Is it possible to spend 3 days in San Francisco and truly get to know the city? We certainly think so.
San Francisco is a top travel destination, drawing in 20+ million people a year from all over the world to marvel at its scenic beauty, explore its famous landmarks, and enjoy the world-class cuisine of its diverse communities. From stunning views overlooking the entire Bay Area, romantic cable car rides, eclectic neighborhoods, and a thriving food scene – San Francisco has it all.
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3 days in San Francisco Itinerary
This is the ultimate guide to spending 3 days in San Francisco. And even though we are taking you to some of the city’s most iconic spots with plenty of photo-ops to grace your social media, we are also inviting you to explore the city’s hidden gems off the beaten path.
So layer up, put on your comfy walking shoes, and spend 3 marvelous days in San Francisco.
Day 1: Haight Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, Sutro Baths and Lands End & Japantown
Get an early start to the day and head to Haight-Ashbury. This eccentric district in the heart of San Francisco is famously known as the birthplace of the hippie counterculture movement of the 1960s. The residential neighborhood is lined with Victorian houses, funky eateries, and eclectic shops.
Treat yourself to brunch at Zazie, a popular French bistro with backyard seating.
Golden Gate Park
Next on the list is Golden Gate Park. And there is no better way to explore it than by bike: multiple bicycle rental shops conveniently located at the perimeter of the park, such as Golden Gate Tours, make it easy to pick up the speed. Spanning over 1,000 acres, this urban oasis dwarfs New York’s Central Park in size and boasts a staggering variety of landscapes ranging from open grass areas and idyllic lakes to prehistoric-feeling jungle trails.
Discover the 5 best bike routes in San Francisco.
Sutro Baths & Land’s End
A must-see in San Francisco is the Sutro Baths, the historical site of the famous public bathhouse from 1863. Enjoy the views from up top or continue exploring the coastline on foot, following the Coastal Trail with sweeping ocean views as you make your way towards Land’s End.
This bustling neighborhood with typical Japanese architecture is home to an assortment of sushi and ramen restaurants, specialty grocery stores, karaoke bars, and Asian spas. Get dinner at Hinodeya Ramen Bar or pop into one of the countless small eateries along the roads of the neighbors. Don’t forget to walk by Peace Plaza with a striking 5-tiered Pagoda illuminated by lanterns.
Day 2: Crissy Field, Golden Gate Bridge, Castro, Twin Peaks & Mission
Crissy Field & Golden Gate Bridge
Can you even say that you’ve been to San Francisco if you didn’t visit the famous Golden Gate Bridge? Beat the crowds and head to Crissy Field for the best views of the bridge. You can easily cross the Golden Gate on foot, but bring layers as the Golden Gate is known to be quite windy.
The Castro District, synonymous with gay culture, is easily the most colorful corner of San Francisco. Best explored by wandering around, the famous LGBTQ neighborhood is lined with rainbow-colored crosswalks, funky bookstores, homey restaurants, and plenty of adult shops. Here you can also find the lavish Castro Theater and the GLBT Historic Museum.
Go off the beaten path and explore the Mission District, just a stone’s throw away from the Castro. A hidden gem, the city’s most culturally diverse neighborhood is home to fascinating artwork and murals. Take an extended stroll down Valencia Street. Here you can find over two miles of funky independent shops, specialty coffee bars, and trendy eateries, many of them Latino-inspired.
Get dinner at Limón Rotisserie for some modern Peruvian food in a casual ambiance.
Day 3: North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Ferry Building
Start your day with a hearty or deliciously sweet breakfast at “Mama’s on Washington Square” in North Beach. The Italian neighborhood is a hidden gem in the city vibrating with delicious cuisine and beautiful parks.
Just a short ride or pleasant walk from the center of North Beach is Fisherman’s Wharf. Though quite touristy, it is a spot to visit at least once on your SF travels. Wander around, and say a friendly hello to the sea lions lounging by the piers.
Cable Car Ride & Chinatown
Now it’s time to continue exploring the city in its most iconic way: the cable car. First created in 1837 as a modern transportation system, you can still explore the city on one of the three remaining lines with stops conveniently located at some of the most popular destinations in the city.
For the best overall views of the city, take the Powell Hyde Line directly from Fisherman’s Wharf. Your legs will thank you as you comfortably ride up Russian Hill & Lombard Street, also giving you breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Hop off at Chinatown, a bustling maze of streets and alleys boasting dim sum joints and other traditional eateries. Here you can also find herbalists, bakeries, and souvenir shops.
Embarcadero & Ferry Building
Once you’re done exploring Chinatown, head down to the Embarcadero to visit the historic Ferry Building The popular Marketplace brings together food traditions from the entire Bay Area. End your last day with dinner at Coqueta, a popular Spanish restaurant offering tapas and family-style dinners.
While a city as vibrant and diverse as San Francisco can’t be fully explored in just 3 days, our guide makes sure you hit the most amazing spots during your time in S.F.
Ready to keep exploring? Check out these other destinations and use Troupe to let your travel buddies vote on their favorite!