Top Attractions & Things to Do in San Francisco

Explore the best attractions & points of interest in San Francisco, CA

Attractions & Things to Do in San Francisco, CA

Top Attractions & Things to Do in San Francisco, CA

  1. Golden Gate Bridge
  2. Fisherman’s Wharf
  3. The Embarcadero
  4. Union Square
  5. Ghirardelli Square
  6. Lombard Street
  7. Palace of Fine Arts
  8. Bay Bridge
  9. Coit Tower
  10. AT&T Park
  11. Golden Gate Park
  12. Alcatraz Island
  13. Fillmore Street
  14. Sacramento Street
  15. Chestnut Street
  16. Union Street
  17. Polk Street
  18. Chinatown
  19. Japantown
  20. The Presidio
  21. Mission Dolores Park
  22. The Painted Ladies

Popular Attractions in San Francisco

Set along the ocean, with rolling hills and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the United States and the jewel of Northern California. The city is full of history, great neighborhoods, parks, beaches, museums, and a whole host of entertainment options. Some of the most notable attractions, beyond the famous bridge, are historic Alcatraz Island and Fisherman’s Wharf. In the city center is Golden Gate Park, a huge green space with all kinds of things to do. San Francisco’s Chinatown, the largest of its kind in North America, is definitely worth visiting. For an interesting tour of the city, hop on one of the historic cable cars, which stop at many of the city’s top sites.

1. The Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, CA
The Golden Gate Bridge is inarguably the most famous landmark of San Francisco. The suspension bridge was officially opened in 1937 after four years of battle with the elements (winds, fog and treacherous tides). The bridge crosses the strait from San Francisco to the Marin headlands. The bridge stretches to 1.7 miles in length. Before 1993, it was the tallest bridge of any kind in the city.

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2. Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco, CA
Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular tourist attraction and landmark in San Francisco. This thriving and vibrant neighborhood is also a commercial and tourist center in San Francisco. In fact, many would recommend it as the best starting point for those who want to enjoy the authentic San Francisco experience.

Fisherman’s Wharf is home to the city’s fishing fleet as it is docked along Jefferson Street. The wharf also plays a vital role in the city’s fishing industry; a visit to the “Fish Alley” will give tourists a chance to experience how the fishermen work in the area. In addition to the fishing vessels, charters and cruise ships along the Bay Area also use this wharf as a launching point.

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3. The Embarcadero

The Embarcadero - San Francisco, CA
The Embarcadero is a waterfront roadway that is closely linked to the port area of San Francisco. This entire boulevard runs three miles along the San Francisco waterfront, parallel with an engineered seawall. The name of the street is derived from a Spanish word “embarcar”, which literally means ‘to embark’.

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4. Union Square

Union Square - San Francisco, CA
Union Square is the number one destination in San Francisco for dining, shopping and entertainment. This 2.6-acre public square is located in downtown San Francisco. Tourists who enjoy shopping should visit San Francisco’s Union Square as it boasts of having the largest collection of shops in the city. In addition to upscale boutique shops like Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s or Saks Fifth Avenue, Union Square is also home to a wide selection of hotels, salons, gift shops, theaters and art galleries.

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5. Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square - San Francisco, CA
Ghirardelli Square is a massive retail and entertainment complex in San Francisco. The entire complex measures at 99,551 square foot in size. This square encompasses an entire city block within San Francisco’s North Waterfront area. Ghirardelli Square is a notable landmark of San Francisco. Its proximity to Fisherman’s Wharf, another San Francisco landmark, together with its historical significance makes it one of the most visited destinations in the Bay Area.

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6. Lombard Street

Lombard Street - San Francisco, CA
Lombard Street is an iconic landmark in San Francisco, and is one of the most photographed attractions in the city. The street stretches for a block starting from the Presidio to the Embarcadero. This popular one-block section of street in San Francisco is referred to as the world’s most crooked street and features eight hair pin turns.

Aside from the unique hairpin turns, Lombard Street is surrounded by beautiful Russian Hill mansions. There is beautifully manicured landscaping all throughout this one-block street, which looks spectacular in photos. The hairpin turns were created by design, because the steep decline was deemed too dangerous and treacherous. By adding the hairpin turns, it made the street a lot safer for pedestrians.

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7. Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts - San Francisco, CA
The Palace of Fine Arts is located in San Francisco’s Marina District. This monumental structure was originally built to display the artworks during the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. Over a century later, this structure is the only structure that has survived since that exposition. There were 9 other palaces that were constructed for the exposition and this was the only one that was not demolished. The current location of the Palace of Fine Arts at 3301 Lyon St. is also its original location. Today, the Palace of Fine Arts is one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco. It is a popular venue for weddings and photography shoots.

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8. The Bay Bridge

Bay Bridge - San Francisco, CA
The Bay Bridge is a bridge that spans the San Francisco Bay in Northern California. The official name for the bridge is the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The bridge is part of the Interstate 80 route that links San Francisco and Oakland, which is traversed by an average of 240,000 vehicles daily.

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9. Coit Tower

Coit Tower - San Francisco, CA
Coit Tower is a slender white concrete column measuring 210 feet in height. Officially known as Lillian Coit Memorial Tower, this tower is located in Telegraph Hill, a neighborhood in San Francisco. This tower is an emblem of the San Francisco skyline since the construction of the tower was completed in 1933. In fact, it has become a symbol of the city, acting as a welcoming beacon. The observation deck in Coit Tower is flocked by tourists. To enter the deck, tourists must purchase a ticket at the gift shop. From there, visitors can take the elevator and enjoy a 360-degree view of the bay and the city from the observation tower.

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10. AT&T Park

AT&T Park - San Francisco Giants Baseball Stadium - San Francisco, CA
AT&T Park is a baseball park in San Francisco, California. It is located within the South Beach neighborhood and best known as the home of the San Francisco Giants in Major League Baseball (MLB). It has been the home of the Giants since 2000. In 2000, the park was officially opened. At that time, the total cost of construction was at $357 million. It has a total seating capacity of nearly 42,000 with a standing room capacity of 1,500. The record attendance at AT&T Park was during Game 2 of the 2010 NLDS when the Atlanta Braves played at the stadium with more than 44,000 attendees.

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11. Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park - San Francisco, CA
Golden Gate Park is located in San Francisco, California. It encompasses over 1,017-acre of land consisting of playgrounds, lakes, gardens, monuments, hiking trails and picnic groves. It is open all throughout the year and is visited by an average of 13 million tourists annually! Golden Gate Park is a treasured attraction in San Francisco not only for the vast array of activities that can be enjoyed by tourists. Located in the heart of San Francisco, Golden Gate Park features over 7,000 kinds of plants and flowers.

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12. Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island - San Francisco, CA
Alcatraz Island is one of the most popular attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is located about 1.25 miles off shore from San Francisco. This small island was utilized for a wide range of functions including as a lighthouse, prison and military fortification. The entire island measures at 22 acres and is currently governed by the US National Park Service (as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area). It was founded in 1934 and is listed in the US National Register of Historic Places.

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13. Fillmore Street

Fillmore Street - San Francisco, CA
Fillmore Street is an upscale shopping district in San Francisco. The street is named after former US President Millard Fillmore. The street starts at Lower Haight neighborhood and goes north to Pacific Heights, where it ends in Marina District. Fillmore Street offers a wide range of high-end shopping and dining options.

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14. Sacramento Street

Sacramento Street - San Francisco, CA
Sacramento Street is a notable street in San Francisco. It is a vital point of interest among tourists and locals alike. Sacramento Street is located between Broderick and Spruce Street along Presidio Heights in San Francisco. Sacramento Street is popular as a quaint neighborhood. It has a wide range of entertainment and dining options. From antique stores, home furnishing shops and artisanal cafes, you can find a wide assortment of these shops while strolling Sacramento Street.

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15. Chestnut Street

Chestnut Street - San Francisco, CA
Chestnut Street comprises the business section of the Marina District in San Francisco. This part of San Francisco offers an eclectic mix of restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, and other types of services. Considered as a posh destination in San Francisco, the sophisticated nature of Chestnut Street is undeniable. Chestnut Street is typically bustling with a lively crowd during lunch or dinner time. Known as a boutique lover’s sanctuary, this street is teeming with options as far as shopping is concerned. It is home to a wide variety of well-known stores like GAP, Pottery Barn, the Apple Store, and Williams-Sonoma.

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16. Union Street

Union Street - San Francisco, CA
Since the 1950’s, Union Street is known as one of the top destinations in San Francisco. It has specialty shops, services and restaurants that have earned the “only in SF” seal. The historic Victorian setting is one of the things that make this district unique from all the others in San Francisco. The old Victorian charm is a beautiful contrast to the rapid modernization of its surrounding streets and neighborhoods. Visitors who plan on exploring the Union Street shops and restaurants should allot at least half a day. Union Street and the Cow Hollow neighborhood have been consistently named as one of the top 5 neighborhoods for young adults (in the world, not just in San Francisco). It reflects the youthful and vibrant energy that this neighborhood exhibits. There are plenty of gyms, spas, and yoga centers that serve the needs of the young adults that live here.

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17. Polk Street

Polk Street - San Francisco, CA
Polk Street is a street in San Francisco, which is considered as a melting pot of cultures. The mixture of culture within this neighborhood is evident among its residents and in the variety of shops and restaurants that line up the street. It is one of the locals’ favorites when it comes to shopping and dining for its tempting assortment of options. The best dining options in Polk Street include the casual Greek fare at Myconos Greek Restaurant, Leopold’s hearty Austrian fare, Swan Oyster Depot, Basik Cafe, and Ben Thai Cafe. Amelie is another upscale wine bar that is worth a visit while in San Francisco. While in Polk Street, visitors can explore the nearby Russian Hill or Pier 39 wherein more attractions and sights await.

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18. Chinatown

Chinatown - San Francisco, CA
Chinatown in San Francisco is not only the largest outside of Asia, but also the oldest in North America. It is one of the top destinations for tourists who visit San Francisco. Chinatown is located within Grant Avenue and Stockton Street. There are four Chinatowns in the city: the other three are on Clement Street, Irving Street, and Noriega Street. But the Chinatown located at Grant Avenue and Stockton Street is called the “original” Chinatown in San Francisco, and is the oldest of the four. San Francisco’s Chinatown played an important role in helping the ethnic Chinese immigrant community flourish in North America. To this day, the cultural, religious and ethnic identities of the Chinese residents in the area are still very much alive.

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19. Japantown

Japantown - San Francisco, CA
Japantown is the first Japanese community to be established in the United States. It was founded in 1906. Like the famous Chinatown, Japantown is a popular tourist destination in San Francisco for those who want to experience the Japanese American culture and community.

Japantown is located on the border of Geary Boulevard in the middle of Laguna Street and Fillmore Street. It is a famous stop in the popular 49-Mile Scenic Drive in San Francisco. Tourists will recognize Japantown by the famous bright red banners that are filled with cherry blossoms. There is also a Peace Pagoda that indicates you are in the Japantown area of San Francisco.

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20. The Presidio

The Presidio - San Francisco, CA
The Presidio of San Francisco is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It spans 1,500 acres in land area, which is a park and former US Military facility. It is located on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula in California. From 1776 to 1994, the Presidio served as an important military post for the US Army. It is currently famous for its breathtaking views of the bay, as well as a popular historical destination in San Francisco. Enjoy the 24 miles of hiking trails, cultural centers, and museums when you visit the Presisio. From time to time, there are also art exhibitions that are held within this park. The picnic area in the Presidio is one of the most popular parts of the park. More than 5,000 people enjoy a picnic at the grounds during spring and summer weekends.

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21. Mission Dolores Park

Mission Dolores Park - San Francisco, CA
Mission Dolores Park, also known simply as Dolores Park, is a city park located two blocks south of Mission Dolores. It is located on the western side of the Mission District in San Francisco, California. On the north and south, it is bounded by 18th Street and 20th Street, respectively. On the east and west, it is bounded by Dolores Street and Church Street, respectively.

Mission Dolores Park encompasses 16 acres in land area and is one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist destinations. It is a vibrant park within an equally vibrant neighborhood known for its cultural diversity. The park features lush green lawns that are shaded by towering palm trees. There is also a soccer field, tennis courts, basketball court, multi-purpose court, and a playground within the park.

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22. The Painted Ladies

The Painted Ladies - San Francisco, CA
The Painted Ladies are a row of Victorian houses at 710–720 Steiner Street, across from Alamo Square park, in San Francisco. It is sometimes known as “Postcard Row.” The houses were built between 1892 and 1896 by developer Matthew Kavanaugh, who lived next door in the 1892 mansion at 722 Steiner Street. This block appears very frequently in media and mass-market photographs of the city and its tourist attractions and has appeared in an estimated 70 movies, TV programs, and ads, including in the opening credits of the television series Full House.

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About David LaPlante

David LaPlante San Francisco Luxury Real Estate Agent

David LaPlante is a San Francisco luxury real estate agent with the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury℠ – Pacific Heights office. David and Coldwell Banker offer buyers access to some of the most exclusive luxury properties for sale in San Francisco and around the globe. With the technology and marketing resources to promote your property to a global network of luxury real estate buyers, David qualifies as the perfect partner.

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