7 Things to Do in San Francisco When Traveling Alone


Any city can seem daunting when you are traveling alone.

But any solo adventure is what you make of it and once you begin to immerse yourself fully in any new environment, the results can be wonderfully rewarding.

And nowhere are the rewards greater than exploring the iconic city of San Francisco.

Depending on the type of person you are you might want to conquer it without resorting to guides and the obvious tourist trail, preferring instead to find the essence of a place by being there and soaking up the city's vibe.

On the other hand, sometimes the best way to understand a city is to get to know its history and find out how the past influences the present. 

If that's your preference organized tours and structured events might be your key to the heart of a place.

But whichever approach you prefer, San Francisco has a lot to offer and so here are a few places that are vital for any visitor to the city.

Whether you are taking the laid back cafe culture approach or have a more immediate thirst for knowledge there is plenty on offer.

 

Golden Gate Bridge

 

golden gate bridge

 

If there is one feature that San Francisco is known for more than any other it is The Golden Gate Bridge.

This single-span suspension bridge is 82 years old and links the city to the Marin headlands. It is strikingly unmistakable due to its unusual orange color.

Depending on your preferences there are many ways to explore the bridge and the surrounding area.

If you are interested in really getting up close then for around $10 a walking tour will offer you a guided commentary as you walk along a section of the bridge.

It will also give access to a secret vantage point and views that even the locals don't see.

For about double that cost you can get yourself a cruise ticket and sail around the bay.

Travel the waters in comfort for an hour or so, take in not only the bridge but Angel Island and the infamous Alcatraz.

The best place to book such a tour is Fisherman's Wharf. 

 

Fisherman's Wharf

 

Fisherman's Wharf

 

Not only a great place to sign up for a cruise around the bay, but Fisherman's Wharf also offers the visitor an iconic slice of San Francisco.

It is the home to Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, Anchorage Square, The National Maritime Museum and Historic Hyde Street Pier.

It also offers stunning views of the bay and is perfect for shopping and eating out, especially if seafood is a particular liking of yours.

Getting around couldn't be easier as, although the city is renowned for its steep hills, this seafront area is perfect for biking around which you can do for about $8 per hour or $25 per day.

If you are looking for something way cooler then you can join a Segway tour which will cost about $75.

History fans will find USS Pampanito docked at Pier 45, a bone-fide World War Two submarine and maritime museum and a little over $10 will get you across the gangplank.

Those looking for a more casual experience will find the area a hub of cool cafes and easy-going restaurants, unusual shops and unexpected bargains, funfairs and a vibrant atmosphere.

 

Chinatown

 

sf chinatown

 

There is a Chinatown in most big cities, but no two are ever truly the same.

San Francisco boasts the largest Chinese community outside of Asia and the oldest in North America established as afar back as 1848!

Here you will find a bustling community, old architecture blending flavors of both east and west and some amazing food at really good prices.

Shop around a bit and you will find yourself in front of a three-course meal and change out of $20.

Shoppers will delight in wandering through wonderful markets, the best being found on Stockton Street, and unusual shops and whilst a lot is catering for the tourist trade, dig a little deeper and you will find shops and stalls which seem like a time-machine back to the old orient.

 

Golden Gate Park

 

golden gate park

 

Bounded by the infamous Haight-Ashbury district to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Golden Gate Park is a great place to explore and to get away from the hustle and hassle of the city for a while.

And if you are thinking, "Well, a park's a park, seen one and you have seen them all," then you couldn't be more wrong!

Yes, the park is a wonderful feat of landscaping which takes in green spaces, diverse horticulture, trees, formal garden spaces, wilderness, and sweeping dunes but there is so much more as well.

About $10 will get you into the de Young Museum, a famous collection of painting, art, and sculpture from across the globe and the Hamon Observation tower gives views of the park, the bridge and the Marin headlands beyond.

And when you are done with being a culture vulture and have had your fill of breath-taking views then the Japanese Tea Garden is the perfect way to relax and reflect.

 

Lombard Street

 

lombard street

 

San Francisco boasts some of the steepest streets in America, great for cable cars, hard work for automobiles, a nightmare for pedestrians.

The builders of Lombard Street got around this challenge by creating a series of switch-backs  giving it the moniker of the "most crooked street in the world."

And whilst it claims to be the steepest as well is debated by residents of other such streets, many also found in the very same city, there is no denying that Lombard Street is about as pretty as they come.

It is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the city and throughout the warmer months is a riot of color from the immaculate displays of flowers that line the road.

Even if time is short, plan to at least pass through the area on your way to your next destination, it is a street like no other you will have seen before.

 

Union Square

 

union square

 

Not only a shoppers paradise but the heart of the modern city, vibrant, cool and unashamedly commercial.

But amongst the towering buildings that are home to the city's business, its ice rink and shops there are also some fantastic restaurants from the easily affordable to the reassuringly expensive.

For a more casual way to spend some time, immerse yourself in its thriving cafe life.

Imagine sipping on a latte whilst you watch street entertainers under the green canopy of the tree-lined streets which really soften the look of the place.

Here you can also catch fashion shows, in-store events, cooking demonstrations or just give the credit card a heart attack at the most famous retail name of them all…Macy's.

 

The Palace Of Fine Arts

 

The Palace Of Fine Arts

 

Erected over 100 years ago as the city was still reeling from the devastating effects of the famous earthquake, The Palace of Fine Arts was designed to be a cultural showcase, something mark out San Francisco as a truly international city. 

Since then it has been a receptacle for art, music, theatre, discussion, dance and everything that the modern city needs to head into a bright cultural future.

Built-in the style of classical ruin, this building is impressive during the day but come nightfall becomes otherworldly.

No matter what your tastes from Greek Tragedy to alternative rock, it all passes through these hallowed grounds so do yourself a favor and find an excuse to take in its ethereal charms.

And that really is the tip of the iceberg but it does give you a few ideas of where to start.

If time is short then there are many great tours to be had which will enable you to combine several attractions and sites in the same day.

The Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour is ideal for those who wish to take things at their own pace. Regular buses doing a 20-stop loop of the city means that you can stay in any one area for as long as you want before catching the next bus and heading off for another cool destination.

 

Conclusion

San Francisco really does have something for everyone, beautiful sights, and scenery, history, and culture, fun and food, activities and attractions.

And we haven't even touched on the nightlife! It also offers you many ways to explore the city and at what speed, from a casual stroll to a bike ride and from a tram to a speedboat tour of the bay.

You could write endless shelves of books about the things to see in this city, and indeed people have done, but hopefully this little snapshot will give you a few places to start.

Many of these selections may be obvious but it is whilst exploring them that you will stumble across, hear about and be given inside information about the San Francisco which lies just off the beaten track or just which hides around the corner or down the next side street.

 

Whatever it takes for you to leave your heart in San Francisco, do it now, you will not regret it.