24 Hours in San Francisco

24 Hours in San Francisco

From age- old gold rushes and blissful hippie ‘be-ins’ to extraordinary technological hubs and bustling Chinatown, San Francisco in California has long been a beacon for progression, social revolutions and good times. As the sun hits the infamous brick-red bridge and surrounding ochre hills, everything turns a stunning shade of gold, giving the San Francisco the nickname ‘The Golden City’. There is so much to do in ‘Frisco’ as locals like to call it, that it is near impossible to cover everything in just one day, but below is our step-by-step guide to 24 hours in San Francisco so you can make the most of the time you have there. Think breathtaking boat trips, mouth-watering chocolate factories and some of the world’s most famous sea lions. You really will feel as though you’ve left your heart in San Francisco…


  1. Early Morning
  2. Late Morning
  3. Lunch
  4. Afternoon
  5. Early Evening
  6. Dinner


Early Morning

Begin your 24 hours in San Francisco with a wander down one of the most famous streets in the world - Lombard Street. This winding road curves its way down one of the city’s hillsides, past slanted houses and wonky trees. It boasts one of the best views over the bay and a great place to start the day. From here, head to one of the most notorious Chinatowns in the world, found in the heart of San Francisco. Wander through lantern adorned streets and past rainbow-hued pagodas until you stumble upon the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Since the first fortune cookie was created in San Francisco in the early 20th century, the city’s Chinatown has become a haven for these prediction-filled biscuits. While touring the factory, you can watch experts fold and assemble these ancient treats and even choose your own message to go inside.

Lanterns in Chinatown, San Francisco


Late Morning

Alcatraz has given visitors chills for over 150 years and is of course on the agenda when spending 24 hours in San Francisco. The mighty fortress-topped island appears out of the retreating fog (named Karl) at late morning and ferries head out across the San Francisco Bay to take history buffs and curious tourists to explore the haunting civil war fort, military prison and federal penitentiary. Wander through draughty cell blocks, around the echoey recreation yard and past the creaking guard tower as your guide tells tales of attempted escapes, prisoner turbulence and Native American Struggles. If sport is more your thing, the home of the San Francisco Giants, Oracle Park, is tucked just around the corner by South Beach and is the perfect place for baseball fans to indulge in some excellent American sport.

Alcatraz at a distance, San Francisco



You will hear Pier 39’s whiskered residents long before you see them. You may also smell them too, but don’t let this put you off. Catching a glimpse of the sealions that are piled up having a slumber on top of each other on K-Dock in the West Marina is a must when spending 24 hours in San Francisco. After exploring Alcatraz, head on over to Fisherman’s Wharf on the world famous cable car to grab a bite to eat at one of the pier’s many restaurants and sit ‘on the dock of the bay’ (as Otis Redding once sung about San Francisco) with a post-lunch drink. Pier 39 is the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf and boasts postcard-esque views of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, as well as Alcatraz and the city skyline, making it a fab place to grab some lunch.

Sealines at Pier 39 in San Francisco



Chocoholics, we’ve found the perfect place for you. Once you’ve had your fill of the smelly sealions at Fisherman’s Wharf, head for the bright lights of Ghirardelli Square for a taste of some of the world’s finest chocolate at the legendary Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Take a guided tour around the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop before choosing a scoop of your favourite ice cream flavour or a bar of the tastiest chocolate and venturing over to the Golden Gate Bridge to catch the sunset.


Early Evening

As the most infamous landmark of The Golden City, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the ultimate spots to catch the sun setting over the bay. Grab a bike from one of the many bike rental shops between the city and the bridge and pedal your way over this legendary structure for a view of the city-scape as the evening sun turns it a perfect shade of peach. For an even more spectacular evening, hop aboard a seaplane for a sunset tour over the crimson limbs of the Golden Gate Bridge as the evening light compliments its rosy tones.

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco



Once you’ve experienced a sunset like no other over the San Francisco Bay, and with weary legs after cycling over the bridge, stomachs will be rumbling, and it is probably time to find somewhere to hunker down for the evening with some good food. Venture to the Hog Island Oyster Company in the Ferry Building for a throwback into the Gold Rush Era, or to Lazy Bear for a dose of exquisite modern American cuisine. Once the bay has settled and the tourists have headed home for the night, hopping aboard a catamaran cruise is - a breathtaking way of seeing the city at night. The twinkling lights reflect on the gently rippling waters and Alcatraz looms, ominous as ever, on The Rock in the bay. This may just be the perfect way to end your 24 hours in San Francisco.


Written by Immy Kelly