I moved to San Francisco in 2016 when I was just getting started at UC Berkeley. Although Berkeley is technically not the same city as San Francisco, I always said I lived in SF because many of my acquaintances back home were not as familiar with Berkeley as a city. But, it is safe to say that I might as well have been living in San Francisco. My friends and I made the most of being just a half hour car ride away from the SF city center, going there every chance we got for food, a night out, happy hours, walks, bike rides. The city is known for a lot of things, its infamous hippie culture, the extremely steep hills, Alcatraz island, the Golden Gate Bridge, the fog… So, it wasn’t a surprise that many of my friends studying in different cities in the US (and even the UK and Canada) came to visit quite often. As a result, I was quick to set up a classic route of must-see places, must-eat restaurants and must-have experiences that can be completed in about 2 days. (Maybe more depending on your walking speed(!)) So buckle up, put on your walking shoes and bring on a couple of extra layers because this city will let you experience 4 seasons in a day!
Start your day with a solid brunch at Le Marais. This is a really cute brunch & breakfast spot near the Mission District, one of my favorite areas in town. For brunch they hand out paper menus and you tick next to the items you would like to have on your platter. Have a nice assortment of croissants, eggs, fruits, sandwiches and more. Then, there will be so many sites at walking distance but follow the classic route I follow for post brunch frenzy! Walk towards the Castro, which is an area known for its rich LGBTQ culture. You will come across rainbow flags, colorful boutiques and cafes throughout the street. From here, make your way towards the “Painted Ladies”, which is a very well known SF landmark of 7 houses all in different colors. This place will give you a nice scenery of the entire city and the houses really represent the general architecture of the area.
Keep walking! Make your way back to the Mission district and enjoy a passion fruit smoothie or an acai bowl from Bebe Bar as you sit down at the Mission Dolores Park. This park is extremely pretty, laid back and will have many people doing picnic on a sunny day. For lunch, you have two options. The Mission is an amazing place for food and restaurants; but here are my top picks: El Techo (an amazing rooftop restaurant and bar for Mexican food) or Gracias Madre (vegetarian Mexican food), La Taqueria ( best burritos ever), Foreign Cinema (enjoy your food along with a movie on the background, better for dinner).
Now that you’ve covered Mission district, hop on the BART subway and make your way to Union Square. This is an area great for shopping at the most well known stores. Discover Westfield Mall if you’re looking for the ultimate shopping experience. From Union Square walk towards the Ferry Building, an indoor marketplace that has gourmet food options all day long. Here, enjoy the views of Bay and the Bay Bridge, have a taste of some oysters or some great ice cream from Humphrey Slocombe. Then, for your final food spot of the day, make your way to Bellota, where you will feast on Spanish tapas, paella and some great Sangria! To wrap up the day, now is the time for some night adventures in the city. The Marina is the go-to area for bar hopping, but my all time favorite bars are the Tipsy Pig(more chill vibes) and the White Rabbit (dance all night long), or Monroe’s (music from different decades every hour)! You’ve had a long day, call it a night!
Are you ready for Day 2? You are not done with walking! Start off the day right with a full stomach so that you can take on the load. My suggestion for today’s brunch will be a little unusual. Check out Yank Sing at Rincon center, a dim sum paradise where waiters are walking around you with trolleys and you can keep ordering more food that they offer. Top it off with some green tea and get going. Before you make your way to the Ferry Building again, I suggest you make a quick pit stop at the Salesforce tower rooftop garden!
Then, make your way to the Ferry Building; since we already covered this spot, the best way to walk through the piers as quickly as possible is to rent a Lyft bike or a scooter. This will help you get to the infamous pier 39 quicker, where you can explore the cute shops and the seals! This spot is a little touristy so I suggest you don’t waste a lot of time here. Now, prepare for the climb to Lombard Street. To get some energy, stop by at Ghirardelli square for some chocolate fountain delights or free chocolate offerings! Lombard street is all the way up the hill, so you will have to climb for about 15 minutes… But, trust me, the views are worth it! You can even see Alcatraz from there.
When you’re done exploring Lombard, hop on an Uber or Lyft to make your way to Golden Gate Park. This park, although not as big as Central Park, is huge and there are lots of things to do. I suggest you check out De Young Museum! You can also go on a quick tour around the lake on a small boat.
From here, our next destination will be no other than the Golden Gate Bridge. The best spot for photo opportunities (because everyone knows you will post that picture) will be Fort Point right by the bridge. After you are done taking your photos, hop on another Uber and make your way to the beautiful Sausalito. This is a very high-end but extremely cute region on the other side of the bridge great for an evening happy hour. Go to Bar Bocce and order a pizza for the middle along with some cocktails as you watch the sunset.
That is a wrap for your 2 days in San Francisco. Trust me, this route covers all the major points you should see while you’re there and a carefully crafted restaurant list. If you do have another day or two, you can also consider having a day trip to Napa or Sonoma for amazing wine and wineries! You can also discover the top tier colleges in the area such as Berkeley and Stanford, both the campuses are beautiful.
That was a lot of destinations to keep in mind; if you feel lost, Download Pin Traveler now and pin your favorite spots in the city or add them to your wishlist!