We have arrived in the first big city of our road trip: San Francisco. After having spent 2 days driving north up the Pacific Coast Highway, we left the comfort of the Pacific ocean (even though we did still see it) and headed into the city. While we technically spent four days there, two of them were fully spent within the city, while the other two were spent traveling in and out of it. This meant that I had to come up with a plan on how to explore San Francisco (or at least all the major sights) in that time.
Day 1Explore by public transport and by foot
1. Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island was the first on our list of sights to see. In order to get there, you have to take a ferry from Pier 33 in the harbor. You have to order the tickets online at least two weeks before. Use the link I have provided since this is the official tour site. You can find many others in the harbor, but they are not good at all. This is the only guided tour that actually lets you visit inside the prison. More on Alcatraz soon on the blog.
2. Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf is a neighborhood and popular tourist attraction in San Francisco. Fisherman's Wharf plays host to many San Francisco events, including a world-class fireworks display for Fourth of July, and some of the best views of the Fleet Week air shows featuring The Blue Angels. There is a sea lion colony next to Pier 39, which is the most famous pier of them all. You can find many shops, restaurants and tourist attractions there. It's worth a visit, but you will have to fight the crowds here.
3. Lombard Street
After Fisherman's Wharf you can continue west towards the start of the cable car rotation. For 7$ you can ride a cable car up the hill toward Lombard Street. This street is part of the Highway 101 which we were traveling on, on our first day, and because of the steep hills the road curves into the city. It's a neat photo op, and one that will be on your way that day. There will be many tourists here so make sure to be safe, since the street is in use!
4. Inner City
The Inner City offers many great sights and spots, from the Washington Park, Liguria Bakery (great place for a snack), all the way through Chinatown (which I didn't enjoy that much to be honest). But this is why San Francisco is so great. You can walk by foot and see a lot. Unlike Los Angeles, which we would visit at the end of the journey, can actually explore San Francisco. It's very much like a big European city in that way.
5. Financial District
Day 2Explore by car: The second day is best explored by car, because the places are too far away for walking and it will be really tough to get everywhere by public transportation.
1. Palace of Fine Arts
2. and 3. Golden Gate Bridge
There are a couple of spots from which you can explore this landmark of San Francisco: the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a must see spot, and one you can further experience in this separate post, but these two places around the bridge: Vista Point and Fort Point are fantastic!
4. Baker Beach
A resting place for the soul and the senses will be Baker Beach. After the busy city life this is a great place to just hang out and let the ocean waves rush over you. We spent an hour here, and since it's a public beach, parking is free. I wouldn't advise swimming here though, because of the strong currents. We had so much fun here, kicking off our shoes and walking barefoot along the beach. More images from the beach will follow soon!
5. Lunch in Louis' Restaurant
We grabbed lunch in Louis' Restaurant. They serve sandwiches and burgers. Obviously you can eat lunch wherever you wish, but we loved this spot, since it's located on the cliffs, overlooking the Pacific ocean! I had a great French dip Sandwich with Au Jus, the others a Sutro Sandwich (image above). You can find their website here, including the menu.
6. Japanese Tea Garden
The Japanese Tea Garden is a popular feature of the Golden Gate Park. It's the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States, and this complex of many paths, ponds and a tea house features native Japanese and Chinese plants and trees. The garden's 5 acres (2.0 ha) contain sculptures and structures influenced by Buddhist and Shinto religious beliefs, as well as many elements of water and rocks to create a calming landscape designed to slow people down. Entrance is 8$.
7. Painted Ladies
"Painted ladies" is a term in American architecture used for Victorian and Edwardian houses and buildings painted in three or more colors that embellish or enhance their architectural details. One of the best-known groups of "Painted Ladies" is the row of Victorian houses at 710–720 Steiner Street, across from Alamo Square park, in San Francisco. It is sometimes known as "Postcard Row." This block appears very frequently in media and mass-market photographs of the city and its tourist attractions and has appeared in an estimated 70 movies, TV programs, and ads, including in the opening credits of the television series Full House.
So this is how we did it. I think it's the best way to explore the must see spots of the city within two days. I consulted my lonely planet guides and used google maps to figure out or game play. I think it worked out in the end. We especially loved the second day, where we could roam the city with our rental car, although San Francisco can easily be explored by foot and public transportation!
End of Part Six
To be continued...