Two days in San Francisco are enough to visit its main tourist-circuit sights and the neighborhoods that give the city its undeniable character. There’s also time to heed the call of the bay, with Alcatraz and Sausalito luring urbanites across the water. Here’s how to maximize two days in SF.
Start today near Union Square, a central spot with easy access to iconic areas and attractions such as Chinatown, Grace Cathedral, and the St. Francis Hotel. A cable car ride takes you through cosmopolitan and old-school neighborhoods at a leisurely pace, while hop-on hop-off bus tours allow you to see more attractions in less time—some even go across the Golden Gate Bridge.
For low-key exploring on your first afternoon, culinary or cultural walking tours let you easily get to know San Francisco neighborhoods with local expertise. North Beach and Chinatown are the main players, but if you’re ready to venture farther out, head to the Mission, where you’ll find multicultural cuisine, eclectic shops, and beautiful alleyway murals.
San Francisco has all the nightlife offerings of a world-class city. Edgy crowds congregate in Lower and Upper Haight, while the cool tech kids meet Burning Man types in SOMA. If around on a Thursday, it’s worth prebooking admission to California Academy of Sciences’ adults-only NightLife events, which offer music and cocktails while visitors explore the museum after hours.
Your second morning is a perfect time to venture out onto the bay. Early-access Alcatraz tours should be booked well in advance, as they let you explore the infamous island-prison before most crowds arrive. If you get started early enough, you’ll have time to celebrate your morning accomplishment with a champagne brunch bay cruise afterward.
For lunch, take a ferry to Sausalito, a charming bayside town full of shops and galleries across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Muir Woods is another popular destination north of the city, offering an urban escape with old-growth redwood groves. Some tours visit both Sausalito and Muir Woods in a single afternoon.
There is no shortage of memorable ways to spend your last night in San Francisco. Dine and dance to live music on an evening bay cruise, or choose a more casual nighttime bus tour—some travel in Volkswagens decked out in hippie gear, while others stop for illuminated city views from urban gems such as Treasure Island or the Presidio.