One Day in San Francisco Itinerary – How to Spend a Perfect Day in San Francisco, California

San Francisco, one of the most vibrant, diverse and beautiful cities in the world. It is known for its famous postcard views, Mediterranean climate, beautiful estuary, and trending fashion. The city itself is a county and is the smallest county in the state of California. It is one of the most populated cities and a major tourist location, which in turn leads to traffic on the streets. However, the beauty of the bay and the iconic locations within the city attract more and more travel lovers here.

One day in San Francisco Itinerary

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What’s the best time to visit San Francisco?

The best time to visit San Francisco is from March through May when the weather is warm with temperatures in the mid 60s. If you prefer warmer climate, schedule your visit around October-November as this is when the temperature is warmer than the rest of the year. The evenings tend to be chilly regardless of what time of the year it is, due to the city’s proximity to the bay.

What’s good to know about San Francisco?

Located on the northern end of California, San Francisco is surrounded by the bay to the north and east, and Pacific Ocean to its west. This peninsula is only 7 miles wide, and that makes it an ideal place to add to your one day itinerary.

Streets of San Francisco
Streets of San Francisco, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

One Day in San Francisco Itinerary

Store your luggage: LuggageHero allows you to store your luggage for as long as you want to. If you are there only for a day, or waiting for a check-in, this sounds like a perfect option!

Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in San Francisco.

Start your day at the Japanese Tea Garden

The best way to start your morning is to take a stroll through the Japanese Tea Garden and have a hot cup of tea from the Tea House, which is located at the center. The Japanese Tea Garden is enveloped by serene ponds with lively fish and contains Japanese architecture such as the temple gate, pagoda, Drum Bridge and the tranquil Zen garden.

Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco
Japanese Tea Garden, Author: John Martinez Pavliga, Source: Flickr

Take a selfie at Mosaic Stairs

The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, located in a residential neighborhood, is a hidden gem. This colorful stairway of 163 steps is not only a good background for your pictures, but the top of the stairs will provide you with a scenic view of the city and the bay.

Shop around Union Square

Union Square is one of the most popular tourist destinations and a historical landmark. With its major retailers, boutiques and gift shops, Union Square attracts a large number of tourists as it is a retail and a cultural hub. To avoid the crowd, it is advisable to visit it during the morning hours. Union Square is home to a variety of restaurants, bars and lounges. If you want to have some great food and a cocktail on the side, check out John’s Grill located at 63 Ellis Street.

Union Square, San Francisco
Union Square, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

Take a ride on the cable car

After a fulfilling lunch in one of Union Square restaurants, you can take a ride on San Francisco’s famous cable car. Powell and Market Street, located near Union Square, is the first stop of the two cable car routes – Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde. Get on the cable car and enjoy the short ride with a little history narrated by the conductor. The Powell-Hyde offers the best views of the ocean and is identical to the Powell-Mason line for a few blocks.

Cable Car, San Francisco
Cable Car, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

Watch the view and walk down the stairs of the Lombard Street

Powell-Hyde Cable car line stops a block away from the world famous Lombard Street. It is famous for its curves and of course the most beautiful view. The street is lively, mansions are gorgeous and the curves are decorated with beautiful flowers and green plants. If you are scared to drive down the street, there is a walkway on the sides for you to walk down and enjoy the beauty of this street from the bottom.

Lombard Street, San Francisco
Lombard Street, Author: Allie_Caulfield, Source: Flickr

Golden Gate Bridge

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge, one of the ‘Wonders of the Modern World’, should not be missed on your visit to San Francisco. The best time to photograph the bridge is in the evening when the legendary fog settles on it. The red color of the bridge is enhanced during that time. And if you are lucky, you can observe the most famous foggy sunset.

Golden Gate Bridge in Dusk, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge in Dusk, Author: Jun Seita, Source: Flickr

There are many locations that offer a perfect view of the bridge, but the most popular one is at Battery Spencer. Keep in mind, as this is the most popular bridge, that there will be heavy traffic along the way and at the location. The crowd comes and goes, so be patient and you will get your chance. If you’d like to take a walk on the bridge, it takes approximately 30 minutes in one way.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

Dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf

After soaking in the beauty of the bridge, the best way to end the day is with dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf. It is a waterfront area at Pier 39 with seafood restaurants, souvenir shops and some hustle bustle. Check out Neptune’s Waterfront Grill and Bar for a scenic view of the Golden Gate Bridge to go along with your dinner.

Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco
Fisherman’s Wharf, Author: Vincent Lock, Source: Flickr

Where to stay in San Francisco?

Downtown area

Grand Hyatt San Francisco Union Square

Grand Hyatt San Francisco Union Square

345 Stockton Street, Union Square, San Francisco

Grand Hyatt San Francisco is an ultimate 5-star luxury experience, located at the very heart of the city, in Union Square. The hotel offers magnificent views of the city skyline and San Francisco Bay. The modern guestrooms and suites highlight residential style amenities and state-of-the-art technology.


Chancellor Hotel on Union Square

Chancellor Hotel on Union Square

433 Powell Street, Union Square, San Francisco

The Chancellor Hotel is a 3-star hotel in Union Square, on the Powell Street Cable Car Line. With its 137 rooms, this is a perfect choice for those who seek a modern, stylish and super comfortable stay.


HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel

HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel

312 Mason Street, Union Square, San Francisco

Centrally located, HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel features a theater room, guest lounge or media room and a fully equipped self-serve kitchen. Each bright room showcases large windows and is decorated in cool tones and modern furnishings.


Fisherman’s Wharf

Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco

Hyatt Centric Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco

555 North Point Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

Hyatt Centric Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco offers exclusive and luxury stay in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. The hotel features 316 spacious rooms styled in modern décor with stunning views of San Francisco, a heated outdoor pool and spa, and an onsite restaurant. It is an ideal hotel for both travelers and locals alike.


HI San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Hostel

HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel

240 Fort Mason, Marina District, San Francisco

Housed in historic buildings, HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel offers both shared dorms and private rooms. Common areas include a spacious guest lounge, theater TV room, self-serve kitchen, an outdoor deck and the on-site cafe with the beautiful bay views. The hostel staff host daily activities including walking and biking tours, pub crawls, dinners and movies.


Extra tips for visiting San Francisco

– The best way to explore the city is by bike or public transport. If you are planning on renting a car, just a reminder that parking spots are pretty sparse and that you will spend half of the time trying to find one.

– Don’t forget to carry a sweater/jacket or long sleeve clothing. The weather is pretty windy and can feel a bit colder than the actual temperature, especially closer to the bay.

Pin for later!

Best of San Francisco, California - What to do and where to stayA complete one day itinerary for San Francisco, California

If you have any other propositions for this One Day in San Francisco Itinerary feel free to share it in the comments below!

Make sure you have everything you need

What to pack for your next trip?

Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.

Laya Alias
Laya Alias
Travel Blogger at Travel Formula

Elizalaya has a great passion for travelling to new places and learning about different cultures. Amidst of her career as an engineer, she finds time for travelling, dancing and blogging. For more information on Elizalaya please visit

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