What to see in San Francisco in 3 days

One of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and one of the most important in the United States, today we tell you what to see in San Francisco in 3 days!

Although to see it calmly we would recommend you some more days, we know that the times are pressing when we are travelling and in 3 days in San Francisco we can see the most essential things without any doubt.

San Francisco is an indispensable stop on the West Coast route or if we have just come from doing the Big Sur route, it is a city that does not leave anyone indifferent, its mixture of culture and its open mind to us completely conquered.

You can also take a look at all these things to do in San Francisco, to get more ideas.

Here we go with our schedule of places to see in San Francisco in 3 days!

St. Francis in 3 days:

DAY 1: Alcatraz Prison, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Warff, Ghirardelli Square, Cable Car, Lombard Street, City Hall, Union Square, Chinatown, Coit Tower and Tony’s Pizza Napoletana.

DAY 2: Golden Gate Viewpoints, Sausalito, Palacio de Bellas Artes and sunset overlooking the Golden Gate

DAY 3: Barrio de Castro, Painted Ladies, Twin Peaks, Golden Gate Park and Silicon Valley.

WHAT TO SEE IN SAN FRANCISCO IN 3 DAYS

DAY 1 of trip to San Francisco in 3 days

POINTS OF INTEREST:

Alcatraz Prison
Pier 39
Fisherman’s Warff
Ghirardelli Square
Cable car
Lombard Street
City Hall
Union Square
Chinatown
Coit Tower
Tony’s pizza Napoletana

A good way to start getting to know San Francisco is to visit one of its biggest icons (with permission from the Golden Gate), the Alcatraz jail.

Ferries leave from pier 33 to the island every day (the ferry is included in the ticket), we recommend you to book in advance so you don’t run out of tickets for the time you want.

At the entrance they give you an audio-guide in Spanish, possibly one of the best audio-guides we have heard on a sightseeing tour.

You walk around the old prison at your leisure and it doesn’t have a fixed duration, but you can count on about 2/3 hours to see it well.

One of the must-see things to see in 3 days in San Francisco without a doubt.

Saint Francis in 3 days : Alcatraz Prison

Once back, you can visit pier 39 where the sea lions created a settlement naturally and it is an ideal place to see them in the wild.

If you are a bit nostalgic you can enter the Musée Mécanique, it is an interactive museum full of arcade machines from the last century, the entrance is free, there is also Madame Tussauds, the wax museum of St. Francis.

You can take the opportunity to eat at Pier 39 or at Fisherman Wharf. Clam chowder is very typical and a mythical place to try it is at Boudin where it is served on sourdough bread, 100% recommended!

Clam chowder, San Francisco

Leave room for dessert at Ghirardelli, the old Ghirardelli chocolate factory now converted into a lively square with shops, restaurants and even a 5-star hotel, of course you can try chocolate in all its forms.

Very close to there is the Hyde St. & Beach St. stop of the mythical cable car that also passes through Lombard Street, the famous street of curves in San Francisco that has even appeared in an episode of The Simpsons.

Lombard Street | San Francisco in 3 days

With the cable car we arrive at Powell Street Station, the good thing about catching it at the Hyde St. & Beach St. stop is that there is usually less of a queue than at Powell Street Station where it is always full.

San Francisco

Once on Powell Street we can take a classic F-line tram to City Hall, the spectacular building where the San Francisco City Hall is located, very similar to the Invalides building in Paris.

From there we retrace our steps to see Union Square, one of the most important squares in the city and for us one of the best areas to stay in San Francisco.

Five minutes away is Dragon’s Gate, the gateway to San Francisco’s Chinatown, one of the most important Chinese communities outside of Asia, well worth a visit.

Chinatown, San Francisco

If we walk a little bit to the intersection of California St. and Mason St. there is a very cool view of the Bay Bridge that connects San Francisco with Oakland.

Bay Bridge, San Francisco

A good place to end the day is the Coit Tower, located on one of the highest hills in the city and you can imagine the views of San Francisco from above.

If you want to save yourself the hard climb to the hill you can take the bus nº39.

Coit Tower in San Francisco

Apart from the views, the Coit Tower houses fresco murals by different artists inside, you can read a bit of the curious story Lillian Coit and the Coit Tower in Wikipedia.

Nearby is one of the most famous pizzerias in the USA, Tony’s pizza Napoletana, the Italian chef won 13 times the prize for the best Neapolitan pizza in the world! You can have dinner there.

Although there is usually a queue, if you don’t mind eating at the bar it’s quite fast.

Tony’s pizza Napoletana

Reservations for today:

TIMES OF THE DAY:

The impressive slopes of the city exhaust anyone, we recommend you to have a pass for the whole day of public transport and save yourself some climbs.
If you have a rental car, it is better to leave it parked and move around on foot or by public transport, at least on this day. In the post of accommodation in San Francisco we talk about some with free parking.
You will surely find it interesting to buy the 1 or 3 day public transport pass, which includes the mythical cable car and all the transport in the city. A single ticket for the historic cable car costs $8 and the day pass $13.
If you plan to buy the San Francisco City Pass you will have 3 days of unlimited transportation included.

DAY 2 of trip to San Francisco in 3 days

POINTS OF INTEREST:

Viewpoints of the Golden Gate
Sausalito
Palace of Fine Arts
Sunset in Golden Gate

We started the day with a tour of the three Golden Gate viewpoints that we liked best and ended up in Sausalito, a small town in front of the San Francisco Peninsula.

You have the exact location of each lookout point on the map below, one is on the San Francisco side and the other two are across the Golden Gate.

Golden Gate Overlook | San FranciscoGolden Gate Battery Spencer Overlook | San FranciscoMirador Golden Gate Vista Point Sausalito | San Francisco

You can do the route by rental car or by bicycle, removing the third viewpoint that is more complicated to access by bike.

You have to pay a toll to cross the Golden Gate in a rental car. You only pay when you enter San Francisco, not when you leave, on this route you only pay when you return.

There is no physical place to pay the toll, to do this you have to hire the FasTrak at the rental company when you pick up the car (more info in the post of tips to rent a car in the USA) or pay the toll online as we did.

To pay online, you have to register on the official website (it is very well explained and in Spanish), put a bank card and enter the car’s data. Remember!! you have to do the procedure before crossing the bridge or at the most one day after crossing it.

What to see in San Francisco in 3 days, Golden Gate Viewpoint

Watch out! You won’t see any barriers of any kind, nor is it very indicated, but the toll is there. If you do not pay it, the rental company will take care of the fine and charge you interest.

Our visit to Sausalito coincided with lunchtime, and it was my birthday, so we indulged in a meal at Poggio Trattoria, a restaurant recommended in the Michelin guide. Despite this, we didn’t find it very expensive, $65 both (salad + Francobolli + Carbonara + tax + tips).

Sausalito does not have much to see and the visit is quite fast, the most relevant thing is its floating houses dock.

Sausalito

On the way back we can pass by the Palacio de Bellas Artes, in our opinion one of the most beautiful places in this 3-day route in San Francisco.

It was built on the occasion of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and in the 1960s it was completely rebuilt to make it more durable.

Palace of Fine Arts

And we ended the day at our favorite spot to watch the sunset in San Francisco, Torpedo Wharf, also a spectacular viewpoint of the Golden Gate.

Reservations for today:

Our favorite place to watch the sunset in San Francisco

DAY 3 of trip to San Francisco in 3 days

POINTS OF INTEREST:

Castro’s Neighborhood
Painted Ladies
Twin Peaks
Golden Gate Park
Silicon Valley

The last day of our 3 day planning in San Francisco we started in the famous Castro neighborhood, epicenter of the LGBT community in San Francisco.

It is said that thousands of men from the U.S. Navy were discarded for service because of their sexual condition during World War II and were sent to San Francisco. Many of them settled in the Castro neighborhood and thus began the influence of the homosexual community in the area.

It is named after the Castro Theatre installed on the corner of Castro and Market streets in 1922.

Castro Theatre

And of course, a visit to the famous Painted Ladies was a must on this three-day tour of San Francisco. These famous Victorian houses are surely familiar to you and you’ve seen them in hundreds of photographs of San Francisco.

They have also appeared in a lot of movies and series, like the series Full House (Padres Forzosos en España).

Right in front of the houses is Alamo Square Park, great for taking pictures and relaxing.

Painted Ladies | San Francisco in 3 days

Twin Peaks is one of the best known viewpoints in the city and one of the must-see places to see in San Francisco in 3 days, take a jacket because even though it’s summer the two times we’ve been there it’s been windy and cold!

San Francisco in 3 days : Twin Peaks Viewpoint

From here we can visit the Golden Gate Park, much like New York’s Central Park, relax and have a picnic, or we can take a tour of Silicon Valley and visit some of today’s most famous companies, such as Google or Apple.

You can also do both if you have the time.

Silicon Valley Route | San Francisco

You have already published in the blog our geek route through Silicon Valley, with all the stops, directions and necessary information! A somewhat geeky route but very entertaining.

Travel insurance for the United States

Don’t forget to take out travel insurance before you leave! Healthcare in the United States is one of the most expensive in the world and not worth the risk.

We have been travelling with Iati Seguros for years, it gives us peace of mind not to have to advance a single euro if anything happens and it has one of the highest medical coverages on the market.

Remember that you have a 5% discount on your travel insurance from our link.

Accommodation in San Francisco

On our last visit to San Francisco we stayed in an apartment of Airbnb, if you look for it with time you can find some interesting accommodations, although in general sleeping in San Francisco is quite expensive.

Remember that you have 34 Euros discount for your first booking on Airbnb.

A highly recommended accommodation is Beresford Arms, unbeatable location and very good evaluations, a little more fair (and cheaper) in the same area is Grant Hotel.

Some interesting tours in San Francisco

If you have some more days, there are several very interesting tours in San Francisco, there is even one that you could combine with our 3 day planning in San Francisco:

Free tour of San Francisco

Tour of San Francisco in full

San Francisco Bay Cruise

San Francisco full + alcatraz

Golden Gate – San Francisco

Cards for travel to the United States

We have to be careful with the commissions that our bank may charge us when paying in a currency other than the euro. We recommend that you check it out before the trip so that you don’t get any scares!

Normally the traditional banks usually charge quite high commissions, we have been travelling for years with the N26 card which has no commissions when paying in a currency other than the euro and is the one that works best for us.

We also carry the Revolut and Bnext cards for withdrawing something from the ATM, also without commissions and free of charge, without any associated costs.

You have all the info about this topic in the card post to travel without commissions.

And if you prefer to bring some cash from home, we leave you a discount to change currency in Ria, it is processed online and you receive it at home, very practical!

And so much for our three-day schedule in San Francisco!

If you would still like to add something else, don’t hesitate to take a look at all these things to do in San Francisco.

We also have a post to help you find a good place to stay in San Francisco and the areas to avoid.

We hope you find our planning of all things to see in San Francisco in 3 days helpful.

More information about the West Coast of the USA:

40 THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN SAN FRANCISCO WHERE TO STAY IN SAN FRANCISCO, THE BEST AREAS WEST COAST ROUTE UNITED STATES ROUTE FROM LOS ANGELES TO SAN FRANCISCO IN BIG SUR 65 THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN LOS ANGELES 45 THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN LAS VEGAS TRAVEL TIPS FOR WEST COAST U.S. HOW TO HAVE INTERNET IN U.S. THE BEST CARDS TO TRAVEL WITHOUT COMMISSIONS THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR U.S.

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Other interesting links for your trip to San Francisco:

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