Comprised of hills, coastline, a melting pot of cultures and a unique vibe, San Francisco is one of those US cities that constantly surprises. Even the locals always find something new and different to discover.
Three days seem like it’s going to be a jam-packed itinerary and it probably will be, but it’s San Francisco, and it’s going to be worth it. The city has a pretty decent transport system, and most of the sites are even within walking distance from each other.
Pack your favorite jacket and sturdy but comfortable shoes, as this 3 days in San Francisco itinerary will make the most of your visit.
3 Days in San Francisco: Itinerary With Maps and Tips
Day 1 of 3 Days in San Francisco Itinerary
1. Ferry Building
Start your first day with a hearty breakfast at the Ferry Building Marketplace. On weekdays, it’s surrounded by food stalls while a farmers market takes over during weekends.
This area is where most of the Bay Area’s ferries still arrive and depart, and known foodie heaven. Situated in the waterfront area, the Ferry Building is an ideal starting point for visiting other popular San Francisco attractions such as the fisherman’s Wharf, which you can reach via tram.
This curve from the Fisherman’s Wharf to the Ferry Building is the Embarcadero, which you can also reach via streetcar but it’s recommended to take the 1.7-mile sidewalk.
This path is lined with interesting places you can visit, such as Pier 39’s shopping area, the Aquarium By the Bay and its population of sea lions, a stroll along Pier 7 and the Transamerica Pyramid.
3. Fisherman’s Wharf
The sights and smells of Fisherman’s Wharf are one of those things that’s uniquely San Francisco. As iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge, this is among those that you must visit to truly feel that you’re in this city by the bay.
When here, be sure to check out the legendary Boudin Bakery at Pier 39 and its excellent clam chowder served on sourdough bread. Then walk around a bit to see the lazy seals bathing out on the pier, then have some old fashioned candy bar or taffy at The Candy Baron.
While you finish your sweet treat, head on further to see the talented and often hilarious street performers then see the nearby quirky shos afterworlds. You won’t simply get enough of this lively area so just keep walking see more of the San Francisco Bay Waterfront or the Embarcadero.
4. Palace of Fine Arts
From the Embarcadero, hop on a Line 4 bus that’ll take you to the Palace of Fine Arts in just a little over 20 minutes. This place is one of the best things to do for free in San Francisco as well.
Built around a shallow reflecting pool, this area is great for taking a much-needed break before heading onto your next San Francisco attraction.
Relax under the Roman-style rotunda, stroll around the pool or if you’ve bought some goodies from Fisherman’s Wharf, have a picnic on the grass. Have a look around as this place is also a popular events venue, then head on to The Presidio.
5. The Presidio
A former military post that’s now accessible to the public, The Presidio is home to some interesting sights such as The Walt Disney Family Museum and Lucasfilm with its Yoda fountain.
There’s also has the former airbase Crissy Field and its waterfront paths that are perfect for a leisurely stroll.
The Presidio is the area that surrounds the Golden Gate Bridge, which is within walking distance and also the last destination for the day as you watch the sunset.
6. Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco’s ‘postcard’ is the city’s most iconic attraction as well as an engineering marvel. It is recommended to walk across the bridge, especially at sunset, where you’ll spend the first several minutes with the sun on your face then the wind in your hair as day turns to even.
San Francisco Itinerary Route for day 1
Day 2 of 3 Days in San Francisco Itinerary
Established in 1948, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the perfect way to start your second day. One of the oldest and largest in the world, the lively atmosphere will surely wake you up.
Have a big breakfast in one of the restaurants or cafes, then stroll along the streets and check out the variety of stalls, the apartment balconies, and the Fortune Cookie Factory.
After waking up your senses, it’s time to experience another culture at the Mission district, which you can easily reach via Line 4 bus, BART or tram from the vibrant Chinatown.
2. The Mission
With its Latino roots mixed with a vibe that’s unmistakably hipster, The mission is one of the more intriguing neighborhoods in San Francisco.
This area is best known for its murals, especially on Clarion Alley, as well as live music, Mexican and Hispanic food and Dolores Park with its stunning views of the San Francisco skyline.
Just a quick commute via the Line 33 bus from The Mission is another interesting San Francisco neighborhood — the Haight-Ashbury. Widely known to be where the hippie movement and the 1960s ‘Summer of Love’ originated, it is a fun, yet relatively chill residential district.
Stroll along the streets and check out a few of the many record stores and thrift shops, as well as quirky eateries that all seem to keep the hippie vibe alive.
All over the neighborhood, you’ll also come across tributes to some 60s icons such as The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin.
4. Half-day trip to Wine Country
Close to San Francisco is California’s famous wine region, a great way to spend the rest of your second day.
Hop on a charter bus or join a group tour that will take you to the Napa and Sonoma wine regions, which are among the world’s largest producers of wine.
Here you can visit vineyards, learn about the wine-making process and tour wineries.
San Francisco Itinerary Route for day 2
Day 3 of 3 Days in San Francisco
1. Golden Gate Park
This is a massive park — think Central Park in New York and may seem like you can’t possibly see most of it. But you can always set put early armed with the essentials— picnic mat, food that’s enough to last you until the afternoon and fully charged cellphone and camera.
Comprising 1,017 acres, the Golden Gate Park was founded in 1894. The trails, slopes, and picnic areas may seem to go on for miles, but just take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the sights.
Be sure to visit the DeYoung Museum, the California Academy of Sciences and the huge paddock where you can say hi to some water buffaloes.
In the western part of the park, there are windmills that used to provide water to this city by the bay, and further still, is the stunning Ocean Beach which is your next destination for the day.
2. Ocean Beach
This pristine sandy beach stretches for three miles along San Francisco’s Western coast.
This is a great place to relax after all the walking at the Golden Gate Park, where you can also have a picnic and people -watch.
Walk along the shore or pick a spot in the and, as you take in the view of the Pacific.
3. Land’s End
Land’s End is located on the southernmost point of Ocean Beach, and the perfect place to see the sunset on your last day in San Francisco.
Also, a historic park set on rocky cliffs here’s where you can see remnants of the Sutro Baths as well as old shipwrecks during low tide.
This is where your San Francisco visit goes kind of full circle as you watch the sunset behind the Golden Gate Bridge from a completely different spot, but sill as mesmerizing.
San Francisco Itinerary Route for day 3