Visit San Francisco in 4 days: the best travel itinerary!

The city of San Francisco is surrounded by a mystical and magical aura.

One of the most modern metropolis in the world, headquarters of giants such as Apple and Microsoft, it looks suspended in time in a harmonious succession of Californian hills. The San Francisco Bay area is located among the beautiful hills and the most famous vineyards of America, and it is home to wonderful views, blaze of colours and peace of mind.

Visiting San Francisco in 4 days is certainly not an easy task and for someone like me, obsessed with the idea of ​​having to see every single corner of the city, it was really a big challenge. Today on my blog I will write a bit about the itinerary that I have followed with my beardy boy for our San Francisco trip and I will try to give you some tips to travel comfortably without spending too much!

Visitare San Francisco - Io e il barbotto al Golden Gate Bridge
Visit San Francisco in 4 days : me and beardy boy at the Golden Gate Bridge

Tip 1: Stay in the Union Square area. As usual, despite having very little time available, I had the chance to test several hotels in the city and I have selected 3 top picks for you:

1. If you want to pamper yourself and relax in luxury the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel is the place to go (8.5 rating on Booking.com). Overlooking San Francisco’s SoMa district, minutes from downtown attractions, the hotel offers rooms with modern facilities and spectaculars top-of-the-hill views at sunrise. Union Square’s shops and restaurants are within a 10-minute walk. A modern, very clean hotel with comfortable beds and excellent breakfast, certainly a top of the range!
2. Also in the Union Square area, the King George Hotel is definitely the hotel with the best quality/price ratio (8.0 rating on Booking.com).
King George is a boutique hotel part of the Grey stone chain, with a European style. The rooms at the Hotel are really cute and have tea / coffee facilities, a candy jar (great for candy maniacs like me!), flat-screen cable TV, iPod with clock radio, and ensuite bathroom with sustainable toiletries.
3. If you want to save a little on accommodation my choice would fall on the San Remo Hotel, in Italian style (8.2 rating on Booking.com).
The price per night is around € 100 per room (which is very modest for the city’s standards). This is a very peculiar hotel: it was created inside a former Italian house and still today it keeps its main features. However, keep in mind that it has shared bathrooms and this is often not good news!

Tip 2: Use the subway. Or use the Hop On Hop Off bus service.
The San Francisco Metro easily connects all the best neighborhoods of the city and it is quite affordable if you compare it, for example, with the London Underground. Alternatively, if you have little time and do not want to bring maps and GPS, you can visit all the landmark of the city in a single day with the numerous buses that offer the Hop on Hop Off service.

Tip 3: Do not buy a Local Sim.
As a travel blogger, before leaving I decided to buy a local sim. I often do it during my travels, because sometimes it is difficult to find wifi networks and without data roaming it would be difficult to use the GPS or share my stories with my beardy boy on Instagram. For San Fransisco, however, that’s not the case. Prices for a local sim with just 1 GB of internet data traffic are over € 40 and , to be entirely honest, you will not need it at all, as San Fran is packed with free wifi networks you can easily access with a 1 min registration.

Tip 4: If you plan to visit many attractions, buy the San Francisco City Pass.
If you’re thinking about visit many tourist attractions, you should certainly buy the San Francisco City Pass, valid for 1, 2, 3 or 5 days of your choice. The prices might seem a bit high (from $79 for the 1 day option) but depending on the attractions you want to visit, it can save you up to 45%.

 

Are you ready to visit San Francisco in 4 days? Here is the itinerary! If you want you can also watch my video album on Instagram.

Giorno 1:

Day 1
From San Francisco Airport you can easily get to the city centre by metro. If you followed by advice and booked an hotel close to Union Square area, you will better find a place where to sit, as the trip will be approx. 1h long.

After leaving your luggage at the hotel, start your trip immediately by heading to Union Square, home to the world’s first Apple Store and true heart of the city. In this small square, hidden among the high-rise buildings of downtown, you will find the hearts of San Francisco, colourful sculptures that symbolise the love of its inhabitants for the beautiful San Fran <3.

The area surrounding Union Square is Downtown, which is the city center. Here you will find many shops of all kinds. Get lost in the streets of downtown for at least half an hour and stop by one of the many places serving American breakfast to enjoy wonderful bacon and maple syrup pancakes.
Once you have inspected the shopping area, head towards the Golden Gate Bridge, the most famous suspension bridge in America that connects the Pacific Ocean with the San Francisco Bay, which soon became the symbol of the city!

Visit San Francisco in 5 days : Golden Gate Bridge
Visit San Francisco in 4 days : Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge, with its unique “international orange” color shining at the sun, is made up of 6 lanes used for vehicles, a sidewalk for pedestrians and one for bikes. There are two top spots to admire this gigantic building: the Fort Point Lookout at the southern end and the long Promenade that runs along the beach. I suggest you to walk along the promenade up to the small bar from where you can then go up the hill and see the bridge from above.

In the afternoon, head towards the Golden Gate Park area. Here you can visit the California Academy of Science, free for San Francisco City Pass holders and where you will meet a truly unique albino crocodile. Do not miss the extravagant rooftop garden of the building, famous for its avantgarde architectural style.

Visit San Francisco in 4 days : Rooftop at the California Academy of Science

In the California Academy of Science area you can also visit the Young Museum (not really my favourite), the botanical gardens and the beautiful Japanese gardens.

Later in the afternoon, take a walk in the beautiful Camden Town of America: Haight Ashbury. The Haight Ashbury area, with its world-famous Haight Street and Ashbury Street was the heart of the hippie movement in the 1960s. The hippie culture is still present, witnessed by the psychedelic lights that lighten the streets of the neighbourhood and the numerous flower-power shops in the evening with a very particular attitude. Here my beloved Jimi Hendrix lived the wonderful 1967 Summer of Love. The High Street area is the most colourful and vibrant in the whole city. Definitely not to be missed!

Visit San Francisco in 4 days : Haight Aisbury
Visit San Francisco in 4 days : Haight Aisbury

 

Day 2

A city as big as San Francisco has been influenced over the years by many cultures and ethnic groups. This is mainly reflected in the Mission District district and the world-famous Balmy Alley, a street dedicated to underground culture where you can take tons of selfies among the giant colourful graffiti. These murals reveal stories of local artists and unveil the Latin spirit of this western metropolis.
Small tip: put your camera in charge the night before because you will not help but take pictures at every corner 😊

Visit San Francisco in 4 days : Balmy Alley

After having driving your beardy boy mad with tons of photos and cover pictures for your Instagram profile, head towards Castro passing through Mission Dolores Park, a green lung hidden among the stellar residences of San Francisco. The neighbourhood of Castro is the beating heart of the gay community of San Francisco and is very popular mid-Sunday among young Californians, due to the number of outdoor restaurants that serve delicious American brunch. The district has a noticeable Spanish influence visible in the architecture of the buildings and in the famous Castro Theatre. But the real gem not to be missed is the “Rainbow Walk“: a street intersection with coloured pedestrian crossings 😊

Continue your visit towards Twin Peaks, the twin hills of San Francisco that offer spectacular 360-degree views across the city. From up here you can breathe freedom and feel the power of oceanic wind gusts. Have another break for some selfies, the climb is long and tiring, but the view repays the effort.

Visit San Francisco in 4 days : the view from Twin Peaks

In the afternoon, if you have some spare time head towards Oakland to enjoy a good NBA game. Indeed, what would San Francisco be without its Golden State Warriors?! You should ask my beardy boy, perhaps the only European-basketball-obsessed guy that in the last years has spent at least 3 days per week awake all night long to support this Californian team, led by the king of 3 pointers, His Majesty Steph Curry.

Visit San Francisco: NBA time!
Me and my beardy boy watching the Golden State Warriors!

Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, it does not matter. The atmosphere you breathe inside an NBA stadium is insanely unique.

 

Day 3

The cable cars, the charming public transport vehicles used in by locals up and down the hills of the city, are with no doubts one of the symbols of San Francisco. Get on board one of these wooden cars with no hesitation, you will certainly meet some extravagant character that will escort you in laughs for the whole trip 😊

First stop, Lombard Street, the most tortuous road in the world and very first checkpoint on day 3 of our tour. The most famous part of the route is Russian Hill, where the roadway is characterized by eight steep hairpin bends surrounded by colourful houses, hedges and flowers.

This architectural masterpiece was built in 1922, to meet the need to reduce the 27 degrees slope of the hill.

Visit San Francisco in 4 days: Lombard street

Jumping again on your pretty cable car, ride to Ghirardelli Square, that takes its name from the old chocolate factory where you can drink the best hot chocolate in America.

Walking along the Oceanside, have a stroll towards Fishersman’s Wharf, where you will find plenty of souvenir shops and the Madame Tussauds museum, as well as the old fishermen restaurants and food stalls serving delicious crab soups, crab rolls and lobster sandwiches. Keep on walking until you reach Pier 39, which is one of San Francisco’s most visited tourist attractions. Obviously you cannot miss the Hard Rock Café, where a quick pitstop is a must especially if someone – e.g. your sister 😂 – collects t-shirts.

However, the must-see of the pier are undoubtedly the sea lions. Lying almost still on floating platforms a few meters from the pier you can capture these celebrities while sunbathing lying side by side, taking occasional mini breaks for a dip in the water or for lazy and clumsy fights.

Visit San Francisco in 4 days: sea lions at Pier 39

Walking along the Oceanside, have a stroll towards Fishersman’s Wharf, where you will find plenty of souvenir shops and the Madame Tussauds museum, as well as the old fishermen restaurants and food stalls serving delicious crab soups, crab rolls and lobster sandwiches. Keep on walking until you reach Pier 39, which is one of San Francisco’s most visited tourist attractions. Obviously you cannot miss the Hard Rock Café, where a quick pitstop is a must especially if someone – e.g. your sister 😂 – collects t-shirts.

If you are passionate about science, what you will find at the Exploratorium – a few steps from Pier 39 – will leave you speechless, amid light effects, optical illusions and sensorial experiences! Unfortunately me and my beardy boy had little more than an hour to visit it, but it was totally worth it.

If you like, you can jump on one of the many boats that leave from the pier and enjoy a 360° view of the Golden Gate Bridge while you sail along Alcatraz Island. The tour lasts about an hour and is perfect in the company of an ice-cold Hell Or High Watermelon beer.

Me and the beardy boy with Mr. Goden Gate Bridge
GGB!

With the end of the day approaching, Alcatraz tour is definitely the best thing to opt for. Beware, you need to book very far in advance, preferably online.
Alcatraz island, reachable via a boat service sailing from Pier 33, is located in front of San Francisco bay and hosts probably the most famous former prison you’ve ever known.

he atmosphere on this small island is surreal, the only source of noise and life you can hear is the sound of pelicans (which is spanish is “Alcatraz”).
The guided tour through the cells and different areas of the prison will leave you in mixed feelings, while you wonder about the worst criminals who used to live in those tiny rooms and you hear from the audio-guide about the unsuccessful attempts to escape from Alcatraz over the years.

Visit San Francisco in 4 days: the Alcatraz federal prison
Visit San Francisco in 4 days: the Alcatraz prison
The amazing view from the Alcatraz Island
San Francisco skyline!

Most of the travel guides suggest to either go early in the morning or at the sunset to enjoy a spectacular view of the bay when you head back to San Francisco, but I can ensure that went early in the afternoon and the visit was really nice anyway.

 

Giorno 4

Day 4
After running a marathon and a half in 3 days your feet will have a well deserved rest on the last day of your trip. Of course, without preventing you from satiating the desire to visit and discover every little corner of the city!

So lace up your shoes and head towards one of the characteristic stops of Hop On Hop Off bus! You can buy tickets either on site (via one of the assistants waiting in front of the bus stop) or online (where you usually have a small discount) and you need nothing but queue up and wait few minutes!

The circular route of the bus allows you to cross the city and discover its most famous landmarks, being comfortably seated inside or on the upper deck of the bus to listen to the nice tourist guides narrating the history and unimaginable curiosities of the city. Coit Tower – the art deco tower in reinforced concrete dedicated to the firefighters of San Francisco, the Transamerica Pyramid – the skyscraper symbol of the city’s financial district – are just some of the bus’ checkpoints that can be admired during the tour.

Obviously, if you fancy stopping by and visiting any of these landmarks in detail, you can simply hop off the bus, have a stroll around the area and take some pictures, and then jump on board the bus coming after. We stopped in Alamo Square (highly recommended), a residential neighbourhood with a small park at the top of a hill where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the San Francisco skyline framed by the Painted ladies – a row of colourful Victorian style houses that you surely have already seen in many movies or tv series.

Visit San Francisco in 4 days: Alamo Square
The Painted Ladies

What’s more, the sightseeing tour covers a nice ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, ensuring a unique experience and revealing all the greatness of this one-mile-wide strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Quick tip: if you decide to sit in the upper deck of the bus, wear loads of sunscreen and keep your hats tight because the wind gusts are really strong!

Are you ready to visit San Francisco in 4 days? I say Yesss!

XX,

S

 

Comments

comments