Whether you live along the West Coast of the USA, or you have a few days of a layover in this incredible city, it is definitely possible to dip your feet and explore some of the best sights in San Francisco over the weekend. In fact, that’s exactly what I did alone over spring break a couple of years ago when I did a study abroad programme in UCLA.
Bear in mind that while you can cram between 4-5 attractions in a day, you might be too worn out by the end of the day to enjoy everything, unless you have the stamina and perseverance of a well-worn traveller. With that said, here is an itinerary you can use for your own quick getaway to San Francisco!
First Day: Arrival + Fisherman’s Wharf + Golden Gate Bridge
Try to arrive early in the morning to make the most of your time in the city. I arrived the evening before on a Megabus from LA, which is another option you can take, but if you live nearer to the area or are on a red eye layover, a morning trip into town is also doable.
Ignore the snobbish remarks about Fisherman’s Wharf being too touristy if you’re into all of that. I rather enjoyed my time walking into the kitschy souvenir shops and taking countless pictures of the pier. Head there before noon if you’d like to avoid the crowds, and look out for some of the best fish and chips you’ll ever have. However, beware of the seagulls that might try to steal your lunch.
Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco is what Santa Monica is to Los Angeles, or if you’d like a bridge comparison, it’s what Brooklyn Bridge is to New York City. Whether you like the idea or not, coming here is almost like a rite of passage when visiting this wonderful city. And what better way to end your first day than to watch the sunset amidst a hundred other people trying to take the same photo of a worn out bridge?
Second Day: Coit Tower + City Lights Bookstore + Chinatown
After a night’s rest, head on to Coit Tower for a scenic lookout of the Bay, but try to head there a little later in the morning as it’s quite foggy around eight to nine am. There are also some beautiful murals to be appreciated if you’re into the art.
While City Lights Bookstore may not be on everyone’s list of places to visit in San Francisco, it was probably among the top three places in mine. As a child who used to send her parents into a panic whenever I left their sides to go to a bookstore, this historical site was definitely a must-see for myself. In fact, that’s where I bought the book that I reviewed recently.
There is something to be said about how much at home I felt in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and it was like stepping from a Tumblr photo right into a street that could be from anywhere in Singapore to Hong Kong. If you’re the type to go exploring streets, this maze of a town will definitely be up your alley.
Last Day: Alcatraz Island + Goodbye
For those who have a morbid fascination with the dark history of Alcatraz Island, it is advisable to get your tickets online at least 2 weeks before you make your trip here, as tickets sell out quite fast. Whether you’re travelling alone or with friends, it makes for a slightly sobering, but quite educational last morning in San Francisco, and the fact that you have to get on a boat for a 20 minute ride to the island makes it feel all the more haunting and isolated.
Or you could take some shots of the pretty flowers, like I did.
With that said, you can tweak the itinerary above according to your preferences. As I’ve mentioned, it’s definitely possible to explore the surface of San Francisco during the weekend, and that hint of this sprawling city will surely make you come back for more.