Sightseeing in San Francisco: A Guide to Must See Spots in the City

By Paige DiFebbo · June 24, 2021

San Francisco is a cool city to visit with plenty of stuff to see and do while you are there. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things you can see and do in San Francisco, here is a guide for some must see spots in the city.

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco, and it’s a sight that you can’t miss seeing when visiting the city. There are plenty of places in San Francisco where you can enjoy views of the Golden Gate Bridge with one of the most popular spots for tourists being the Marin Headlands, which are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Two other places where you can get a good view of the bridge are Marshall’s Beach and Crissy Field. If you are planning on visiting Crissy Field, keep in mind that there are no lights in this park, so you may want to only visit this spot when it is still light out. Although there are so many good spots in San Francisco where you can enjoy the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the best ways to see the bridge and really take in its impressive architecture is by biking across it. One place where you can rent bikes close to the bridge is Golden Gate Bridge Bike Rentals.

Postcard Row

Postcard Row, also called the Painted Ladies of San Francisco, is a row of colorful Victorian houses located at 710-720 Steiner Street. Although San Francisco is full of unique Victorian houses, the houses in this row are definitely the most recognizable. You can get a great view of the entire row of houses from Alamo Square Park, which is a popular spot for both locals and tourists to hang out in. The best time to see Postcard Row is at sunset, because as the sun sets behind the row of houses, it casts a beautiful glow over the houses.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular waterfront area in San Francisco where you can see a famous fishing fleet and sea lions lying in the sun. There are a lot of places to shop, especially for souvenirs, and plenty of places to eat. This is definitely a spot you should check out in San Francisco if you like seafood. If you are looking for more activities to do within Fisherman’s Wharf, two popular tourist attractions are the Aquarium of the Bay and the San Francisco Dungeon, which has interactive shows that tell stories about San Francisco’s history.

Ghirardelli Square

Located within Fisherman’s Wharf is Ghirardelli Square, which was originally a chocolate factory but is now home to shops, restaurants, and hotels. One of the most popular stores in Ghirardelli Square is the original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop, which used to be a big chocolate manufacturing site in San Francisco. This shop is a must visit for anybody visiting San Francisco who loves chocolate.

Alcatraz Island

From Fisherman’s Wharf, you can also visit Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz Island is one of the most popular spots for tourists to visit in San Francisco, and it is worth checking out while you are in the city if you can. The island is a little over a mile off the shore of San Francisco, and it was a military prison and then a federal prison until 1963. Most of the prison is still structurally intact, and visitors can book an audio tour to see the inside of the prison and learn more about the facility and its famous prisoners, such as Al Capone. If you want to visit Alcatraz Island, you should try to reserve your tickets both for the tour and the ferry taking you to the island far in advance, because they often sell out especially during the summer.

San Francisco’s Chinatown on Grant Avenue

Did you know that San Francisco actually has four different Chinatowns? The city’s Chinatown on Grant Avenue is the biggest outside of Asia, and it’s the oldest in the United States. This busy neighborhood is definitely a spot that you should spend some time walking around while you are in San Francisco. There are a ton of restaurants here, making it the perfect spot to check out in San Francisco if you are looking for authentic Chinese food. 

Coit Tower

Coit Tower is a 210 foot high tower in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. You can buy tickets in the gift shop to take an elevator up to the top of the tower where an observation deck gives you 360 degrees views of the city. At the base of the tower, you can see murals painted by a group of artists in 1934 to represent life in California during the Great Depression. There are also guided tours of the tower available if you are interested in learning more about the building’s history.

The Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts was built during the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and it was the only building built for the exposition that was not demolished after the exposition was over. The building was not originally intended to be long-lasting, so it quickly began to decay after the exposition. Today, you can see a copy of the original palace in this small neighborhood park. The palace is massive, and you could spend a lot of time walking around it taking in its size. The Palace of Fine Arts is a beautiful and unique site to walk around in San Francisco.