San Francisco is one of those cities that has a little bit of everything. From stunning landscapes to iconic monuments, along with a thriving arts, culture, and food scene, there are plenty of things to do and see.
But if you only have time for a brief visit, using this itinerary will help you pack the highlights into three days.
How to Spend 3 Days in San Francisco
After you’ve gotten your transfer from the airport, start your day at the Golden Gate Bridge. In addition to being San Francisco’s most famous landmark, this is also one of America’s finest pieces of engineering.
We recommend that you walk across the bridge, taking care to watch out for cyclists who share the pedestrian walkways, and then make a stop at the visitors center. You’ll find yourself at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which has a beautiful waterfront promenade.
Pro Tip: The Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center has a small parking lot with a 2 hour limit. There are 4 additional parking areas that you could park, though some will require uphill walking.
Crissy Field is near the bridge, and it has a beach, great views, and restaurants for lunch. You’ll also be close to the Palace of Fine Arts. In the afternoon, take a tour of Alcatraz Island, but be sure to book your tour ahead of time. Alcatraz was one of the most notorious federal prisons in the U.S., but after its closure in the 1970s, it’s now a national landmark.
After all that history, head to Fisherman’s Wharf to get dinner at Pier Market Seafood Restaurant, which is a popular Pier 39 restaurant with mesquite grilled sustainable seafood, outdoor patio and waterfront dining.
As far as popular tourist attractions and neighborhoods of San Francisco go, start day two by catching the cable car on Market Street.
The city’s cable cars offer a fun way to experience the different neighborhoods in San Fran, and they’ll save you from walking up the city’s infamous hills. Make a stop at Lombard Street to watch as bikes and cars navigate the world’s most crooked street. It’s quite the scene!
Here, you can head to the Art Institute of San Francisco and Coit Tower before grabbing lunch at North Beach. Spend your afternoon exploring Chinatown, the biggest of its kind in the United States. There are temples, tea houses, markets, and great Chinese food.
Take an evening harbor cruise to see San Francisco Bay. Dinner is at Fog Harbor Fish House, which undoubtedly has the best seafood San Francisco has to offer and is a waterfront restaurant with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
FYI: Many of the city’s tourist buses pass by Lombard Street via Hyde or via Columbus. Some of them stop to let visitors walk around the area but they aren’t able to drive down the street.
In the morning, catch one of San Francisco’s walking tours to learn more about the local neighborhoods or the food scene. If you’ve missed any museums, today is the day to see them. Popular museums include the de Young Museum, the Walt Disney Family Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Exploratorium.
After museum hopping, spend your afternoon at Golden Gate Park, where you’ll find a Japanese garden, an arboretum, and many different walking and hiking trails. End the day with dinner at Wipeout Bar & Grill, a family-friendly restaurant and surf-themed sports bar.
San Francisco is one of the most exciting cities in the U.S., and while there’s plenty to see and do, it’s absolutely possible to fit the best of the city into three days. So if you have a long weekend or a long layover, don’t skip the city for fear of too little time. With this itinerary, you can make the most of every day.
Staying for longer? There are plenty of other guides to San Francisco with great info and inspiration for things to do if you’ve planned extra days.
Where to Stay
Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf
Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf offers modern accommodation within walking distance of Jefferson and Taylor Station. It has 585 modern rooms offering all the necessities to ensure a comfortable stay. ➡ Search cheapest rates.
Hilton Parc 55 San Francisco Union Square
Conveniently situated, Hilton Parc 55 offers 4 star accommodation with easy access to San Francisco’s main tourist attractions.
The hotel has recently been refurbished and offers an express check-in and check-out feature, an executive floor and free Wi-Fi. Staff are available 24/7 and can assist with booking tours and tickets. ➡ Search cheapest rates.
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