Everything you need to know to plan the perfect weekend San Francisco Itinerary
San Francisco is one of the most beautiful and culture-filled cities in the world. From a vibrant art scene, to the hundreds of restaurants with mouth-watering dishes, to the most breathtaking views of nature, San Francisco has something to offer everyone. No matter how long your trip is, you will find plenty to keep busy. There is so much that this city has to offer that it can become difficult to plan your San Francisco itinerary!! Never fear, as I’ve put together the perfect San Francisco itinerary for travelers that only have a weekend. Not quite yet inspired to visit? Check out my 20 Photos of San Francisco that will convince you to visit.
Fly or drive into the city and get settled into your hotel or Air BNB. I recommend flying into the city as flights tend to be relatively cheap and it’s extremely expensive to park a car in San Francisco. No matter what your San Francisco itinerary consists of, you can’t go wrong with having a local drive you around! The hills are intimidating and can be dangerous if you aren’t used to driving them.
What’s for dinner?
There are hundreds of phenomenal restaurants for you to choose from. Spend your first night dining in Noe Valley, a family-friendly neighborhood famous for it’s charm. There are dozens of cute restaurants and shops for you to enjoy as the sun sets.
Contigo: Unwind from your flight at this authentic Catalan tapas bar. These Spanish small plates are served with a Californian twist and are seasoned with herbs from the garden.
Bacco: This charming Italian restaurant has been awarded for its elegant and authentic dishes. Enjoy fresh daily made pasta, gluten free options, and a large selection of Italian wine.
Saru Sushi Bar: Beautiful sushi and Michelin guide recommended, Saru showcases sushi made from seasonal fish. (Not to mention- they have a great sake menu as well)
After dinner, head just around the corner to the highest point in the city. This viewpoint will give you the best panorama of the city that you’re about to explore. After you’ve taken your pictures, head home to get some rest before your jam-packed Saturday.
The Most Important Meal of the Week: Brunch
Start your day with waking up early and enjoying brunch at Zazie, a French bistro famous for its brunch. Get there right when they open at 9 AM so you can start exploring as soon as possible. After you eat, head to the Golden gate park to work off your breakfast for a couple of hours.
Golden Gate Park:
Offering more than 1,000 acres of public park space, Golden Gate Park is one of the most beautiful and clean parks I’ve ever visited. While there are countless beautiful and free areas to wander through, you can also see some interesting areas for a little extra cash. This includes the botanical gardens, the Japanese tea gardens, and the California Academy of Sciences. There are many opportunities to get snacks in the park, but you’ll want to save room for a late lunch in Chinatown!
Before you head directly to Chinatown, walk to the iconic Painted Ladies for your touristy photo opportunity. There is a great dog park next to the houses that you can relax in, or you can just take your photos and request an Uber right from there to Chinatown.
Dim Sum in Chinatown:
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, and is a must-see in your San Francisco itinerary. Dim sum is a style of Chinese food served as small portions in small steamer baskets. It is the perfect way to sample a wide variety of authentic Chinese cuisine. From lunch, you’ll be walking about 20 minutes to Fisherman’s Wharf for your final neighborhood of the day.
Depending on what time you make it here, you’ll be able to enjoy shopping and visiting Pier 39’s most famous residents: the sea lions! There are usually a few empty trolleys near the entrance of Fisherman’s Wharf where you can take pictures. Be sure to keep an eye on the clock and head towards Pier 33 in time for your night tour of Alcatraz.
Night Tour of Alcatraz:
I swear there is nothing more eerie and intimate than a night tour of Alcatraz island. This former maximum security prison used to house the worst of the worst criminals in the United States. Walk the halls that once housed Al Capone and enjoy exclusive programming only available to the night tours. Enjoy a beautiful sun set behind the Golden Gate Bridge before you jump on the ferry back to Pier 33 for dinner!
Treat Yourself to a Fresh Seafood Dinner at the Wharf:
If you’re going to dine overlooking the San Francisco bay, you’d better be eating seafood. Thankfully, the Fisherman’s Wharf offers seafood available to travelers on any budget.
Fog Harbor Fish House: Created by the family that originally developed Pier 39, Fog Harbor Fish House serves seafood that is 100% sustainable. Taste their award-winning clam chowder and enjoy their baked oysters and breath taking views. The views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay will not disappoint.
Pier Market Seafood Restaurant: Another waterfront restaurant that will sweep you off your feet. Try their sweet and sour calamari or the Dungeness crab. For a San Francisco classic, try the Cioppino, a tomato-based stew served with a variety of seafood over pasta.
Chowders: For a quick service and affordable eatery, check out Chowder’s. You can enjoy a bread bowl clam chowder or their fish and chips while you dine outside.
For your last day in San Francisco, you’ll be spending a good deal of time enjoying the great outdoors. Dress accordingly!
Breakfast and Street Art in the Mission District:
Welcome to the most artsy and up and coming neighborhood in the United States! Famous for its original working-class Latina community, this neighborhood has turned into a booming home of art and cuisine. Wander through the neighborhood as you admire street art and relax in Dolores Park. When you’re ready, walk west to the Mission’s neighboring hip neighborhood, the Castro District.
The Castro District:
Known as the Mecca for the LGBTQ community, the Castro district is a must-see in San Francisco. The vintage feel of the Castro theater and the rainbow murals and cross walks make this one of the most unique neighborhoods in the city (not to mention some great eateries for lunch)
Originally built in 1776, The Presidio was originally the most northernmost military base of Mexico. Here you can enjoy a number of activities including bowling, hiking, and golfing. Visit the Walt Disney Family Museum, Fort Point, and the Letterman Digital Arts Center, home to Lucasfilm and a beautiful collection of Star Wars memorabilia. Don’t forget to visit the iconic Palace of Fine Arts on your way to Chrissy Field!
Chrissy Field and Marshall’s Beach:
Later in the afternoon, head to the last stop on your San Francisco itinerary: Chrissy Field. Still technically part of The Presidio, Chrissy Field is a National Park and recreation area next to the Golden Gate bridge. Here, you can get your perfect photo of the Golden Gate Bridge from various angles. There are several hiking trails to various views of the bridge, which I recommend starting on around 4.
Get yourself a snack at the Warming Hut before hiking to the viewpoint. Continue on the coastal trail, and then the Battery trail to Marshall’s Beach for the most beautiful sunset of your life. This trail is very windy down the side of the mountain, but is well worth the hike. I stayed until after dark and was giddy with excitement at how beautiful my photos looked. Note that Marshall’s Beach is used by some as a nude beach, but is the best place to watch the sunset. When I was there, I didn’t encounter a single naked person, but be aware that this is a possibility.
My View from Marshall’s Beach:
Finish your weekend with dinner and preparing for your return home. There is simply so much to do in San Francisco, that it can’t all be done in a weekend. While there is no San Francisco itinerary that will let you experience everything, this will help you hit all the major points of interest. I guarantee that this San Francisco itinerary will give you a great taste of all that this city has to offer!
Have you visited San Francisco? Do you have any must-see’s to add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments!