. The ticket includes the ferry leaving from Fisherman’s Wharf and the access to the prison (which means, you could go and spend more time wandering the Wharf area in the morning too).
Explore the island, learn about its interesting history and soak in the gorgeous nature. Even though the main attraction of the island is, of course, the prison, you can still walk around and get an impressive view of the city. Take an audio tour if you want to learn more about the history of the island and also about the prisoners and guards that used to live there.
Get Plenty Of Food At Chinatown!
San Francisco’s Chinatown is worth a visit as it is iconic and the biggest one in the United States. If you are craving Chinese food or you simply don’t know what to eat, go to Chinatown, you won’t be disappointed. When walking around this iconic neighborhood’s streets, you will definitely feel like you are in Asia. There are many food stands and food markets, but also delicious restaurants and cool bars. Even if you’re not hungry, you should pay a visit to this popular neighborhood.
You can also learn about how Fortune Cookies are made at the Fortune Cookie Factory. Fun fact; this popular “Chinese” dessert was created in San Francisco! So if you ever make a visit to China, you won’t find fortune cookies over there.
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On the last day of your 3 days in San Francisco, make sure you don’t miss some of the most iconic attractions in the city and try to make the most out of your visit!
Explore the Interesting Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood
As we already mentioned, there are many interesting neighborhoods in San Francisco, each of them with something exciting to offer and unique characteristics. Among them, is a neighborhood that Josh was quite excited to visit -the colorful and hip Haight-Ashbury district. Here, you can learn about the history and the impact of some of the most important social movements that took place in San Francisco over the years. It was in this neighborhood that the counterculture movement was born in the 1960s and where the Summer of Love was organized.
Today, you can find beautiful vintage shops, tattoo parlors as well as iconic record stores. You can also admire the many colorful Victorian homes which are so common in this district. And if you are craving brunch, several spots offer delicious and hearty options. One of them is the popular Pork Store Cafe. There are many others, depending on what you wish to eat, including Magnolia Brewing, which is one of the best stops for local bites and brews.
Of course, during our visit, Josh, myself and Hana had to take a stroll just a couple blocks from the main area of this district to see the form home where members of the Grateful Dead lived. Lots of music was created and enjoyed in this area! But it is now a private home, so be sure to be respectful.
Go To North Beach and Coit Tower
If you want to get cultural, make sure you explore North Beach, also called Little Italy, another very popular neighborhood where you can still experience and notice a significant Italian influence. Here, you’ll find authentic Italian food, great restaurants, and cafes. And if you are really into food, you might want to consider taking one of the many food tours organized in the neighborhoods.
In this area, you can also get a great panoramic view of San Francisco and the Bay, which gets particularly charming at sunset. Walk up to the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill and enjoy the view. You’ll also see the famous Crooked Street (or Lombard Street) from above, which is another attraction you should not miss during your visit to San Francisco!
Take A Picture on Lombard Street!
San Francisco is a unique city for many reasons. Apart from the above-mentioned attractions, The Golden city is also known for having the steepest streets in the country. If you want to take a great picture, make sure you head to Lombart Street, one of the most iconic “crooked” streets in the city. During the summer and in spring, Lombard Street gets even more charming thanks to the many beautiful flowers that decorate it. Interestingly Lombard Street is also home to some of the most expensive real estate.
Have a Couple Extra Days? Take a Day Trip Outside the City!
San Francisco is an amazing place itself, but the area just outside the city offers incredible natural scenery, funky beach towns, and one of the best wine regions in the world. If you can spend a little more than 3 days, we highly recommend that you add in some day trips to nearby areas to fully explore the area.
** Check out our complete blog post about 6 awesome day trips to take from San Francisco!
Enjoy Your Trip To San Francisco To The Fullest
San Francisco is a vibrant city full of great things to do for visitors of all types. In this 3 day itinerary, we’ve included only some of the most popular things you can do and see in 3 days in San Francisco. But this is really only scratching the surface of San Francisco. However, a long weekend visit is enough to enjoy some of the most important and popular landmarks and get a sense of the colorful and charming vibes that characterize this rich city.
For sure, no matter how long you decide to stay or what you decide to visit, it’s guaranteed you’ll have a great time in San Francisco!
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