I recently spent 5 days in San Francisco and I’m so excited to report back with my 10 favorite things about this city.
San Francisco has always been very high on my travel bucket list, so I’ve been super eager to write this blog post.
I have to say that 5 days in San Francisco is not enough time!! It’s enough time to visit most of the major tourist things to do, and you will be able to see most of the city in 5 days.
However, if you’re looking for a deeper feel of this amazing city, you’ll probably want to set aside a couple weeks to really explore it.
There’s so much this city has to offer, and experiencing it slowly is the only way to truly get to know it.
With that said though, 5 days was enough for me to get a great idea of what San francisco is all about!
Here are my top 10 things I love about San Francisco!
In other words, 10 reasons why you should visit San Francisco!
10 Reasons Why You Should Travel To San Francisco
1. San Francisco is a walkable & bikeable city
Walking the city
My most favorite thing about San Francisco is the ability to walk just about everywhere you need to go! I walked or biked just about everywhere I went.
It’s not like LA where you need to drive to get anywhere. San Francisco is great because you don’t need to pay for an Uber or ride the Subway (BART system), or even take a bus that often as a tourist. Many of the major touristy stuff is within walking distance.
I had to walk 30 – 40 minutes sometimes to get somewhere, and that’s obviously a fairly long walk, but it gave me a chance to see the city which is so important to me.
But this is about the maximum distance you’d need to walk to get from a major tourist destination to another (unless you’re walking to the Golden Gate Bridge which I don’t recommend).
I usually like to wander around anywhere and get lost sort of. I’ll have an idea of where I will go but that’s as concrete as it gets. If you’re looking for an idea of how you could walk this city, here’s a guide on how to walk it.
Renting a bike & riding through San Francisco
Renting a bike is also a great way to experience the city.
I was told most people who live here own bikes themselves and they are super respectful of you when they are driving their cars. I rode a bike through San Francisco’s Financial District (downtown area) and I found this to be totally true.
It’s the busiest and scariest place to ride a bike because of all the cars and busses, but I had no problem whatsoever. Drivers kept their distance and I never felt like I was going to get hit.
I had to weave through cars and traffic which was actually pretty thrilling since we can’t ride bikes like this back home in Canada! I rented a bike from these guys.
Overall, cities that favor walking always have my heart. I love getting out and being active, and simply roaming around looking at things, taking pictures of things, and enjoying the feel of a city by foot.
San Francisco gave me plenty of that with it’s super walkable streets and neighbourhoods.
If you love exploring by walking and wandering around, you will LOVE San Francisco.
2. Food is a big deal in San Francisco
It seems like everywhere I go, FOOD is a major attraction. And I guess it makes sense. We all need to eat!
But in San Francisco, FOOD is a HUGE deal. I had heard San Francisco has a ton of restaurants and eateries before I arrived, but I had no idea just how enormous that number was.
From the Huffington Post:
At 39.3 restaurants per 10,000 households, San Francisco has nearly 50 percent more relative restaurants than the second place city.
In other words, San Francisco has more restaurants per person than any other city in the United States. By a long shot too (50% more).
I found myself eating a lot of asian foods during my stay here, most notably in a Thai restaurant called The Old Siam.
This restaurant was right across the Hotel I stayed at (Parc55 by Hilton). But more importantly, The Old Siam served me authentic Thai food I haven’t had since I was in Thailand, and the prices of their dishes were around $8-$11 per dish, which is really cheap for this area. If you like Thai food, these guys are gems.
Where to eat in San Francisco?
There is food everywhere. Restaurants, food trucks, street vendors, you name it. Whenever I got hungry, it probably didn’t take more than 2 minutes until I saw a place I could eat.
I also recommend eating in China Town. Cheap authentic food. Hello! San Francisco has foods from all cultures and walks of the earth. You’ll be able to find anything you want.
If you love food, San Francisco has your back!
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll find food everywhere on every street almost. But here are some amazing blog posts about food in San Francisco and recommended places to eat:
- For pastries and desserts
- Where to eat in San Francisco
- Where to find the best food in San Francisco
- Best restaurants in San Francisco
- Gluten free guide to San Francisco
3. Beautiful picturesque views everywhere you go
San Francisco is a hilly place (as you probably know), which usually means you get some cool views from the top or bottom of a hill.
Homes in San Francisco
But what makes San Francisco so gorgeous are their cute streets with Old Victorian style homes, beautifully painted in bright colors, stuck together like a puzzle, on a hill no less!
Different neighbourhoods will have different style homes. Even the poor areas have rundown homes that look cool.
San Francisco has many homes built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, in various styles as well, which really makes this place a visitors heaven. You just don’t see many homes like this anywhere in the world.
San Francisco neighbourhoods
Regardless of where you roam around, you will experience something different – and have nice things to look at.
I recommend staying away from the tenderloin district if bums scare you (this is the poor area of San Francisco).
Overall, there are many many neighbourhoods in San Francisco ready for your feet to explore. I barley walked half of it in 5 days. Depending on your time, pick a few you like and walk it, or just roam around freely!
Check out this neighbourhood guide of San Francisco.
4. San Francisco is an outdoor museum (aka free things to see!)
Another huge reason why you want to visit San Francisco is the free attractions.
Many of San Francisco’s touristy things to do are free. There will be things you can pay for while you’re there, like food & drinks, museums, souvenirs, etc. But a lot of things can be photographed, walked around, and experienced for free.
San Francisco is a very expensive city. So these free things helps a lot. And if you like walking, you can walk to most of these cool attractions.
A few really cool free attractions you can visit are:
- Chinatown – One of the best Chinatowns I’ve been to. It’s fairly big and very dense. You KNOW you’re in Chinatown when you walk through it. Lots of Cantonese speaking people, food markets, Chinese restaurants, old Chinese people, and everything is really cheap if you spend money here. It’s a really authentic Chinatown and I highly recommend it
- Golden Gate Park – This is an enormous park to ride a bike or walk through. Tons of green space and water. If you like this kind of vibe, you could spend a day here alone.
- Union Square – Probably the most popular square in San Francisco. The square itself isn’t very big, but it is surrounded by major hotels and high end boutique stores. The area around Union Square is high end (hotels and shops). It’s the meeting point for many free walking tours (I highly recommend taking a free walking tour), Big Bus tours, The Apple Store is here, and overall it’s very central and recognizable
- Golden Gate Bridge – It’s a really long walk if you want to walk to the bridge, but it can be done. I recommend renting a bike and biking across. The bridge itself can be walked/biked for free. But getting there is the only thing that will probably cost you money. Obviously, you MUST visit the Golden Gate Bridge when you hit up San Francisco, so do what you gotta do to get here
- Fisherman’s Wharf – This is a stretch of waterfront in San Francisco that’s a must see, second to the Golden Gate Bridge. You can see Alcatraz Prison from here, The San Francisco Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a lovely time just walking the waterfront. There are many places to get something to eat as well. Especially seafood.
- Pier 39 – Pier 39 is like in a world of it’s own. It’s a Pier located in Fishermans Wharf that felt like Disneyland when I walked through it. You’re likely going to spend at least a few hours here. There are many food joints and shops here, and free entertainment (A guy was doing magic for kids when I was there). You can also see the Sea Lions living in the Bay when you hit the end of the pier. This is the second most visited attraction in San Francisco, after the Golden Gate Bridge of course!
- Haight-Ashbury District – The hippies used to rule this area back in the 60’s. It’s the birthplace of the Summer of 67. Today, it’s still very much hipsterish. You’ll find boutique stores, eateries, and people here that have that hipster vibe. Some newer not-so-hippy stuff has call this place home too
The above would probably take you a couple days to explore and enjoy. They’re extremely popular touristic things to do while in San Francisco so add them to your “to do list”.
5. Tons and tons of events happening in San Fran year round
There’s always something going on in San Francisco (and the Bay area) that isn’t your typical tourist thing.
Events like festivals, shows, fairs, shows, etc are always happening.
There are many websites dedicated to showing you what’s going on in San Francisco. If you have time and want to do something not touristy, then check out events happening during your time here. You can use this website.
San Francisco is super culturally diverse. They’re very accepting and forward looking. You’ll find a lot of events here that cater to that. So it’s a great place to see and experience things that you may not be able to back home.
6. San Francisco has an amazing Chinatown
I didn’t spend a lot of time in Chinatown because I left it until the end of my trip. I wish I didn’t. I absolutely loved it here!
Really, it’s just like any other Chinatown when you look at it. Chinese super markets, restaurants, old Chinese people everywhere, cars parked poorly, etc.
But what I loved about San Francisco’s Chinatown is how densely everything was. I felt like I was IN China. I could walk a few blocks in any direction and I would be met with more supermarkets and restaurants. I enjoyed that, because it felt authentic. Unlike Koreatown in LA, which didn’t feel very Korean at all.
I’d absolutely go for a stroll down Chinatown. And get something to eat here too. I randomly walked into a restaurant to eat. A Chinese lady asked “for how many” in Cantonese. I knew right away this would be a real Chinese restaurant (I’ve experienced many Chinese restaurants that weren’t authentic).
I think just walking around here for an hour or so is great. It’s also a great place to take amazing photographs. Lots of people around. You could even tell your family you’re in China and they wouldn’t know.
You can walk to Chinatown from the Union Square area easily. Takes 15 minutes maybe. The location is great. Or ride a Trolly there from the start point in front of The Gap near Union Square.
7. San Franciscoers are really friendly and helpful
I always need help with something in a new city. And I always look to locals for help.
I like to ask for opinions on where to eat or what to do at night.
I’m always asking people about this and that. It’s something I like doing abroad. The best part about this is that I get to interact with locals. I really recommend you give this a try too!
The next time you order food, ask “what’s really good here”. If it sounds good, take your servers recommendation. Or if you’re wandering the streets, ask a passerby “where are good places to walk around here”. You’ll learn a lot of cool things about a city this way (that you won’t find in a guidebook).
The thing I found with San Franciscoers is that they are super friendly and very willing to help. San Francisco’s biggest economic driver is tourism. They know people are in their city looking to have a good time and they are so willing to help you with that if you need it. I had an old lady give me a 5 minute lecture on where “the rich people live” when I asked her. It’s just great!
Don’t be shy! The people here are really nice and will give you the time of day 🙂
8. Reliable public transportation
Coming from Canada, not everywhere has good transportation. In fact, exploring Canada is best done with a vehicle. There are a lot of places you can’t get to unless you have a car.
In San Francisco, it’s the exact opposite. Like I mentioned above, it’s an extremely walkable city.
If you need to get anywhere further or you don’t want to walk, San Fran has a metro system (called BART) that will get you fairly close to where you need to be. It’s easy to use, and you’ll likely use it to get from the SFO airport to the inner city (unless you’re getting a ride!)
San Francisco also has busses, Trams (you have to take a tram while you’re here!) metro cables and Uber to get you around too.
Basically, you can get to wherever you want. There will be transportation available.
You will likely run into traffic. It gets busy sometimes. So if you can walk it, I recommend walking.
9. San Francisco is located close to many major attractions outside of the city
San Francisco is located in the “Bay Area”.
The Bay area consists of many major cities like Oakland and San Jose. You can reach these cities by BART (subway). Takes maybe 20-50 minutes depending on where you’re going.
It’s not like Southern California where driving is the only way to get to nearby cities.
And it’s not just major metropolitan areas that are nearby.
One of the major perks San Francisco has is that it’s very close to world famous National Parks. Like Yosemite, Point Reyes, Muir Woods, and Sequoia National Park. The people who live in the Bay area are truly blessed with nature so close by.
If you’re in San Francisco for less than a week, a day trip to one of these National Parks will cut into your San Fran time. But if you have a couple weeks or more, 100% I would visit one of these parks.
I recommend renting a vehicle and driving yourself to a National Park, and spend a night or two there.
Many of these parks take a few hours minimum to get to and from, which doesn’t leave you a lot of time to explore the area when you arrive. However, day trips to a park from San Francisco are readily available and companies will gladly take your money to take you there!
10. Many major sports teams play in the Bay Area
If you love sports, you’ll love San Francisco and the Bay area.
I got a chance to watch a Warriors game and saw Steph Curry drop 42 points! He’s one of my favorite basketball players and I loved him before he was MVP calibre. So for me, watching a Warriors game on Oakland was an incredible experience (as was my $8.50 hot dog).
Between San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, you’ll get a chance to watch all four major North American sports (hockey, football, basketball, baseball). And you can also watch MLS Soccer too. So you’ve got some options!
You can get to these venues pretty easily by taking the BART as well. Yay for public transportation.
I’m a huge sports fan and the Bay area has got all I could ever ask for. If you like sports too, I recommend making time to check out a game or two during your stay. It would be a great way to end a day of exploring too.
Get your butt to San Francisco!
I don’t know when I’ll be back to San Francisco, but I’ll be back to explore it in more detail someday. I’ll also be checking out the many National Parks nearby as well.
The one real drawback is that it’s an expensive city.
I believe it’s the second most expensive city right behind NYC. But some things are worth the price of admission. San Francisco is one of those places!
San Fran has many cheap eats and free things to do. Transportation is reasonably priced. The only thing that could cost a lot will likely be your accommodation. That’s just a bullet you’ll have to bite when you visit. But other than that, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy San Fran.
My accommodation in San Francisco
I paid about $180 per night for a room with two double beds on the 30th floor in Parc55 Hotel (a Hilton property).
The location of this hotel is PERFECT because it’s as central as you can in San Fran. It’s extremely close to the BART subway as well.
The Hotel itself was very clean and pleasant. The beds were amazing, lots of water in the showers, and the view from the top was excellent. You can also walk next door to the Hilton hotel and use your room key to get into the hot tub and sauna area for free.
I would definitely recommend Parc55 hotel, however there are TONS of hotels to choose from.
You can check out any hotel close to Union Square (but maybe not RIGHT on it as it’s more expensive). Union Square is very central to San Francisco. It’s a great spot to base yourself. Many major hotel chains are situated here.
If you move a block or two closer to Market Street, you’ll be closer to BART metro stations and you’ll likely find cheaper accommodation prices too.
Another popular area to stay in is near the waterfront and Fishermans Wharf.
Though it’s a cool place to hang, it’s pretty expensive staying there. In my opinion, it isn’t too cool of an area to be in as there’s not a lot nearby besides Fisherman’s Wharf itself.
I checked hotel prices in this area and I felt they were higher than properties around Union Square. However, Fishermans Wharf area has virtually no bums (San Francisco has a lot of homeless people if you didn’t know), so if you are traveling with family, you may feel safer in this area.
Got any questions?
Do you have any questions about San Francisco?
Is there anything I missed about this city that you love?
I want to hear from you. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!