Recently I flew out to northern California to explore San Fransico for the week to explore the city famous for the golden gate bridge, thick fog, steep hills, and unique architecture.
There is plenty to see in San Fransico to keep you busy for several days touring, and ideally, you would set aside time for a tour to visit Napa Valley and go wine tasting. Yet, if you are limited to just a weekend, here is my guide of what to do and see.
What To Do
I started my weekend by getting breakfast at the Mill and then walking across Alamo Square Park to see the Painted Ladies, where you can see the colorful famous Victoria houses that are popular photo stop in San Francisco.
Next, take an Uber to Baker’s Beach for that picture perfect look out of the Golden Gate Bridge. There are plenty of walking paths nearby along with a small beach that you can enjoy strolling as you photograph the famous landmark.
Follow the pathway along the coast towards downtown until you reach the Palace of Fine Arts which resembles Roman ruins. This was my favorite spot in San Fransico as it was such an ornate park and a great spot to relax. Read more about my time at the Palace of Fine Arts.
Next, I strolled through the Marina District which is filled with luxurious mansions and lots of posh shops and restaurants. While I was aware San Fransico had hills, this valley girl did not understand just how plentiful the hills were throughout the city nor how steep. There is a reason why everyone wears flats in this city and Ubers about everywhere. So fashionistas, leave those heels at home or call an Uber, you have been warned.
I arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf where you can find Ghirardelli Square and Pier 39 just as it began to rain. The pier area is filled with tons of tourist shops and food stands, the most popular food option in the area would have to be the chowder, along with Boudin Sourdough Bread. Along the docks, you can also go see sea lions for free, if you feel so inclined.
For another iconic San Francisco experience, you can ride a streetcar from Pier 39 to Union Square.
Union Square is filled with tons of amazing designer clothing stores, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars nearby which makes it a great location for your hotel. While in town, I stayed at Hotel Diva, which was a few blocks away.
Beside Union Square, you can find the Dragon’s Gate which marks the entrance of Chinatown. Chinatown was impressively large with the streets filled with red hanging lanterns. Here you can find lots of discount stores, dim sum and the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory where you can walk in to see how fortune cookies are made.
Also next to Union Square, you can find the absolutely splendid and recently expanded SFMOMA. Needless to say as someone with a degree in Visual Arts and teaching Art I could have easily spent an entire day exploring the museum of modern art as there were so many great pieces to see, along with a great coffee shop too. After being shut for 3 years, the SFMOMA just reopened again in 2016, and the new expansion has a lush outdoors living wall space with sculptures, along with plenty of more space to house all the various collections. While at the SFMOMA make sure to visit Richard Serra’s Sequence which is massive steel rings that you can walk through.
In the past few years, San Francisco has become more expensive to live in than New York City with the price of houses and apartments soaring. As such most people need to commute into the city taking a bridge or the ferry. As such The Ferry Building, which is also a short walk from Union Square, is a popular location in the city. It is worth visiting as inside The Ferry Building you will find a foodie heaven of small shops of restaurants and stores selling high-quality products and delicious meal options.
Second to seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, I have to admit I was thrilled to visit a city that had a Daiso and authentic Japanese curry as I missed both ever since I moved back to Canada after living in Japan. It so happens that San Francisco has the largest and oldest Japantown in all of America, and it was just so much fun to explore. Make sure to try some food in the area, and to check out the Daiso, a Japanese dollar store where you can by all sorts of things such as Japanese dishes to beauty products all for a dollar. The true highlight, well second to the Daiso, would have to be finding Bizen pottery for sale. Bizen is a traditional form of pottery, which is made in Okayama Prefecture (where I used to live), and this type of pottery which I collected for sake cups and vases typically has a reddish-brown color and the design comes through burning straw or using ash to give color. If you happen to visit Japantown, make sure to grab a cup to take home for tea, you won’t regret it!
Where To Eat
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse
ENO Wine Bar
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse – a super popular location know for the cruffin which is a blend between a muffin and croissant it is the perfect spot to go for a pastry and coffee for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Be warned it closes when they sell out and there is often long lines so it is best to go early.
The Rotunda – located in Neiman Marcus in the Union Square area it is a nice spot to relax after shopping, as you can sip champagne and enjoy high tea under a lovely stain glass dome where you have a view of the crowds in Union Square.
The Mill – right next to the Painted Ladies, go here to try their toast which you can get as hipster avocado toast and get the perfect cup of coffee. I was excited to try this place as I own the cookbook for the bread serve, Josey’s Baker Bread, and the bread was spot on delicious.
NOVY – grab an Uber and head here for dinner to try some of the amazing Californian food. The staff is super friendly and every dish was amazing.
Tradition – right next to Union Square this prohibition-themed cocktail bar has tons of private booths where you can sip cocktails. The menu list is rather impressive, and it is certainly worth a visit, but make sure to have reservations.
ENO Wine Bar – located in Union Square, this wine bar has a cozy vibe with a beautiful illuminated wine focal wall. Go for a flight of wine, and enjoy laughing over their humorous menu. It is the perfect spot for a girl’s night or a date night.