What to Do in San Francisco in 24 Hours

Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, San Francisco is one of the most popular destinations in the world. Its foggy weather, steep streets and the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge attract millions of visitors yearly. While these things indeed affect your travel decision, San Francisco has many other attractions and landmarks to see in 24 hours.


My friend was going to San Francisco on a business trip. Eager to finally explore the City by the Bay, I quickly invited myself to accompany him. I wish we had more time though. Nevertheless, we did the best with the time we had at hands. Here is a list of the places you don’t want to miss in San Francisco in your first 24 hours.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge is an absolute must in San Francisco in 24 hours

Undoubtably, the Golden Gate Bridge is the first place you want to see in San Francisco in 24 hours. This suspension bridge with its bright orange color, the Art Deco styling, and signature towers extends 700 feet above and 100 feet beneath the water. You can literally spend hours after hours walking or biking on sidewalks of the bridge. Majority of the visitors, however, prefer to spend time at designated vista points to enjoy breathtaking views and enlarge their San Francisco photo diaries.


What to Do in San Francisco in 24 Hours - Roads and Destinations- roadsanddestinations.com

You can’t properly explore San Francisco in 24 hours without paying a visit to Chinatown, the largest Chinese community outside Asia.  Surprisingly, its unique cultures, customs, languages and temples attract more visitors than the Golden Gate Bridge. In order to explore this area, you can take walking tours or just let yourself get lost on the chaotic streets of Chinatown. Spend some time discovering cute souvenir and herbal shops, antique stores and restaurants with foods that will make you want to come back. Above all, don’t forget to take pictures of Dragon Gate, the most photographed structure in Chinatown.

Lombard Street

San Francisco is notable for the steepest streets in the United States. Lombard Street, however, will blow your mind. As steep as some other places in the city, this scenic street with beautiful flowerbeds is also considered the world’s crookedest street.

Fisherman’s Wharf

What to Do in San Francisco in 24 Hours - Roads and Destinations, roadsanddestinations.com

Fisherman’s Wharf is another popular tourist attraction. It features some of the most entertaining places you don’t want to miss in your first 24 hours in San Francisco. This includes Pier 39, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, Wax Museum and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Fishing boats and plenty of seafood restaurants and souvenir shops also gather huge crowds of San Francisco visitors. Furthermore, you can’t leave the Fisherman’s Wharf without taking Alcatraz tour or Bay Cruise. However, make sure to buy your tickets in advance since the tours are often sold out months ahead of time.

Union Square

Address: 333 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94108

Union Square is a one-block plaza with its surrounding area. If you are on a major shopping mission, this is a place where you want to spend most of your 24 hours in San Francisco. Here you will find the largest collection of department stores, gift and souvenir shops, boutiques, beauty salons and art galleries in the country. After the shopping is over, you can grab a bite in a beautiful park nearby. Union Square is also a permanent residence of one of the Hearts in San Francisco. The structure was inspired by Tony Bennett song “I left My Heart in San Francisco”.

San Francisco Cable Car

What to Do in San Francisco in 24 Hours - Roads and Destinations. roadsanddestinations.com

When spending 24 hours in San Francisco, you absolutely must take a ride on cable car, the last manually operated cable car system in the world. This old transport is equally popular among tourists and locals. Moreover, riding the cable cars gives you plenty of opportunities to see iconic views of the city. Additionally, history enthusiasts often add the Cable Car Museum to their San Francisco itineraries.

Painted Ladies

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Address: Steiner St &, Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94117

The row of Victorian houses at 710-720 Steiner Street across from Alamo Square park is better known as “Painted Ladies” or Postcard Row. These colorful architectural masterpieces are one of the places you definitely want to see in San Francisco when visiting the city for 24 hours. Painted Ladies belong to the most photographed places in the city. Moreover, fans of the popular TV show “Full House” recognize this place as the home of the Tanners.

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks - Roads and Destinations_roadsanddestinations.com

Address: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114

Is it even possible to spend 24 hours in San Francisco without admiring it from above? Twin Peaks is a place where you can enjoy panoramic views of this gorgeous city. The Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, downtown with its skyscrapers that have been featured in many Hollywood movies…  You need to see them yourself, pictures don’t do them justice.

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