San Francisco earned the title “Everybody’s Favourite City” for its culture, scenic beauty, exquisite cuisine, impressive attractions and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. This cosmopolitan city measures 49 square miles, which would’ve been hard to believe a couple of centuries ago. The city was once just a small village that sprawled into a major city due to the Gold Rush in 1849.
The city is known for its famous fog. Unlike any other fog, it gives the city a romantic and mysterious feel to it. It’s best to witness this mystical sight as you walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Look out across the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay which are often laced with it too!
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1. Golden Gate Bridge
One of the most iconic and spectacular attractions in San Francisco is The Golden Gate Bridge. Construction started on the bridge in 1933 and after multiple financial issues it finally opened on May 27th 1937. During the construction of the bridge tragically some people lost their lives. As you can imagine the heath and safety regulations in the 1930’s weren’t as they are today. Steps were taken to prevent fatalities as they suspended a safety net under the bridge to catch any workers who fell. It successfully saved 19 men, however, 11 workers weren’t as fortunate.
The magnificent work of engineering stands a massive 746 ft tall with a total length of 8,980 ft. The navy originally proposed for the colour of the bridge to be black and yellow, so it was visible for passing ships. However, designer Irving Morrow chose the colour “international orange” as he said it fit better with the surroundings. The bridge gets its name from the Golden Gate Strait, which connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean.
Ride over the bridge and take in the sights! Get your tickets for the bike rental here from £12.97
This ticket has the following options that you can choose from:
- 2-Hour Rental
- 4-Hour Rental
- Day Pass
Location: Unlimited Biking, 757 Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94109, United States
Timings: You can pick up the bike rentals from 9am-11am.
2. Fisherman’s Wharf
Next on our list of the top attractions in San Francisco is Fisherman’s Wharf. Located on the northern waterfront of the city, from Ghirardelli Square to Kearny Street. Fisherman’s Wharf is a major tourist magnet that dates back to the 1880’s. It all started when Italian fisherman immigrated there due to the demand of food from the increasing population after the Gold Rush. Since then, Fisherman’s Wharf has been known as the hub of San Francisco’s fishing fleet. Over the years the Wharf has developed with the addition of Pier 39 and lots of other tourist attractions.
Why not experience these San Francisco attractions via electric bikes? You can purchase tickets for the electric bike tour here from £59.54.
If you venture over to Pier 39’s K-Dock you’ll be able to see the main attraction, the boisterous and rowdy sea lions. The K- Dock has been their home since January 1990, after the Loma Prieta earthquakes that hit San Francisco in late 1989. From then on, the sea lions took over the dock and claimed it as their own.
It’s an ideal living situation for the sea lions as they have a constant supply of food from the bay, and they are also protected from predators. In 2009, the number of sea lions at dock hit a record number of 1,701! However, that isn’t a consistent amount, as the seasons change and natural migration patterns happen. Therefore the number of sea lions rises and falls throughout the year.
As well as the sea lions, the Pier 39 also has over 60 speciality shops ranging from saltwater taffy, custom blended spices to hand crafted jewellery. You’ll also find street performers and local musicians on the pier performing throughout the day. The shows are all free, so you don’t want to miss out on watching some of the best magicians, jugglers and comedians. If you’re a magic fan make sure you enter Houdini’s Magic Shop, a one stop shop for everything magic!
Maritime National History Park
The Maritime National Historical Park encompasses all aspects of Pacific Coast maritime history. The Park includes a magnificent fleet of six National Historic Landmark vessels, these include:
- 1886 square-rigger Balclutha
- 1890 steam ferryboat Eureka
- 1891 scow schooner Alma
- 1895 schooner C.A. Thayer
- 1907 steam tug Hercules
- 1915 steam schooner Wapama
The Park also has a visitor centre, research centre, museum, and Aquatic Park Historic District.
3. Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island, once home to the most dangerous and notorious criminals, now one of the top attractions in San Francisco. The prison operated from 1934 to 1963 and saw the likes of Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Robert Stroud “The Birdman of Alcatraz” and many more. The inmates at Alcatraz were sent there as they were deemed uncontrollable and didn’t conform to the rules and regulations at other federal institutions. Most of them were either violent criminals or flight risks and were sent there to be tamed by the harsh life at Alcatraz. Nearly 40 prisoners tried to escape but no one successfully escaped the island.
If the prisoners behaved themselves and proved they could conform to the prison system, it was possible that they could be transferred back to a federal prison. However, this usually only happened after spending at least 5 years at Alcatraz.
Now Alcatraz is just a tourist attraction, you can visit the island via Alcatraz city cruises from Pier 33.
San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the oldest and most established Chinatowns in North America and covers 24 city blocks. It’s one of the top tourist attractions in San Francisco you don’t want to miss out on! Most people spend the day here exploring Grant Avenue, visiting the shops, and of course, trying the remarkable cuisine. The highlights of Chinatown are:
The green dragon gate located on Bush Street is the official entrance into Chinatown. The gate is completely authentic and in 1969 Taiwan gifted the gate to the residents. The gate is magnificently designed with dragons and koi fish, with two stone lions situated either side of the gate, standing guard.
As you continue from the gate into Grant Avenue, you will notice the eclectic Chinese- style. The buildings are covered with decorative flourishes and red lanterns hanging from building to building. The avenue runs the whole length of Chinatown and is an enjoyable street to stroll down and most of the gift shops are located here.
Chinese Herbal Shops
The Chinese herbal shops in Chinatown provide residents and tourists with a broad number of Chinese herbs. Not to mention there are Chinese doctors accessible to diagnose aliments and recommend remedies. The Great China Herb Company, located at 857 Washington street, is one of the oldest herbal shops. It has an authentic feel to it as they still have the original wooden counters and cubby holes.
Old Telephone Exchange
Formally known as the Bank of Canton, this building used to be the Chinese Telephone Exchange. Chinese women would operate the switchboard and would have to remember everyone’s names and numbers who lived in Chinatown. It was also a requirement for them to speak Cantonese, Mandarin and English!
5. The Painted Ladies
“The Painted Ladies are the best looking ladies in San Francisco”. One of the most photographed locations in San Francisco, The Painted Ladies, are a collection of Victorian homes, situated in an escalating formation. They are located on Steiner Street, overlooking Alamo Square, with a backdrop of the city.
Built in the Queen Anne era, the houses comprise of steep roofs, ornamental front facing gables, lacey decorative spindle work, bay windows and patterned surfaces with shingles or tiles. Even though these houses aren’t some magnificent works of engineering or located at a historical event, these homes are loved for their colours and elegance. The sale of one of the Painted Ladies was a massive $2.7 million!
There are guided tours but you must remember The Painted Ladies are private homes so it isn’t possible to enter.
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