With the assistance of a rather excellent public transportation system (which can help save you time on a walking tour of the city), it’s quite possible to see a vast majority of the city in a glimpse. Having spent a few years in the city and having returned several times for visits, I’ve spent many mornings, afternoons and evenings playing tour guide to this ever-changing city. If you only have a day to explore, it’s possible to hit the highlights if you take advantage of cable cars and other forms of transit, although everything is technically approachable by foot.
Start your morning with breakfast in North Beach. I’d recommend stopping in at Mama’s on Washington Square for one of the best breakfasts in the Bay Area. This place is rather popular so get an early start to the day to avoid the lines that form with hungry folks on their way to the office. Nearby you will be able to explore Little Italy and Chinatown. Both neighborhoods are within minutes of the restaurant and can easily take up a few hours of your morning as you explore the different boutiques and restaurants each of the cultures brings to San Francisco.
You gotta eat
When it’s time for lunch, head to Fisherman’s Wharf, also located within walking distance of North Beach. While there are hundreds of restaurants along the wharf, it’s vital that you choose a seafood restaurant, for obvious reasons. From fresh fish to regional Dungeness crab, you can’t really go wrong. But the most traditional, typical meal you can get is clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and my top spot for that delicious masterpiece is Alioto’s restaurant. Head upstairs for a gorgeous view of Fisherman’s Wharf.
One of the best parts about San Francisco is the view from the water, so after lunch, I’d recommend a cruise around the bay. The two most popular cruise companies are Red & White Fleet and Blue & Gold. After you take in the city by boat, head to the California Academy of Sciences, a museum that appeals to visitors of all ages. Check out the exhibits on earth science and natural history, the aquarium, living roof and planetarium. The museum is located in Golden Gate Bridge Park, about a 15-minute drive from the pier.
Now it’s time to ride those famous cable cars. There are three different lines, Powell-Hyde being my personal favorite. On this particular route you will cross Lombard Street, known as the most crooked street in the world, and then pass Union Station. From here you will pass by the Cable Car Museum, which is worth a visit (if there is time). The ride concludes at Nob Hill, the perfect place to catch the sunset.
One of the best parts about San Francisco is the view from the water.
After the sun goes down, treat yourself to a well-deserved dinner in one of the many amazing Nob Hill restaurants like Swan Oyster Depot, which for generations has been delighting seafood lovers from all over the city with its just-shucked oysters. Or go Italian at Venticello Ristorante, a rustic and romantic restaurant that features a wood-burning oven, Bay views and a beautiful Tuscan inspired menu. Lastly, for that traditional steak meal, head to House of Prime Rib, where you can tuck a white linen napkin into your collar and chomp away at your perfectly cooked steak. And if there’s time for a little nightlife, the Castro is always calling…