48 Hours in San Francisco: Your Guide to the City By the Bay

No items found.

San Francisco is known for many things—its hippie history, a massive (not to mention culturally significant) Chinatown district, quirky culture, and coastal views, all within the watchful gaze of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll want to pack good walking shoes, since the city is pretty hilly, and a sweater, since it’s also notoriously breezy, so you’re totally comfortable as you explore this incredibly diverse and bustling city.

Fan Favorite Food and Drink in San Francisco

Traveling means sampling the culture—literally! San Francisco has plenty of unforgettable places to get food and drinks. Fuel your journey through SF by stopping at these hotspots. 

La Taqueria

Award-Winning Mexican Food That Lives Up to the Hype

2889 Mission St | Downtown | taqueriasanfrancisco.com 

Located on the corner of 24th Street and York Street, La Taqueria is a local favorite in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Grab some lunch at La Taqueria, a no-frills, cash-only burrito joint that serves up some of the best Mexican food in NorCal. It’s known for offering traditional, rice-free burritos, so what you’re really getting is a hand grenade of meat and toppings. Order yours “super,” get a Corona, snag a spot at a table, and get ready to enjoy pure, meaty goodness.

Vesuvio Cafe

A Living Relic of the Beat Generation

255 Columbus Ave 

Jackson Square | vesuvio.com

Once a prominent beatnik hangout, this bar’s laid-back atmosphere, character, and classic vibes have kept patrons coming back for over fifty years.

Vesuvio Cafe is as rich in history as it is in eclectic decor. Founded in 1948, this North Beach saloon has seen greats like Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, and Francis Ford Coppola. 


Sweet Maple

Perfect for Breakfast, Lunch, or Brunch

2101 Sutter St 

                                                                Lower Pacific Heights | sweetmaplesf.com

Open from 8 am to 2:30 pm during the week and 8 am to 3 pm on the weekend, Sweet Maple is a delicious way to start your day or a cozy place to take a mid-afternoon break. 

Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, start the day off right at a neighborhood gem in Lower Pacific Heights—Sweet Maple. Deep-fried French toast, brown sugar-coated Millionaire’s bacon, and breakfast pizza are perfect if you’re super hungry, but they also offer lighter options, like sweet potato pancakes and Dungeness crab omelets.

Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe

Strike Up a Conversation with the Locals at ThisOff-Kilter Watering Hole

12 William Saryoen Pl | Jackson Square | specstwelveadlermuseumcafesanfrancisco2.bestcafes.online

With oddities lining the walls and knick-knacks galore, this North Beach bar takes on an almost museum-like feel. Image courtesy of @bae_in_toyland on Instagram

Sip on a reasonably-priced cocktail as you take in your heavily-adorned surroundings at Specs’. With a story that dates back to 1968, this bar is sure to have you looking around and thinking, “If these walls could talk …”

San Fran’s Most Spectacular Sights

San Francisco’s beautiful scenery and contemporary aesthetic have made it a popular setting for TV shows (Party of Five, Charmed, Monk) and movies (Dirty Harry, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Mrs. DoubtFire), and you simply can’t come to the city without doing some sightseeing. Here are some of our top places to hit. 

The Painted Ladies

Stop at “Post Card Row” on Steiner Street

700 Steiner St | Alamo Square 

Alamo Square Park is just across the street and perfect for picnicking as you feast your eyes on these gorgeous houses. 

Take your sandwiches and baked goods to the park to see some of San Francisco’s iconic and colorful Victorian homes, also known as the Painted Ladies. You probably recognize them from the opening credits of the TV show Full House (you didn’t think we forgot about that one, did you?) The home used for shots of the actual Tanner house is located a few blocks away. The door is no longer red, but if you’re discreet, you can still snap a photo or two.

The Presidio 

 One of the Best Views of the City

                                                                                                        B/t Sea Cliff and Cow Hollow 

                                                                                                        Presidio of San Francisco | presidio.gov

This modest national park is located at the city’s northern tip, right next to the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. Image courtesy of This Is My Happiness

While not quite as famous as Golden Gate Park, the Presidio is just as loaded with things to see. Inspiration Point offers views of Alcatraz, the Palace of Fine Arts, Angel Island, and art installations along trails make for beautiful hikes, and there’s even a Yoda statue from Star Wars hidden here!

Lombard Street

See the “Crookedest Street in the World” in Person

1000-1099 Lombard St | Russian Hill | sftodo.com

Both the bottom of the street and the top make for spectacular photo ops—from the bottom, you have the perfect view of the serpentine road, and from the top, you’ll be overlooking the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge, and the Coit Tower. 

You’ve probably seen pictures of the famously winding Lombard Street before, but it’s one of those things that you have to see in person to fully appreciate. San Francisco is notoriously hilly, and its way of building streets to compensate for that is one of the city’s most charming quirks.

Pier 39

Shopping, Seafood, Sea Lions, and More

The Embarcadero and Beach St 

Fisherman’s Wharf | pier39.com

Pier 39 is a picturesque part of San Fran that’s the perfect backdrop for your next ‘gram… but it’s also full of interesting sights, stores, and restaurants to explore. Image courtesy of @chinnychinnoy on Instagram.

Next, visit Pier 39 and the lazy sea lions that call its K-Dock home. There’s loads to do here from tours of Alcatraz, souvenir shopping, seafood restaurants, bars, attractions, and more. 

Whether you just check out the atmosphere and get a picture of the iconic sea lions sunning themselves on the dock. The sea lions have been residents of San Francisco since 1989 when they migrated to the area after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Now, they’re a must-see at Pier 39.

Whether you spend a full afternoon doing a tour or just explore Pier 39 on your own, it’s definitely worth stopping by.

San Francisco Culture

You’re sure to get a healthy dose of culture while you’re visiting SF. With so much art, history, and diverse forms of entertainment, you won’t have trouble rounding out your itinerary with some vibrant experiences. Here are some of our favorite corners of the city. 


Musée Mécanique

Get Your Hands on Some History at This Interactive Museum and Arcade 

Pier 45 | Fisherman’s Wharf | museemecaniquesf.com

If you’re going to Fisherman’s Wharf, schedule a trip to this museum that’s unlike any other you’ve seen before—admission is free but make sure to bring coins! 

Load up on spare change, and head to the Musée Mécanique, an old-school arcade where most of the games were popular well before the 1980s. An impressive and amusing—and sometimes creepy—collection of machines from the 1930s through the present day are kept in working condition and only cost a few cents to play. It’s one of the most extensive displays of vintage games in the world, and who doesn’t love a museum where you can play with the exhibits?

Image result for City Lights Bookstore logo"

City Lights Bookstore

An International Icon and Literary Landmark 

261 Columbus Ave 

Chinatown | citylights.com

Peruse three stories of paperbacks, hardcovers, and history at this notable bookshop. Make sure you take a look at Jack Kerouac Alley while you’re at it! 

San Francisco is known for its history with Beat Generation of the 1950s and 1960s, and nowhere in the city is this more celebrated than at City Lights Bookstore. This indie bookstore was founded by famous poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953, as the first all-paperback bookstore and a beat publishing house. To this day, it boasts a voluminous selection of interesting titles.

Aub Zam Zam

Step into the Past When You Go to This Bar on Haight Street

1633 Haight St | Haight-Ashbury

When we said “old school,” we mean old school—this bar is cash only. So hit the ATM, order a stiff martini, and enjoy this watering hole that’s withstood the test of time. 

Aub Zam Zam is a beloved, old-school dive that’s the perfect place to disappear for a bit. Known for its exotic 1940s decor and vintage jukebox, you’ll seriously feel like you’ve stepped into a film noir.

Image result for chinatown icon"


A Rare Walkable Section of the City of Hills

Grant Ave and Bush St

Chinatown | sanfranciscochinatown.com

Looking for a place to eat? R&G Lounge is a renowned Cantonese restaurant that’s famous for its salt-and-pepper fried crab—the clay pots, lettuce cups, and Peking duck are also solid choices!

San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the oldest and largest Chinatowns in the US. Top attractions include the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, Portsmouth Square, Dragon’s Gate, China Live, the Wok Shop, and many, many others.

The Seasons of San Fran 

Want the lowdown on visiting San Francisco throughout the year? Here’s what you need to know: Summer can get a little busy, but the sun on the coast is worth it—if you don’t mind some crowds. Spring is kind of chilly, so the waning warmth of fall makes for a better transitional season. Winters are mild but rainy, so if you choose to visit then, pack an umbrella and rain boots.

Have you experienced San Francisco in all of its glory? Share your favorite tips for touring the Golden Gate City with us on Facebook.

Related posts