7 Fascinating Sights to See in San Francisco

7 Fascinating Sights to See in San Francisco

San Francisco is a very charming city!  I love its vibrancy, rich history, steep roads (but not for walking, of course), cute, vintage street cars, and stunning views. ♥  Best of all, there’s a lot of AMAZING but expensive seafood dishes and beautiful sights to see in San Francisco.  
*Disclosure: Business Traveler’s Wife receives compensation for purchases made using some of the links below.

Before your trip to San Francisco, buy your tickets online.  It’s cheaper and it’s less cash to bring.  Usually, online tickets are cheaper because of the promos which are not offered at the actual site.  Just make sure to purchase from official websites.

Check out the official city pass site below for discounts and promos:

Official San Francisco CityPASS –  offers discount on packages or multiple attractions  (SAVE 42% on 4 attractions and 7-day Cable Car and Muni Bus Passport with unlimited rides)

7 Fascinating Sights to See in San Francisco:

1.   Golden Gate Bridge (Viewed from Fort Point)

sights to see in san francisco golden gate bridge fort point view

Commute:  2 bus rides (included in the Muni Passport) from Fisherman’s Wharf to Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center.  Total bus ride of 30 mins.  From there, you have to walk for more than 1 km or around 20 mins. to go down to Fort Point.  You wouldn’t notice the long walk, though, because of the gorgeous view!

Drive:  Less than 20 mins. to drive from Fisherman’s Wharf but parking is limited.

Tips for visiting the Golden Gate Bridge: 

  • Visit the Golden Gate Bridge on a bright and sunny day.  We didn’t know that the fog could get so thick that it can actually cover the bridge!!
  • Bring a sweater.  It’s very windy in this area and the breeze is chilly.
  • It’s also an amazing experience to cross the bridge and drive/bike through the fog!
I was surprised by the majestic beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge.

sights to see in san francisco golden gate bridge fort point view

Before seeing it in person, I thought that it might be a little overrated.  As soon as we reached the overlooking area, I realized that I made the wrong assumption.  As we made our way to Fort Point, the scenery around the bridge kept changing but it still looked as spectacular and breathtaking as I’ve first seen it.

We had to cross a dark, low overhead tunnel…

sights to see in san francisco golden gate bridge fort point view

… and walk down the stairs along the Battery East Trail to reach Fort Point.

It was so foggy when we arrived.  The bridge was covered by the fog in most of our pictures.  Luckily, the fog cleared for a while when we were about to leave.  The 20-min walk down to Fort Point was worth it!  It gave the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge. ♥

sights to see in san francisco golden gate bridge fort point view

2.  Alcatraz – “Break the rules and you go to prison, break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz.”

Commute:  8-min bus ride (included in the Muni Passport) from Fisherman’s Wharf to Pier 33 (The Embarcadero) where Alcatraz Cruises is located.

Drive: 8-min drive from Fisherman’s Wharf.  There’s no parking on Pier 33.

Tips:

  • Ticket – $33/adult
  • Buy your tickets in advance (and don’t forget to print it!).  Alcatraz tickets can sell out several weeks in advance.  As of today, the next earliest available ticket is for the next month already!
  • Buy your Alcatraz tickets online from the Alcatraz Cruises’ official website.
  • If you plan to purchase the CityPASS, you can replace the Blue & Gold ticket with the Alcatraz Island Day Tour ticket you purchased from Alcatraz Cruises.
  • Allot approx. 2.5 hrs for the whole Alcatraz experience.
  • Take the audio tour of the cellhouse.  It’s great and very captivating unlike the usual audio tours.
Alcatraz is one of the most interesting sights I have ever seen!  I highly recommend it. 

As the ferry approached Alcatraz, I was already getting the eerie vibe of the island’s shrouded mystery.  Maybe it was the fog enveloping the island or knowing that some of America’s most notorious criminals once lived in this island.

sights to see in san francisco bay alcatraz island

Alcatraz is rich with history which makes it so captivating.  Before it became the prison it’s famously known for, it once served as military fortress and prison.

sights to see in san francisco bay alcatraz island American Indian Occupation
Visible reminders of the American Indian Occupation after the prison closed

The audio tour couldn’t get any better as the stories were told by the inmates and correctional officers who stayed in Alcatraz.

sights to see in san francisco bay alcatraz island audio tour

Stories were told of how prisoners tried to escape (some failed, others succeeded), their work and recreation inside the prison, and the most notorious inmates.

sights to see in san francisco bay alcatraz island cellhouse

sights to see in san francisco bay alcatraz island cellhouse
These are the most coveted cells in Alcatraz because of the sunlight.  Inmates also prefer these cells because during New Year, they could hear the celebrations held in the city.

Another thing that stood out for me was the food intake of the prisoners.  Alcatraz fed its prisoners well – canned salmon, roast turkey for Thanksgiving, beef stew, sausages, steak, and daily individual desserts.

sights to see in san francisco bay alcatraz island dining area food
The dining area was the most dangerous part of the prison.

I find it ironic that this infamous prison could have beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay.  Maybe it shows the beautiful kind of life the inmates could have had.

sights to see in san francisco bay alcatraz island beautiful views

It remained a paradise which they could not live.

sights to see in san francisco bay alcatraz island beautiful views

sights in san francisco alcatraz ferry ride from sausalito
View of Alcatraz from Sausalito

3.   Muir Woods National Monument

Commute:  It’s difficult to commute from San Francisco to Muir Woods National Monument.  From Fisherman’s Wharf, 3-4 bus rides are needed with a total of 2 hrs commute time, one-way.  Muir Woods provide free roundtrip shuttle services to & from 3 destinations: Pohono St. Park & Ride, Sausalito Ferry (Bay & Bridgeway), and Marin City Bus Hub (Donahue & Terners Bus Stop).

*For more info on the shuttle, click here.

Drive: 35-min drive from Fisherman’s Wharf.  Parking is very limited.

sights to see in san francisco muir woods national monument
Muir Woods Shuttle
sights to see in san francisco muir woods national monument
Lovely drive to/from Muir Woods

Tips:

  • If you plan to commute:
    • Pohono St. Park & Ride (Route 66) and Sausalito Ferry (Roue 66F) are better options than Marin City – Donahue & Terners (Route 66F) because the shuttle will pick up passengers from Sausalito Ferry before going to Marin City.  They are strict with the seat limit of the shuttle so when it arrives at Marin City, it might already be full with passengers coming from the Sausalito Ferry.  In our case, our bus stopped at Marin City so we took a bus to transfer us to Pohono St. Park & Ride.
    • You have to ride the Sausalito Ferry at least once!  It gives an astounding view of Sausalito and the other side of San Francisco Bay.  We rode the bus to Muir Woods and rode the Sausalito Ferry back to San Francisco.

sights to see in san francisco sausalito ferry Bay & Bridgeway

sights to see in san francisco sausalito view ferry Bay & Bridgeway

  • If you plan to drive: For parking convenience, arrive between 8-9:30am.
  • Entrance fee: $10/adult
  • NO CELL PHONE RECEPTION in Muir Woods
  • Observe the surroundings, we were able to spot a couple of deer!

sights to see in san francisco muir woods national monument

You might recognize Muir Woods from Star Wars and Planet of the Apes.  It is popular for its giant redwood trees.

sights to see in san francisco muir woods national monument redwood
Can’t help but feel so tiny beside these giants!

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Aside from the park’s beauty, I enjoyed its tranquility and fresh air.  Despite the large number of tourists, the park remained peaceful.

sights to see in san francisco muir woods national monument
A paradise for nature lovers ♥
4.   Lombard Street

Commute: Ride the famous Powell-Hyde cable car (finally!) up to Hyde St & Lombard St.  Cable rides are included in the Muni Passport.  

Drive: 5-7 min. drive to Lombard St.

Tips: 

  • Prepare yourself to share this sight with TONS of tourists.  Lombard Street is overcrowded with tourists to the point of creating traffic.
  • Please be mindful of the traffic since this is an actual road after all.  🙂  When we visited, several tourists were blocking the pedestrian lane at the bottom of the crooked street to take pictures, disrupting traffic.
  • Explore the other streets near Lombard Street.  These are less crowded and some provide a more picturesque view of the city and the bay.
Lombard Street is an iconic landmark in San Francisco.  

It’s a famous crooked street with sharp turns.

sights to see in san francisco lombard street
Sharp turns were created to decrease the danger of this very steep street.

The view was absolutely breathtaking!  From the top, you will see the city and the San Francisco Bay.

sights to see in san francisco lombard street

sights to see in san francisco lombard street
This blue house is my favorite. ♥
sights to see in san francisco powell-hyde cable car streetcar
Vintage cable car
sights to see in san francisco
View of the street near Lombard St

5.   Fisherman’s Wharf – (seafood, In-n-Out Burger, Boudin Bakery, street performers)

Commute: 20-min bus ride or Powell cable car (both are included in the Muni Passport).  I prefer riding the cable car because it’s like a fun tour of San Francisco.

Drive: 13-min drive from Downtown (Union Square)

Tip:

  • I’ve read multiple times in different blogs and reviews that most of the food in Fisherman’s Wharf are tourist traps, expensive but mediocre quality.  Just a precaution!  You don’t have to settle.  There are plenty of excellent choices outside Fisherman’s Wharf which I will enumerate in a separate post.  Make sure to check it out! 🙂
Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular tourist attraction.  

It is a bustling location that includes Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, Boudin Bakery, In-N-Out Burger, seafood restaurants, The Codmother Fish & Chips (loved this!) and street performers.

sights to see in san francisco Fisherman's Wharf

Pier 39
sights to see in san francisco Fisherman's Wharf Pier 39
Lots of shops, restaurants, and overcrowded with tourists!

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sights to see in san francisco Fisherman's Wharf Pier 39 sea lions
Sea Lions (Don’t worry, they’re not trapped.  They just choose to be there.)
Ghirardelli Square
sights to see in san francisco Fisherman's Wharf Ghirardelli Square
Try not to drown in sundae and chocolate!
Seafood along Taylor Street

(Chowder, lobster bisque, seafood cocktails, steamed crabs)

sights to see in san francisco Fisherman's Wharf seafood market

sights to see in san francisco Fisherman's Wharf seafood market

Boudin Bakery
sights to see in san francisco Fisherman's Wharf Boudin Bakery
Known for its sourdough bread
USS Pampanito
sights to see in san francisco Fisherman's Wharf Pier 39 USS Pampanito submarine
Decommissioned World War II era submarine

6.  Ferry Building Marketplace

Commute: 10-min bus ride and 6-min walk from Fisherman’s Wharf

Drive: 10-15 min drive from Fisherman’s Wharf.

I love this kind of marketplace!  If we weren’t pressed for time, I could’ve spent a long time in this building just wandering around the shops and trying their products.  It has an amazing collection of artisan food (cheese, bread, pastries, chocolates), fresh seafood, local produce, restaurants and cafes.  The popular seafood restaurant Hog Island Oyster Company is also located at the Ferry Building.  My other favorite finds are the macarons from Miette Patisserie and empanadas and alfajores from El Porteno Empanadas Argentinas.  *I’ll include these in my San Francisco food post this week!

sights to see in san francisco Ferry Building Plaza Marketplace
View from Sausalito Ferry
sights to see in san francisco Ferry Building Plaza Marketplace
Ferry Building Marketplace

7.   Downtown

We rode the cable car all the way from Fisherman’s Wharf to San Francisco Downtown.  It provided a great view of the streets and shops in downtown.

It was a very fun 20-min ride which also served as a brief tour of Downtown.

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There are many more beautiful sights to see in San Francisco!  Which sight are you most excited to see?
For food tips on San Francisco, check my recent post on 6 Amazing Places to Eat in San Francisco.

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25 Comment

  1. Great suggetions! San Fran is the only place in California that I’m really interested in seeing. Your photos are great too!

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      Thanks Brianna, I’m glad you appreciated the post and the pictures! Any plans of visiting the city soon?

  2. This is a very good guide. I could use this when we visit SF.

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      Thank you so much, Raquel! You might enjoy my San Francisco food post, too! 🙂 I’ll be posting it soon!

  3. I do really2 want to go to golden gate. Hope someday can visit it with my wife

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      I hope so too! It’s more amazing than I ever imagined! Thanks for visiting my blog! 🙂

  4. Great post and great pictures of San Francisco I hope I will be able to visit it soon 👍🏽❤️

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      Thanks Elena! You must visit San Francisco!♥ There are so many things to see and eat. 🙂

  5. I just LOVE SF!! need to go back soon! Great pics and suggestions 🙂
    xx

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      Thank you so much, I’m happy you enjoyed it! I want to go back to San Francisco too!

  6. I love San Fran but am bummed I didn’t get to tour Alcatraz, especially after seeing your pictures!

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      I hope you can go back soon! It’s one of my favorites – very interesting and unique.

  7. Stunning pics and lovely post! Took me back to our trip in SFO 🙂

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      Thank you! I remember reading your San Francisco post and how much I wanted to visit the city then. 🙂

  8. I covered most of them on my trip. Lovely pictures you have ☺️

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      Thank you! Any plans of visiting San Francisco again?

      1. No, I don’t like to visit same place again ☺️

  9. I can’t wait to visit one day. My brother actually just flew out there today for work. So many sights to see!

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      You’ll love it! Ask your brother to bring you home a box of Alfajores from El Porteno (located at the Ferry Building Marketplace)! 🙂 It’s sooo good!!

  10. Your photos are all amazing! You really captured places I could visit in SF. I would love to visit the Lombard Street–it’s looks so interesting. Thanks for the share babe. xx

    http://www.prettyweirdbombshell.com/6-tips-for-healthy-dining-out/

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      Thank you so much! 🙂 You must visit SF at least once!

  11. You brought me home with this post. I grew up in San Rafael and traveled into SF frequently. I visited in 2011 with my youngest daughter and then traveled there in early 2014 for a conference. Always, my favorite is ANY view of the Golden Gate, Fisherman’s Wharf (so many memories) and eating hot fudge sundaes at Ghiradelli Square. Also loved the Japanese Tea Gardens and the Exploritorium.

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      Thank you, Peggy! I fell in love with the sights in SF especially the Golden Gate. We have to visit the Japanese Tea Gardens and the Exploratorium on our next visit.

  12. Saved this on Pinterest as we’ll be visiting the US next year. Great site!

    1. businesstravelerswife says: Reply

      Thank you so much! You might enjoy reading my top food choices in San Francisco too. 🙂 http://www.businesstravelerswife.com/travel/6-amazing-places-to-eat-in-san-francisco/

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