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    How many days in San Francisco? Itinerary for 1, 2, 3 days up to 1 week

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    Joel Fulleda

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    Bustling San Francisco attracts more than 20 million visitors a year, and most of them sharpen their sights in search of that red bridge which made her famous all over the world. The Golden Gate Bridge is an unmissable stop on any trip to City by the bay, be it by 1 day or a week: butter how many days will you have to visit San Francisco?

    You still have to decide how many days to dedicate to this city or that you have already decided, in this article I will try to provide you with some useful ideas: first of all by suggesting the minimum time to spend to really come into contact with the eccentric soul of this city, then offering you itineraries designed to make the most of the days available.

    Basically: how many days to spend in San Francisco? AND what see if we have 1, 2, 3, 4 or 7 days available?


    • How many days do you visit San Francisco?
    • What to see in San Francisco in 1 day
      • A: Alcatraz and Golden Gate itinerary
      • B: City tour with the Golden Gate
    • What to see in San Francisco in 2 days
      • Day 1: From Alcatraz to the Golden Gate
      • Day 2: City tour with Cable Cars and Lombard Street
    • What to see in San Francisco in 3 days
      • Day 1: City tour with Cable Cars and Lombard Street
      • Day 2: From Alcatraz to the Palace of Fine Arts
      • Day 3: From the Golden Gate Bridge to Haight-Ashbury
    • San Francisco from 4 days to a week
      • A: Visit other attractions in the city
      • B: Excursions nearby

    How many days do you visit San Francisco?

    Lombard Street

    If you are wondering what is the right measure to do justice to this quirky city probably the most reasonable answer to give is to visit it in 3 days, not so much because in this time frame you can see everything (forget it!) but rather because 3 days in itself represent a good compromise that allows you to enjoy at least the main attractions.

    Of course, the tourist offer of San Francisco and its surroundings is such that you won't even get bored in a week (we'll see) but you rarely have more than 3 days to visit the city, as your visit often fits into a larger California or West Coast road tour.

    More frequent is instead that they dedicate themselves to San Francisco 2 days or, alas, even just 1. In these cases you will have to give up many places of interest and it will be more difficult to come into contact with the unique atmosphere that this city has to offer, but we will do our best anyway. Let's see how to organize the time available ...

    What to see in San Francisco in 1 day

    Here, first of all, a choice arises: to dedicate the only day we have available to visit San Francisco at 2 symbol attractions, the best known ones (I'm talking about Alcatraz and the Golden Gate), or give up one of the 2 to insert something that gives you the opportunity to learn more about the city and its most characteristic corners? Let's see how to distribute the attractions based on these 2 cases:

    A: Alcatraz and Golden Gate itinerary

    Start with Alcatraz, boarding the boat early in the morning and dedicate the whole morning or a large part of it to the visit. Back on dry land, continue north up the bay to first cross Pier 39 and continue along Fisherman's Wharf. From here you will have to move to the Golden Gate Bridge, reachable by bus from many stops in the area, or by renting a bike.

    B: City tour with the Golden Gate

    Give up on Alcatraz and start the day by boarding a historic cable car from Powell St & Market St stop (Powell / Hyde red line) and get off at Lombard Street to enjoy one of the most characteristic streets in the world. Walk up to Telegraph Hill to climb Coit Tower and admire San Francisco from above. Continue north to Pier 39 and then west across Fisherman's Wharf. After some exploration, rent a bike in the area to visit the Golden Gate Bridge.

    This is an itinerary that requires a good walk first and a nice "bike ride" so, if you are afraid of getting too tired, you can consider renting an electric bike to visit the bridge, or take a bus or even more simply eliminate a attraction.

    What to see in San Francisco in 2 days

    View of Alcatraz

    With 2 days the visit will become more relaxed and you will have more time to get to know San Francisco up close. Here's how I would organize my stay:

    Day 1: From Alcatraz to the Golden Gate

    Set up your day exactly as explained in point A of the previous itinerary template.

    Day 2: City tour with Cable Cars and Lombard Street

    Start in the morning with a nice breakfast at the Ferry Building Marketplace, continue on foot by exploring the Financial District (whose symbol is the Transamerica pyramid), North Beach, a neighborhood of Italian origins where the passage of the Beat movement has left traces that are still visible, Chinatown, the largest Chinese community in America, and Union Square, central square of the city.

    After crossing these neighborhoods, take the Cable Car and get off at Lombard Street (exactly as described in the previous paragraph), from there continue your journey on foot, first crossing Macondray Lane (Barbary Lane), then Ina Coolbrith Park and Washington Square Park, to finish by visiting the Coit Tower.

    What to see in San Francisco in 3 days

    Ghirardelli Square

    In 3 days, in addition to the attractions already mentioned, you will have the opportunity to come into contact with some residential and characteristic areas. Here the itinerary is briefly described but you can read it in detail, supported by a map, in this article: what to see in San Francisco in 3 days: detailed day by day itinerary. Here's how I'd distribute the things to see:

    Day 1: City tour with Cable Cars and Lombard Street

    Retrace the second day of the previous itinerary template exactly.

    Day 2: From Alcatraz to the Palace of Fine Arts

    Leave early in the morning for the visit to Alcatraz, to which I recommend that you dedicate, as already mentioned, the morning or a good part of it. Then head north along the bay, first visiting Pier 39 and continuing into the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood until you reach Ghirardelli Square.

    From there take the bus (30 Stockton bus) to get to the Palace of Fine Arts, one of the most beautiful monuments in the city. If you still have some time with a short walk you can get to Crissy Field, one of the best known beaches in San Francisco, from which you can admire the Golden Gate bridge in the background, a juicy preview of what awaits you tomorrow.

    Day 3: From the Golden Gate Bridge to Haight-Ashbury

    The first part of the day is dedicated to the Golden Gate, which I recommend you to cross by bicycle, perhaps arriving in Sausalito (to go back you can take the ferry from the same town).

    In the afternoon move using public transport, reach Alamo Square, to see the Painted Ladies and then walk about twenty minutes to visit one of the most interesting neighborhoods in San Francisco, Haight-Ashbury.

    If you still have time, you can spend it visiting a portion of Golden Gate Park, an immense park full of points of interest and easily reachable on foot from the center of Haight-Ashbury. For more details on this itinerary you can read the dedicated article:

    What to see in San Francisco in 3 days

    San Francisco from 4 days to a week

    the first 3 days resume the previous itinerary, which remains more than valid, for fourth day instead you will be faced with a choice: explore the surroundings of the city or visit the other attractions of San Francisco that you have not yet seen? Both possibilities are actually more than valid, let's detail the 2 alternatives in order to help you in the choice:

    A: Visit other attractions in the city

    The attractions not included in the itinerary of the first 3 days are still many and not uninteresting… you may decide to visit SFMoMA, one of the most important contemporary art museums in the world, or dedicate a more in-depth visit to parks like the Garrison e Golden Gate Park, and what about characteristic neighborhoods rich in history such as Mission and Castro?

    Museum enthusiasts will then have a lot to choose from: science lovers can opt for Exploratorium, anyone who grew up with Disney movies will be able to satisfy their curiosities at Walt Disney Family Museum, those who are looking for something unusual will be surprised by the collection of Musee Mecanique, dedicated to pinball machines, music machines and coin operated arcade games. If, on the other hand, you want to see accurate reproductions of famous people, head to the Wax Museum in Madame Tussauds.

    What if you fancy a nice hike in the open area? You can walk a beautiful scenic path in the middle of nature even without leaving San Francisco: it's called Lands End, and represents a really nice opportunity to admire splendid views of the coast.

    B: Excursions nearby

    If this extensive list of attractions failed to pique your interest then the choice is probably made: for the fourth day, the fascinating surroundings of San Francisco await you. The variety is such that 1 more day may not be enough, as you will see there are so many possibilities you can fill a week or more.

    Nature, good wine and breathtaking scenery. You just need to rent a car (or take a ferry) to reach dream places just a few hours from San Francisco. Let's see what awaits you once you cross the city limits:

    Sausalito e Muir Woods

    It is a small town of 7.000 inhabitants belonging to Marin County. As already mentioned, you can get there by car or by bike via the Golden Gate Bridge or by ferry. Pretty and well cared for, it stretches along the coast and in the hills, where some enchanting villas find refuge. Approximately 20 minutes by car you will find the sumptuous redwood forest Muir woods, which served as the set for the film Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

    • Read our guide to Sausalito
    • Read our guide to Muir Woods

    Point Bonita Lighthouse

    Only 40 minutes by bus from Union Square there is one of the lesser known jewels of the Bay Area, a spectacular lighthouse on a cliff connected by a suspension bridge, from which you can enjoy an incomparable view. The lighthouse, built in 1885, is still operational and can be visited on certain days of the week. To reach it you will have to take a short path of 1,5 km there and back.

    The entrance can be reached with the 76X Marin Headlands Express (be careful, however, because the service is not active every day and for the return route it does not stop near the lighthouse, effectively requiring you to walk more than 1 km to resume the bus), or by rental car, there are 3 car parks nearby. Read our Point Bonita Lighthouse guide.

    Napa Valley e Sonoma Valley

    Impossible not to have ever heard of this world-famous California wine region. Napa Valley is one of the most renowned in the world and hides exceptional romantic resorts and upscale restaurants among its vineyards. Get ready for a string of toasts between tastings and gastronomic tours. The area is located one hour from San Francisco. Also in this case tours are organized from the city.

    • Read our guide to Napa and Sonoma Valley

    Monterey & Carmel-by-the-sea

    To visit these two jewels of the Californian coast we head south, two hours from the city. The first stop will be there Monterey Bay with its pier teeming with restaurants, while the second will be Carmel, more refined and classy. Points of interest along the way: Pebble Beach, Lone Cypress and Point Lobos State Reserve.

    • Read our guides to Monterey and Carmel

    Big Sur and Highway 1

    Bixby Bridge

    We go even further south to California's most spectacular stretch of coast. Along Highway 1 you will feel the need to stop every mile to enjoy the view, accompanied by the sound of the Pacific Ocean waves crashing on the cliffs.

    Mark the Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls and Pfeiffer Beach among the mandatory stops.

    • Read our guide to Big Sur and Highway 1


    Yosemite National Park is a favorite destination for those who love hiking and the mountains. Snowy and hostile in winter, green and crowded in summer, Yosemite National Park is about 4 hours from San Francisco and it would be a shame not to visit if you have more than 4 days.

    The ideal is to stay at least one night and sleep in one of the nearby towns (read our advice on where to sleep in and around Yosemite), or leave early in the morning and return in the evening. If you don't intend to rent a car, guided day tours are available departing from San Francisco.

    • Read our guide to Yosemite National Park and our article on how to get from San Francisco to Yosemite
    Heading to San Francisco? You discover...
    • the best areas to find accommodation
    • where and how to rent a car
    • how to get around the city
    • how to visit Alcatraz
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