Looking for the top things to do with 3 days in San Francisco? This post has a full itinerary with the best things to do with 3 days in the magical city of San Fransisco, California.
Also known as the Golden City, San Francisco is one of the most famous travel destinations in the world. With well over 25 million visitors per year, this city is a hot spot for travelers from all over the globe. From its world-renowned landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz State Prison, the Palace of Fine Arts, and more — This city truly is one of a kind.
San Fransico oozes with culture, liveliness, great vibes, and most importantly delicious food. If you are planning a trip to the Golden City, 3 days in San Francisco is the perfect amount to explore this vibrant and one-of-a-kind city. This guide is full of some of the best things to do in San Francisco in 3 days and will help you plan the trip of a lifetime.
This is a guest post from Caresa, the owner of the solo female travel blog This Spontaneous Life.
(Disclaimer: Some links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning if you click on the link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you and you may even receive a small discount. See disclosure for more information.)
3 Days in San Fransisco Itinerary
In This Post
3 Days in San Fransisco: Day 1
Check out the Golden Gate Bridge
Standing at an impressive 746 feet off the ground, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks. It stretches approximately 1.7 miles in length and it is a must-visit site when visiting the Golden City.
There are numerous ways to check out this iconic bridge. You can walk down the Golden Gate Bridge from one end to another, ride a bicycle, drive a car, or just visit one of the many viewpoints that offer unparalleled views of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is one of San Francisco’s most iconic sights and with 3 days in San Francisco, spending some time admiring it is essential.
Visit the Palace of Fine Arts Theater
Built in 1915, the Palace of Fine Arts Theater is the last standing palace from the 1915 Panama-Pacific World Exposition. Along with incredible scenery and gorgeous architecture, it is the perfect place to enjoy your first day in San Francisco.
The Palace of Fine Arts is very popular for people to enjoy their days relaxing outside or even having picnics by the swan-filled lagoons. It is incredibly beautiful, which also makes for a great photo opp! The best thing about spending 3 days in San Francisco is that you have some time to relax and really enjoy many of the sights and surroundings of the city.
Walk Around Fisherman’s Wharf
During your 3 days in San Francisco, visiting Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-do! Located on the northern waterfront, Fisherman’s Wharf is the most popular tourist spots in the city. It is known around the world for having some of the best seafood and bread bowls you will ever have.
Right from Fisherman’s Wharf, you can check out Pier 39 where you will find dozens of seals just laying out on the dock! You can also see the notorious Alcatraz State Prison or go to other popular tourist spots such as Ghirardelli Chocolate or the Wax Museum.
Fisherman’s Wharf is the perfect way to end your first day in San Francisco. It is a great place to walk around at night while seeing all the tourist sights and exploring the nightlife it offers.
San Francisco is one of the safest travel destinations in the United States so walking around Fisherman’s Wharf at night is also very safe.
3 Days in San Fransisco: Day 2
Visit Union Square
Located in downtown San Francisco, Union Square is a one-block plaza and it is one of the largest shopping districts in the United States. With an abundance of upscale boutiques, department stores, art galleries, and so much more! Union Square is a great place to visit during your 3 days in San Francisco.
Along with endless boutiques and stores, you will find great dining to indulge in after spending your day exploring Union Square. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States and a bucket list goal that should be on everyone’s San Francisco itinerary.
Ride a Cable Car
The cable cars in San Francisco are the last manually operated cable car system in the world. This is one of the many reasons why riding a cable car during your 3 days in San Francisco is a must!
The cable cars in San Fran have come to symbolize the city and have become one of the most popular attractions for visitors. While riding a cable car, you will have breathtaking views and be able to explore the city from a whole new different perspective. It is also one of the best ways to maneuver your way around the steep hills of San Francisco.
If you want to maneuver your way around San Francisco in a more luxurious and unique way, consider a San Francisco Helicopter Tour!
Visit China Town
It seems that every great city has a China Town, but surely none of them compare to the one in San Francisco. China Town located on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street is the oldest China Town in North America. It is also the largest Chinese enclave outside of Asia. It served as a port of entry for Chinese immigrants from the 1850s to the 1900s and it is an iconic spot in the city filled with incredible history.
If you enjoy authentic Chinese food and would like to experience Chinese culture without actually leaving the continental United States then a trip to China Town is perfect! There are many popular sites to visit in CT. Including the landmark entrance Dragon’s Gate, Portsmouth Square which is a well-known park, along with so many more. For some great food and wonderful explorations, this is a must-visit with 3 days in San Francisco.
Check out the Japanese Tea Garden
Welcome to the oldest public Japanese Garden in the United States and one of my favorite places in San Francisco! One of the many reasons why I love this city so much is because it is filled with so much fascinating history such as this. Located in the Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Garden was originally created as a Japanese Village exhibit in 1894. When the time came for the fair to close, an agreement was made to keep the Japanese Tea Garden permanently as a gift for posterity.
There are many things to do in this garden, there are areas to meditate, you can enjoy some of its famous tea, admire the scenery, and so much more. It was designed incredibly well which makes it one of the most beautiful sights in San Francisco.
3 Days in San Fransisco: Day 3
Visit Alcatraz State Prison
Known around the world for being home to some of America’s most notorious and dangerous criminals, including famed gangster Al Capone and Robert Stroud, Alcatraz State Prison is one of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks.
Alcatraz State Prison ultimately shut down because it was simply too expensive to run. But the famous prison also made headlines after three prisoners escaped but never made it back to shore. It was determined they either died by drowning or were eaten by sharks.
Alcatraz is now opened for visits. Departing from Pier 33, you will be taken by ferry over to the prison. From there you will be given a guided audio tour where you will have a first-hand look inside of the prison and have the chance to learn the fascinating history behind it.
Check out the Painted Ladies
“Whatever happened to predictability? The milkman, the paperboy, evening TV?”
Making its debut in 1987, the television sitcom Full House became a huge hit all over the world. Due to its incredible success, the Painted Ladies became one of the most popular sights to see in San Francisco as this was the exact street they used to film the show.
The Painted Ladies are a row of Victorian and Edwardian styled houses located on Steiner Street and Hayes Street. They sit across the street from Alamo Square Park. A popular park where tourists and locals hang out during a nice day out in the city.
On my way back from Maui, Hawaii, I had an 8-hour layover in San Francisco. During my time in the city, I decided to take my blanket and spend a couple of hours laying out in the park. The beautiful scenery along with the crisp cool air of the Golden City, made for the perfect day before I had to board my next flight.
Ride Down Lombard Street
San Francisco is known around the world for its incredibly steep hills. Located between Hyde and Leavenworth Street, Lombard Street is the curviest street in the world! Lombard Street opened in 1922 and it is famous for dropping about 100 feet all while going through eight incredibly sharp switchbacks.
It has become a famed tourist attraction for visitors from all over the world. While going down the street, you will get a beautiful view of the city ahead. You can either walk down Lombard Street, ride a bike, or drive. Whichever way you prefer, it is a must-do during your 3 days in San Francisco.
Rent a GoCar
If you are looking to explore the city in style, a GoCar is the way to go! I rented one on one of my San Francisco trips and it was one of the best times of my life! GoCars are mini convertible cars that take you to all the most popular spots in the city.
The vehicles come with two speakers on the headrest that will navigate you as you cruise through the city. It comes with turn-by-turn navigation so you don’t have to worry about getting lost. You will be taken to all the famous landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the Japanese Tea Garden, the houses of some of Hollywood’s top celebrities, and more! It is a great activity for anyone visiting the Golden City.
Where to stay in San Francisco
It is important to have travel insurance before traveling. It’s the number one thing you should always pack before traveling that can save you a lot of money, time, and stress. World Nomads is a popular Travel Insurance choice. Enter your details below to get a free quote!
This is a guest post from Caresa, the owner of the solo female travel blog This Spontaneous Life.
Hey there! My name is Caresa and I am the owner of the solo female travel blog This Spontaneous Life. I thrive off helping people get out and explore this planet as I believe there is so much beauty to be seen in the world. I’ve always had a passion for traveling and my goal is to inspire as many people as I can to go out and travel the world and live their best life! My blog focuses on fun activities around the world along with travel tips for anyone looking to plan a trip! Follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook.
Like this post? Pin “3 Days in San Francisco” for later!
Delphine Mignon says
San Francisco is on my bucket list. The place looks so cool with stunning landmarks such as the Golden Gate bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf. I would love to visit Alcatraz too, so much history there!
Emma Riggs says
Wow, there is so much to do in San Francisco! I would make sure to ride the Cable Cars for sure (how iconic). Of course I couldn’t forget the Painted Ladies and the Golden Gate Bridge. I hadn’t heard about the Japanese Gardens before, they sound really lovely with a cup of tea.
This sounds like the perfect itinerary! San Fransisco is high on my bucket list, so I will be saving this for later! The gocars look like a great way to see the city!!
I have visited San Francisco a couple of times and have fond memories of cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge, not to mention strolling through Fisherman’s Wharf, clam chowder in a bread bowl in hand! However, this post reminds me I still have unfinished business in this fab city. Would love to visit Alcatraz in particular. Hopefully will get back there before too long.
I’ve never been to San Francisco but it’s definitely on my list! I always think of Princess Diaries when I see the hilly streets haha. I love the idea of a Go-Go car- that sounds like a blast!
I spent 3 days in San Francisco some years ago and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I was pleased to read that I only missed out on Renting a Go-Car.