Top 17 Attractions in San Francisco

17 Top-Rated San Francisco Tourist Attractions

San Francisco is a magical city. We love it and we love to share our best tips and advice to help you plan your own trip — from the best of entertainment to the famous landmarks and the not-to-miss activities. We’ll also let you in on the best of California Wine Country and other nearby destinations. So, come on, let’s make this trip to The City By The Bay your best vacation ever!

Although a compact city, San Francisco has more than its share of fantastic attractions — from iconic monuments and world-class bridges to space-age museums…not to mention the cable cars and Golden Gate Park. In fact, it’s home to the nation’s first science museum (once housed at the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, now at Pier 15) and the oldest conservatory, the Conservatory of Flowers.

Children and adults alike will marvel at the Aquarium by the Bay, the many activities at Fisherman’s Wharf, and the national-park-within-a-city, The Presidio. And who’s not going to love riding on the cable cars? Let’s take a look at our selection of top attractions.

San Francisco Cable Cars

If there’s one thing that says “San Francisco” it’s the cable car system. Although they’re perhaps the most loved tourist attraction, the cable cars are actually still used by thousands of local commuters every day!

It’s hard to believe that the City of San Francisco tried to dismantle the cable cars in 1947. Lucky for us they were stopped by a public outcry from cable car lovers. Learn more and find out about the free Cable Car Museum.

Cable Cars

These cars will provide us a great experience for traveling and a unique tour. The stops are indicated by the brown-and-white signs.

Pier 39 & Fisherman’s Wharf

There’s a whole lot of fun going on at Pier 39 & Fisherman’s Wharf! Here’s where you visit the Aquarium of the Bay, grab a bite to eat at one of the bustling seafood restaurants, and view the sea lions.

Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf

The piers are also the starting point for bay cruises, ferries, catamarans, and helicopter rides to take you to Angel Island, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito and beyond. Read our guide so you don’t miss any of the fun.

>> Visit our Complete Pier 39 Guide

The Ferry Building

Once a thriving ferry terminal at the Port of San Francisco, with thousands of commuters passing through daily, over time the Ferry Building became sad and neglected, hidden behind the imposing (and ugly) Embarcadero freeway.

The 1989 earthquake brought the freeway down, starting a chain of events that led to the Ferry Building being restored to its former glory and becoming a center of San Francisco food culture. Discover how it happened and find out what culinary delights await you there.

San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay

This busy aquarium is actually a non-profit organization aimed at preserving the San Francisco Bay ecosystem through education and public awareness. But that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to have fun!

Aquarium of the Bay

There are plenty of hands-on interactive activities and displays that are entertaining for the entire family. By the way, entrance to the aquarium is free with both the GO San Francisco Card and the San Francisco CityPASS.

Golden Gate Bridge & Park

One of the city’s most iconic and celebrated attractions is the Golden Gate Bridge. Spanning the Golden Gate, it stands as an architectural marvel and a triumph of modern engineering. A walk across it offers stunning views of the city’s skyline and the elegant San Francisco Bay. Another must-see landmark in the city is the Presidio, a historic military base that now serves as a public park and cultural site thanks to the presence of the Palace of Fine Arts and a wealth of other architectural icons.

It is a breath-taking engineering masterwork constructed in 1937 by Joseph B. Strauss. This cherished landmark is about a 1.7 miles long and impressive place for a drive and walk. The park is about 1,017 acres, which is surrounded by roaming bison, pretty windmills, several museums, Japanese Tea Garden, striving Arboretum, Greenhouse, Shakespeare Garden, and carousel.

Japanese Tea Garden

This wonderful landscape is situated in Golden Gate Park and one of the World’s Fair Exhibits during 1894. It covers about five acres. There are several transmit which takes us to real pagoda, epic Buddha, a little waterfall, and a domed bridge. It is surrounded by a lot of shops which sell gifts with a Japanese flair.

Located in Golden Gate Park, and an enduring draw, the Tea Garden is a peaceful repose in the busy life of a modern city.

Over a century old, the tea garden has the maturity and serenity of the gardens of Kyoto. In the small tea house you can contemplate while you sip traditional brews, including matcha.


A well-known museum developed in 1969 by Frank Oppenheimer. It is located at the back of the Palace of Fine Arts. There are about 650 exhibits, dedicated to science, art, and human view. Practical experience and seminars on odd subjects are offered.

Fisherman’s Wharf

A notable harbor, which provides an operational fishing dock. We can look forward to fresh seafood. Its beautiful sight makes most of the visitors more enjoyable. The pleasurable museums are Fisherman’s Wharf Wax Museum and the Aquarium Marine Museums.

Fishermans Wharf image

Fisherman’s Wharf serves as the city’s tourist haven and holds a rich variety of attractions and things to do. Known for its stunning waterside location and world-class seafood restaurants, Fisherman’s Wharf boasts attractions like Pier 39, the Aquarium of the Bay, the Wax Museum, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and Ghirardelli Square, one of the city’s finest shopping, dining and nightlife destinations. Fisherman’s Wharf also holds ferries to the infamous Alcatraz prison as well as to Angel Island and across San Francisco Bay itself.

The Presidio

What’s civilian life like after a couple of hundred years in the military? The Presidio knows, and it’s flowered into a great urban destination with hikes, historic sites, the Walt Disney Family Museum…the list goes on. It’s also one of the rare US National Parks found in an urban setting. Don’t miss it. In our review, we suggest the best way to see it is on a guided urban nature hike.

Once it is a terror-full prison in America. Now it a famous tourist place with its fascinated history and its good look. It is a part of the National Park Service. A ferry service will lead us to prison.


This town starts at the meeting point of Bush and Grant streets. It’s the busiest market place, with fish and vegetable stalls. The Chinese Historical Society of America and the Chinese Culture Center are the museums, which have an inspiration of the olden way of life.

Chinatown image

No visit to San Francisco is complete without sampling its diverse and often eclectic collection of neighborhoods. Chinatown offers stunning architecture and a plethora of authentic Chinese restaurants and shops to explore while Alamo Square is world-famous for its beautiful Victorian homes and breathtaking views. Other great neighborhoods and landmarks to visit include Fort Mason, North Beach, Union Square, the Western Addition and the SoMa district.

North Beach

A well-known place for cannoli sweet at Café Trieste and century-old Molinari’s deli which pacifies the hunger. Book lovers can have a visit to City Lights Bookstore.

Alamo Square

The worthy sight is by its Victorian homes and the backdrop of skyscrapers.

Red-and-White Ferry

Red-and-White Ferry will give us an eye-catching ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to Sausalito. The ride is about half-an-hour and presents a pleasant view of San Francisco Bay.

Lombard Street

One of the world’s windiest streets has eight angles and twist at dreadful acute angles. It is a reason for slow going and makes it easier at a steep 16 percent grade. The sidewalks are in full bloom making the drive pleasant.

This crazy, curvy boulevard is the crookedest street in the world. Or so they say in San Francisco, and we believe them!

Lombard Street
Lombard Street, San Francisco

You can drive down its eight hairpin curves (all contained on one short downhill block), you can walk on the curvy sidewalk, but the craziest way to traverse it is on a Segway guided tour of the city! We tell you all about it in our guide to Lombard Street.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

This museum was designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta and opened in 1995. It exhibits 4,700 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and 9,000 photographs.

San Francisco Zoo

The Zoo is maintained strikingly. Both enjoyment and learning is possible with its numerous unusual animals.

We love the amazing things we see at zoos. But with recent improvements, the San Francisco Zoo is even more amazing!

In fact “zoo” doesn’t really describe what it’s transformed into. More like “wildlife recreation center” with specially designed habitats mixing species usually found together in nature. There are also demonstrations by zoo animal handlers to help you get to know the animal better.

Moscone Center

It’s a wonderful location to spend the whole day. The center is filled with museums, movie houses, gardens and play centers.

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