One Day in San Francisco: How to Spend an Amazing Day in SF

From vibrant neighborhoods, spectacular scenery, and historic landmarks to a lively arts, culture, and music scene and world-class restaurants and bars, there’s something for everyone in San Francisco.

With so much to see and do here, you’ll definitely wish you had more than one day in San Francisco. However, with a bit of planning and a good itinerary, you can make the most of your limited time and see many of the top attractions in the City by the Bay. 

I’ve been a regular visitor to San Francisco over the past 20 years and have definitely spent enough time here to know my way around the city, including its best attractions, restaurants, and bars.  

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel and vacation rental links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would absolutely never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

Can You See Everything in San Francisco in a Day?

One day is definitely not enough time to see and do all that San Francisco has to offer.

That said, this is where San Francisco’s compact size (it’s just 7 miles by 7 miles) comes in handy. With just 24 hours in San Francisco, you can still visit many of the main tourist attractions and must-see neighborhoods of San Francisco, including Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown, Alamo Square, and the Mission. 

You won’t have time to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge or visit Alcatraz, but there is time for a San Francisco Bay cruise where you will sail under the Golden Gate Bridge and past Alcatraz.

You will also get to experience a cable car ride, and have plenty of opportunities to eat and drink at some of the best restaurants and bars in the city.

One day in San Francisco is definitely better than no days at all. Our guide below shows you how to make the most of a day in San Francisco.

This is a pretty jam-packed and fast-paced itinerary. We’ve listed out several options for each stop, but chances are, you won’t be able to do it all, so pick the suggestions that sound the most interesting to you.

We’ve also provided a list of places for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, coffee, and drinks that we love to help you narrow down the many options you will encounter at each stop.

How to Spend One Day in San Francisco: A Complete Guide

This itinerary will help you make the most of San Francisco in a day.

Your morning starts at the Ferry Building, and you’ll head to the Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf, and take a cruise on the bay.

In the afternoon, check out windy (both in terms of squiggly, and also in terms of wind) Lombard Street, head into North Beach and Chinatown, and then make your way to Alamo Square and the Mission District. 

Explore the Ferry Building

Get an early start and grab a quick breakfast and coffee at the Ferry Building. 

Built in 1898, this Beaux Art landmark with its iconic clock tower was once San Francisco’s transportation hub, though you can still catch ferries to Sausalito, Tiburon, and the East Bay today.

It’s also a great destination for gourmet shops and restaurants, with highlights that include Boulettes Larder, Dandelion Chocolate, Heath Ceramics, and Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream.

On Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday mornings, there’s also a fantastic Farmers Market just outside and around the Ferry Building with stalls from more than 100 farmers, food vendors, and artisans.

You’ve got a full day ahead, so enjoy a quick breakfast at one of the following places:

  • Acme Bread: Grab a croissant, turnover, bread, or other pastries.

  • Daily Driver: They’re known for their wood-fired bagels, which you can top with organic cream cheese.

  • Donut Farm: Choose from a selection of vegan and organic donuts.

  • El Porteno: Their flakey and buttery Argentinian empanadas are a great savory option to start your day.

  • Epicurean Trader: Start your day with a selection of pastries from their European-style café.

You’re also going to want some coffee to fuel you up for the rest of your day. Here are two options:

  • Blue Bottle Coffee: Third wave coffee leader offers two locations inside Ferry Building–an espresso bar in the north nave and a tasting room in the north arcade.

  • Red Bay Coffee: Fourth wave coffee purveyor also offers specialty drinks.

A Walk Along the Embarcadero

Take a right outside the Ferry Building and head north along the Embarcadero (the waterfront promenade between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf). 

Stop at Pier 7 for a photo, with Coit Tower in the background. You’ll also pass by the Exploratorium on Pier 15.

You won’t have time to stop there with only one day, but it’s worth coming back at another time to enjoy its many interactive and experiential science exhibits.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is incredibly touristy and overcrowded, but if this is your first time in San Francisco, then it’s worth making a quick visit here.

Definitely stop at Pier 39 to see the resident sea lions as they sleep on the docks, frolic in the water, play fight, or hunt for food.

Another worthwhile stop is the Musée Mécanique. Entrance is free, but bring some change to play more than 200 old-time arcade games, plus hand-cranked and mechanical displays.

If you didn’t quite fill up at breakfast, you can grab a famous clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Boudin or a burger at In-N-Out.

For a sweet treat, stop at Ghirardelli Square for some chocolate or an ice cream sundae—there are four different shops to choose from. Or grab an Irish coffee at Buena Vista Café, which created the iconic drink in the 1950s.

Take a Bay Cruise

A San Francisco Bay cruise is one of the best ways to experience the city. Several companies offer one-hour sightseeing cruises, which can easily fit into your day in San Francisco.

You don’t need to reserve tickets in advance, though if you do and print your tickets you can skip the ticket booth and go straight to the boat.

Departing from Fisherman’s Wharf, they sail west past Fort Mason, the Marina District, Palace of Fine Arts, Crissy Field, the Presidio, and Fort Point, before sailing under the iconic, 4,200-foot long and 746-foot high Golden Gate Bridge, which is quite a sight to behold!

The cruises then head back east and circle past Alcatraz before heading back to Fisherman’s Wharf. Enjoy being out on the Bay, with fantastic views of the San Francisco skyline and close-up views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, plus a narrated tour. You might even see some wildlife.

Several sailings are offered daily (more in the summer), including late morning sailings that fit perfectly with this itinerary. 

  • Blue and Gold Fleet: Departing from Pier 39, the Blue and Gold Fleet has been sailing for more than 40 years. Enjoy indoor and outdoor seating, a snack bar, and a narrated tour (bring a WiFi enabled device) in 9 languages. 

  • Red and White Fleet: Departing from Pier 43½, the Red and White Fleet has been sailing since 1939. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, a full snack and cocktail bar, and the narrated tour (with a provided headset) is available in 16 different languages. 

  • Small fishing boats: You can also enjoy a Bay cruise on a small fishing boat, like Bass Tub. Find them at the dock on Jefferson Street (at Jones Street). Tours are narrated. No food or drinks are provided but you can BYOB, and there is a bathroom on board. These tours are generally cheaper than the larger boats and usually leave every hour.  

Lombard Street and the Cable Car

Located nearby in Russian Hill, Lombard Street (between Leavenworth and Hyde) is known as the “crookedest street in the world.”

It’s actually not even the crookedest street in San Francisco (that would be Vermont Street in Potrero Hill), but it’s an incredibly scenic street, with eight sharp, hairpin turns (put in because the residents felt the street was too steep), grand mansions, and flowerbeds full of hydrangeas. 

Take the Powell/Hyde cable car from Fisherman’s Wharf (at the Beach & Hyde stop – single rides are $8, and you can pre-purchase your ticket on the Muni app or with a Clipper card) to the top of the street and walk down.

You’ll enjoy great views of the bay along the way. There are sidewalks on the side you can use. If you do walk in the road, just watch out for all the cars full of tourists driving down. At the bottom, be sure to turn around and capture that postcard shot of Lombard Street and its many twisty turns.

A Stroll Through North Beach

It’s just a short walk from Lombard Street to North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy.

This traditionally Italian neighborhood is home to some fantastic bakeries, cafés, restaurants, and bars—not surprisingly, some of the city’s best pizza and pasta can be found here.

It’s a charming neighborhood to simply wander around in. Stroll along Columbus Avenue to take it all in.

North Beach also has a rich bohemian history and many of the most famous Beat Generation artists used to hang out here in the 1950s, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The epicenter of the Beat movement was City Lights Books, which published Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and subsequently won a landmark obscenity case relating to it. Stop by to browse their eclectic selection.

Across Jack Kerouac Alley from City Lights is Vesuvio Cafe, where the likes of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas, and Bob Dylan all drank. Those interested in learning more about the Beat movement can stop by the Beat Museum

If you have the stamina, climb to the top of Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower—built in 1933, it features fresco murals by different artists and an observation deck with stunning panoramic city views.

The Filbert Street Stairs passes by several pretty gardens (look out for wild parrots). For a more relaxed option and great people watching, head to Washington Square, one of the city’s oldest parks.

Lunch in North Beach or Chinatown

Grab lunch either in North Beach or nearby Chinatown.

North Beach lunch and coffee options include:

  • Tony’s Pizza: 13-time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani knows his pizza, and it’s some of the best in San Francisco. All the ingredients are imported fresh from Naples and cooked in one of seven different pizza ovens. Numerous styles are available.

  •  Original Joe’s: This institution has been serving up Italian comfort food for generations. The portion sizes are huge and the red vinyl booths give a touch of vintage.

  • Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store: Despite the name, Mario’s doesn’t actually sell cigars. Across from Washington Square, this popular café serves sandwiches and coffee. The atmosphere is lively and the windows perfect for people watching.

  • Liguria Bakery: They serve the best focaccia in the city. Cash only.

  • Stella Pastry and Café: For a sweet treat, grab a cannoli with your coffee.

  • Cafe Réveille: Offers excellent coffee and tasty food as well.

  • Caffe Trieste: Enjoy espresso in a lively setting, and sometimes live music, at this neighborhood fixture.

For lunch in Chinatown, check out:

  • Great Eastern: They’re known for their dim sum, but you can order all sorts of Chinese dishes from different regions. President Obama has eaten here.

  • Good Mong Kok Bakery: If you’re looking for a quick bite, Good Mong Kok offers tasty take out only dim sum. 

  • R&G Lounge: This popular Cantonese spot serves delicious seafood in a large but always busy space. Get the salt and pepper crab.

  • Golden Gate Bakery: The best egg tarts in the city. They’re pricey, but big and worth the wait. Cash only.

San Francisco’s Chinatown

Just south of North Beach is the oldest and second largest Chinatown in the country. It’s extremely popular and draws more visitors than the Golden Gate Bridge!

The ornate Dragon’s Gate entrance can be found at the intersection of Grant and Bush, but coming from North Beach, you will probably want to exit there rather than enter.

Grant Avenue is the main tourist stretch, with the ubiquitous red lanterns and plenty of souvenir shops where you can find cheap trinkets, but it’s best to duck down the many side alleys to get a real feel for the neighborhood.

Waverly Place is one of the largest, and known as the “Street of Painted Balconies.” You can also find the Tin How Temple there, the longest continuously operating Chinese temple in the country. 

A popular stop is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Ross Alley, which has been making fortune cookies for more than 60 years, churning out more than 10,000 a day! The tour is free though a donation is suggested.

Try some free samples or create your own cookie with a custom fortune. Nearby Portsmouth Square was San Francisco’s original town square, and now Chinatown’s social center where locals go to do tai chi or play mahjong.

Alamo Square

For the next stop, take an Uber or Lyft and head southwest and further inland to Alamo Square, which is both the name of a neighborhood and its most famous park.

The area is home to a large number of stately Victorians, but the Painted Ladies on the eastern side (along Steiner) of hilltop Alamo Square Park are the most famous. 

Technically, the term Painted Ladies refers to any Victorian or Edwardian House that is painted in three or more colors, but most people refer to the seven houses on “Postcard Row,” which were featured in the TV show “Full House.”

Make a quick stop here to grab that postcard perfect shot, with the San Francisco skyline framed in the background. Further down on Steiner is the “Mrs. Doubtfire” house. Just be aware that people live in all of these famous houses, so please be respectful when taking photos.

If you need a mid afternoon coffee pick-me-up, stop by the vintage Lady Falcon coffee truck at the top of Alamo Square.

An Afternoon / Evening in the Mission District

The Mission will be your final stop for the day.  It’s one of the most vibrant and interesting neighborhoods in the city, and a fantastic place for shopping, eating, and drinking.

Head to Dolores Park to relax and people watch – it’s also one of the warmest and sunniest parts of the city. You can pick up drinks and snacks at Bi-Rite Market (or ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery) or fantastic breads and pastries at Tartine along the way. Nearby Mission Dolores is the oldest building in the city (built in 1776).

Or head to Valencia Street to do some window (or actual) shopping among the cool boutiques and quirky shops, like Everlane, Reformation, Therapy, and the Pirate Supply Store. Stop by Dandelion Chocolate for a sweet treat.

There’s also some incredible street art in the Mission. You can see a lot of it just walking around the neighborhood, but the best places to see them are at Clarion Alley (just south of 17th Street between Valencia and Mission) and Balmy Alley (between Treat and Harrison and 24th and 25th), where the entire alley is covered with colorful and frequently changing murals that frequently deal with current societal issues.

The Mission is also home to some of the best restaurants and bars in town, so plan to grab dinner and drinks here as well. The following are all great options:

  • Mission Taquerias: A stop at a taqueria is almost required when you’re visiting the Mission. There are plenty to choose from and everyone has their own opinion as to the “best” taqueria, but top contenders include Taqueria Cancun, La Taqueria, and Taqueria El Farolito. Just a warning that the Mission burritos are massive, which is fine if that’s going to be your dinner, but if you want to have a snack and eat elsewhere, share it with a friend.

  • Burma Love: Part of the Burma Superstar family, the Mission outpost is spacious and hip, with a long bar for creative, Asian-inspired drinks. The tea leaf salad and mohinga is a must.  

  • Delfina: For modern and rustic California-Italian and great pizza, Delfina and Pizzeria Delfina next door are solid options. There are plans to merge the two spots and add a bar, so you can enjoy cocktails with your pizza or the basic but sublime spaghetti.

  • Lazy Bear: Enjoy a fancy dinner party experience at this two Michelin starred restaurant. It’s pricey but the multiple-course tasting menu features hyper local and seasonal ingredients and innovative cooking techniques.

  • El Techo: One of the best rooftop bars around, El Techo is a great spot for tasty cocktails and Latin American street food. Enjoy a fun atmosphere and sweeping city views. Glass walls, heat lamps, and umbrellas means it’s ideal for all weather.

  • ABV: For creative and excellent craft cocktails, head to ABV. There’s also an extensive collection of scotches, tequilas, mescals, and gins, including rare spirits, and beers and wines on tap. The food menu is solid, with elevated small plates. The upstairs Over Proof bar offers a more intimate experience but requires reservations.

  • Zeitgeist: This divey beer garden is a beloved institution in the Mission. When the weather is nice, the back patio is the place to enjoy an adult beverage. There’s a large and good selection of beers on tap and the bloody mary’s are good as well. Don’t mind the surly bartenders. Cash only.

What to Do with More Than a Day in San Francisco 

Have a few more days in San Francisco? Here are some of the other things you can do here.

For more information and ideas, check out our guide on how to spend 3 Days in San Francisco.


It was originally built as a fort during the Civil War, but Alcatraz became famous as a federal prison, and was home to such notorious prisoners as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. It operated as a prison from 1934 until 1963. Today, the National Historic Landmark is one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco.

The only way to visit the island itself is to take the Alcatraz City Cruise Ferry from Pier 33. Once on the island, you can explore on your own with a self-guided audio tour or join a ranger-led tour. 

I highly recommend the Alcatraz night tour. Not only is it a more intimate and spookier experience, but you get to access certain areas not available on the daytime tours. Plus the nighttime views of the San Francisco skyline and bay at night are just spectacular.

Night tours are available Thursdays through Mondays with two sailings during the summer, and one sailing Tuesdays through Saturdays over the winter.

Cross the Golden Gate Bridge 

With more time, you can cross the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. The bridge stretches for 1.7 miles, so you can totally walk across it. Another popular option is to rent a bike to ride across the bridge, or to drive across.

On the other side, spend some time in the charming bayside town of Sausalito.

Or explore some of the trails and beaches of the Marin Headlands—highlights include Rodeo Beach, the Coastal Trail, Point Bonita Lighthouse, the Tennessee Valley Trail, and Kirby Cove. If you don’t want to walk or bike back over you can take the ferry back instead.

Matt & Alysha at the Golden Gate Bridge

Check Out Some Museums 

San Francisco is home to some fantastic museums for all interests. Highlights include:

Explore Golden Gate Park

Spanning more than 1,000 acres, you could easily spend an entire day just at Golden Gate Park. You can get in touch with nature, walk or bike along the many trails, or visit attractions like:

  • Japanese Tea Garden: See a beautiful zen garden, koi ponds, pagodas, and bridges. Visit in March and April to see the cherry blossom trees in bloom. In the fall, the maple trees are a dazzling sea of red. There’s also a lovely teahouse. Free entrance on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays before 10:00 am.

  • Academy of Sciences: This popular attraction combines a natural history museum, aquarium, giant rainforest, and a planetarium. Say hello to Claude the albino alligator, watch penguins feeding, and see a dive at the aquarium. Thursday night NightLife is super fun, when you can play like a kid, while having adult beverages. 

  • de Young Museum: This landmark art museum is home to an incredible collection of American art from the 17th century to the 21st century, along with textiles, costumes, photography, and art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Don’t miss the views from the 9th floor observation deck. Closed Mondays.

  • San Francisco Botanical Garden: See more than 50,000 flowers and plants from around the world. Highlights include the Ancient Planet Garden, the redwood grove, and the magnolias. If you can’t get enough flowers, you may also want to check out the Conservatory of Flowers.

  • Bison: Head to the Bison Paddock at the northwestern part of the park to see these giants that have called the park home since the 1890s. There’s even a handy webcam.

Stroll Around the Haight-Ashbury

Named after the intersection of the two streets, the neighborhood became famous in the 1960s for the Summer of Love and the hippie movement.

Today, the neighborhood is still bohemian and quirky, and full of interesting shops, like thrift stores, head shops, indie bookstores, and great record stores. 

Stroll down Haight Street to get a feel for the neighborhood. Stop at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury to take an obligatory photo of the signs. Nearby, look for the giant legs dangling out of the upstairs window at Piedmont Boutique.

There are dozens of other vintage clothing shops, but Decades of Fashion is a good one. Other highlights include indie bookshop Booksmith and Amoeba Music

Keep your eyes open for interesting murals, especially on Cole Street. The neighborhood is also home to lots of pretty and colorful Victorian houses, some of which used to be the homes of famous rockers, including the Grateful Dead (710 Ashbury), Janis Joplin (635 Ashbury and 122 Lyon), and Jefferson Airplaneritual (2400 Fulton).

If you need a cup of coffee, stop in at Ritual Coffee Roasters or Coffee to the People. If you need something stronger, grab a quick beer at Magnolia Pub & Brewery or cocktail at Alembic

Where to Stay for a Night in San Francisco

If your day in San Francisco includes an overnight, here are some great, centrally located hotel options for the night.

PS: We have an entire, super detailed guide dedicated to helping you find the perfect place to stay in San Francisco for your style and budget. Make sure to read that for more information if you can’t decide.

Nob Hill

Charming and elegant, with beautiful, tree-lined streets and fantastic views, Nob Hill is a great place to base yourself. Centrally located, with plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars, you can walk to Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown, and the Embarcadero. 

  • Petite Auberge: This charming bed and breakfast-style boutique hotel evokes the South of France with its vibe and decor. Most rooms offer gas fireplaces in addition to comfy beds and flat screen TVs. Complimentary breakfast, coffee, tea, soft drinks, plus wine and snacks in the evening are all provided. Guests can also enjoy a cozy fireplace parlor, lovely garden patio, concierge services, a lending library, and free Wi-Fi. Dining is also available at Del Popolo next door.
  • White Swan Inn: The sister property to Petite Auberge, White Swan Inn takes its inspiration from an English country inn, with spacious rooms, pillow-top beds, gas fireplaces, soaking tubs, plush robes, mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs, and cozy sitting areas. Enjoy complimentary breakfast, all day coffee and tea, and evening wine and snacks, along with free WiFi, concierge services, board games in the parlor, a free lending library, a lovely courtyard, and onsite fitness center. For great pizza, head next door to Del Popolo.
  • Stanford Court: This stylish boutique hotel is modern and high tech. Sleek rooms offer pillow-top mattresses, WiFi, HD TV with streaming services, USB ports, mini-fridge, quality coffee and tea, and some even offer great city views. Work out in the state-of-the-art gym, cruise around on a loaner bike or e-bike, or catch the cable car right outside the hotel. Inviting common areas include a library and music room. A café and bar and lounge offer food, whiskey, craft cocktails, and beer. 

Union Square

Centrally located, with great transport links, Union Square is a good choice when you have limited time. There are lots of hotels to choose from, along with plenty of shopping, dining, and nightlife options.

  • CitizenM: This modern hotel offers a high tech and affordable stay. Rooms are small but include everything you need for a great stay, including soundproofing, pillow-topped king beds, power showers, massive windows, HD TVs, and room controls via app. Spacious common areas include a 24/7 business center, coworking space, fitness center, and canteen bar and kitchen. Additional amenities include free WiFi, a retail mezzanine, rooftop terrace, ironing room, and plenty of books and artworks.
  • Palihotel: Modern, stylish, and full of character, this historic Victorian building has been thoroughly renovated, and features comfortable rooms decorated in a modern California style. Highlights include marble bathrooms with rain showers, plush robes, Nespresso machines, fully stocked Smeg minifridge, and curated playlist. Fisher Loft, the hotel’s restaurant, bar, and lounge is a welcoming all day spot to refuel and be social. Free WiFi is included and pets are welcome.
  • Hotel Emblem: Enjoy a fun stay at this eclectic boutique hotel. Inspired by the Beat Generation, the space is contemporary and playful, with retro vibes. Vibrant rooms come with plush beds, marble bathrooms, HD TVs, Nespresso machines, and unique amenities (like record players, tarot cards, and yoga mats) on request. Enjoy craft coffee from Bluestone Lane, or cocktails at the Obscenity Bar. A daily amenity fee includes access to a nearby fitness club, WiFi, and loaner bicycles. Pets welcome.

Getting Around San Francisco

You have several options for getting around San Francisco. Chances are, you will take advantage of more than one. You should definitely walk as much as you can, but you may want to take public transit, a rideshare, or rent a bike (either through a rental or a bike share) for portions of your day, where walking is not practical or would take too long.

On Foot

Walking is one of the best ways to see San Francisco. Many of the main tourist attractions (like Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, and Chinatown) are within walking distance of each other, and it’s sometimes quicker to walk than to take a car or public transit.

One thing you do have to watch out for are the hills—San Francisco has a lot of them, and some of them are incredibly steep. Most are fairly manageable though, especially if you walk a block or two over where possible. 

By Public Transit

Public transit options include BART and Muni. BART trains connect the eastern part of San Francisco with the East Bay (including Oakland and Berkeley) and the South Bay (including SFO airport).

It’s rather limited within San Francisco itself though. Fares are based on the distance traveled, and you use a Clipper card to ride. You can buy them online, from self-serve machines at staffed locations, and from certain retailers, such as Walgreens. The Clipper card can be added to your phone for ease of use.

Muni, which operates buses, streetcars, cable cars, and trains, offers more extensive coverage of the city. On the downside, it can make a lot of stops, and the schedule is not always reliable, so it’s not a great option if you are in a rush. You can use the Clipper card, an app, a ticket machine, or by paying cash to the drivers (with exact change when riding above ground).

For tourists trying to see San Francisco in one day, a one-day pass may be the best option. You can also choose an option that includes rides on the cable car (which are $8 a ride on its own).

Rideshares like Uber and Lyft are also plentiful and easy to use.

By Bike

Bicycles are another way you can get around San Francisco. There are numerous bike rental shops in the city, who rent bikes and e-bikes (great for tackling those hills!) by the hour or by the day. Some offer guided or self-guided tours as well. These bike rental companies offer rentals and tours as well as several pickup and drop-off locations:

  • San Francisco Bike Rentals: Offers bike rentals and guided tours, with helmet, maps, and locks. Rent for 2 hours minimum or full day. Three pickup and drop-off locations (Fisherman’s Wharf, Ferry Building, Haight).

  • Blazing Saddles: Specialty bikes and guided tours. Rent by the hour, comes with a helmet, bike lock, and map. Seven pickup and drop-off locations (Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square).

  • Bay City Bike: Bike rentals and guided tours. Full day rentals, comes with helmet, map, locks, and repair kit. Five pickup and drop-off locations (Fisherman’s Wharf, Haight).

Bike sharing is another option to consider, especially if you just need a bike for a short or one-way trip. Bay Wheels, with Lyft-provided bikes, is the official bike share program in the city, and offers more than 7,000 bikes (and e-bikes) across more than 500 docking stations.

You can pick up a bike from any docking station and drop it off at any other docking station. Rides start at $3 a ride and you can pay using your Clipper Card and your smartphone. You can check out the current availability with this bike share map.

All cyclists under the age of 18 must wear a helmet in San Francisco (though everyone really should). Bikes can be taken on BART at all times, and all Muni buses come with a few bike racks. Muni metro only allows foldable bikes, however.

By Car

We do not recommend having a car in San Francisco, especially for such a short trip. Parking can be a nightmare, especially in the touristy areas that you will most likely be visiting.

You’ll either waste time driving around trying to find a parking spot, or end up paying for parking—metered parking, if you can find it, can run you nearly $10 an hour in some areas, while garages can cost $30 an hour during peak hours.

And if you park where you’re not supposed to, or misread the often confusing parking signs, you may end up paying for an expensive parking ticket.

Plus there is the risk of having your car broken into—if you do drive, do not leave any valuables in your car.

In short, it’s not worth driving in San Francisco, especially if you just have one day.

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