When it comes to city travel, one of the most beautiful places to visit is San Francisco, California. Renowned for its historic architecture, rich culture, vibrant social life, and unparalleled ocean views – it has been long-regarded by travelers everywhere as one of the most iconic cities in the world.
While you can easily spend a week there exploring all the museums, restaurants, and landmark spots that the city has to offer if you’re limited on time and plan to visit for a quick weekend getaway, here are some of the best places to stay and play in The City by The Bay.
Where To Stay in San Francisco, California
While there are a variety of lodging options there (ranging from AirBNBs and budget-friendly inns to upscale luxury hotels), if you’re seeking an ideally-located, elegant hotel that offers spacious accommodations at reasonable prices, look no further than the historic Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square (which is part of the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio).
Starting at around $200/night (on average), this perfectly-situated hotel is right in the center of one of the most tourist-friendly destinations in the city – Union Square. Not to mention – the updated interior of the hotel exudes a mix of classic sophistication meets modern elegance. And if you’re looking for space, you’ll be impressed with the ample sizes of the rooms (featured below is a Deluxe room with a city view).
As shared on Tripadvisor.com, this 4-star rated hotel is “Timeless yet modern. The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square has been offering guests a warm welcome and an enriching, restorative stay since opening on March 21, 1904. With its turn-of-the-20th-century European style, our hotel in downtown San Francisco, CA, blends the elegance of oak-paneled restaurants and the stately grandeur of the lobby with a $45 million reinvention of the Landmark Building guest rooms, ushering in a new chapter for this storied destination.
At this standout among San Francisco hotels on Union Square, you can host events in venues and ballrooms where the finest big bands once played. Recharge in elegant rooms, many featuring chandeliers and marble bathrooms, with modern touches like Heavenly® Beds and Enseo Smart TV systems. As the only hotel on Union Square, SF, it is close to the Financial District and Moscone Convention Center, and with cable cars just outside our front doors, (it is) at the intersection of the glorious past and vibrant present of this incredible city.”
Where To Eat & Drink in San Francisco
As a wine and food connoisseur, the Bay Area indulges your tastebuds. From outstanding wine tasting to Michelin-star-rated gourmet restaurants, there’s no shortage of great places to wine and dine. To inspire you to immerse yourself in the vibrant foodie scene that the city has to offer, here are a few great places to visit.
Where To Go Wine Tasting in San Francisco
While there are a number of bars and lounges in the city, a relaxing way to swirl, sip, and savor is at an upscale wine-tasting room. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, swing by the Napa Valley-based Chateau Montelena Winery tasting room (located inside the lobby of the Westin St. Francis), for a wine tasting or a glass of wine.
As featured in publications such as The Robb Report, Forbes, Food & Wine, and more – this notable winery (which has been in production for 14 decades) produces a variety of premium-quality varietals, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and more. The San Francisco tasting room is open daily from 1 pm-8 pm for walk-in tastings and retail purchases.
So, if you love good wine – you’ll surely enjoy this must-visit location during your trip.
Where To Have Lunch in San Francisco
If you’re looking for an iconic restaurant with a waterfront view, head to the Bistro Boudin located in Fisherman’s Wharf. Overlooking Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay, and the surrounding wharf area, this sophisticated eatery is one of the best places in town for lunch with a view. Renowned for its seafood, I highly recommend the salmon dish (picture below), which was as delicious as it looks. Also, make sure to try the world-famous sourdough bread (which is what San Francisco-based Boudin Bakery is known for).
Where To Have Dinner in San Francisco
While there are so many great restaurants to choose from, if you’re looking for a warm and inviting atmosphere, exceptional food, great wine, and outstanding service – look no further than A16 in The Marina district. This bustling Italian restaurant is one of the most popular eateries in this highly-desirable part of town. Located in the heart of the social scene on Chestnut Street, this lively restaurant offers a wide array of delectable dishes – from exquisite vegetarian options (pictured below) to pizzas and meat-hearty dishes (like Lamb, Short Ribs, and more).
Where To Have Dessert in San Francisco
While you could grab an ice cream anywhere, why not make it a memorable moment?! Head to the world-famous Ghirardelli Square for a mouthwatering ice cream sundae, chocolates, or milkshake. A bayside landmark since 1862, this reformed chocolate factory-turned-destination spot is a great place to indulge your senses.
In addition to housing a variety of restaurants and shops now, if you’re craving something sweet – head to one of 3 Ghirardelli stores there, including The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience, or Ghirardelli On-The-Go.
Where To Shop in San Francisco
Surrounded by the best shopping around (from retailers like Saks, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s and luxury designer brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, to fast-fashion chains like Express), the moment you step into the landmark plaza known as Union Square, you can shop ’til your heart’s content. Whether you’re looking for everyday essentials or specialty pieces, you can find virtually anything you’re seeking in this haven for fashionistas.
What To Do in San Francisco
Hop on a Cable Car
To start with, a ride on the iconic Cable Car is definitely a bucket-list activity to enjoy in San Francisco. For just $8/ride, this budget-friendly excursion is a fun experience for everyone – from kids to seniors and everyone in between. Take a step back in time with this enjoyable ride throughout the city – exploring views of China Town, Union Square, Lombard Street, and San Francisco Bay.
Starting at the heart of Union Square (just down the block from Westin St. Francis Hotel), you can hop on the Cable Car, which will take you to Fisherman’s Wharf. The entire ride lasts about 30-minutes and is enjoyable from start to stop. Regarded as a national landmark, the Cable Car is by one of the must-see (and do) things in this historic city.
Explore Lombard Street
As explained by Wikipedia, “Lombard Street is an east-west street in San Francisco, California that is famous for a steep, one-block section with eight hairpin turns. Stretching from The Presidio east to The Embarcadero (with a gap on Telegraph Hill), most of the street’s western segment is a major thoroughfare designated as part of U.S. Route 101. The famous one-block section claimed to be “the most crooked street in the world”, is located along the eastern segment of the Russian Hill neighborhood. It is a major tourist attraction, receiving around two million visitors per year and up to 17,000 per day on busy summer weekends.”
Explore Fisherman’s Wharf
As explained by Google, “Fisherman’s Wharf, on the northern waterfront, is one of the city’s busiest tourist areas. Souvenir shops and stalls selling crab and clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls appear at every turn, as do postcard views of the bay, Golden Gate and Alcatraz. There’s also a colony of sea lions to see and historic ships to tour.”
Explore the Tourist Attractions
As you stroll through Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll come across a number of fun-filled tourist attractions and shops to explore. A few must-visit places include Ripley’s Believe It Or Not shop, Madame Tussauds (the world’s greatest museum of celebrity wax sculptures), and the San Francisco memorabilia boutiques. Pick up charming trinkets and collectibles, enchanting gifts, and books to take home with you, so you’ll always have a fond memory of your time in San Francisco.
Explore Umbrella Alley
If you’re into capturing Insta-worthy photos and memorable moments on camera, head over to Umbrella Alley (which is located near Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square). This playful art installation meets interactive mural makes for an eye-catching backdrop to any image you could capture. Plus, if you happen to have your kids with you, they’ll surely love exploring this one-of-a-kind spot. Not to mention – it’s a fun family photo opp.
For more inspiring travel guides and vacation ideas, check out the Travel Section on Inspirations & Celebrations.
[Disclosure: Affiliate links included. Hospitality upgrade for media provided by Westin St. Francis Hotel. All opinions are my own.]