Last updated on April 4, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in San Francisco

Unique San Francisco itinerary – best 11 daily plans from 1 to 7 days

This guide includes 11 different San Francisco itineraries, ranging from a quick stay of just 1 day to a week-long stay.

They have been designed also to suit different types of visitors, whether it’s a couple, a family with kids, an art lover or an active traveler looking to see as much as possible.

This city does not have one plan that fits all. You could spend an entire month in the Golden City without getting bored with all the opportunities, activities, sights to see and things to do.

I have included morning and afternoon plans for every San Francisco itinerary.

You will find also a few recommendations of cafes and restaurants where you can eat lunch or dinner, along with a few cocktail bars for the evening.

Every San Francisco itinerary can be customized according to your preferences.

Let’s now have a start

You can read also

Best San Francisco itinerary
Best San Francisco itinerary

Best San Francisco Itinerary – In a nutshell

Here down a few quick points. However, keep reading for more detailed information

  • How many days in San Francisco: with seven days, you will have ample time to see several city attractions and plan a day trip or two to one or more destinations in the San Francisco Bay. With proper planning, your five-day itinerary can be jam-packed with sightseeing and you can add even a visit to Treasure Island, the Muir Redwood Forest or Nava Valley. There will be a lot you can do in 3 days, but there may be something you have to give up. A two-day trip to the Golden City will leave you exhausted but happy, although you will not be able to cover all. On a single day trip, focus on just a few iconic spots, and surely you will want to go back for more.
  • San Francisco itinerary in 1 day: While in San Francisco for 24 hours, you should focus on a few iconic places and attractions. You’ll get a good overview of the city with this approach, and hopefully you’ll go back soon for more of it. Read more below on the 1 day San Francisco itinerary, with stops at Pier 39 for the famous sea lions, the popular Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge of course and why not a ferry trip in the San Francisco Bay.
  • San Francisco itinerary in 2 days: I have outlined four itineraries specifically for couples, families with kids, art enthusiasts or with a bit of everything. A playground is not very useful as a suggestion for a romantic couple, is it? There are also a few walks in the plans, such as in Chinatown, the North Beach area, or the Mission, and I’ve included self-guided maps that will make your stay in the Golden City as easy as possible. Again, I would recommend planning your weekend in advance, using these itineraries as a source and/or inspiration. Read below my three options for 2 days in San Francisco
  • San Francisco itinerary in 3 days: you will have a good impression of what it is like San Francisco with 3 days there. Prepare your itinerary in advance to save time once you arrive. While I enjoy exploring contemporary art galleries and modern art museums, there are other options for families and romantic couples. Art lovers should not miss the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMa) and the murals of Mission District, but for a family trip, the interactive Exploratorium is a must see. Read below a detailed daily plan for 3 days in San Francisco with 4 possible options.
  • Itinerary in 4 or 5 days: You can do so much more with 4 or 5 days. Furthermore, you won’t have to rush from one attraction to another. In addition to visiting the city of San Francisco, you will also be able to explore one or more destinations in the bay area, like the Muir Redwood Forest, the Napa and Sonoma Valley, Silicon Valley, and I could keep going. Read below my four options for a San Francisco itinerary in 4-5 days.
  • Itinerary in 7 days: a week may seem like a long stay in any city, but San Francisco isn’t your ordinary city. There are so many things to see and do that no matter whether you travel alone, with your partner, or with your family and children, you will never get bored. Additionally, consider making a few day trips to some destinations in the San Francisco Bay, including Treasure Island, Angel Island, Napa and Sonoma Valley or the nearby Oakland City, just 20 minutes by train from the Golden City. Read more below on 7 days in San Francisco
  • Best area to stay in San Francisco: You can already imagine how things vary depending on the type of holiday you are planning: couples or families, action or relaxation, nightlife or chill out and I could keep going. This San Francisco guide I wrote gives you the best places to stay based on what kind of trip you are planning, with some suggestions for hotels as well as Airbnb.

Here is a Google Map I have organised with all the best San Francisco attractions. Feel free to download/save/share it.

Things to do in San Francisco
Things to do in San Francisco – Check the shared Google Map for all the attractions

San Francisco itinerary for 1 day

Your day in San Francisco will be by the cool waters. You are bound to have a refreshing day. 

Start at Pier 39 to do some shopping, walk around and check out the sea lions. I would recommend visiting the pier in the afternoon if you want to see the sea lions in all their glory.

While at the Pier, check out the Aquarium of the Bay and marvel at the over 20,000 animal species that call this place home.

Touch pools and tunnels will give you a chance to walk among the animals, especially the sharks. 

Keeping exploring Fisherman’s Wharf for some cool places to visit like the Musée Mécanique, Madame Tussaud’s Museum and the Museum of 3D Illusions.

Alcatraz is a must-visit on this tour, and it all starts on a ferry ride to the island. 

If not too keen on a ferry, you can still enjoy scenic views of the bridge and the city from the coastal viewpoints.

Still have some time on your hands?

Try out the cable car ride in town or visit the San Francisco Maritime National Park.

You should check out my guide for 1 day in San Francisco for the comprehensive plan

One day in San Francisco itinerary

One day in San Francisco itinerary
One day in San Francisco itinerary

San Francisco itinerary for 2 days

As a couple, you can start your first day in Chinatown, where you can visit places like the Li Po Cocktail lounge.

Next, you can hit Little Italy and check out the restaurants and Liguria Bakery, such a local icon.

Check out the Coit Tower, the Greenwich steps and then end the day with a boat ride around the bay and Golden Gate Bridge.

On your second day, head to the Mission District to check out old churches like the Misión San Francisco de Asís Church, the Peephole Cinema, Paxton Gate and Pirate Supply Store.

For families, day 1 starts at Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach.

You can also enjoy the scenery on a boat ride around the area.

While at Fisherman’s Wharf, do some shopping, enjoy some fresh seafood and check out the sea lions in their habitat.

Day 2 will take you downtown and to the Golden Gate Park.

You can also visit the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the California Academy of Sciences, the Koret Playground and end your day at the Children’s Creativity Museum.

For art lovers, your day 1 tour will traverse places like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the American Bookbinders Museum and the Asian Art Museum.

On the second day, explore the Mission District, famous for its murals. Head to Balmy Alley and Clarion Street for the best street art.

You will also get a chance to check out old school printing at the Historic Pressroom and Mercantile.

End your day with a luxury dinner dance cruise.

If you want to mix it up, visit places like Walt Disney Museum, the San Francisco Zoo and more attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Check out all the above itineraries, in much more detail, with morning and afternoon activities, in my guide to 2 days in San Francisco

2 days in San Francisco itinerary

San Francisco itinerary 2 days
San Francisco itinerary 2 days

San Francisco itinerary for 3 days

Three days for the couples will be packed with fun and excitement.

Like the 2-day option, you will experience some cultural flavour in Chinatown.

Keep going to Little Italy for delicacies at Liguria Bakery or Piccolo Forno.

The afternoon includes a tour of the Coit Tower, the Greenwich steps and a boat ride around the bay.

Day 2 will be paying homage to art and history with a Mission Street walk.

Aside from the Balmy and Clarion street murals, you can visit the Mission Kitchen for some great food, the Pirate Supply Store and the Peephole Cinema.

Day 3 is all about a bike ride around San Francisco.

Enjoy your meal in Japan Town, head to Golden Gate Park and then end with an evening cruise.

Families will start their day 1 tour in Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, with a boat ride around the Bay.

Day 2 includes visits to the Exploratorium and the Randall Museum.

Kids can play in spots like the Embarcadero Metro Station.

Day 3 can be spent downtown and at the Golden Gate Park.

You will enjoy visits to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the California Academy of Sciences and the Children’s Museum.

Art & culture lovers should not miss a day trip to the wine regions of Napa Valley and Sonoma.

And for a mix of everything, you can also visit the San Francisco Zoo, Treasure Island or the Muir Redwood Forest.

I have organised 4 itineraries, with detailed morning and afternoon activities, that you should check out on my guide to 3 days in San Francisco.

3 days in San Francisco itinerary

3 days San Francisco itinerary
3 days San Francisco itinerary

San Francisco itinerary for 4 or 5 days

The longer you stay in San Francisco, the more gems you will find as you tour around.

Couples should visit places like the Mission District, The Castro (historical LGBTQ neighbourhood), Union Square, Chinatown, Little Italy, Botanical Garden, Golden Gate Bridge and so much more.

You can enjoy a helicopter ride around the bay or take a bike ride.

Add a trip to Napa Valley and Sonoma for some wine tasting, or take a trek at the Muir Redwood Forest.

For families, enjoy a tour of Fisherman’s Wharf, the Exploratorium, Pier 7 and Children’s Creativity Museum.

Spend some time in nature at the San Francisco Zoo with the kids.

On day 4 and 5 enjoy some art and performances at the San Francisco Performing Arts Centre.

There is also the San Francisco Railway Museum for the whole family to enjoy.

And finally, visit the Aquarium of the Bay and Pier 39 for some sea lion viewing and marvel at other aquatic animals.

If you really want to see everything and have a busy time, start off with a helicopter tour of the bay and visit the SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). 

Have a bike ride that passes by a few iconic places like the Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Overview, China Beach, Chinatown, Japantown and Lombard Street.

Check out other destinations in the San Francisco Bay like Treasure Island, Muir Redwood Forest and Silicon Valley.

Don’t worry, we have you covered with this detailed guide to San Francisco in 4 or 5 days, that includes morning and afternoon activities as well as an optional day-experience that you can use to extend your stay.

4 or 5 days in San Francisco itinerary

San Francisco itinerary in 4 or 5 days
San Francisco itinerary in 4 or 5 days

San Francisco itinerary for 7 days

If you are lucky enough to have a week in San Francisco, consider adding 2 or more of the below experiences to one of my 5-day itineraries of the Golden City:

  • spend a day in Oakland City, just 20 minutes away on the BART, visiting the cool neighborhood of Temescal and Rockridge. It is such an easy and free day out.
  • visit Treasure Island, such an interesting new destination of San Francisco, just 15 minutes away from downtown by public transportation.
  • rent an e-bike to make it to Sausalito, on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, and back on a ferry.
  • take a ferry to the Angel Island State Park for a great walk or just some time at the beach in a pristine environment
  • organise a day trip to the magical Monterey Peninsula, south of San Francisco
  • join a tour for a day at the Yosemite National Park, to see impressive waterfalls and unique rock formations. It’s going to be a long day, but totally worth it.

More photos from the San Francisco itinerary

Chinatown - Waverly Street and the Tin How Temple
Chinatown – Waverly Street and the Tin How Temple
Walking in the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco
Walking in the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco
Chnatown - Wandering around the shops
Chinatown – Wandering around the shops
Dragon Gate in Chinatown
Dragon Gate in Chinatown
The iconic tram ride in San Francisco
The iconic tram ride in San Francisco
The famous Sea Lions at Pier 39
The famous Sea Lions at Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf
The Coit Tower, the Art Deco tower in Pioneer Park
The Coit Tower, the Art déco tower in Pioneer Park, next to Little Italy
Wandering around the small lanes of the Mission District
Wandering around the small lanes of the Mission District
The original adobe Mission San Francisco de Asís
The original adobe Mission San Francisco de Asís
Enjoying some tacos
Enjoying some tacos in the Mission
The Painted Ladies and San Francisco skyline at dusk, from Alamo square
The Painted Ladies and San Francisco skyline at dusk, from Alamo square
The Palace Of Fine Arts - Presidio
The Palace Of Fine Arts – Presidio
Walking in the Muir Redwood Forest
Walking in the Muir Redwood Forest
View of Treasure Island and San Francisco in the background
View of Treasure Island and San Francisco in the background
Silicon Valley - Apple Park
Silicon Valley – Apple Park
Outdoor seating and umbrellas at the Clos du Val winery and vineyard in Napa Valley
Outdoor seating and umbrellas at the Clos du Val winery and vineyard in Napa Valley
Domaine Carneros Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma Valley
Domaine Carneros Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma Valley
Downtown Oakland seen from across Lake Merritt
Downtown Oakland seen from across Lake Merritt
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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