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San Francisco’s Top 5 Attractions

Updated on September 21, 2010
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California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate ParkGolden Gate BridgeSea Lions at Pier 39Streets of ChinatownAlcatraz Island
California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park
California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
Sea Lions at Pier 39
Sea Lions at Pier 39
Streets of Chinatown
Streets of Chinatown
Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island

It is difficult to choose only five attractions to tell people to check out in San Francisco. There are just so many different options here for people who want to see what the city has to offer. Moreover, as someone who has spent a lot of time exploring the city, many of my very favorite places are random places that wouldn’t necessarily make it on to a tour guide list. Nevertheless, having hosted a lot of different guests in the city, I do know what the core things are that they typically want to see. The five biggest ones follow here (with descriptions below the map).

show route and directions
A markerGolden Gate Park -
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA, USA
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B markerGolden Gate Bridge -
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA, USA
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C markerPier 39 -
Pier 39, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA
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D markerGates of Chinatown -
Bush St & Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
get directions

E markerAlcatraz -
Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA, USA
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1. Golden Gate Park. This massive city park is a huge attraction for people of all ages. Within the park there are many, many individual attractions including gardens, museums and places to play sports. In fact, I’ve previously written an article on 20 things to do in Golden Gate Park! It is definitely possible to spend an entire day of your San Francisco itinerary in this hot spot.

2. Golden Gate Bridge. This famous bridge is a huge tourist attraction. Some people simply enjoy seeing it from various parts of the city. However, most people actually want to cross the bridge. You can walk over the bridge. You can also rent a bicycle and bike over the bridge. Both options are popular. The bridge is over one mile long so keep that in mind when planning your trek. It’s also typically quite windy so wear a jacket! That said, it’s definitely worth it to cross all the way over the bridge because the view of the city skyline from the other side of the bridge is one of the best views you’ll ever see!

3. Pier 39/ Fisherman’s Wharf. This is a well-known tourist area that people typically want to see when they visit the city. At Pier 39 you will find a diverse range of silly shops and dining options. You’ll also find the city’s infamous sea lions (which you can view but not feed!) The next pier over, Pier 41, is Fisherman’s Wharf. Here you will find food stands specializing in clam chowder sourdough bread bowls and other San Francisco favorites. You’ll also find a cool old arcade museum called Musee Mecanique that is definitely worth a visit. At and between the two piers you will find plenty of the city’s famous street performers putting on shows of all kinds for your enjoyment (and donations). You’ll also find street vendors selling jewelry, crafts and caricature portraits. From Fisherman’s Wharf you can walk along the water to a few other popular attractions including Ghirardelli Square and the boats of Hyde St. Pier. Incidentally, from this attraction you can also see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz on days that are not foggy.

4. Chinatown. This is a large San Francisco neighborhood that many people also consider to be a top tourist attraction. The sights, smells and sounds here are very different from the rest of the city. Many people enjoy shopping for souvenirs here. You can take pictures at the Gates of Chinatown, which are located at the intersection of Grant and Bush. One of my personal favorite places to check out here is the Fortune Cookie Factory, a hole-in-the-wall stop in a Chinatown alley where you can see how fortune cookies are made. (For $1 you can take a photograph of the process.) Another recommendation here is to stop into one of the tea stores that advertise free tea tasting and to sit down for an informative, educational tasty tea tasting that truly is free.

5. Alcatraz. Every single person that has visited me in San Francisco has wanted to visit Alcatraz since it’s probably the city’s most famous attraction. You take a ferry ride over to the island. You can see the city from the island (unless it’s a very foggy day). At the island you can take an audio tour of the old prison. You can also learn about the Native American activist history of the island. I definitely think it’s worth checking out this attraction at least once because there is a lot of fascinating history here.


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  • Eddie Saleh profile image

    Eddie Saleh 4 years ago from Washington DC

    Great guide for Tourist Attractions in San Francisco

  • Jason Matthews profile image

    Jason Matthews 5 years ago from North Carolina

    Very good! I love the beautiful pictures and the detailed descriptions. Thanks for sharing.

  • LillyGrillzit profile image

    Lori J Latimer 7 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

    Excellent Hub! Thank you for the guided tour of San Francisco.

  • profile image

    CarolineVABC 7 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this! I do miss going to San Francisco-haven't been there for almost 3 decades! Although it is cold in SF, but it's so beautiful. It's time to go back and we will surely visit the sites that you've recommended. Thanks again for posting this!:-)

  • ocbill profile image

    ocbill 7 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

    "specializing in clam chowder sourdough bread bowls" LOL. I always get this when I go up there. it is so good. My friend had some aggressive pigeons eating from her hands. It became one of her special photos.