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In the United States, San Francisco is one of my absolute favorite cities to visit and explore. San Francisco first fascinated me on the big screen – thanks to movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire and Vertigo – and when I first visited in my late twenties, the sweeping blue bay and massive hills took my breath away and made me not want to leave northern California.
I just love, love, love San Francisco.
So, unsurprisingly, I think San Francisco is a fantastic destination for all sorts of travelers. Couples, friends, families, you name it! Hell, even if you travel alone to San Francisco, you’ll still have a wonderful time trying all the restaurants, exploring all the unique neighborhoods, taking day trips, chilling near the Bay, and so much more!
I wanted to put together this 6 Days in San Francisco Itinerary for all my readers who prefer slower travel, which (in my opinion) includes making a bigger city one’s base for several days in a row.
Even though you might be thinking, “hmmmm, 6 days in San Francisco is an awful lot of time,” I promise that between the city’s neighborhoods and day trips that you won’t run out of things to do.
Actually, I think you’ll be planning your next visit on the third day! I already want to go back again in the near future and still haven’t seen everything that I want to.
San Francisco Travel Tips
First and foremost — I want to talk about some basic travel tips before discussing the best things to do with 6 days in San Francisco. You probably have some big questions right now.
What should I bring? Where should I stay? How do I even get around, and what do I do if I don’t want to pay a substantial amount for a rental car?
Never fear! I have all your travel needs covered!
Best Time to Visit San Francisco
Honestly, any time is wonderful to spend 6 days in San Francisco. The weather is always comfortable for sightseeing. You don’t have to worry much about extreme heat or cold, which makes San Francisco a delightful destination to visit year round.
As for me, I personally have been to San Francisco in April and June. I was blessed with sunny weather both times of the year. In June, I experienced a tiiiiiny bit of fog in the morning, but fogginess over the Bay is so quintessentially “San Francisco” that the soupy air didn’t bother me at all!
Go whenever you have the most vacation available to you. You will have a wonderful time.
Getting Around San Francisco
Once in San Francisco, you’re able to navigate relatively freely without your own car. And honestly, if you’re not used to driving through hilly terrain or accustomed to busy city driving, then being carless is probably the best possible situation for you.
So no sweat! In San Francisco, you have a lot of great options even without a car.
San Francisco’s iconic and historic cable cars are very popular for tourists. Keep in mind that the cable cars do not cover the entire city, not by a long shot, but you can reach a lot important sites riding the cable cars. Pack your patience in high season. It may take time to board a car that has room for you.
As always, rideshare apps, such as Uber and Lyft, are very popular, and although these apps aren’t as affordable as they once were, they’re very useful for covering large distances especially after an intense day of sightseeing.
Last but not least, the BART will easily take you to San Francisco International Airport, as well as other Bay Area cities. I personally felt safe riding the BART, but usual street smarts apply. Keep an eye on your belongings, and switch cars if someone makes you feel uncomfortable.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
San Francisco has tons of wonderful accommodation and wide variety of unique neighborhood experiences to choose from. You can’t really go wrong, as long as you know your budget (San Francisco can be very expensive) and read reviews well in advance.
As far as specific locations go, I would personally avoid staying in the Tenderloin area due to the large amount of homeless that congregate in this neighborhood. Sure, you won’t be able to 100% avoid the homeless in San Francisco, and I also encourage you to be compassionate, but at the same time your safety comes first.
Homelessness is a complicated, heart breaking, and difficult issue that doesn’t have any one given solution. However, as a traveler, it’s not up to you to figure out an answer, so you need to pick an area that you feel comfortable and secure sleeping in at night. If you still want to help, then I recommend making a donation to the Coalition for the Homeless San Francisco.
I have a few suggestions below, but again, feel free to do more research to help you find the best place for you.
- Adelaide Hostel: This highly rated hostel is perfect for travelers looking to meet friends on their visit to San Francisco. Adelaide Hostel is only a stone’s throw from Union Square, which makes it very centrally located for the price. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Infinity Hotel, SF: Are you searching for a boutique hotel that’s a little closer to the piers? Then look no further than Infinity Hotel, SF in the beautiful Marina District. You will be near a ton of great popular attractions including the Palace of Fine Arts and Pier 39. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- White Swan Inn: Last but not least White Swan Inn is one of my favorite places to stay in all of San Francisco. This fun boutique hotel makes you feel as if you’ve been transported to London. I love the brightly decorated rooms, and the wine and cheese hour. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
What to Pack for 6 Days in San Francisco
Packing for San Francisco depends on the time of the year, of course, but you don’t want to forget these essential items. Double-check your bags before you depart for the airport.
- Lonely Planet San Francisco: I still love physical guidebooks even in the digital age, and Lonely Planet writes my favorite ones! I recommend this Lonely Planet San Francisco guidebook to tailor your 6 days in San Francisco itinerary.
- Mirrorless Camera: For high quality photos that go beyond your phone, my favorite camera is the Sony Mirrorless Camera, which takes fantastic shots, but is not as bulky as a DSLR.
- Stylish Day Backpack: In San Francisco, I’m most comfortable wearing a backpack. You don’t want to look like you’re off for a hike in the woods, but a fashionable all day backpack is perfect for exploring this city.
- Super, Super Comfortable Walking Shoes: Please, please, please for the sake of your sanity, pack comfortable walking sneakers in San Francisco. The hills are no joke. Why am I so insistent on footwear? Because I walked all the way from Union Square to Golden Gate Park in uncomfortable, platform open-toed shoes. Never. Again.
- Travel Insurance: I always buy travel insurance on all my trips. If your health insurance won’t cover you in San Francisco, then I definitely recommend buying a travel insurance policy before your departure date. Hopefully, you won’t need to use it, but better safe than sorry!
- Windbreaker Jacket: San Francisco has lovely weather. However, if you’re taking a boat ride on San Francisco, you’ll feel cold no matter what time of year you’re visiting the city. Pack a windbreaker jacket to stay warm on the water.
Quick Glance: 6 Days in San Francisco
|1||Arrival, Welcome to San Francisco|
|2||Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf|
|3||Wines, Wines, and More Wines|
|4||Golden Gate Park and Museums|
|6||San Francisco Day Trips|
6 Days in San Francisco Itinerary: All the Details
This 6 days in San Francisco itinerary aims to be specific and broad at the same time. I completely understand that all travelers have different interests, and you will want to adjust what you see and do in San Francisco based on your own personal travel goals.
However, I still wanted to include some of the most popular attractions in this itinerary, especially for first time travelers headed for San Francisco.
Let’s get started!
Day 1: Welcome to San Francisco
Yay! You’ve arrived in beautiful San Francisco! So what do you want to do first? How do you even begin to plan your visit?
Upon your arrival in a new city, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure, particularly if you’ve just hopped off a long flight. Why not start your 6 days in San Francisco with someone knowledgeable who’ll help you acclimate to your temporary new home?
Depending on your arrival time, I personally recommend going on a Free San Francisco Walking Tour to learn about the city’s history and to “get your bearings.”
This free walking tour will take you to some of San Francisco’s most iconic buildings such as Transamerica Pyramid.
Once you’re done your tour, I would go on a mission to find some delicious food and an entertaining cocktail. For example, I’ve heard that Fairmont’s Tonga Room is always an enjoyable time. What better way to start your adventure?
Day 2: Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf
If you’re visiting San Francisco for the first time, then you need to book a ferry ride over to Alcatraz Prison. Alcatraz is one of the most popular tourist attractions that’s also very much worth your time and money (see my own experience about how Alcatraz is totally worth it!).
The audio tour really transported me back in the time to the days when Alcatraz was open to the most notorious criminals in the United States. Believe it or not, the audio actually made me tear up on more than one occasion! You can visit Alcatraz day or night! Check opening/closing times in advance.
A quick word of warning, though. I can’t emphasize booking your ferry ride in advance. Alcatraz is part of the National Park Service, and is free for visitors, but you still need to pay the official ferries to reach the island, and tickets do sell out fast, especially in high season. Book your tickets as soon as you know your dates to avoid disappointment.
After Alcatraz, spend some time wandering around Fisherman’s Wharf. Yes, this area is insanely touristy and cheesy. However, it’s still fun, especially for first time visitors coming to San Francisco. I personally had a great time visiting Pier 39 to see the sea lions and Ghirardelli Marketplace — where I legit had the greatest chocolate milkshake of all time.
Day 3: Wines, Wines, and More Wines
You can’t come to the Bay Area and not immediately think about wine. California, after all, is very much a wine haven.
If you want to truly experience California’s wines, I recommend taking a day trip outside of San Francisco to the wineries. You will need a rental car if you want to go to the wineries without a schedule, but keep in mind that several organized group tours leave from San Francisco for the wine regions. Not to mention, you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving if you take a tour instead.
Famous wine regions in the area include Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, and the Tri-Valley. As a side note, I absolutely loved visiting the Tri-Valley for three days and recommend an entire weekend there, but a day trip to Livermore is still very feasible!
California’s wineries are beautiful. I promise you will have an amazing time eating and drinking your way through whichever region you chose for your adventure.
Day 4: Golden Gate Park & Museums Galore
Golden Gate Bridge is literally one of my favorite places in the entire world. Seriously, I could sit near Golden Gate Bridge for literally hours, snap a million pictures, and enjoy a picnic lunch. That is my perfect day.
I personally recommend dedicating two hours to the nearby Presidio of San Francisco. You’ll find a lot to see and do that goes beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. For example, Fort Point National Historic Site is an incredible Civil War Fort that offers rich history and great views of the Bridge. The Golden Gate Overlook is another wonderful vantage point to see the bridge.
Lastly, I also suggest visiting the nearby The Palace Of Fine Arts. Even you’re not there for an event, the Greco-Roman style palace is a wonder to behold. Love it.
So, obviously, your 6 Days in San Francisco itinerary wouldn’t be complete without including the Golden Gate Bridge.
Afterwards, you’ll also want to check out some of San Francisco’s fantastic museums today! I personally loved both the Cable Car Museum and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), but tailor museums to your specific interests. San Francisco has an abundance of them.
Day 5: Neighborhood Immersion
For your next day in San Francisco, my recommendation is to focus on the unique areas that makes this city special compared to other metropolitan areas in the United States.
San Francisco has plenty of vibrant neighborhoods that absolutely packed with character. To dive deeper, you can either book yourself on neighborhood specific tours (which, there are a lot, so make sure to read reviews), or plan out a self-guided walk through the neighborhoods that pique your interest.
I’ve listed a couple neighborhoods below to get you started.
6 Days in San Francisco Itinerary: Neighborhood Guide
- Chinatown: San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest one outside of Asia. This “city within a city” starts at the iconic Dragon’s Gate. In Chinatown, you don’t want to miss the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, beautiful murals and street art, and Chinese Temples (check ahead of time; most welcome visitors).
- Haight-Ashbury: During the 1960s, Haight-Ashbury embodied the height of “flower power.” Today the neighborhood is home to a variety of fun consignment shops, dive bars, and music shops. You don’t want to miss the former Grateful Dead House either!
- The Mission: A lot of tourists don’t make it down to the Mission District, and while I don’t recommend wandering here alone in the middle of the night, you definitely want to come for lunch and devour a Mission-style burrito. Your stomach will thank you. Furthermore, the 18th century Mission Dolores is a San Francisco icon. You’ll also discover that this neighborhood is also home to one of the city’s most popular parks: Dolores Park.
- North Beach: Located between Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach is a fun and vibrant neighborhood that’s definitely worth your time and energy. You’ll want to come here for the Italian food, thanks to strong Italian-American community that’s lived here for generations. And, as a book lover, you don’t want to miss City Lights bookstore! It’s one of my favorite places to go in San Francisco.
- Russian Hill: This ritzy and high-end neighborhood is home to the famous and very windy Lombard Street. Obviously, Russian Hill is named after it’s tremendous hills, and is the perfect place to get some photos from high over San Francisco Bay.
- Pacific Heights: A truly beautiful and safe residential neighborhood. I personally adore the architecture of the homes in this area. Famous homes include the Mrs. Doubtfire house! You can also swing by Spreckels Mansion to see where famous author Danielle Steel lives (keep in mind that Spreckels Mansion is a private residence and you can’t just stroll inside, haha).
Day 6: San Francisco Day Trips
Last but not least, San Francisco is the perfect base to take a couple of wonderful day trips. Sure, you may have already left the city to explore the nearby wine regions, but plenty of possibilities exist on or near the Bay Area.
I’ve listed a couple of possibilities here to get you started on your research. These trips can be done on your own or on a group tour.
San Francisco Day Trip Ideas
- Angel Island: Stunning Angel Island is a hidden gem in San Francisco Bay. Immigrants coming to the West Coast were processed on Angel Island, and now the area is a state park with scenic hiking trails and stunning views.
- Berkeley: This funky university city has a ton of things to see and do. You can spend a weekend in Berkeley, but it’s also an easy and enjoyable day trip from San Francisco.
- Concord: If you love beer, tacos, and amusement parks, then Concord is another delightful trip from San Francisco. I loved my visit in Concord and can’t wait to go back in the future!
- Muir Woods: The most convenient place to see Redwood Trees for visitors in San Francisco. Many organized day tours leave San Francisco each day to Muir Woods, which offers an easy getaway to walk among these majestic old-growth redwood trees. Be prepared to feel awed.
- Sausalito: Located in nearby Marin County, this wealthy and beautiful small town is a great place to go shopping followed by a (splurge) meal at one of the highly rated restaurants. The ferry ride is absolutely lovely too!
I hope this 6 days in San Francisco Itinerary helped you plan your trip to this beautiful and iconic American city. Of course, I welcome suggestions to this post, so feel free to reach out anytime!