Need help planning your visit to San Francisco? We’ve done the work for you with this list featuring the best places to eat, things to do, and our recommendations for how to make the most of each of your 5 days in San Francisco!
Spanning just 7×7 square miles, San Francisco is a small city but it’s jam packed with cool neighborhoods, amazing food, beautiful sights, and tons of history. Bay Area getaways are fun for everyone, whether it’s a family vacation, trip with friends, or romantic visit.
If you are planning to spend a week here, you’ll have plenty of time to explore and really get to know the best of the Bay.
Figuring out what to do during your 5 days in San Francisco may seem like a lot of work. So, we’ve highlighted some of our favorite ideas and created this unique San Francisco itinerary for five days in the city!
As San Francisco locals, we love doing these things ourselves! These suggestions will lead to a memorable trip, so you won’t need to waste any more time scrolling through one San Francisco travel blog after another.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
One of the most common questions asked by visitors planning a trip here is, where is the best area to stay in San Francisco?
If it is your first time visiting the city, we recommend picking an area that is close to the main sights and neighborhoods. You can’t go wrong with Fisherman’s Wharf, and there are options there for every budget. The Argonaut Hotel is one of our top picks, with trendy and comfortable rooms just steps away from the pier!
There are also a number of hotels in Downtown/Union Square, which is as central as it gets, and has good access to public transportation. Check out the stylish Hotel G, perfect for couples or groups of friends!
But for a five day trip we encourage you to consider an Airbnb or other home rental service. This is a great way to save money, have more space, and have access to a kitchen. It’s also a good option for families or bigger groups travelling together.
There are many listings available and it allows you to stay in a local neighborhood. We suggest searching for a place in Nob Hill, Russian Hill, North Beach or Noe Valley.
To start your 5 days in San Francisco, hit the ground running and plan to knock out the top sights in the first few days. Now we may be a little biased, but the best way to achieve this is to book one of our tours!
Dylan’s Famous Tour or A Day in the Bay Tour both offer the most comprehensive visit to the city, and are a great introduction to the best of San Francisco.
During this one day in San Francisco tour you will travel to the most vibrant neighborhoods, including North Beach, Chinatown, Pacific Heights, and The Mission. And you get to see the Golden Gate Bridge up close!
Your expert guide will entertain you with stories of San Francisco’s history and culture, and make sure you have plenty of photo opportunities.
And both of these tours include a visit to Muir Woods, easily one of the top San Francisco day trips, without the hassle of figuring out reservations on your own.
A benefit to starting out your trip with one of these tours is that you can get an idea of what areas you want to revisit and explore in more detail during your remaining days.
A five day trip to San Francisco would not be complete without a visit to Alcatraz. One of the most popular sights, Alcatraz is full of history and the ferry ride over provides stunning views of the San Francisco skyline.
Unfortunately, tickets to this landmark sell out fast, and they can be impossible to get, especially last minute.
Good news for you is that we have an Alcatraz add on option for our tours! On day two let us take care of the reservations so you can simply enjoy your trip to jail.
If Alcatraz tickets are impossible to come by, even with a tour package, we suggest taking the Ferry to Angel Island instead.
This ferry leaves from Pier 41 (just next to Pier 39) and you’ll get the same scenic views during the ride. Angel Island features a number of hiking trails as well as a historic visitor center.
After your visit to Alcatraz or Angel Island, take a walk along the water at Crissy Field. You’ll be able to see the entire span of the Golden Gate Bridge (weather permitting), perfect for a photoshoot.
For dinner, venture into the Marina district. Both Chestnut and Union Streets have numerous food options including, A16 (Italian), Roam Artisan Burgers, Chubby Noodle (Asian fusion) and many more local favorites!
There is also a lively nightlife scene in this neighborhood for those who want to keep the fun going late into the night.
Now that you have visited some of the top sights and are feeling more comfortable navigating the city, we suggest that you dive deeper into some of the local neighborhoods.
Our pick for day three of your 5 days in San Francisco is to explore the Mission District.
Located in the South East area of the city, the Mission is a historically Hispanic neighborhood and home to some of the best food and culture. A day spent wandering around the Mission is one of the most authentic San Francisco activities you can do.
Start your morning off at Dynamo Donut & Coffee on 24th Street. We recommend the maple bacon donut. Yes, bacon! Trust us, you won’t regret it. After breakfast, start walking west on 24th Street towards Mission Street.
You will pass by the historic St. Francis Fountain diner, La Palma Mexicatessen, as well as some vintage stores, art galleries and hip coffee shops.
As you walk along the historic “calle 24” you will notice the mix of new and old, gentrified and original, and really get a sense of what makes the Mission so unique.
The Mission is known for its murals and street art, and Balmy Alley is a must see. Tucked away just off of 24th Street, this alley features original artwork by local painters and activists.
If you want to learn more about the paintings and history of the area, we recommend a Mission walking tour. There are a number of tours that focus on the street art as well as tours that feature the food.
Lunch and Afternoon Activities
For lunch, try out one of the famous Mission Style Burritos. Now, the debate of where to get the “Best Burrito in SF” is heated, especially among locals. But, we’re going to highlight one of the classics: La Taqueria.
A San Francisco institution, La Taqueria (on Mission Street at 25th) is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Their burritos are packed with flavorful meat, perfectly cooked beans, cheese, salsa and avocado, and they make great tacos and quesadillas as well. It’s worth the wait for this ultimate burrito experience!
If you are still up for more Mission adventures, browse the many shops along Valencia Street or people watch at Dolores Park. End your evening by catching a movie at the classic Roxie Theater.
Spend your fourth day visiting the San Francisco of postcards in Nob Hill. Hop on the California Street cable car down by the Embarcadero and ride it all the way up to the top of the hill, getting off by Grace Cathedral.
One of the best ways to get the most of this neighborhood is by taking a walking tour. Full of rich history, historic landmarks and many movie shoot locations, it doesn’t get more classic San Francisco than this.
For a more in depth look at the city’s most famous mode of transportation, visit the free Cable Car Museum.
Venture into neighboring Chinatown for lunch at Z & Y Restaurant, one of the best Chinese restaurants in the city.
Then, spend the rest of the afternoon checking out some of San Francisco’s best art museums right in the heart of downtown. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art offers 7 floors of modern and contemporary art and is a must-see for art lovers.
Right in that same area is Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Museum of African Diaspora, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, as well as a number of art galleries.
Pro tip: Free Museum Days in San Francisco
If art is your thing and the timing is right, you may benefit from the free museum days in San Francisco, which vary depending on the institution. The most common free day is the first Tuesday of the month.
Participating museums include:
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (deYoung and Legion of Honor)
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Contemporary Jewish Museum
Museum of Craft and Design
Conservatory of Flowers
For a complete list of museum free days in San Francisco as well as free museums visit this website.
Now that your trip is wrapping up, it’s time to fit in a few more classic San Francisco activities.
When many people think of San Francisco, they think of Hippies, the Summer of Love, and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. On the top of our list is a visit to this iconic area to soak in some of those 1960s vibes.
Start your morning at Ritual Coffee Roasters on the corner of Haight Street and Central Ave. This hipster spot was one of the originals that started the artisanal coffee trend here in the city.
As you walk down Haight Street towards Ashbury Street you won’t be able to miss the unique sign sticking out above Piedmont Boutique.
This store embodies the funky, eclectic energy that is Haight Street, selling custom clothing, wigs, and colorful accessories. It makes for great souvenir shopping!
At the next corner you will come face to face with the Haight Ashbury intersection sign, now a historic landmark. Be sure to snap a picture!
As you continue walking check out the many consignment and vintage stores including Crossroads Trading, Wasteland and Decades of Fashion.
And a visit to Haight Street would not be complete without checking out Amoeba Music. The huge space houses new and used vinyls and CDs, vintage posters and many other souvenirs and music related items.
Lunch and Afternoon Activities
Next, take the bus or walk to Divisadero Street for lunch and some boutique shopping. You can’t go wrong with the barbeque at 4505 Burgers and BBQ or the Mediterranean wraps at Souvla.
The good news is that Divisadero Street is just blocks away from one of the most photographed places in San Francisco: Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies. Getting to this landmark on foot is your best bet.
The iconic houses are on the edge of the park on Steiner Street between Hayes and Grove. Enjoy the view and snap some pics!
If you are in San Francisco on a Saturday, Dylan’s Brewery Tuk-Tuk Tour is the perfect way to finish off an afternoon. A great compliment to our San Francisco one day tour, you’ll visit a number of local, craft breweries while also enjoying the sights. This private tour is customizable and seats up to five people. So, it’s a great option if you’re traveling with a small family or group of friends!