Exploring San Francisco

Exploring San Francisco

What does San Francisco have to offer? The sights and scenery. The one-of-a-kind events and world-class food. The welcoming people, the diversity and rich history. 

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge, the most famous bridge in the world, manages to impress even the most experienced travelers with its stunning 1.7-mile span. Approximately 120,000 automobiles drive across it every day. A pedestrian walkway also allows the crossing on foot, and bikes are allowed on the western side. The Golden Gate Bridge is said to be one of the most photographed things on Earth.

The Cable Cars

Cable cars have been transporting people around San Francisco since the late 19th century. The cars run on tracks and are moved by an underground cable on three routes. Their familiar bells can be heard ringing from blocks away. Tickets may be purchased at the cable car turnarounds at the ends of each route. Each one-way ride will provide spectacular views of the city’s celebrated hills as well as exhilarating transportation.


Alcatraz, the notorious former prison, is located on an island of the same name in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Some of the United States’ most notorious criminals were incarcerated there. Though several tried, no inmate ever made a successful escape from “The Rock.” The prison was closed in the 1960’s and stories about Alcatraz are legendary. A visit to Alcatraz today is fascinating. Recorded cell-house tours are available, allowing visitors to learn about the prison as they explore the buildings and grounds. To reach the island, take an Alcatraz Cruises ferry from Pier 33. Advance reservations are recommended: www.alcatrazcruises.com.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is also home to PIER 39, a festive waterfront marketplace that is one of the city’s most popular attractions. A community of California sea lions has taken up residence on the floats in the PIER 39 Marina and visitors line the nearby railing to watch their antics. From there it’s a short walk to the San Francisco Dungeon and Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and the famous crab vendors selling walk-away crab and shrimp cocktails.

Union Square

Union Square is the place for serious shoppers. Major department stores and the most exclusive designer boutiques line streets like Post, Sutter, Geary, Grant, Stockton and Powell. The Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre houses the largest Bloomingdale's outside of New York and the second largest Nordstrom in the U.S.

North Beach

North Beach, the city’s Italian quarter, isn’t a beach at all. It’s a neighborhood of romantic European-style sidewalk cafes, restaurants and shops centered near Washington Square along Columbus and Grant avenues. The beautiful Church of Saints Peter and Paul is a beloved landmark. Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill offers a splendid vantage point for photos of the bridges and the Bay. Inside the tower, floor-to-ceiling murals painted in the 1930s depict scenes of early San Francisco.


The entrance to Chinatown at Grant Avenue and Bush Street is called the "Dragon's Gate." Inside are 24 blocks of hustle and bustle, most of it taking place along Grant Avenue, the oldest street in San Francisco. This city within a city is best explored on foot; exotic shops, renowned restaurants, food markets, temples and small museums comprise its boundaries. Visitors can buy ancient potions from herb shops, relax and enjoy a "dim sum" lunch or witness the making of fortune cookies.

Cultural Events

A visit to San Francisco would not be complete without a cultural experience. The city is home to an internationally recognized symphony, opera and ballet companies. Many playwrights introduce their works in San Francisco and avant-garde theatre and dance companies dot the city. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum, the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor and other museums and galleries are devoted to the finest of classical and contemporary arts. San Francisco is also home to the California Academy of Sciences—the only place on the planet with an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, and a four-story rainforest all under one roof.

The content above was provided by the San Francisco Travel Association. The original article was written by Angela Jackson.