AMERICAS DESTINATION GUIDE TRAVEL WRITER

3 days in San Francisco Itinerary

Spending 3 days in San Francisco? San Francisco, California is regularly voted as one of the best cities in the world to visit. This San Francisco 3 day itinerary will give you all the information you need for an amazing weekend in this city. 

After having visited there myself I can certainly see why. San Francisco is best known for being home to one of the world’s most iconic landmarks, the Golden Gate Bridge. However, there is just so much more to see which makes it one not to miss!

San Francisco, also known as SF, San Fran, Frisco, or The City, is the cultural, commercial, and financial centre of Northern California. San Francisco is the 16th most popular city in the United States, and the fourth most populous in California.

It’s easy to see why people visit San Francisco! The stunning sights and scenery, the one-of-a-kind events and world-class food are all reasons why millions spend 3 days in San Francisco every year. 

But the city is also most famous for being able to combine disparate elements to create something new: taking the familiar and marrying it to the unknown. The city is well worth a visit and 3 days in San Francisco is just enough time to explore.

Keep reading this guide to spending San Francisco 3 day itinerary. We’ve got information on the best time to visit San Francisco, how to get to San Francisco, top 10 things to do in San Francisco, and where to stay in San Francisco.

San Francisco 3 day itinerary

How to get to San Francisco

During your 3 days in San Francisco, the best way to get to San Francisco is to fly into San Francisco International airport. The airport is located approximately 13 miles from downtown San Francisco and is about a 20-30-minute drive.

The most popular way to get from the airport to your accommodation is via Uber or Lyft. However, if you would prefer you can also catch a train. See here for the timetable

 

When is the best time to visit San Francisco

The weather for your 3 days in San Francisco may be completely unpredictable. One minute you can be basking in pure sunshine, the next the fog is rolling in and you are battling the wind at the rain. No matter what time you decide to go you could be subject to these elements, however, September through to November sees some of San Francisco’s warmest temperatures.

If you are not so bothered about the heat but are looking to avoid the rain, then springtime is also another great time to visit.

I took my trip to San Francisco in February and had perfect weather. I also spoke to a San Francisco local who said January/February is a great time to come if you are looking to avoid crowds of tourists.

 

READ MORE: 5-Day Road Trip Itinerary Tromso Norway

itinerary San Francisco 3 day

3 day San Francisco

How to get around San Francisco

San Francisco is not well known for strong transport links but there are still a few options for you to choose from.

My best advice would be to explore the city by bicycle. You can rent out a bike for around $25 per day (there is also an hourly rate available). Although do note that San Francisco is full of hills so certain routes can prove to be quite difficult. The same goes for walking around the city too on your San Francisco 3 day itinerary.

Other options for your 3 days in San Francisco is to choose from are buses and/or cable car. You can purchase 1,3- or 7-day visitor passes that will get you unlimited rides on these services.

If, however, you are particularly short on time, you can travel the city with Uber or Lyft. The average price of a journey from point to point around the city will cost you between $10-$20.

 

Budgeting for San Francisco

It’s no secret that San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the world. You can expect to spend a minimum of $150 – $200 per day on food, drinks, getting around and trips. Make sure you plan ahead and budget for your 3 days in San Francisco.

NOTE: There is a huge tipping culture in the USA. You will be expected to tip at least 20% if not more. Remember to account for this when calculating your budget. Bare in mind this when planning your San Francisco 3 day itinerary. 

 

Keep reading this guide to spending San Francisco 3 day itinerary.

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Top 10 Things to do in San Francisco

There are so many things to do during your San Francisco 3 day itinerary. The city is small and compact, taking up only 47 square miles of hills and coastline. This city is quirky and edgy and offers tourists an array of things to do!

 

1. Lombard Street

Top of the list on your 3 days in San Francisco is to visit Lombard Street which is famous in San Francisco due to its steep and sharp winding hairpin turns. Not only is the street impressive, but the view from the top is pretty spectacular too!

 

2. Alcatraz

The world-famous prison located on an island 1.25 miles off the shore of San Francisco. This is the perfect place to immerse yourself in history and learn about the famous criminals incarcerated here. This tour is extremely popular so make sure you secure a booking ahead of time. A must-see on your 3 days in San Francisco.

 

3. Golden Gate Bridge Viewpoints

The top things to do during your 3 days in San Francisco is to visit the Golden Gate! There are three main Gold Gate Bridge viewpoints in the city. These are:

  • Golden Gate Overlook
  • Battery Spencer
  • Golden Gate Visa Point

Each viewpoint offers its own unique perspective of the Golden Gate Bridge. Both Battery Spencer and the Golden Gate Vista point are located on the north side of the bridge. This means that not only do you get a great view of the bridge, but also of San Francisco city. In addition to this, these two points are great places to watch the sunset. An epic way to spend the first day of your San Francisco 3 day itinerary.

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4. Sausalito

Located on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito is a quaint little seaside town that will transport you to the Mediterranean. This is an ideal place to escape the Hussle and bustle of San Francisco city. You can either cycle here or catch the ferry during your 3 days in San Francisco.

 

5. Haight-Ashbury

The quirky “hippie” area of San Francisco lined with rainbow-coloured townhouses. This is a great place to come on your 3 days in San Francisco if you are after vintage stores and coffee shops. Haight Ashbury is also home to many notable houses seen in American sitcoms such as ‘Full house’ and ‘That’s So Raven’. 

 

6. Painted Ladies

The Painted Ladies in Alamo Square (Haight-Ashbury) is a set of ascending colourful Victorian houses that are backdropped by the San Francisco city centre. These houses are the most popular, but as mentioned previously, most of the houses in the Haight-Ashbury area look as good as this. Add this place to your San Francisco 3 day itinerary. 

 

7. Twin Peaks

Just a 30-minute walk from Haight- Ashbury, Twin Peaks is yet another spectacular viewpoint. Climb up to the top of the peak to witness 360-degree panoramic views of the San Francisco bay area. To top it all off head up here for sunset. With the sun setting behind the peak you can watch the moon rise over the city skyline.

 

8. Cable Car

San Francisco is the only city in the world to still utilise a manually operated cable car system. Make sure to take a ride on one of these routes. For the best views of the city try out the ‘Powell-Hyde’ route. A one-way ticket on this route will set you back $8. A must-do during your 3 days in San Francisco.

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9. Marshalls Beach

Marshalls beach is probably my favourite part of San Francisco. This is a wonderful secluded beach and a great place to chill on the rocks and listen to the sound of the crashing waves. Additionally, it’s another perfect spot to witness the Golden Gate Bridge from yet another angle.

My advice would be to head here just after sunset to see stunning twilight colours in the sky, against the backdrop of the bridge. Do this on your 3 days in San Francisco.

Note: It is not safe to swim here due to rip tides and cold temperatures.

 

10. Transamerica Building

With San Francisco being situated very close to the San Andreas fault, the city is extremely prone to earthquakes. The Transamerica Building’s unique pyramid shape was designed to withstand the effects of these earthquakes. This distinctive building truly adds to the uniqueness of the cityscape so it’s worth a look. Unfortunately, the observation deck is now closed to the public, but you can still take a trip to the visitors centre.

 

Top places to eat in San Francisco

Scoma’s

When I told some of my American friends that I was heading to San Francisco, they all said one thing: Go to Fisherman’s Wharf and get some clam chowder. I did exactly that. There are dozens of restaurants around the Wharf that will serve clam chowder, however, Scoma’s restaurant is the place to go for the best of the best. Do note that this is also reflected in the price as this restaurant is quite expensive. Make sure you visit here on your San Francisco 3 day itinerary as a treat!

Cowgirl Creamery

Located in the popular Ferry Terminal building (which is worth a visit whether you’re after food or not), Cowgirl Creamery serves up some of the finest cheese toasties you’ll probably ever eat in your life.

Surisan

Surisan is a Korean-American fusion restaurant also located in Fisherman’s Wharf. Surisan is a great place to head for brunch. Make sure to try out their famous “Millionaire’s Bacon”.

Taquería El Farolito

Some of the best Mexican food you will try. If you are after the most delicious tacos in town then Taquería El Farolito is the place to go. This restaurant is also extremely budget-friendly with most dishes under $10. A real -steal for amazing food during your 3 days in San Francisco. 

 

Keep reading this guide for places to eat and drinks in this amazing city during your San Francisco 3 day itinerary.

San Francisco 3 day San Francisco

Top places to drink in San Francisco

Bluebottle Coffee

Top of your list of places to grab a drink on your 3 days in San Francisco is this place!! Located in the Ferry Terminal Building this is a great place to grab a yummy iced latte or any coffee in fact! I came here twice and there was always a long queue, so it’s a popular spot for sure.

Zam Zam

Situated in the Haight-Ashbury district, Zam Zam is a small unconventional bar. Dimly lit, ‘bric-a-brac’ style interiors and no-nonsense staff, Zam Zam is perfect if you are after something a little different.

Charmaine’s Rooftop Bar

Head to the Mid-Market district and have a drink at Charmaine’s Rooftop Bar. It’s a wonderful bar in which to enjoy a cocktail whilst soaking up some of the amazing San Francisco city views.

 

Where to stay in San Francisco

There are a few good areas to choose from when deciding where to stay during your 3 days in San Francisco.

These are:

  • Nob Hill – Best for views and ease of access around the city
  • Mission District – For the best food
  • Fisherman’s Wharf – To be close to the sea whilst in the centre
  • Haight-Ashbury – For chilled out vibes

As I was travelling on my own, I stayed in the ‘USA Hostels San Francisco’ hostel, in the Nob Hill area of town. A 4-bed mixed dorm will cost you roughly $40. If you prefer something a little more private the average cost of a hotel per night is $250-$300 and an Airbnb $125-$200 per night.

Recommendations

Luxury

Mid Range

Budget

 

Did you find this San Francisco 3 day itinerary useful for your upcoming trip? Let me know in the comments!

 

Author Bio: Christina is 28 from Hertfordshire and runs the blog The Curly Commute. During the 9-5 Christina works in recruitment, but the rest of her time is spent doing, dreaming or reminiscing about all things travel. She makes it her mission to go on at least 7 a trips year and practice her amateur photography skills along the way. Her favourite country in the world has to be Sri Lanka; the food, the views, the wildlife and the people make it the perfect place to be. You can also find Christina on Instagram.

And if you are heading to the USA on a longer trip, make sure you also head to Los Angeles! Check out How to Spend 1 Day in LA: A Guide to Los Angeles, California.


My Travel Tips and Recommendations

Flights

To book flights, I always use flight search engine, Skyscanner, I regularly use the Everywhere tool to find the cheapest places to travel. It’s how I get to travel so much all around the world. I find it the easiest way to compare flight prices across airlines and get the best deals. 

Accommodation

For accommodation, I usually book most of my hotels or hostels through Booking.com. I love using this platform as it provides me with some amazing deals for accommodation all around the world. Or if you prefer, I also recommend using Airbnb. If you haven’t signed up with Airbnb already, you can use this link to get £25 off your first visit!

Photography and Technology

Here is a list of the technology I always travel with:

 

You can also find me on social media: FacebookTwitter, YouTube and Instagram.

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Thank you for reading and as always happy adventuring! If you have any questions about the destination please leave these in the comments below.

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Sophie X

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