There is plenty to see if you only have one day in San Francisco. It’s the beautiful, vibrant, sophisticated jewel of the California coast. Stellar views of the ocean, famous art and architecture, and an intriguing culture lure millions of tourists to the city every year. Read our expert advice for the best way to spend24 hours in San Francisco.
What to See in One Day in San Francisco
If you have just 24 hours in San Francisco, you will want to see the best of what the city has to offer. No matter if you love shopping, eating, museum hopping or people watching, you can plenty to enjoy in San Francisco. Based on your interests, pick your favorites from this list to enjoy the perfect day in the City by the Bay!
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is San Francisco’s largest urban oasis, covering over a thousand acres in the city’s vibrant northwest. This park is far more than just a quiet place to enjoy a picnic—it has some of the prettiest and most interesting sites in the city. The California Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the utterly charming Stow Lake are just a few of the park’s best stops.
The Haight was the epicenter of the hippie and counter culture movements of the 60s. Rockers, artists, rebels, and hippies flooded the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets in 1967. They shocked the world with their beliefs in peace, free love, and loud music during the legendary Summer of Love. You can still enjoy the artsy hippie vibe more than five decades later in the Haight’s eclectic murals, excellent vintage shops, and friendly residents.
The Painted Ladies are the distinctive, brightly colored Victorian houses lining the lush greenspace of Alamo Square. Since this row of homes with downtown views were built in the 1890s, they have been popular with sightseers, photographers, and filmmakers. The Painted Ladies are featured in everything from Full House to Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
SFMOMA, the 7-story San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, was founded in 1935 to showcase the West Coast’s finest modern art. It displayed exciting works including the then-experimental mediums of photography, murals, and film. SFMOMA has remained a leader at the cutting edge of modern art, with a massive collection including both brand-new and famous, highly influential pieces. Highlights include works from Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, and Henri Matisse.
Want to shop ‘til you drop? Then you shouldn’t miss Union Square. This one block plaza has nearly every major retailer you can imagine, from high end designer boutiques to department stores to trendy fast fashion. Dining, entertainment, and even winter outdoor ice skating are available at this one-stop shopping mecca.
Enter America’s oldest Chinatown through the green tiled pagoda-style Dragon’s Gate—named after the twin dragons looking down from the top of the ornate archway. This colorful neighborhood is full of authentic restaurants, amazing shopping, bright murals, and iconic red lanterns. Don’t miss the Fortune Cookie Factory, which bakes up to 10,000 soothsaying snacks a day.
Washington Square Park was built in 1850 as San Francisco’s first official park, and it stands today as the unofficial home of the city’s large feral parrot population. A flash of green in the air and a cacophony of squawks from the trees are the signature of these colorful descendants of escaped pets. When you get tired of birdwatching, people watching, and slowly strolling through the square, enjoy stellar Italian food in North Beach on the edge of the park.
Coit Tower has one of the best views in San Francisco. The beautiful ivory-colored tower at the top of Telegraph Hill has a panoramic view of the whole city, all the way to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Coit Tower was built in 1933, and stands as a perfect example of the elegant art deco design style that defined the era. Inside the tower you will find 27 murals painted by California’s leading artists.
Fisherman’s Wharf in the Waterfront District is the number one tourist destination in San Francisco. Its attractions include Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, and plenty of souvenir shops. It has delicious dining, particularly its signature dish of clam chowder in a bread bowl. Enjoy incredible views of Alcatraz while you enjoy the smell of the ocean, the loud barking of sea lions, and the brisk energy of this always lively local hot spot.
Eight hairpin switchbacks attract countless visitors to the famous Lombard Street. The steep red-brick street twists and turns past mansions, lush landscaping, and tourists taking selfies at this essential San Francisco landmark. Enjoy great views of San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge, and more from the top of the crookedest street in the world.
Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1915 for a world’s fair celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. Its design was inspired by ancient Greek and Roman architecture. Its curved columns, elegant arches, and intricate dome would be just as at home on the shores of the Mediterranean as they are in the Marina. The Palace overlooks a small lagoon with fountains and a lively swan colony, and is as peaceful a spot as you can find in the city.
Golden Gate Bridge
The signature symbol of San Francisco rises in radiant red 80 stories above the San Francisco Bay. The Golden Gate Bridge is instantly recognizable, but the views from the bridge are almost as good as the views of the bridge. Take in a panorama of the city while the fog rolls in or out, a magical sight that has inspired millions to “leave their hearts in San Francisco.”
Visit San Francisco with YMT Vacations
The best way to see San Francisco is on a YMT Vacations tour. Explore the city’s highlights on a guided group tour of the landmarks you have to see. The city is one of the stops on some very exciting tours, including Pacific Coast Cruise, Sights of the Pacific Northwest, and Panama Canal Cruise & Coastal California. Call your travel consultant or YMT Vacations at 1-888-756-9072 to book today!