This is an idiosyncratic guide to San Francisco by a local, organized into 7 days of
activities, with recommended additional activities and restaurants (to be developed further).
The itineraries start with a lunch recommendation, so they contemplate a relaxed
morning with a late morning start to touring. The itineraries start from and return to the
Castro neighborhood, but it is easy to start from and return to any other central SF
For customized public transportation directions, use the trip planner at 511.org.
(Photo credit: Banner photo by Trey Ratcliff, http://www.stuckincustoms.com.)
Day 1: Ferry Building and Stairway Walk to Coit Tower
• Take streetcar (F line) from Castro and Market all the way to Ferry Building (there are
markets Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays)
• Have lunch at Ferry Building. Ideas include El Porteno empanadas, Acme bread with
cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, and Vietnamese food from Out the Door. Humphrey Slocombe has delicious ice cream.
• Walk up the Embarcadero to Filbert Street and walk up the Filbert Steps to Coit Tower. It starts as a metal staircase a couple blocks west of the Embarcadero, but soon
becomes a lovely wooden stairway passing close to old houses with flowers all about.
• Visit Coit Tower, with its fascinating depression-era murals inside (free of charge
unless you go up the tower in the elevator).
• Walk down into and explore North Beach (stop for coffee at Mario’s Bohemian) and then, if interested, Chinatown. In Chinatown, one good place to eat is Hang Ah, which claims to be the oldest dim sum place in the U.S. It is also very fun to visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, and make sure to explore the back streets.
• Finally, visit beatnik landmark City Lights bookstore and nearby Vesuvio Cafe.
• Walk down to Market Street to catch subway to return to Castro.
Day 2: Golden Gate Park
• Cross Market Street and Walk up Clayton Street and through Cole Valley.
• Walk to Haight Street. Walk along there as much as interested and have lunch at
Parada 22 (a couple blocks from Golden Gate Park) for authentic Puerto Rican food.
Music aficionados should visit the vast Amoeba Records after lunch and before
entering the park.
• Walk past homeless folks and quasi hippies to enter GG Park at Haight and Stanyan. Cut
over to JFK Drive to visit the beautiful Conservatory of Flowers. On Sunday, JFK Drive is
closed to cars and lively with bikers and others.
• As per your preference visit the California Academy of Sciences or the DeYoung Museum, which face each other across a plaza in new striking buildings, accessible a bit further down JFK.
• In the same area, visit the spectacular Japanese Tea Garden. You can have tea there.
• With the museums behind you, take a left on the road past the tea garden and walk to
the inner sunset neighborhood (centered at 9th and Irving).
• (Optional: get a snack at worker-owner Arizmendi Bakery, on 9th past Irving Street.)
• Take the N-Judah (modern) streetcar towards downtown. (Optional: get off in Cole
Valley and have some of SF’s best ice cream or an unusual fountain drink at The Ice Cream Bar, on Cole at Carl, in the direction of Haight Street.)
• Either walk home from Cole Valley or take the N-Judah to Duboce Park and walk back
to Castro from there, which is a bit longer but takes in part of the Market Street portion
of the Castro neighborhood.
Day 3: The Mission
• Walk down 24th Street, taking in the Noe Valley neighborhood and stopping at
Chocolate Covered, with its extraordinary selection of chocolates, a bit past Castro and the Noe Valley Bakery.
• Continue on 24th all the way through Noe Valley and down into the Mission. Have
tacos or burritos for lunch at Papalote (on 24th shortly before Valencia) or (for
something less upscale and more authentic) tacos at La Taqueria (at 25th and
• Walk down 24th Street, the heart of the Mexican neighborhood. Take a detour down
Balmy Alley to check out the fantastic murals. (Optional: get a cup of coffee at the
original Philz Coffee, along this stretch of 24th at Folsom Street.)
• You can continue along 24th past Balmy Alley, spotting the hipster foodie spots (Dynamo Donuts, Wise Sons Deli, and Humphry Slocombe ice cream) hidden
among the traditional Mexican/Mexican-American businesses, or return to Valencia Street.
• Walk down Valencia Street, stopping at Paxton Gate (a taxidermy and other curiosities
shop) and the literary pirate store right next door, 826 Valencia.
• Turn around at 16th Street and walk back to 18th Street. Take a right in the direction
of Dolores Street. Notice the spectacular mural covered Women’s Building. Cross
Guerrero Street. This block of 18th between Guerrero and Dolores is a Mission foodie
paradise: Tartine Bakery at the corner of 18th and Guerrero; Pizzeria Delfina; Delfina
restaurant; upscale Bi Rite grocery; and Bi Rite Creamery almost at the corner of
Dolores. I especially recommend the ice cream at Bi Rite. If the line is too long, get
the delicious soft serve ice cream at the second window.
• People watch in Dolores Park and, if you have kids, let them play in the playground.
This would also be the opportunity to visit nearby Mission Dolores.
• Continue along 18th Street to return to the Castro. Stroll the neighborhood on Castro
between Market Street and 19th Street. Take note of the historic Castro Theater close
to Market Street (and pick up at schedule) and notice the location of gay rights legend
Harvey Milk’s old store Castro Camera and apartment, at 575 Castro closer to 19th Street (it is now a Human Rights Campaign store). Finally, get some of the City’s best ice cream at The Castro Fountain, an outpost of Cole Valley’s Ice Cream Bar.
Day 4: SFMOMA
• Take the subway to Civic Center. On Tuesday or Thursday get lunch from one of the
food trucks gathered in UN Plaza (or in front of City Hall on Friday). On Wednesday
there is a farmer’s market at UN Plaza, with fewer food trucks but an impressive
variety of fruits and vegetables, more affordable than at the Ferry Building market.
• (Optional: Visit the grand dome of City Hall or the Asian Art Museum, although it would
be too much to do SFMOMA and the Asian Art Museum on the same day.)
• If you don’t mind the unsavory (but harmless) street life, walk ten minutes down
Market street to Powell Street. This crosses the mid-Market neighborhood, which recently has seen significant gentrification following Twitter’s take over of the the old San Francisco Furniture Mart. There is an upscale Market and food court in part of the ground floor. Otherwise take the streetcar or the subway one stop to Powell St.
• (Optional: walk up Powell Street to visit Union Square, the heart of the shopping
district, or find the beautiful dome at the top of the Emporium Building on Market
Street, recently converted into the Westfield mall).
• Turn right (south) on Powell St and cross the Yerba Buena Gardens to reach the
modern art museum, SFMOMA. The museum re-opened in 2016 after a renovation that literally doubled its space. It now has an extensive high quality permanent collection, as well as spectacular temporary shows. Thoroughly visiting the museum requires most of the day.
• (Optional: Across the street from the Yerba Buena Gardens (in the direction of Market
St), check out the Contemporary Jewish Museum, which has an interesting cube built
into its design and sometimes has very interesting shows. Consider getting tea at
Samovar, in the upper part of Yerba Buena Gardens. If you have children, cross a
bridge in the southern part of the gardens and access another area, with an an old
carousel and a playground with a high slide.)
Day 5: The Cliff House, Sutro Baths, and walk to Palace of the Legion Honor
• On a weekday, take buses to Clement Street in the Richmond neighborhood, north of
Golden Gate Park.
• Have lunch at Burma Superstar, serving delicious Burmese food. Hopefully it won’t be
too crowded at lunchtime on a weekday. After lunch, if you like, you may explore
Clement Street, which is an area with Chinese and Russian immigrants, among
• Walk one long block to Geary St and catch the 38 bus going West. Take the bus all
the way to the end, asking the driver where to get off for the Cliff House, at the edge of
the Pacific Ocean. Skip the Cliff House itself, but walk to a lower level behind the Cliff
House and you will see a giant camera which, in fact is a giant Camera Obscura. It is
difficult to explain, but inside you’ll find a most unusual moment of sublime beauty and
• Explore the ruins of the Sutro Baths down below the Cliff House, to the North. Former
Mayor Sutro built a large public bathhouse on this spot, and the foundations remain.
(Optional: before proceeding down to the ruins, consider visiting the little-visited Sutro
Gardens, across the street and above the Cliff House. The gardens are the site of
Mayor Sutro’s old mansion, of which nothing remains. The gardens themselves are
pleasant and offer a great view south along Ocean Beach and the West end of Golden
• From above the Sutro Baths, take the Lands End Trail that leads around to the
Palace of the Legion of Honor (2 miles, 30 minutes), offering great views of Golden Gate Bridge along the way.
• (optional: visit the classical collections of the Palace, or continue the walk through the
upscale Seacliff neighborhood.
• Return to the Castro by bus.
Day 6: Golden Gate Bridge and the Marina
• Although locals don’t often do it, most visitors to SF want to walk across the Golden
Gate Bridge, which is spectacular if the weather is right. There is a busy parking lot at
the SF end of the bridge, but it can be accessed with some effort by bus. The bus is line 28, which runs up 19th Avenue in the Sunset.
• On a sunny day, start with an informal lunch in the Castro, perhaps novel kati rolls at
Kasa Indian on 19th a few blocks east of Castro St, or quality hamburgers at Super
Duper on Market Street, in the first block east of Castro St. Alternately, walk or take
the streetcar to Church St and walk one block North to catch the N-Judah streetcar
West. You can get off in the inner sunset to have very good Japanese food at Hotei,
on 9th Avenue, just North of Irving Street.
• Get back in the N-Judah and take it to 19th Avenue to catch the bus to the Golden
Gate Bridge. The view as you walk across is spectacular, although it can be cold and foggy is the weather isn’t right.
• Optional: Afterwards, take a bus down to the Marina neighborhood, along the Northern edge of San Francisco. Stroll the restored shorescape of Crissy Field with Golden Gate
Bridge looming in the distance. Explore Fort Point at the very base of the GG Bridge.
If you have children, visit the hands-on science museum The Exploratorium, at the
beautiful Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.
• Take a bus or a long walk to Fort Mason, at the East end of the Marina neighborhood,
in the direction of Fisherman’s Wharf. On Friday evenings there is a large food
truck event at Fort Mason. Head uphill and Take a path along the Northern edge,
above the water, in the direction of Fisherman’s Wharf.
• You will pass Ghiradelli Sq. Skip the ice cream there and skip it entirely, unless you
want a delicious cupcake from the Kara’s Cupcakes shop within.
• Towards the water from Ghiradelli Sq, look for the Hyde Street Pier, which has a
collection of old ships that can be explored.
Day 7: Alcatraz & The Musee Mecanique
• Although I haven’t done it in many years, a trip to Alcatraz is well worthwhile. I don’t
know the current process, but buy your tickets well in advance. The boats probably
leave from the Embarcadero or Fisherman’s Wharf, and the trip will take some time.
• Afterwards, make your way back to Fisherman’s Wharf (if you haven’t been deposited
there after the Alcatraz tour). While very touristy, the wharf houses a real gem — a
collection of pre-digital boardwalk mechanical amusements (plus some 80s era video
games) called The Musee Mecanique. It is genuinely novel and a delight to old an
young alike. All machines operate on quarters. If it doesn’t work to visit the Musee on
the same day as the SFMOMA, make sure you work it in on another day.
• (Optional: if you’re interested, one may visit a WWII-era submarine and warship
behind the Musee)
• Return on the F-line streetcar to the Ferry Building and then walk across to the
Embarcadero subway stop to return to Castro.
Other San Francisco destinations:
• Diego Rivera mural at City College
• Fort Funston
• California Street streetcar line up over nob hill
• Japantown, Fillmore St, and Pacific Heights neighborhood
• SF Armory tour
• Castro Theater
• Rock shows at Cafe du Nord, the Independent, or The Fillmore
• Jazz at Deluxe on Haight St and cocktails at Alembic
• Cocktails at the Orbit Room on Market St
• Theater at The Marsh in the Mission
“Nice” SF Restaurants:
• Bar Tartine
Casual SF Restaurants (some more expensive then others):
• Pizzeria Delfina
• Parada 22