If you are like me, you might not always have a ton of time to explore a city. With only 48 hours in San Francisco, you might be more interested in hitting the major highlights. And hopefully you can come back soon! That’s how I felt on my recent trip to San Francisco. I know there are so many unique and interesting things to see in this iconic city. But for a quick trip, I was more interested in doing the “can’t miss” items.
So without further ado: if you only have 48 hours in San Francisco, here’s what you absolutely should not miss.
1. Golden Gate Bridge
I know, I know…this is a no brainer. But seriously I almost missed seeing this red beauty because honestly, it’s kinda out of the way. I knew I wanted some amazing shots with this bridge, so I decided to head this way at sunset. The lighting was amazing, but be prepared for it to be crowded. I mean, it is the Golden Gate Bridge after all.
2. The Trouble Coffee & Coconut Club (its full name)
Located in Outer Sunset, this place is a hipster’s dream. The location is a bit random, but if you’re also headed to Lands End and the Sutro Baths, then it’s not too far out of the way. I love a good coffee shop find, and I adored this spot.
Trouble Coffee is best known for its inch thick cinnamon toast, which also happens to be a San Francisco craze. It also has a reputation for being the anti-coffee, coffee shop. Take photos at your own risk because as I experienced first hand, photos are not wanted and you will be scolded publicly (don’t say I didn’t warn you). There’s barely any indoor seating so if the weather’s nice, do as the locals do. Grab your coffee and toast, find a spot outside, and dig in.
3. Lands End & the Sutro Baths
The Sutro Baths are a large, privately owned public saltwater swimming pool complex. Or at least, the remains of them are. I found this location is being a favorite because of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The weather was beautiful when I went! If I had more time I would have loved to hike out to the Lands End Labyrinth.
4. Alcatraz Island
About 1.25 miles offshore from San Francisco lies the mysterious Alcatraz Island. This abandoned prison-island famously housed some of America’s most dangerous felons. It is now a popular tourist attraction, so be sure to plan your tour months in advance to ensure a spot.
5. Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39
Welcome to Fisherman’s Wharf, you are now officially a tourist. There is so much to do and see here, just soak in all its glory. There’s a plethora of shopping, a Ripley’s Believe it or Not, a Wax Museum, and endless seafood digs. Just to name a few. I’d highly recommend the Fisherman’s Wharf landmark, Boudin Bakery & Cafe for a clam chowder sourdough bread bowl.
Don’t forget to gaze out at Alcatraz and stroll along Pier 39 for more shops and food. It’s no wonder they call it a tourist “trap”, you could literally spend hours here!
6. Ghirardelli Square
Since you’re already in the area, it’s too convenient to just pop on over to Ghirardelli Square for some dessert. You’ll be wanting something sweet after all that seafood you just ate. The entire square is owned by Ghirardelli, hence the name. This is where you’ll find the headquarters to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Featuring a red brick historic appeal, there are shops abound to explore. And the dessert options at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company are…exquisite.
P.S. You’ll receive a complimentary Ghirardelli chocolate square upon entrance to the store. You’re welcome. 🙂
7. Ride a Cable Car
If you’re already at Ghirardelli Square, jump on a cable car at the Powell/Hyde line, which is close by. There are three different cable car routes, Powell/Hyde, Powell/Mason, California/Van Ness.
Cable car rides are $7.00 (June 2017), and all fares are one-way. The wait on a Saturday was about 1.5 hours and the cable car ride is pretty short, but it was so much fun and I am happy I did it. It’s a San Francisco staple, how could I not?
8. Lombard Street
San Francisco is known for having some steep streets, but none compare to Lombard Street. It is famously known as the “crookedest street” in America. This street features windy switchbacks as you make your way past some of San Francisco’s most beautiful Victorian homes. Just be sure to pay attention to what the traffic police are directing you to do. Some of them take their job a tad too seriously and will yell at you for lingering and taking a photograph.
Get excited, you are about to see the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, and the oldest in North America! You’ll know you’ve found it by the landmark Dragon’s Gate entrance and the red lanterns strung throughout the streets. I might have gone a bit overboard here trying on all the beautiful silk kimonos.
10. North Beach/Little Italy
Walk down Columbus Avenue for exciting urban finds. There’s plenty to see and explore. Especially as you walk towards Little Italy, the aroma of coffee and baked goods will compel you to have a taste.
One of my favorites from this neighborhood was The Stinking Rose for dinner. But keep in mind, you gotta love pasta and more importantly, you gotta love garlic.
Another was the City Lights Bookstore. This famous bookstore specializes in world literature, arts, and progressive politics. It also was a hangout spot for influencers of the Beat Generation.
11. Twin Peaks
I doubt I’m making too much of a stretch to say that Twin Peaks has the best view overlooking the city. It is absolutely stunning and there’s no exercise required! You can drive right up the lookout. But if you’re ambitious, there’s a short hike to an even higher vantage point.
12. Mission District
The Mission District, or simply “The Mission” is a popular neighborhood in San Francisco. Along Mission Street between 14th and Cesar Chavez Streets you’ll find the main drag. Here you can expect cafés serving single-origin coffee, trendy brunch eateries, indie bookstores, and local-designer shops. You’ll find some Latino roots in this neighborhood, with Valencia Street being a bit more upscale.
I was most impressed with Tartine Bakery. And funny enough, I didn’t even know it was a popular bakery! I was literally pulled in by the delicate smells of baked goods. Then seeing the line, decided to wait 30 minutes just to order. Was it worth it? Yes it was. Unbeknownst to me, it’s one of the most magical bakeries in San Francisco! This proves I have good taste, people. 😉
13. The Castro Neighborhood
The Castro neighborhood, which is commonly shortened to just “The Castro” is famous for being one of the first gay neighborhoods in the United States. Located on Castro Street from Market Street to 19th, this area is filled with interesting cafes, bars, and shops. The Castro Theatre is also popular amongst movie buffs.
14. Alamo Square/Painted Ladies
This neighborhood is beautiful for dream-life mansion window-shopping. The focal point is Alamo Square Park where those lovely Painted Ladies are perched up looking fine. I was blessed with a beautiful day to visit, and I could have wandered and relaxed in the park for hours.
This place is just fascinating. San Francisco’s Japantown is really an indoor mall filled with Japan-esque shops, cafés, and restaurants. It’s a really unique area to explore, and I personally liked it a lot. Come here for food! There are so many interesting desserts and cafés, you’re going to want to try everything.
16. Full House house
Okay, okay, I couldn’t write a post on “what to do in San Francisco” without mentioning the Full House house. And with the Full House spinoff, Fuller House doing so well, other people clearly love it too. When I visited San Francisco (June 2017) the house wasn’t even painted the right color, but regardless it was still exciting to see. If you do go, just remember this is an actual residential neighborhood and to be respectful of the families living here.
1709 Broderick Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
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