San Francisco is a vibrant city with so many incredible places to discover. Tiki bars, charming cafes, art galleries and cool street art – there is so much to see and do. Whenever I return from travelling, I love sharing what I’ve learned, and the places we experienced. San Francisco has been one of my favourite trips this year and I’ve put together my tips for navigating the city, and how to make the most of your time in the Bay area.
Do your research and get up early!
If you have your heart set on a certain restaurant or place to visit, make a reservations. Do your research before your trip and call ahead. You’ll often find line ups at the popular bakeries and cafes. This is very normal in SF, and the line ups move quickly, so don’t let it deter you from waiting. It’s probably worth it!
It can be really cold
Yes, you’re in California, but San Francisco can be chilly! We were there in May and even though it was sunny, the wind was icy. Be sure to check the weather before you depart and bring along some light layers.
Wear good walking shoes
San Francisco is a great city to walk around, but it has a lot of very steep hills. It’s a pretty casual place so sandals or sneakers would be ideal. Be sure to have Lyft or Uber downloaded on your phone. The ride share is an awesome and inexpensive way to make your way around San Francisco
Visit the Art Galleries
We visited two incredible galleries on our trip. SF MoMA and the De Young Museum. The MoMa houses so many recognizable pieces. I was really excited to see the Roy Lichtenstein Collection, some really cool Andy Warhol pieces, along with Henri Matiesse’s Women with a Hat.
Located in Golden Gate Park in a beautiful building you’ll find the De Young Museum. The exhibits are constantly changes, so check ahead to see what is being showcased. Afterwards you can take a wander through the park to Haight Ashbury or to Inner Sunset for great restaurants. We loved Nopalita and Arizmendi Bakery.
We visited the hippie area known as Haight Ashbury a few times because it is filled with so many cool spots. I loved leafing through all the vinyl at Amoeba Records, and finding old favourites. You’ll also find incredible vintage stores on the this street. Wasteland Vintage was such a highlight as I found a Alexander McQueen black blazer in perfect condition for under $200.
Stop by a tiki bar
There are lots of fun tiki bars in SF, it’s kind of their thing and a must see during your stay. We visited The Tonga Room, a restaurant and tiki bar located in the Fairmont San Francisco, open since 1945. In the middle of the restaurant you’ll find a pool, which has rain pouring down every 30 minutes along with a thunder storm soundtrack. This indoor pool was first installed in the Fairmont in 1929 before being transformed into the Tonga Room’s lagoon. Rum filled cocktails are served in bowls that are delicious, and dangerous!
Explore The Mission District
The Mission District is a colourful, constantly evolving neighbourhood. It’s Latino roots and hipster vibe make it such a fun area to explore. You’ll find the best taquerias here, along with cool live-music spots, book shops, cafes and eateries. Dolores Park is a popular hangout spot with views of the skyline views, and is often filled with locals soaking up the sunshine. Be sure to find the vibrant street Clarion Alley and check out all the artwork.
Eat in North Beach
Two of our favourite restaurants in San Francisco were located North Beach. Visit Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store for the best cuban sandwiches and Tony’s for incredible pizza and Italian fare. This area is also home to SF Rock Posters and Collectables. A perfect place to pop in while you wait for your table at Tony’s.
Ride the cable car
It might seem a bit touristy (and it is) but riding the cable car is SO much fun. It’s $7 each way and a great way to take in the city, especially all the hills. I would suggest popping down to Fisherman’s Warf and taking the cable car back downtown. If you catch it from Union Square you will be waiting a while with all the tourists. It’s so fun to hang on, and ride through the very hilly city. Also, a really great photo opportunity!
Have you been to San Francisco? What were your favourite places?
Let me know in the comments below