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The best tips and attractions for 48 hours in San Francisco!
"If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair." With this catchy tune in my head and a grin on my face, I get on the plane to SFO. San Francisco: the city of hippies, creative people and thinkers. The city of colorful, beautiful houses and the many small cafés and roasters. The city where even the three founders of Starbucks come from.
We were out and about in this city for a total of four days, looking for the cutest cafes, the juiciest burgers and the coolest views. In this post, I'll tell you not only the best San Francisco sights, but also where you can spend the night in comfort and have the most delicious breakfast of your life the next morning!
The best tips and attractions for 48 hours in San Francisco!
A few information and tips in advance
San Francisco is expensive, really expensive!
San Francisco is a really expensive city. So be prepared for high prices before you arrive and make sure you plan enough budget. It's not uncommon for you to pay up to $ 30 per person for breakfast - breakfast! Hotel prices are also very high, even higher than, for example, in New York. 200 euros are standard here for one night.
In addition, it is usually the case that the prices are advertised in restaurants as well as in shops without VAT and you have to pay another 9% on payment. But that's not all: In the USA, as in Canada, a tip of 15-20% is common, no matter how good or even bad the service actually was. Together with the taxes, this is another decent amount that is added to the actual price on the invoice at the end.
San Francisco suffers from a drug and homeless problem
Yes: San Francisco is a really great city with beautiful architecture and impressive nature all around. However, San Francisco also has an undeniable drug and homeless problem. It shocked me so much that I have to mention it right at the beginning. Not because I want to scare you or take away your anticipation, but just because I want you to be better prepared than we were.
Up to now I have never seen so much poverty and helplessness in what is actually a wealthy country as in San Francisco. San Francisco is even considered one of the richest cities in the United States. It's supposed to be even worse in Los Angeles, but here we avoided the corresponding neighborhoods.
For a few years now, San Francisco has been suffering from a real estate crisis or, to put it better, from the fact that rents in the city center have risen sharply and fewer and fewer people can afford an apartment. As a result, more and more people are living on the streets.
The Tenderloin - the problem area
The misery is particularly evident in The Tenderloin district. Entire tent camps have been set up here: one tent stands next to the other in rows and you almost feel like you are in a crisis area.
In addition, not only is the consumption of marijuana legal here, the police and local authorities also seem to tolerate drug trafficking such as heroin or cocaine. The motto is rather peaceful coexistence than uncontrollable opposition, which may cost even more people their lives.
Reading tip: I have read this older, but really exciting article (in English), which gives a good insight into what is happening at The Tenderloin.
Because of this issue, San Francisco has a high crime rate and there are a few rules you should follow:
- Be sure to avoid The Tenderloin and the streets around it
- don't be too obvious walking around town with valuables like expensive cameras or jewelry
- never leave things in your rental car, not even a sweater (!)
I want to emphasize again: San Francisco is a wonderful city and this problem shouldn't keep you from visiting it. Unfortunately, there are many cities in this world where poverty lives next to wealth and yet they are worth a trip: My absolute favorite city is Cape Town, for example, but you will also encounter such problems in cities like Bangkok, Buenos Aires or Mumbai.
In my opinion, it's important to know about it and not just see the glitzy affluent side of this world. Because it is as it is: A large part of humanity still lives in poverty, suffers from hunger or has no access to education and it is up to us to help.
But now to the great sides of the city!
Arrival to San Francisco
The good thing about San Francisco is that the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is served by several airlines and you can also use the surrounding airports in the San Francisco Bay Area. These include Oakland International Airport (KOAK) and Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport (KSJC).
While you can fly directly to San Francisco with Lufthansa and United, the Icelandic low-cost airline WowAir, for example, also offers cheap flights to the city, so you can combine your stopover in Reykjavik with a cool Iceland adventure!
Book your best accommodation in San Francisco
As already mentioned, San Francisco is expensive and the hotel prices are particularly tough. Unfortunately, many hotels are also very old-fashioned and AirBnB apartments are not really cheaper either. So spend a little more money on your hotel room than end up being unhappy about your accommodation and ruining your whole trip.
Tip: We now use momondo not only to find flights, but also to find cheap hotel rooms. The great thing about this is that momondo compares the prices of all hotel search engines such as booking.com or trivago so that you can find the cheapest price overall. For our hotel in San Francisco we only paid 800 euros instead of the average 1,400 euros.
Cozy and super stylish: the Hotel Kabuki
The Hotel Kabuki * was completely renovated and refurbished at the end of last year. It is located in The Fillmore neighborhood, also known as the Japanese neighborhood of San Francisco. The furnishings have a slight Asian touch, for example pictures of a geisha hang in the rooms. The lobby is decorated really cool and here you can relax on one of the many sofas or armchairs.
The Hotel Kabuki is one of the more expensive, but still comparatively affordable hotels in the city and with a little luck you can get a bargain like us and pay less than 200 euros a night. In addition to a bar, there is also a small fitness room in the hotel and a Japanese garden in the inner courtyard.
Reading tip: You can find even more tips for cool hotels in San Francisco in this post!
Greetings from retro: a cool apartment in the Mission District
I could move into this Allyson apartment * right away, it's so cool! The decor is a colorful mix of retro furniture without looking excited. On the contrary: the living room in particular exudes a wonderful cosiness through the large semicircular window, while you have enough space to cook in the kitchen.
The apartment is located in a typical Victorian house, south of the trendy Mission District. There is a bedroom with a double bed, but a third person can be accommodated here if necessary, as an air mattress is provided.
Small but nice: Apartment in Cow Hollow
This small, modern apartment in Wow Hollow * can accommodate up to two people and has everything you need for your city trip in San Francisco: a living-dining room, a chic bathroom and a comfortable bed.
Under the roof: retro apartment with terrace
This super cozy apartment * is located under the roof of an old house and is furnished with attention to detail. In addition to two bedrooms, which offer space for four people with their double beds, a bright and open living room with kitchen corner, you also have a really great terrace with a view of the countryside.
This apartment is also furnished in a retro style and is located not far from the Mission District in the Neo Valley.
Space for up to 6 people: Apartment with fireplace
This cool apartment in the middle of the Mission District * and in a Victorian house offers three separate bedrooms, each with a double bed, and thus space for up to six people.
Here, too, the decor is retro-style and very inviting. In addition to the huge dining table, the highlight of the apartment is also the large, bright living room with fireplace, which ensures absolute cosiness.
Cool restaurants in San Francisco
San Francisco is teeming with good restaurants and you can try your way through what feels like every cuisine in the world. Whether burger, Mexican, Japanese or Italian, everyone will find something here. I'll tell you now which restaurants we found really good!
Sweet and Greasy: Breakfast & Brunch in San Francisco
The most delicious breakfast dish in the world: Sweet Maple
You can get the very best breakfast at Sweet Maple, not far from Hotel Kabuki in The Fillmore area. The café is particularly known for its Millionaire's Bacon: thick slices of bacon candied with brown sugar and pepper - so delicious!
So be sure to order the Blackstone: Eggs Benedict with Millionaire's Bacon, green asparagus, cherry tomatoes and lime sauce hollandaise, served in the classic way on an English muffin. There is also fried potatoes, which you can also swap for a fruit salad. This dish costs a whopping $ 19.50 plus tax and tip, but it's really worth every penny!
You should also serve here before 9 a.m., because the café is very popular and the tables are occupied quickly, especially on weekends!
address: 2101 Sutter St. San Francisco, California 94115
French toast and more: Mama's On Washington Square
You can also get a delicious breakfast at Mama's On Washington Square below the North Beach district. There are only a few seats here and before you sit down at the table, you order your food at the counter. Here, too, it is best to come before 9 a.m. so that you can sit comfortably.
Mama's French toast, namely the Swedish Cinnabon with seasonal berries, tastes particularly delicious. Or you can order a stack of pancakes or an ingenious omelette like The Californian with bacon, avocado and Monterey Jack cheese. You can also order a freshly squeezed orange juice and you will start the day super happy!
Address: 2101 Sutter St. San Francisco, California 94115
Super hipster, cozy and delicious: Stable Cafe
The Stable Cafe in the Mission District, on the other hand, is completely different. Here you can sit comfortably in a green oasis outside in the courtyard when the weather is good. In the Stable Cafe, the city's creatives meet for breakfast, brunch or lunch, eat, chat and chill out.
You will hardly meet other travelers here, so it is still a real insider tip! Owner Thomas ‘Neapolitan comes from a farming family and loves Latin American cuisine. You will therefore find delicious creations on the menu and you can be sure that only the best ingredients have been selected, some of them even come from his own farm in Petaluma, north of San Francisco.
Address: 2128 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
Creative Creations: Lunch in San Francisco
Wise Sons Bagel & Bakery
In San Francisco you can get bagels like in New York at Wise Sons Bagel & Bakery in The Fillmore district! The toaster bagel sandwiches taste particularly good here, and they really fill you up. My favorite: the 24th Street Turkey Club on an Everything Bagel.
Address: 1520 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA
Tartine Manufactuary (& Bakery)
The Tartine Manufactuary is also located in the Mission District and here you can get a delicious breakfast as well as a delicious lunch! The café is in an old factory hall, has a pretty cool interior, is bright and open. As soon as you read the menu, your mouth will water and you would like to order all of the creative dishes right away.
Incidentally, the Tartine Manufactuary emerged from the Tartine Bakery, which is known for its delicious bread and other delicious pasta. People queue up here every day to grab a freshly baked loaf of bread or a pain au chocolat that is still warm!
Address: 595 Alabama St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
Hot and spicy: Ramen Underground
We have been absolute ramen fans since our visit to Tokyo! Fortunately, there are also some Japanese people living in San Francisco and there are some really good ramen shops. One of them is the Ramen Underground in the middle of downtown, which gets jam-packed from 12:30, when all the business people around have lunch.
The ramen here also taste really delicious and are relatively inexpensive at around $ 12 per soup for San Francisco. My favorite: the Spicy Soy Sauce Ramen with Green Onion and Chashu (BBQ Pork) - yummy!
Address: 356 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108, US
Burgers, burgers, burgers: dinner in San Francisco
Since eating out in San Francisco is not exactly cheap, you not only save your wallet in the evening, but also make your palate happiest when you visit one of the many delicious burger places in San Francisco.
Roam Artisan Burgers
You can get really tasty burgers at Roam Artisan Burgers, for example. Here you can more or less assemble your burger yourself and get creative. In addition to beef, turkey and vegetarian, you can also choose, for example, moose or bison for your patty. Then you decide on a style or put together your burger completely yourself.
The Heritage Burger, for example, tastes really delicious with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Fontina cheese, butter salad, tomatoes, caramelized onions and herb mayonnaise. In addition, you sit very comfortably here and you get a good price for the burger at $ 10.99. Incidentally, Roam Artisan Burgers has two stores in San Francisco, one in Pacific Heights / The Fillmore and one in Marina / Cow Hollow.
Address: 1785 Union Street San Francisco, CA 94123 &
1923 Fillmore Street San Francisco, CA 94115
More good burger places in San Francisco
There are also good burgers at Umami Burger, which are now represented in several cities in the USA and even have a shop in Tokyo. The chain too
Super Duper Burger is starting several films in San Francisco, while Bandit and Popson Burgers are two individual alternatives.
The best coffee shops in San Francisco
San Francisco is considered the birthplace of today's coffee culture and you will always come across small, really good cafes here! By the way: Flat white is rarely on the menu here, as cappuccino is often prepared with fine milk foam and is therefore very similar to flat white.
Saint Frank Coffee
One of my favorite cafés is the Saint Frank Coffee in the Russian Hill neighborhood not far from the famous Lombard Street. The baristas really have a lot of knowledge and conjure up the really great latte art. For us it was even the case that they brought us a new flat white when they saw us taking pictures of coffee with our big cameras - attentive and super nice so they still are!
The furnishings are also very minimalist and in a Scandinavian style. In addition to espresso, you can also get good filter coffee, cold crew and other coffee specialties as well as beans, of course.
address: 2340 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109
The Mazarin Coffee is located in the middle of Downton, not far from Union Square. From the outside it looks pretty inconspicuous and you walk past it quickly if you are not explicitly looking for the café. Inside, however, a long coffee counter and some seats open up to you.
The decor and the entire café are rather dark, but still cozy. And the flat white, which is also sold here as cappuccino, tastes really good here, a little chocolaty and a little like marzipan. In addition to delicious coffee, you can also get fresh croissants or sandwiches here - the perfect place to relax in the middle of downtown with a good cup of coffee!
Ritual Coffee Roasters
Ritual Coffee Roasters have several stores in San Francisco, including the Mission District and Haight-Ashbury. Here you not only get delicious coffee and a great latte art, but you can also take one of the many self-roasted beans with you for your camping adventure in California.
address: 1026 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Tip: Nearby is the new Fellow Flag Ship Store, which we happened to pass by and took a couple of Prismo adapters for our online shop daredevil with us. Here, too, you get selected coffee beans and a cool selection of practical coffee accessories - as a coffee junkie you should definitely stop by here!
Even more café recommendations for your trip to San Francisco
San Francisco is huge and you will find many other great cafés here. Some of the best of them are the Beacon Coffee & Pantry in the Russian Hill district, the St. Clare Coffee in the middle of downtown, which is also a kind of co-working group, the Flywheel Coffee Roasters in Haight-Ashbury, and Four Barrel Coffee in Mission -District as well as Portola Place and Sightglass Coffee, a chain that owns several stores in town.
Extra tip for tea lovers: Boba Guys
If there is one thing that I particularly miss from my student days in Macau, it is bubble tea. Fortunately, the drink has also been popular outside of Asia for a number of years and I keep discovering shops that offer this specialty, especially in large cities with a large Asian population - including San Francisco!
A really good place here is Boba Guys, who make by far the best bubble tea I've drunk outside of Asia or maybe even in my life. In simple terms, bubble tea is chilled black tea with milk and an awful lot of sugar mixed with thick tapioca pearls - yummy!
I always order the refreshingly sweet tea with significantly less sugar syrup, because I am not that much into sweet things. In addition to the classic tea, Boba Guys also offers a lot of creative blends and all of this with quality ingredients that are either made in-house or come from producers in the region.
Boba Guys is so good that there are now not only several shops in San Francisco, to be more precise in Downtown, The Fillmore and in the Mission District, but now also in Los Angeles and New York.
The coolest San Francisco attractions
In addition to great cafes and delicious food, there are also a few cool San Francisco attractions to discover! The best thing: Many of the sights are completely free, so you can at least spare your travel budget.
The cable car belongs to San Francisco like the red double-decker buses to London and that's why you should take one of the small and somehow cute wagons at least once. The cable car has been in operation since September 1, 1873 and the special thing is that the rope runs below the road here and not above the road as usual.
The cable cars were supposed to be completely discontinued, but the historic cable cars were at least partially preserved through a citizens' initiative and have even been a national monument of the United States since October 1, 1964.
Today the railways are operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) and there are still three lines in total: The Powell-Mason (line 59), The Powell-Hyde (line 60) and The California Street (line 61). For the best views, it's best to get on the Powell / Hyde line and drive once from Hyde Street to downtown to Power Street.
A one-way ticket costs 7 USD, which you pay directly to the conductor. Alternatively, you can also buy a Visitor Passport, which is valid for an infinite number of trips and can also be used for other Muni lines. For one day you pay 22 USD, for three days you pay 33 USD and for seven days you pay 43 USD.
You can find more information about the routes, tickets, passes and prices here on the Muni website.
Ferry Building Marketplace
The Ferry Building Marketplace in an old San Francisco harbor building right by the sea is really cool. Here farmers markets take place on different days, where you can get hold of fruit and vegetables, but also delicious baked goods and other fresh food.
In addition, a hall full of cool little shops awaits you inside, from design shops to kitchen shops to those that sell delicious oils - everything you need for cooking and at home in your kitchen. You can also get good coffee here at Blue Bottle Coffee, a chain that we met for the first time in Japan.
Lombard Street, which meanders down the hill like a narrow zigzag strip, is a really cool photo opportunity. Watching people drive through here in their cars is really exciting! From the very top you also have a great view through the canyons down to the sea.
Extra tip Not far from Lombard Street is the Lombard Street Reservoir. Walk the few steps up the hill and you have a great and sometimes different view of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Pier 39 is pretty well known and usually very crowded. Several restaurants, shops and even a ferris wheel await you here - it has little to do with adventure. Nevertheless, a visit is worthwhile, because a colony of sea lions also lives here!
The animals feel lazy all day long on the jetties, argue loudly and apparently like to argue and don't smell good either. But it is always a great experience to be able to observe such large, wild animals and that these sea lions live almost directly in the city is something very special!
Aquatic Cove & Aquatic Park Pier (Muni Pier)
Not far from the hustle and bustle of the city is the small Aquatic Cove. The bay was once protected from storms by a pier and is still used today by many locals for swimming.
The Aquatic Park Pier, also known as Muni Pier, is slowly falling apart and urgently needs renovation. Parts of the historic pier are already closed for security reasons, but you can still walk over it and to the end.
The great thing about the pier is that in good weather you have a really cool view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and the entire San Francisco Bay. With a bit of luck you will discover a sea lion in the water again!
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is a landmark and one of the top San Francisco attractions. You can see them from several places in the city, and it's best to go for a good view of one of San Francisco's many hills. Or you start or end your road trip by driving over the famous bridge.
Here is a list of the best viewpoints of the Golden Gate Bridge
- Chrissy Field: From here you look out from San Francisco on the south side of the bridge
- Fort Point National Historic Site: Here you are practically directly below the bridge, on the southern side
- Baker Beach & Lands End: From here you look out over the north side of the bridge from San Francisco
- Fort Point: Here you are almost directly below the bridge, on the northern side
- Golden Gate Vista Point, Battery Spencer, Kirby Cove & Marin Headlands Vista Point: From here you look at the north side of the bridge with San Francisco in the background
Extra tip: At Kirby Cove is the Kirby Cove Campground, where you can stay for free and have a really great view of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco in the background!
San Francisco is the perfect starting point for your California adventure!
“For those who come to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in their hair”, it resonates with me even today when I think of the city. There is this special vibe here, even if it is overshadowed here and there by the tragically high number of homeless people and the high crime rate.
However, as long as you adjust to it and the expensive prices, San Francisco is a really great city! Especially in the residential areas like the Mission District you will meet cool people and even cooler shops and cafés. Outside of the city there is also a lot of adventure waiting for you, whether on a road trip along the famous Highway No. 1, a multi-day hike in one of the many national parks of the Sierra Nevada or on a camping adventure in Death Valley, there is so much to discover here !
Have you already been to San Francisco or planning a visit to the city? Which San Francisco attractions are high on your list?
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