San Francisco is often referred to as “everyone’s favourite city” and it doesn’t take much time in the place to realise why. With a spectacular setting on the bay and the backdrop of the mountains the location certainly takes some beating. Add in the drama of the steep hills, the gorgeous architecture and a vibrant waterfront and you have a truly unique city bustling with life and full of interesting attractions.
It is nice to have time on your hands to explore San Francisco in detail but if you don’t have that luxury it is possible to cover many of the significant sights in just one day without a great deal of stress. I managed it without too much rushing around! It does mean missing out on quite a few things but you can always save them for another visit because you will certainly wish to return.
One place that you absolutely cannot miss is the island of Alcatraz. It is the most popular attraction in the city and with good reason. The boat ride to the island alone is worth the trip affording fabulous views of the city and the bay area including the Golden Gate Bridge. Visiting the prison is a fascinating experience packed full of history. You can tour the cell blocks and other facilities learning about the famous inmates of the past and getting a real feel for what daily life would have been like. Guards from the old days are sometimes on hand to recount their personal experiences of the prison and their memories of infamous criminals like Machine Gun Kelly and the Birdman of Alcatraz. There is a unique atmosphere to the place that you will remember forever. If you want to visit the island book well in advance as the trips sell out most days. My last trip to San Francisco resulted in an insane dash to the boat as I was delayed driving to the city!
On arriving back from Alcatraz do take a little time to explore the waterfront and Fisherman’s Wharf. It is a lively area packed with shops, restaurants and bars and a great place to grab lunch. The famous sea lions sit on pontoons next to the wharf with their calls filling the air. It is nice to linger around Pier 39 but if you only have one day it is time to move on. Take a walk up to Lombard Street “the crookedest street in the world”. Walk to the highest point and stroll down admiring the gorgeous flowers, lovely houses and the extremely twisty road. Going up to Lombard Street will give you a sense of the steep hills in the city and you should see the famous cable cars running up and down. You also get a great view of the bay and Alcatraz from here. It was at this point of my one day visit that I started paying close attention to my ladies wristwatch as there was still much to see and time was moving on too quickly.
The Bay Area
No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a close up view of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you have a car, drive up to and over the bridge and then stop in the car parks on the far side. If you don’t have wheels either grab a cab or better still rent a bike from Blazing Saddles at Fisherman’s Wharf. By bike you can pedal along the shore and view the bridge from the beach. However you get there it is well worth the effort to see this iconic structure and if you make it to the far side and into Marin County top off your day with dinner in the pretty waterside town of Sausalito. From here you can return to the city by ferry.
More to See
In one day you will have at least seen the highlights of this magnificent city. There is much more to experience in the area like the bohemian district of Haight-Ashbury, the gardens of the Presidio, The shops and bars of the Cannery and the museums but that just means you have to go back!
Article by Sally Stacey who has visited San Francisco on several occasions