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San Francisco in a Day

San Francisco, California

Gianluca Spaggiari profile image
Gianluca Spaggiari
Adventurous Traveler
Itinerary introduction
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When we think about American cities, we always think about vast and chaotic metropolis, impossible for an outsider to accurately visit in a short time. This 1-day itinerary will prove otherwise. San Francisco is a manageable size city, and its traffic isn't nearly as bad as it is in New York or L.A; it's possible to do many things in a day and see most of the city. Here's a one-day itinerary that will take the first-timer through some of the most exciting places The City by the Bay has to offer.


We designed this tour so that it could be a day's walking journey with some sections to be made by cab or public transport, but nothing forbids you to rent a bike to do it. So tie your shoes and let's begin!!!

Golden Gate Bridge
Step 1

The first step of our itinerary is SF superstar: The Golden Gate Bridge: "the bridge that couldn't be built"; its main function is connecting San Francisco to California's northern counties. This incredible sized human-made creation first opened in 1937 after four challenging years of construction; it is now considered to be one of the seven modern wonders. Its distinctive orange color and art deco style make this bridge one of the most important symbols of San Francisco. It will take you one hour to walk this bridge across its 1.7 miles.

From there to get to the next spot you're gonna have to walk for nearly an hour along the waterfront promenade to get into the Marina District and then into Lombard Street; otherwise get on a bus (or one of the popular cable-car) or grab a cab and ask for "the most crooked street in the world", you'll soon understand why.

Lombard Street
Step 2

Once arrived at the highest point of Lombard street, you'll probably notice one of the most scenics places in the City and captured roads in the world. Unsheathe your cameras and seize the moment while going down the stairs on the sides of the street, enjoying the view of SF from above, the hairpin turns of the road and the commitment of the residents in taking care of this lovely borough.

Now let's keep moving for another mile reaching for a district by the ocean.

Fisherman's Wharf
Step 3

This area is proudly unique among the scenic waterfront attractions of the world. The Fisherman’s Wharf of today rests on land created from the ruins of buildings destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906. What could not be destroyed was the love for the ocean, generations of fishing skills, and traditions expressed in food and drink delicacies. ​It is the heritage of these brave fishermen, which contributes to today’s color blending of the old and the new at Fisherman’s Wharf – the center of an ocean-oriented industry beloved by native San Franciscans and visitors alike. Today, as in the past, it is the fishing fleet that gives Fisherman’s Wharf its authenticity and activity.

Once refreshed and recharged, better get back on track: walk for a mile towards Telegraph Hill and look up at its peak; that's our next destination.

Coit Tower
Step 4

It's gonna be impossible not to notice it, with its unique shape: Coit Tower named a San Francisco Designated Landmark in 1984, is one of the city’s most exciting destinations. Located on top of Telegraph Hill, it provides 360-degree views of the entire city. In 1858, Lillie Hitchcock Coit became the mascot for San Francisco firefighters at the young age of 15. After witnessing, some firefighters, respond to a fire call on Telegraph Hill although they were off-duty, she dropped her books to assist them to the source of the fire. She would continue to break traditions for the rest of her life: smoking cigars, wearing trousers, and gambling in the middle of the 19th century, long before it was socially acceptable for women to do so. But she remained consistent in one thing: her support for San Francisco firefighters of whom she's the saint matron.

Our next destination il less than a mile away, but it'll make you feel like you're on the other side of the world...

Step 5

DSan Francisco Chinatown is the most significant Chinatown outside of Asia as well as the oldest on the American continent. It is one of the top tourist attractions in San Francisco: It's easy to spend some time there, exploring the streets and alleys, browsing the shops and enjoying the authentic Chinese food. It's been said that more people visit Chinatown than the Golden Gate Bridge! San Francisco's Chinatown is the most densely populated neighborhood west of Manhattan. The residents are almost all Chinese and often speak little English, being relatively recent arrivals; this is also one of the poorest areas of San Francisco.

Once terminated your visit to this American corner of China, we'll continue our tour heading in the heart of the City, It won't take long, it's not even half a mile.

Union Square
Step 6

Union Square retains its role as the official "core" of San Francisco. Originally a tall dune and made in 1850 into a public park, Union Square is named after the pro-Union rallies held there on the brink of the American Civil War. Today, Union Square area and surroundings give an incredible choice of department stores, fancy boutiques, art galleries, shops and beauty salons, making it one of the most popular shopping destination in the United States. Due to its history and culture, this one-block square has been appointed as one of the California Historical Landmark. Shopping, musical and multicultural events, the Ice Rink during wintertime, food and wine fairs take place in the same plaza where you can find the memorial to the sailors of the United States Navy. This unique blend of possibilities contribute to the area's dynamic, 24-hour character, and that's what makes Union Square a major tourist destination, a vital, cosmopolitan gathering place in downtown San Francisco.

Cheesecake Factory

Even after 30 years, located in the heart of Union Square in downtown San Francisco, on the 8th floor of the famous Macy’s Department Store, the Cheesecake Factory on Geary Street attracts tons of tourists every day. The menù goes from pizza to pasta, from meat to seafood...but what's brought us here is their countless variety of cheesecakes, as good as the original ones made 30 years ago. I don't think we need to tell you what to do now... Enjoy!!!

Once relaxed for a bit, get ready for the last stop of our itinerary, I hope you are gonna be "caught" up in the moment.

Step 7

Get on a cab or a bus and reach Pier 33, passing through the financial district of the City. Here's some advice: you should book a ticket for the tour way before going there because the Night Tour tickets are limited, but they guarantee an authentic experience!!!.

Alcatraz Penitentiary

The infamous federal prison is what made Alcatraz Island famous all over the world. Acquired by the USA government in 1933 due to its isolated and inescapable location, in this island were imprisoned some of the most dangerous criminals of all time. Today you can visit it and know its history. In its nearly 30 years of activity, from August 1934 to March 1963, none of the prisoners being held in Alcatraz has ever been able to escape. This prison became famous for the VIPs being locked up in there, like the legendary Al Capone, and for the incredibly violent methods used towards the prisoners. Whether you're interested in this prison's history or fond of nature, Alcatraz Island will give you what you need: guided tours through the places and jails that hosted the most famous gangsters of American history as well as seabirds colonies living on this island.

In case you decided not to spend the night in one of the many rooms available on the island ( joking :D), our journey is over. I hope we managed to make you live unforgettable moments, but now you must be tired... so goodnight and see you on the next itinerary.

Tour overview
San Francisco in a Day
Tap to jump on the step guide