I look at Golden Gate Bridge and my eyes start burning. I get a lump in my throat and my eyes get wet. It’s not because of the wind.
It’s because I’m happy. Because this moment feels surreal. I feel like pitching myself to make sure I really am in the place I have seen so many times in pictures, movies or decorative wallpapers in public toilets.
It’s also because I’m sad. I realize my trip is coming to an end. San Francisco is the last point of my itinerary, I fly home in a couple of days. In a few hours I will say good bye to Stefanie at whose ranch I spent last three weeks volunteering. And I wonder if I will ever actually see this person with whom I will exchange the “see you soons”.
It’s also because I’m excited. For the first time I will visit a new city alone. I’ve never travelled solo and I haven’t had an opportunity to stay in an unknown city for a few days alone.
It’s also because I hope – I hope that San Francisco won’t disappoint me as Los Angeles did. That it won’t only be fascinating at night like Las Vegas but that it will be beautiful as a whole. That it will be a good end of my trip.
And it was indeed.
It’s a place you can’t miss.
Wether you came here to explore national parks mostly or you’re on a road trip on the west coast of the USA – you need to stop and see this special place. You will find so many attractions in the city, even more if you include a trip to Oakland.
Three days or a weekend in San Francisco is not enough. You might not see all attractions and the best Instagrammable spots in San Francisco – but you will have enough time to fall in love with it, trust me 🙂
I will for sure come back there one day – preferably between January and April which is the best time for whale watching in California 🙂
Three days in San Francisco – what to see?
Table of Contents
- Three days in San Francisco – what to see?
- Three days in San Francisco – practical information
Golden Gate Bridge from many perspectives
Golden Gate Bridge, well known to everyone symbol of San Francisco is visible from many points in the city and you can’t miss it. It is a must see no matter if you visit San Francisco and Sonoma for four days or you just have a couple of hours here. It appears on top of the guide to San Francisco for first-timers. You can see it from the beach by the Bay, from Alcatraz island or from the top of Coit Tower.
One of the advantages of volunteering is the fact that people you meet can show you places you wouldn’t reach otherwise or it would be hard. Thanks to Stefanie I managed to see the Golden Gate bridge from Battery Spencer viewpoint. Reaching it by public transportation isn’t the easiest and the best option I saw was to rent a bike or a car.
You also can admire Golden Gate from around Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. I spent over an hour watching the bridge and the sunset on Torpedo Wharf. It’s a perfect spot and surprisingly – it’s empty. I sat there till dusk with one local biker only. He was very surprised I discovered this place usually taken by local photographers only 🙂
And the photographers arrived after sunset indeed, setting up their tripods. I tried to catch the moment too, using my tiny gorilla tripod or all small walls I could find.
“Hey, girl!” I heard from behind my back. “Come over, show me what you got”. I turned around and I saw a bearded, elderly photographer. Shyly, I showed him the effects of my lame tries. “Not bad, you have a good eye, nice frames. But look…”. In the dark, not paying attention to Polish menu in my camera, he started adjusting the settings in my Nikon explaining why my photos are not the way I want them to.
“So, go ahead, use my tripod and try again”.
We talked for 20 minutes and he let me use his tripod a few times and well, disturb his work. It was a great pleasure and I was grateful that someone shared his experience so selflessly 🙂
Pier 7 with a view over Bay Bridge
Golden Gate isn’t the only important bridge in San Francisco. Bay Bridge is less known but it is more important for the city’s transportation. It crosses San Francisco Bay and connects the city with Oakland and the rest of the state. It is double-decked because one level wasn’t able to carry all the traffic.
For me, Bay Bridge is as impressive as Golden Gate and it is worth going to Pier 7 to see, how it grows out of tall buildings of Financial District… 🙂
Coit Tower is build on a hill in the city centre and it’s another symbol of San Francisco. Inside on the walls you can see paintings presenting the life of people by San Francisco Bay. Only for them Coit Tower is worth visiting. Moreover you can take an elevator to the top of the tower and see this charming city from above. The elevator costs 9$.
Until 1963 Alcatraz island was home for the most dangerous criminals in America. Do not miss a trip to the island during your stay in San Francisco. I will write a separate post about it soon, you can check prices of cruises here
Walk along Pier 39
Despite the fact that it is a very touristic place, I felt great there. If you try not to notice all the people with selfie sticks, contrary to the Pier in Santa Monica, Pier 39 doesn’t turn into a cheap festivity. It keeps the local atmosphere and it is pleasant to walk around and enjoy local seafood 🙂
Hunt for a California sea lion in Fisherman’s Wharf
California sea lion lives on American coasts and it is famous for appearing around Fisherman’s Wharf, northern part of San Francisco. You can see them sometimes on Pier 39 too.
I saw one sea lion trying to convince a fisherman to share… 🙂 Walk along the harbor and look for boats coming back from fishing or fishermen cleaning their fish. Some sneaky sea lions might appear around them 🙂
Normally I don’t like Chinese districts, I’m not a big fan of Chinese food or cheap Chinese souvenirs. But Chinatown in San Francisco fits in the city’s atmosphere and it is full of colorful street art, not necessarily connected to China.
Cable car museum
Cable cars are a big tourist attraction of San Francisco. They came into being to transport tired citizens up steep hills of the city. Horses were doing it before.
There were 23 lines of cable car in the city, now only 3 remained. Don’t miss having a ride! Information on tickets are below in practical information 🙂
In the museum you can see how the cable cars work. You will see big wheels moving the ropes to which the cars attach, you will know the history of the cable car and rules that were applied to all users. I guess some of them changed… 🙂 The entrance to the museum is free.
Walk around the hills, parks and along the coast
In San Francisco you shouldn’t only chase the points on your “must see” list. The whole city is lovely and give yourself time for a lazy stroll with no specific goal. Pay attention to the beautiful houses, how funny are the cars parked along the steep streets.
It’s worth walking around the harbor with sailboats and along the beach with a view at Golden Gate. Visit the parks, pay attention to people who relax, do sport and enjoy their time.
Go towards famous Lombard Street – but not just to see the winding road. It is full of cars and tourists , not the most interesting thing ever. But the view you have from around there over the city and Coit Tower – is definitely worth seeing 🙂
Musee mecanique – museum of old arcade game machines.
My last day in San Francisco was a lazy and calm one. While walking around Fisherman’s Wharf I noticed a signboard telling me where to find Musee mecanique and that it is free. I needed free entertainment, these were my last days and the last money in the budget 🙂 I decided to check it out – and I spent two hours there 🙂
The museum has nothing to do with San Francisco’s history or culture so visit it if you have a few hours to spare. But I am sure you will have great fun 🙂
It’s a perfect entertainment for younger and older tourists. There is a lot of machines there, I would say way over 200. And you can use all of them for 25 or 50 cents! You don’t need to bring the quarters with you, there is a machine which will change money for you.
Three days in San Francisco – practical information
If you plan to use public transportation in San Francisco, download an app Muni Mobile. It enables you to buy tickets for cable cars and all other means of transportation.
I stayed in Orange Village Hostel. It’s in a good location, it is clean with a tasty breakfast and quick internet.
When I got on a bus to Los Angeles my eyes started burning. I got a lump in my throat and my eyes got wet.
Because I was happy. Happy and grateful that San Francisco didn’t disappoint and was such a beautiful ending to my trip. It’s also because I was sad. Sad to leave it. And also because of hope – that one day I will see it again.
If you want to learn more about the state, I have a read for you 🙂 Check this California overview to find out more about the state and what to see there.
And if you decided to go, check this guide how to organize a trip to the USA step by step!
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