15 Popular Places To Visit In San Francisco (2024)

San Francisco is a vibrant city in California, USA, famous for its unique charm and attractions. This article showcases the top 15 Popular Places To Visit In San Francisco, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich culture and history.

From the famous Golden Gate Bridge to the historic Alcatraz Island, San Francisco offers a mix of history, art, and natural beauty that attracts visitors from around the world.

popular places to visit in san francisco

Get ready to embark on a journey through the enchanting streets and breathtaking views that make San Francisco a must-visit destination for travelers of all kinds.

1. The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge looks even better in person than in pictures. It’s the most popular spot to take photos in the city, with its orange structure against the blue water or peeking through fog. At night, it’s lit up and looks amazing.

The bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County and other places up north. It was once considered the best man-made sight in the U.S. It opened on May 28th, 1937, after four years of construction. Back then, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, about two miles long.

The Golden Gate Bridge

If you want to drive over it, take US Highway 101 or SR 1. There’s a sidewalk for walking on the east side and bikes are allowed on both sides.

The walk starts at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center and ends in Marin County with a great view of San Francisco. Locals like biking to the nearby town of Sausalito.

For awesome views or pictures, there are great spots. Nob Hill in San Francisco offers beautiful views. On the Marin County side, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is good too. If you go to Alcatraz Island, you’ll see the bridge from the boat and the island.

Key Point

Best Things To Do
  • Golden Gate Bridge Walk: Take a stroll or bike ride across the bridge to enjoy stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, and the city skyline.
  • Battery Spencer: Head to this viewpoint for breathtaking panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the surrounding landscape.
  • Crissy Field: Enjoy a leisurely walk or picnic at Crissy Field, a nearby waterfront area with beautiful scenery and a beach offering postcard-worthy views of the bridge.
  • Golden Gate Park: Visit the park for a variety of attractions, including the Japanese Tea Garden, Conservatory of Flowers, and the de Young Museum.
  • Sausalito: Take a short drive or ferry ride to Sausalito, a charming waterfront town with shops, art galleries, and waterfront restaurants, providing an alternative view of the bridge.
  • Marin Headlands: Explore the Marin Headlands for hiking trails and additional vantage points that showcase the Golden Gate Bridge against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center: Learn more about the bridge’s history and construction at the Welcome Center, where you can find exhibits, gift shops, and helpful information.
  • Hawk Hill: Ideal for bird watching and photography, Hawk Hill offers a higher elevation for a unique perspective of the bridge and the surrounding area.
  • Sunset Viewing: Experience the magic of a sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge; popular spots include Battery Spencer, Crissy Field, and Marin Headlands.
Tourist Attractions:
  • Golden Gate Bridge itself
  • Golden Gate Park
  • Alcatraz Island
  • Marin Headlands
  • Baker Beach
  • San Francisco Bay Cruise
  • Palace of Fine Arts
  • Fort Point
  • Crissy Field
  • Battery Spencer
Where to Stay?
  • Cavallo Point Lodge
  • Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square
  • Hotel Vitale
  • The Inn at the Presidio
  • Argonaut Hotel
  • Waters Edge Hotel
  • Battery Wharf Hotel, Boston Waterfront
  • Harbor Court Hotel
  • The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
  • San Francisco Marriott Marquis
  • Open entire day
  • Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Nearest Major Airport?
  • The nearest major airport to the Golden Gate Bridge is San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

2. Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, used to be a famous prison. It was open for nearly 30 years, from 1934 to 1963, and then became a tourist attraction in 1973.

Famous criminals like Al Capone were locked up there. In those 30 years, 1,576 people were imprisoned, but there were never more than 250 at once, even though there were 450 cells.

Sometimes, there were more guards and staff than prisoners. Alcatraz is also a home for birds.

Alcatraz Island

You can visit Alcatraz on a tour that includes a ferry ride from Pier 33. There are daytime and evening tours available. When you visit the prison, you get an audio recording about life in the cells, voiced by former inmates and guards.

If you only have one day in San Francisco, consider a combined tour of Alcatraz and the city. It covers Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Alcatraz tours often sell out, so it’s smart to book in advance.

Key Point

Best Things To Do
  • Alcatraz Island Tour: Take the official Alcatraz Island tour to explore the historic prison and learn about its fascinating history. Tours include an audio guide narrated by former prison guards and inmates.
  • Cellhouse Audio Tour: Opt for the Cellhouse Audio Tour, a self-guided experience that provides insights into the daily lives of prisoners. It’s a captivating journey through the cellblocks and key locations within the prison.
  • Alcatraz Night Tour: For a unique experience, consider the Alcatraz Night Tour, offering a more intimate and eerie atmosphere as you explore the island after sunset. The evening tour includes special presentations and dramatic storytelling.
  • Alcatraz East Gift Shop: Visit the Alcatraz East Gift Shop to purchase souvenirs, books, and memorabilia related to Alcatraz and its history.
  • Alcatraz Island Gardens: Enjoy a stroll through the beautiful gardens on Alcatraz Island, offering stunning views of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Alcatraz Recreation Yard: Explore the Alcatraz Recreation Yard, where prisoners used to exercise. Today, it provides a unique outdoor space with informational panels detailing the history of the yard.
Tourist Attractions:
  • Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary
  • Alcatraz Island Tours
  • The Cellhouse
  • Alcatraz Lighthouse
  • Gardens of Alcatraz
  • Military and Civil War Era Buildings
  • Alcatraz Island Museum
  • Recreation Yard
  • Audio Cellhouse Tour
  • Alcatraz Ferry Ride
Where to Stay?
  • Alcatraz Island does not offer overnight accommodations.
  • Visitors cannot stay overnight on Alcatraz.
  • Accommodations are not available on Alcatraz Island.
  • Alcatraz is a day-use destination with no lodging options.
  • No overnight stays are permitted on Alcatraz.
  • Open all-day
  •  San Francisco, CA 94133
Nearest Major Airport?
  • The nearest major airport to Alcatraz Island is San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Alcatraz Island is located in San Francisco Bay, and SFO is the primary international airport serving the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • It is approximately 15.4 miles away and should take about 28 minutes to get to by car.


  • EVE Arnold

    EVE Arnold is a Blogger in the USA Travel section at Best Places to Travel where he writes and edits travel guides, tours and articles.

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