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The Best Way To Spend Your First 48 Hours In San Francisco

The Best Way To Spend Your First 48 Hours In San Francisco

48 hours in san francisco

San Francisco is a magnet for people, for energy, for activity; its undeniable entrepreneurial spirit and cultural background draw people from all corners of the world. It’s a dynamo ready to welcome these travellers, so let’s start with the basics – what’s the best way to spend 48 hours in San Francisco?


While it may be best known for its thriving technology sector and monopoly on global engineering talent, the city is also host to a dynamic urban offering, complete with relaxed charm and natural beauty. There’s so much to see – new and old – and so little time. Here’s a certified itinerary for spending two days in San Francisco, guaranteed to get you to the most famous and enjoyable parts of the always-innovative city.

Day one

The Embarcadero

This lively and scenic street is the perfect place to start your sojourn and a fantastic first-location to get your bearings. The boulevard runs all along the San Francisco waterfront – offering a full-frontal view of the Bay Bridge, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Ferry Building

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Keep wandering along the Embarcadero and you’ll stumble across the Ferry Building – (not that you’ll be able to miss it). Located on the foot of Market Street, it offers a bounty of artisan food and wine, showcasing San Francisco’s epicurean offering.

Bonus points if you’re there on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday morning – you’ll bear witness to a thriving farmers market and be able to immerse yourself in the local community. This famous landmark is also central to plenty public transport options to continue your day.

Lombard St

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Make sure your camera has ample battery because this convoluted street is one of the most photographed places in the world. Known for its postcard-pretty flower beds and carefully-driven cars winding down the tight turns, Lombard St is a non-negotiable must.

F-Train Cable Car to City Hall

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If you’ve done any pre-trip googling of San Francisco, there’s a strong likelihood you’ve seen a photo of a cable car – known to us Aussies as a tram. While they might not be such a novelty in Australia, a trip to San Francisco is incomplete without climbing aboard one of these iconic modes of transport.


Take the car down Market Street until it ends on Castro Street – where you’ll be able to enjoy the techni-coloured footpaths and the energy of America’s first gay neighbourhood. (Pro tip: pack layers. The wind can really pick up on those hills.)

Alamo Square Park to Hayes Street

Take a minute to ogle what are affectionately known as the Painted Ladies of Steiner Street – the meticulously manicured Victorian homes that are sitting neatly in a row. (Be prepared for some Full House flashbacks). Wander down to Hayes Street afterwards – home to a bevy of independent boutiques great for shopping. Bring your credit card!

The Mission District, at night

A bar in the trendy Mission District is a great way to end your day of sightseeing. You’ll be spoilt for choice with divey, atmospheric options.

Day two

The Mission District, in the morning.

Visit the Mission District in the morning and see it in a completely new light – literally. Start your day with a sugar hit (perhaps necessary after the previous night) with a pastry and coffee, peruse the murals plastered over the neighbourhood’s walls, and watch the city wake up.

Golden Gate Bridge

Now it’s time to cast your eyes on Francisco’s most impressive and iconic landmark, the 78-year-old structure that attracts tourists in droves year-round: the Golden Gate Bridge.


Depending on your time constraints, you can walk, drive or bike across the orange beauty, each offering a unique perspective and view. Whilst the bridge is undoubtedly a beautiful entryway in to San Francisco year-round – there are instances when the fog can obscure the majestic views (affectionately aka Carl). Be sure to check the forecast before you leave for the day to maximise your visit.

Palace of Fine Arts

This impressive structure stands tall over sprawling lawns perfect for a picnic. From the palace, it’s a quick, kilometre walk to Chestnut Street and Union Street, two very-happening, lively streets packed with restaurants and bars – also where many locals hang out. (Always a sign you’re on the right track).

Last but not least: Alcatraz

Sure, the Alcatraz tour is a big tourist thing. But don’t worry about that. It really is a quintessential San Francisco experience. Set aside your afternoon aside to wander this formidable structure, and you’ll leave rich with knowledge, history, and crazy stories to re-tell over a well-deserved drink.


Now you know what you’ll do with your first 48 hours in San Francisco, dig a little deeper with these best hidden spots in the city.


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(Lead image: Jakob Owens / Unsplash)

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