Drawn in by the city’s diverse culture, vibrant cityscape, and proximity to some of the world’s best vineyards, San Francisco is a dream to explore! While you could easily spend weeks exploring stylish cafes, gorgeous parks, and trendy neighbourhoods, if you’re short on time, I’ve got you covered! Here are some of the top things to do with two days in San Francisco. Whether you are looking to ideas for a weekend in San Francisco or a general San Francisco 2 day itinerary, I got you! From trails and parks in San Francisco to all the must-see sights (hello, Golden Gate Bridge), you can experience the Golden City.
About My Trip
Let me recap for those who don’t follow me on Instagram @BellaBucchiotti. I recently took my first trip out of Canada after 19 long, very long months! California is one of my favourite places in the US, so a road trip was calling my name. California is all set up for responsible travel, so it was the perfect first destination outside my home border.
No matter how many times you have visited the golden state, you will find so many things to do in California in each and every season!
California is one of my favourite places in the US, so a California road trip was calling my name. I brought my friend and amazing photographer (who took all these photos), Kim aka @WestCoastLife, along for a road trip to Sonoma, San Francisco, and Monterey to soak up the fresh October air!
Things to Know About San Francisco
San Francisco is the fourth-largest city in California, located along the coast of northern California. San Francisco Bay is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate strait, where the famous Golden Gate Bridge crosses. Beyond its bridge, the city is also famous for its beautiful, steep streets, cultural diversity, and Alcatraz.
Here are some fun facts about San Francisco that you might not know!
- New York City’s Central Park is smaller than San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park by 20 percent! One of the best things to do in San Francisco is stroll through this rectangular park in the centre of the city.
- San Francisco is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the US! It especially has a lot of influence from Asia. In fact, In the 1890’s Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese immigrant invented the modern-day fortune cookie, which he served at the Golden Gate Park’s Tea Garden. Now there is even a fortune cookie factory in Chinatown!
- Speaking of Chinatown, San Francisco is home to the oldest Chinatown in the US, dating back to 1848. With two days in San Francisco, make a pit stop to this lively neighbourhood!
Before you make your trip to SF, there are many ways to do some virtual tours of San Francisco, too!
Getting to San Francisco
If you’re coming from abroad like we were, then the best way to get to San Francisco is to fly into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and then transfer into downtown from there. If you haven’t rented a car, you can easily take the BART from SFO to San Francisco. SFO is one of my favourite airports. There are so many things to do at San Francisco Airport while you are waiting for your flight, including some incredible art displays.
If you are looking for other California road trip ideas, check out California Road Trip – Gold Country, Huntington Beach – Southern California Road Trip, Temecula Valley – Southern California Road Trip or Greater Palm Springs – Southern California Road Trip.
Getting around San Francisco
There are many ways to get around San Francisco! Whether you want to enjoy walking around San Francisco or hop on the city trolley or cable cars, the options are there! You will even be able to get to many of the best trails and parks in San Francisco without a car.
BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit, is the city’s train system. It connects the SFO airport to other parts of the city and even extends to Oakland, North San José, and more.
The city trolleys or cable cars are one of the best things to do in San Francisco! Three different lines begin at Powell and Market and continue to the Fisherman’s Wharf area.
With two days in San Francisco, the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus is one of the best ways to get around. You can hop on and back on again as many times as you want throughout the day. It goes to all of the city’s main touristic areas, so a weekend in San Francisco is easy with this bus tour option! Purchase a pass and it will help you to get to all the sights on your San Francisco 2 day itinerary .
Walking around San Francisco
It is such a walkable city! Make the most of it but getting to know the city on foot.
San Francisco Bay Ferry
Get some fresh air with a ferry ride across the bay! Several ferry services are connecting various parts of the area, so it’s a fun and convenient way to get around.
What to do With a Weekend in San Francisco
From scenic walks to world-class museums, there are so many great things to do in San Francisco! Here’s how to spend two days in San Francisco.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
If you’re looking for mesmerizing views of the Pacific Ocean near SF, head to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Here you’ll find the romantic Pacific Coast at its finest. There are rocky sea arches, sandy coves, and tranquil waves crashing against the coast. You can even stick around to catch the sunset at one of its many viewpoints.
Make sure you take a photo of the heart rock which is a top San Francisco Instagrammable spot!
One of the very best views is along the Land’s End Trail. The trail showcases the historic Sutro Baths and offers lovely views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean’s rocky coast. Add a stop here to your San Francisco 2 day itinerary in you are a nature lover.
Lovers’ Lane & Wood Line Trails in Presidio National Park
When it comes to trails and parks in San Francisco, visit Presidio National Park. Adjacent to each other are two beautifully worthwhile walking trails in SF!
Intertwined among eucalyptus, cypress, and pine trees and a nearby historic neighbourhood, Lovers’ Lane is one of the best things to do in San Francisco thanks to its utter charm. Plus, it’s in one of the best areas, so it’s easily visited with just two days in San Francisco. Walk the .06-mile paved path and embrace the city’s easily accessible nature.
Then, just next to Lovers’ Lane in Presidio is a natural art installation called Wood Line. British artist and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy took advantage of a gap in the eucalyptus forest and developed a path lining made entirely from fallen trees. It’s a very Instagram-worthy spot and one of the best spots for trails and parks in San Francisco.
Both SF trails are located near the intersection of Presidio Boulevard and West Pacific Avenue.
Walking Around San Francisco’s Architecture
A San Francisco 2 day itinerary definitely calls for walking around and scoping out all its amazing architecture from its cityscapes to historic neighbourhoods. From its charming neighbourhoods to its incredible architecture, this is one of the best walking cities in the US.
Walk around the shopping district, see the triangular Phelan Building, and visit the Palace Hotel for one of the best historical landmarks.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Don’t miss a visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art! It was the first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th-century art, and it’s a masterpiece. From its exterior to its extensive art collection inside, I can’t recommend it enough!
You’ve probably seen pictures of these houses (or seen them on TV!). The Painted Ladies are a pride of joy of the city and when it comes to what to see in San Francisco, these top the list.
These Victorian and Edwardian houses and buildings got a poppy repainting back in the 1960s. Now they showcase a beautiful row of colorful tall skinny houses with the SF cityscape dazzling in the background.
Golden Gate Bridge
A weekend in San Francisco is incomplete without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. Though you can see it from various points in the city, like at Point Lobos, I snapped some awesome photos at the overlook.
Head to the Golden Gate Overlook for some of the most spectacular views of one of the world’s most iconic bridges. A total bucket list experience!
Wildlife in San Francisco? Yes! Visit Pier 39 to see the adorable California sea lions! Plus, while you’re there, stroll the pier. There are great views of the pier, seafood restaurants (stick around to see my recommendation), experiences, and shopping.
This is one of the most popular places to see with two days in San Francisco. Here you have another opportunity to see sea lions, indulge in fresh seafood, gaze out at the marina, discover murals, and wander around another cool neighbourhood.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
Hilton San Francisco Union Square
During our trip, we stayed at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, a 4-star hotel. It’s in a fantastic area with many of the places to see and public transportation routes nearby. There’s even a beautiful skybar with awesome views of the sea and ocean.
Plus, there’s also an outdoor pool, restaurant, superbly comfortable rooms. Our room even had a spacious deck and sofa.
Whether for a weekend in San Francisco or a longer stay, you will love the great central location.
Other recommendations for where to stay in San Francisco:
Also around Union Square, Hotel Zeppelin is a 4-star hotel in the stylish Nob Hill neighborhood featuring funky art, pool tables, and sophisticated yet laid-back vibes.
Two minutes from Union Square and a cable car line, Hotel G is a historic 4-star hotel with modern, minimalistic flair.
The Phoenix Hotel
For something a little more affordable, stay at the Phoenix Hotel in the Tenderloin neighborhood for vintage rock n’ roll vibes, a tropical courtyard, and heated pool.
Where to Eat in San Francisco
E&O Kitchen & Bar
For great food and cocktails, a San Francisco 2 day itinerary calls for dinner at the E&O Kitchen & Bar. They have incredible Asian dishes with lots of starters and mains. The dining area is very sophisticated and their cocktails are insanely good!
Add dining at E&O Kitchen & Bar to your San Francisco 2 day itinerary.
Fog Harbor Fish House
When you visit Pier 39 during lunchtime, eat at Fog Harbor Fish House for some of the freshest seafood in the city. Plus, it’s hard to beat its Bay and Golden Gate views.
A tasty tapas bar with Mediterranean café flair and a stylish design, definitely go to dinner at La Bande. It’s downtown on Market Street, so it’s easy to visit with two days in San Francisco. Plus, they have fresh croissants, pastries, and coffee so it’s also a good breakfast spot.
Blue Bottle Café
Close to Union Square, Blue Bottle Café is one of the best specialty coffee shops in SF. They have gorgeous coffee art, pastries, and small bites. If you love coffee, this is the place to go.
With just two days in San Francisco, you can begin to scratch the surface of this vibrant city! Every time I visit SF I love it all the more. There is so much to see, nature to discover, and culture to soak up. You are sure to enjoy a weekend in San Francisco!
Bella Bucchiotti is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for food, dogs, fitness, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.