Top 20 Attractions in San Francisco | San Francisco Travel-贝博体彩
Dinosaur at the California Academy of Sciences
California Academy of Sciences is great for all ages, especially for young families.

Top 20 Attractions
in San Francisco

Explore the most popular attractions in San Francisco based on data collected from visitors. #1 will surprise you.

When people think of San Francisco, their minds typically conjure up a big orange bridge, clanging cable cars, or fascinating museums with their awe-inspiring collections. And while these iconic testaments to our city's innovative spirit never lose their luster, there are so many more reasons for travelers to visit San Francisco. 

By studying data we've collected from visitors, we've curated a list of the top 20 things to do in San Francisco. Follow along during your stay!

Golden Gate Bridge

Once called "the bridge that couldn't be built," today the Golden Gate Bridge is one the seven wonders of the modern world. This magnificent bridge, perhaps San Francisco's most famous landmark, opened in 1937 after a four-year struggle against relentless winds, fog, rocks, and treacherous tides. Spanning 1.7 miles from San Francisco to the Marin Headlands, the bridge’s sidewalks are open during the day to pedestrians, including wheelchair users and bicyclists.

The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset with a multicolored sky and the San Francisco Bay in the foreground.

PIER 39

From amazing photo ops and a sea of sea lions to chowder bread bowls and California wines, your visit to San Francisco starts at PIER 39.

The most visited destination in San Francisco, PIER 39 offers two levels of dining, entertainment, shopping, and attractions—including Aquarium of the Bay—all surrounded by unbeatable views of the city and the bay.

Located along the historic San Francisco waterfront, PIER 39’s location provides the picture-perfect backdrop for postcard views of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the city skyline. 

PIER 39 is located in San Francisco’s Fisherman's Wharf, at Beach Street and The Embarcadero. Parking is conveniently available in the PIER 39 Garage located directly across from the Entrance Plaza, or ride in style on San Francisco's historic F Line streetcar to PIER 39.

Sea Lions rest on PIER 39's K Dock at Sunset

Golden Gate Park

More than 24 million visitors put Golden Gate Park on their San Francisco bucket list. The park is home to some of San Francisco's most-visited attractions, including the Japanese Tea Garden, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the de Young Museum, and the California Academy of Sciences. With miles of hidden pathways, green lawns, bridle paths, lakes, and 7,000 plant species right in the heart of San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is the third most-visited city park in the United States. Get around the park by foot, bike, or take a guided Segway tour.  

Japanese Tea Garden

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is a must-visit historical attraction in San Francisco, offering a fascinating blend of the old and new.

Originally a chocolate factory established in 1852 by Domenico Ghirardelli, this square has transformed into a destination that beautifully preserves its iconic past. Today, visitors can learn about the rich history of the factory while indulging in chocolate desserts at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.

The square also hosts a variety of boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants, making it a perfect place for a stroll. Ghirardelli also sits right next to Aquatic Park, a picturesque waterfront location on the Bay, great for recreation and relaxation. 

A chocolate sundae sits in the foreground with Ghirardelli Square in the background.

The Presidio

Formerly a military post, the Presidio is now a national park site and recreational paradise featuring spectacular vistas, beautiful trails, and historic and architectural treasures. Come for a hike, a walking tour, a picnic, or to view an exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum, or take a stroll back in time.

The much-anticipated Presidio Tunnel Tops, sloping gently over Highway 101, opened in 2022. It has quickly become a favorite outdoor spot for both residents and visitors alike. Kids of all ages love the OUTPOST, a jaw-dropping children's play area open year-round. 

Aerial of the Walt Disney Family Museum with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

The Ferry Building

The San Francisco Ferry Building, an iconic landmark of the city, holds a rich history and is a must-visit attraction. With stunning bay views, the ferry building is still a starting point for exploring waterfront attractions.

Initially built in 1898, it was the central transportation hub for ferries crossing the San Francisco Bay. Today, the beautifully restored building also houses a marketplace filled with artisanal food stalls, restaurants, and other shops.

The food scene here is renowned, offering visitors critically acclaimed restaurants like the A16 and Hog Island Oyster Company. Its weekly farmers markets, where some of San Francisco's best chefs do their own shopping, are also a feast for the senses.

Bike leaning against a rail with the Ferry Building in the background.

Lombard Street

Often called the “crookedest” street in the world, this scenic road on Russian Hill features tight turns, fragrant gardens, and immaculate homes. Take a spectacular photo at the bottom of Lombard Street looking up or enjoy the breathtaking view from the top looking out onto the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge and Coit Tower.

Aerial of Lombard Street at dusk

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz was the site of the first lighthouse in the Western United States, but became a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963, housing famous convicts such as Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly. Now, this once infamous prison island is part of the Bay Area’s 80,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Located one-and-a-half miles from Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz is one of the city's most popular attractions. A visit to the island includes a tour of the cell house where visitors can see where the prisoners lived. 

Alcatraz seen by boat

SkyStar Wheel

The Skystar Wheel is a great way to snag breathtaking city and bay views. Set along the northern waterfront near PIER 39, the Skystar Wheel stands 150 feet tall and features 36 climate-controlled gondolas, providing visitors with a comfortable experience. 

Legion of Honor

Built to commemorate Californian soldiers who died in World War I, the Legion of Honor displays a collection of more than 4,000 years of ancient and European art and houses the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in a neoclassic building overlooking Lincoln Park and the Golden Gate Bridge. Multilingual tours available.

Legion of Honor

The Exploratorium

Located on Pier 15 on the Embarcadero, the Exploratorium is a home-grown, hands-on museum igniting curiosity and inspiring creativity in people of all ages. Explore more than 600 hands-on exhibits and enjoy breathtaking views of the city and bay in the spectacular glass-and-steel Bay Observatory.

Kids playing outside of the Exploratorium

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

Founded in 2005 and located in the St. Regis Hotel, this Smithsonian-affiliated museum offers a unique, enriching experience that celebrates Black culture and stimulates challenging conversations. With thought-provoking exhibits, interactive displays, and engaging programs, the museum inspires learning through the global lens of the African Diaspora. Walk-in tickets are welcome and available. 

A large-scale mural is on view in an exhibit room of the Museum of the African Diaspora. San Francisco, California.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Founded in 1935 as the first West Coast museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art, SFMOMA displays more than 32,000 modern and contemporary artworks, with an entire floor dedicated solely to photography. Some parts of the museum are open to the public for free!

SFMOMA

Yerba Buena Gardens

An award-winning public facility at the heart of San Francisco’s downtown, Yerba Buena Gardens features a children’s garden, public art, museums, a historic carousel, ice-skating and bowling centers.

Yerba Buena Gardens

City Hall

Described as the "People's Palace," San Francisco's City Hall is a great historical stop near Civic Center and Hayes Valley. Built in 1915 and designed in the Beaux-Arts style, San Francisco's City Hall is an architectural wonder. With its beautiful grand staircase, interior dome, and light courts, City Hall is the perfect place to take a relaxing tour and an excellent backdrop for your special dinner or celebration.

City Hall at Sunset

San Francisco Zoo and Gardens

The San Francisco Zoo and Gardens is an historic treasure with 1,000 endangered and rescued animals representing 250 species in 100 acres of lovely, peaceful gardens nestled against the Pacific Ocean.

The Zoo's mission is to connect visitors with wildlife, inspire caring for nature and advance conservation action. The Zoo offers educational programs, keeper talks, fun rides and exciting events for children of all ages.

San Francisco Zoo

de Young Museum

Located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the de Young showcases American art from the 17th through 21st centuries, modern and contemporary art, photography, international textiles and costumes, and art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. The ninth-floor Observation Level of the de Young's Hamon Tower offers breathtaking 360-degree views of San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean.

couple at the de Young Museum

Coit Tower

Situated in North Beach, Coit Tower was built in 1933 as a tribute to the city's firefighters. A slim building constructed from white concrete, the uniquely designed monument sits atop Telegraph Hill, offering 360-degree views of the city and the bay. The iconic tower houses beautiful murals in its interior base. 

 

San Francisco's Coit Tower, framed by trees in the foreground.

Salesforce Park

Salesforce Park is an excellent spot for nature enthusiasts and urban explorers in San Francisco. This green oasis, located above the Salesforce Transit Center, offers an escape from the city's hustle and bustle downtown. You can take an elevator to the park from the Salesforce Transit Center or ride a free gondola to the park entrance.

The park features a variety of attractions, such as vibrant gardens showcasing native and non-native flora, a walking trail, and outdoor art installations. You can also find seating areas perfect for a quiet picnic or a relaxed afternoon with friends. 

An aerial view of San Francisco's Salesforce Park.

Light Art

The entire city of San Francisco is a canvas for artists, and nowhere does that message shine brighter (pun intended) than in our homegrown gallery of light art. Certain installations, like Day for Night high atop the Salesforce Tower or the dramatic Love Over Rules shine year-round; but in the winter months, the city positively glows with special, temporary artworks that are part of the annual Illuminate SF Festival of Light.

Explore San Francisco Light Art
Entwined
Dan Rosenbaum Headshot
Dan Rosenbaum

Dan is the Vice President, Global Marketing, at San Francisco Travel. San Francisco has been his home for over a decade (that makes him a local, right?). On the weekends, you can find him with a cup of craft coffee in hand, a playlist of good vibes, a growing list of books to read, or out at the city's hottest new restaurant or bar.

The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset with a multicolored sky and the San Francisco Bay in the foreground.
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