Excited to bring in Linda from Brunch with Joy once again, this time with San Francisco travel guide!
Just like Los Angeles or New York, San Francisco is one of those cities that need no introduction. San Francisco is a city on the tip of a peninsula, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay. It’s known for its hilly landscape, year-round fog, iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and colorful Victorian houses. Not to forget The Transamerica Pyramid and the notorious prison in Alcatraz Island.
I moved to San Francisco 17 years ago — when the price of gas was still less than $1 — and immediately fell in love with the city. The fact that I have some of my old friends here also helped me to live comfortably in San Francisco, not to mention that I met the guy who became my husband here as well. I’ve lived here for more than half of my life, but let me tell you — there are still so many places here to explore. As much as I love traveling, nothing can be compared to what I find in San Francisco.
San Francisco is a friendly city where you can hop on a bike to tour around downtown. It is home to a little bit of everything and I’m excited to share it San Francisco with you today. I hope this guide gives you some great ideas for your next visit!
Click below to see Linda’s San Francisco travel guide!
EAT + DRINK
- Delfina — This place is beyond incredible! The term ‘al dente’ has a new meaning for me ever since I came to this place. I love how they use simple and fresh ingredients to create authentic and beautiful dishes. Delfina always hits the spot when I crave for quality Italian food.
- Humphry Slocombe — I wish I could enjoy their Secret Breakfast everyday. It’s a delicious creamy bourbon concoction with cornflake cookie clusters in a delicious vanilla bean ice cream. Humphry’s ice cream is definitely creamy and yummy. It’s a perfect combination to satisfy my palette.
- Tartine Bakery & Café — As someone who adores French pastries, I always make time to visit Tartine Bakery every time I visited the neighborhood. My favorites include morning buns, chocolate croissants, shortbread cookies and banana cream tart. With so many choices, I always end up leaving with two or three boxes of pastries.
- 4505 Meats — This place serves up amazing barbecue ribs, briskets and smoked meat platters on a wood-fired barbecue pit, as well as juicy burgers with fried egg on top.
- Brenda’s French Soul Food — Expect a long queue here, so plan to visit early on the weekends. Brenda’s has one of the best-looking menus around. Broiled oysters plus beignets of all flavors, including chocolate, apple, and crawfish! That one’s completely insane — crawfish chowder-y goo wrapped in dough, heavily dusted in cayenne.
- Golden Gate Bakery — Located in Chinatown, this bakery serves the best egg tart. I absolutely love egg tarts, especially their egg tarts. The shell is perfectly flaky and the custard has the right amount of sweetness and melts in your mouth. Beware, you might wait an hour for an egg tart, but if you can manage the wait, you’re in for a treat!
- Japantown — Craving some Japanese treats? Stop by Japantown for some authentic Japanese udon, fresh sushi or kawaii (cute) Japanese sweets, from taiyaki to Geisha float. If by chance you visit in springtime, don’t forget to check out the Cherry Blossom Festival.
- Ghirardelli Square — To all chocolate and ice cream lovers, Ghirardelli Square is an iconic place in San Francisco. Yes, it is a tourist-y place, but they have good sundaes… and free chocolate samples when you visit the Ghirardelli store. Ghirardelli Square is a really beautiful area, with a bunch of great little shops and comfortable benches for you to enjoy the outdoors.
- SPECIAL: In-n-Out Burger — Though you can easily spot In-n-Out Burger all across California, this family-owned business is a must visit when you happen to be in San Francisco (or California).
- Pier 39 / Fisherman’s Wharf — I could write pages for this section alone, but let’s start with Pier 39. It is my most favorite place in San Francisco. Now matter how happy or sad or hungry I am, it is always fun to visit Pier 39. The view is amazing and you will have so much fun seeing all the sea lions while enjoying the clam chowder bread bowls.
- Golden Gate Bridge — Golden Gate Bridge is considered as the most beautiful — certainly the most photographed — bridge in the world. It is a 3-mile-long suspension bridge, connecting San Francisco Bay and the Peninsula. A pedestrian walkway enables crossing on foot, and bikes are allowed on the western side of the bridge.
- Lombard Street — Often mentioned as the “crookedest” street in the world, this scenic road on Russian Hill features tight turns, fragrant gardens and beautiful views of the bay.
- Alcatraz Island — Located one-and-a-half miles from Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz is one of the city’s most popular attractions. A visit to the island, by ferry, includes a tour of the cell house, where visitors can see prisoners’ living quarters.
- Golden Gate Park — One of the largest urban parks in the world, Golden Gate Park stretches for 3 miles on the western edge of San Francisco. Golden Gate Park offers more than just a regular park. It has two major museums and splendid gardens with more than 20 sports facilities, including California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum, the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the Koret Children’s Quarter.
- California Academy of Sciences — Home to an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, providing world-class research and education programs; this place is one of San Francisco’s must-see destinations.
- SF MOMA — SF MOMA offers dynamic new exhibitions and events, whereas the museum store offers a fine selection of modern and contemporary art books, innovative design, accessories and their exclusive products lines.
- The Exploratorium — Located on Pier 15, The Exploratorium is a hands-on museum igniting curiosity and inspiring creativity in people of all ages. I was amazed at all the fun stuff they have inside.
- Legion of Honor — A visit to San Francisco would not be complete without a cultural experience. Built to commemorate Californian soldiers who died in World War I, the Legion of Honor displays a collection of more than 4,000-year-old ancient and European art. It also houses the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in a neoclassic building overlooking Lincoln Park and the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Union Square — This area is known as San Francisco’s shopping mecca. From the high end brand of Hermes to the younger in-crowd Zara, they are all located within walking distance. I love the vibe here, especially during the holidays when lights are up with a big ice skating rink and Christmas tree. It does give the vibe of New York City’s by Radio City Music Hall — minus the snow.
- Chinatown — This is the largest Chinatown in the United States. The entrance to Chinatown at Grant Avenue and Bush Street is called the Dragon’s Gate. There are 24 blocks of hustle and bustle, mostly taking place along Grant Avenue — the oldest street in San Francisco. Unlike any other Chinatown, this place has some bargains stores and lots of inexpensive San Francisco-themed gift items. Not only that, you can spot exotic shops, renowned restaurants, food markets, temples and small museums.
- Haight-Ashbury — Also known as the hippie area in San Francisco. There are lots of fun artsy shops and boutiques, great consignment places and record stores, and this area has become more and more upscale. There is just so much to see here.
- Union Street — Beautiful upscale neighborhood with boutiques, coffee stores and nice hangout places. My friends and I used to hang out there for some crepes!
- 2 hours: Napa Valley, Sonoma and Yountville, Ca. — Located about 2 hours drive from San Francisco, Napa Valley is known as wine country. If you consider yourself a wine lover, this is a must visit place. There are lots of activities to do besides wine tasting, such as wine train, balloon rides, wine tour, and so much more. Lots of Michelin Star Restaurants are here and some of my favorites are Ad Hoc, Bottega, Bouchon, and the outstanding French Laundry.
- 1.5 hours: Santa Cruz, Ca. — Santa Cruz is about 75-miles from San Francisco, but it does not seem too far away. If you enjoy building sand castles, playing volleyball by the beach, or going on rides at the amusement park, plan your visit to Santa Cruz Boardwalk. You can also stop by Mystery Spot for some gravitational anomaly fun dating to the 1940s.
- 2 hours: Monterey, Ca. — Monterey is an ideal spot for a mini-getaway or business destination. Monterey has so much to offer, including a historic fisherman’s wharf and Cannery Row, 20 world-class golf courses, a huge aquarium and a unique variety of shops and galleries. There’s also a spectacular assortment of parks and natural areas.
- 1.5 hours: Gilroy, Ca. — What’s better than outlet shopping? Gilroy is the place where you can exercise your wallet and shop at 145 outlet stores. More importantly, Gilroy is home to the Garlic Festival the last full weekend each July. It is one of the largest food festivals in the U.S. Expect more than just garlic fries, because they also serve garlic ice cream and garlic candy.
So tell me, have you been to San Francisco and what is your favorite part of the city?
Linda is the writer behind Brunch with Joy. In her spare time, you would constantly find her talking about food, drawing doodles (mainly food), and daydreaming about restaurants that she would love to visit. But of course, you can’t just eat good food. You need to talk about it, too. And what could be better than discussing food with people who have the same interest. Grab her recipes here.