A pretty sweet few days in San Francisco.

I was by myself, in a huge city, with a map and a backpack and a phone and that's about it. It's funny how in an Asian country I would feel totally comfortable with that, but in this vast American city with a culture not a world away from mine, I felt inexplicably lost in the chaos of bikes, clam chowder and steep, steep hills.
I made plenty of mistakes, met amazing people, sang to myself in the streets and came away wondering if I had more days, how I would have spent them.

So: this is my guide on how to jam-pack San Francisco into 3 days and, like the broke student I am, spend very little money...

Here's the backstory. I've been in California most of July and been staying with a friend from university, but she has a life and I want to explore, so I took the hour long train from Sunnyvale (I want to live somewhere with such an amazing place name at some point in my life) into the big city to see it for myself.

From beaches and boardwalks to the big city

I know a lot of people who travel who specifically avoid the tourist attractions because they're always overrun with people pushing to the front to get the best picture, or extortionately overpriced. I found this city to sometimes be like that and decided to avoid visiting Alcatraz, any of the museums or go to Pier 39. I cannot even tell you how grateful I was that I decided to do that. There's a few easy ways to avoid the mobs and still see a lot of the city.

It's a very common thing to do in San Francisco, but I highly recommend hiring a bike. I know this because on the first day I didn't, and I walked 30 KILOMETERS. I AM NOT JOKING. I absolutely love my converse, but after trekking up and down the famously steep hills, I was seriously ready to roll into my tinny hostel bed and never walk out again. That's saying something, because I also wanted to spend as little time in the hostel as possible for obvious reasons (and not touch anything with bare skin - but that's a separate story).

About 15km into my 30km day and still smiling 

Hiring a bike solved all my issues at once - I could sit down all day, see more of the city quickly and dice with death riding on the wrong side of the road, but that's a story for another day. For those who don't want to die/ value their mental state/ aren't used to cars driving on the wrong (right) side of the road, I highly highly HIGHLY recommend hiring a bike near Fisherman's Wharf and not near the ferry terminal. The bike path starts a 1 minute ride from lots of the bike hire shops in Fisherman's Wharf meaning you can start your epic cycle with all limbs still in place - fantastic. For those who like the thrill, make sure your travel insurance covers 'Stupid British Girl cycles on the left hand side of the road in San Francisco and then decides to overtake a bus'.

Once on the bike path, I went from a hazard to myself and literally anyone else in a ten metre radius to about anyone in a 5 metre radius - fantastic also. It's a beautiful path and the views are great provided they're not totally obscured by clouds, but there's not much you can do to prevent that and it's still well worth it. Once actually on the bridge, watch out for the proper cyclists - the ones that have proper bikes and a proper go at anyone who isn't on one. Just get out of their way and there shouldn't be too many problems. Oh, and try not to get blown off your bike, it sounds ridiculous but I saw it happen to some kids as they went round one of the corners and I couldn't afford to damage my pride any further, so got off and walked it round. After 3 hours of cycling I made it to Sausalito in just about one piece, and not facing cycling back up the enormous hill my brakes just squeaked all the way down, I got the ferry from Sausalito port back to San Francisco ferry terminal. It added another element and view of the city, seeing it from a boat and was a nice reward after 2 days of walking and cycling the city.

Safety first kids

Clouds engulfing the bridge, and me

Another great thing about the ferry ride back from Sausalito is you can see Alcatraz on the way, rather than paying 70 ish bucks with a tour company for a boatride and museum in the middle of the sea. The ferry rides across are $12.50, enjoyable and regular. We went right past Alcatraz Island so you get a great view but don't get packed into a cell with hundreds of other tourists, which in my eyes is a bit of a winner!

View of Sausalito from the ferry back to San Francisco

Right that's all the exercise done. No more. For it is time to discuss food. You can take it from me when I tell you I have high standards when it comes to food; I'm not picky but really really enjoy good food. Eating is one of my hobbies. It is what I do. So: for breakfast, get out of the hostel/hotel/friends' living room floor as there is so much on offer (and you don't have to spend a fortune I promise). I'm a large pancake fan (that sentence can be read two ways - I'll let you decide which you prefer) and where else to enjoy them than at one of the city's most famous diners. Go for a classic pancake stack and you can't go wrong! Alternatively, head to Fisherman's Wharf and find Boudin, the home of San Francisco's famous sourdough bread. It's an awesome shop with bread in every shape, and if you look up, fresh bread comes from the factory in baskets attached to a conveyor above your head! I went extravagant and had a turtle loaf. It was the most expensive bread roll possibly on the planet at $4.99 but eating it was worth every. single. penny.

Hands down the best sourdough I've ever eaten, both on taste and aesthetics

If you didn't know anything about me, I'm a Japan obsessive and heading out for a year abroad in September, so like the keen bean I always am, I tried to speak Japanese to as many people as possible and eat as much food as possible. I must have looked bonkers but honestly had the best time exploring what felt like quite an authentic Japanese town, unlike the world famous San Francisco Chinatown, which is just a straight road rather than a little village. I found sweets and other snacks that I haven't ever found outside of Japan so I was on cloud 9! With fresh food being prepared at stalls and plenty of great restaurants and Japanese shops, it's worth the 30 minute walk from Union square without a doubt. I had fresh Takoyaki (Octopus in batter) and it was incredible. It made for a very happy me, and very happy restaurant owners that this little English kid was speaking Japanese (or more likely that I was buying their products, but going to be optimistic).

Japan town had food galore and was worth the walk just for that, but the view wasn't bad either

San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest in North America

I had another first while exploring the city: going to a restaurant by myself. That doesn't sound very noteworthy, but I realised as I was consuming a ramen bigger than my head, that I was at an actual restaurant on my own, just seriously enjoying my food. Usually when I'm travelling alone I'll either get dinner at a stall and walk and eat, or get something at a corner shop etc, as it's way too expensive to go to restaurants every night - especially in this city! However I really enjoyed the experience and Japanese eateries are great places to go alone, because they often sit you on benches squashed up next to one another anyway. Also, when you've got a ramen to demolish, you don't need anyone trying to talk to you because frankly, it just gets very messy!

On activities: I really recommend getting some tickets to a baseball game at the AT&T Park. You can get them from $5 if you don't mind being sat at the back, or about $20 for really decent seats. To be honest, I had no idea what was going on and was there purely for the atmosphere which didn't disappoint. My friend and her parents joined me in the city and forced me to have the famous crab sandwich (I absolutely was not complaining for it was completely spectacular). It was also extortionately priced, but when in San Francisco...

Pretty amazing sunrise over the bay from the stadium

Pretending to understand what is essentially complicated rounders crossed with cricket

A Brit trying to blend in

You've made it to the end and for that, I can only congratulate you. I hope some of what I've suggested/ warned against has been worth your read, I've only written about the highlights and there's easily so much more to do if you've got longer. But for those who are time-tied, all that should set you up for a pretty sweet few days in San Francisco.

If that's not enough, head on over to my instagram for more in depth detail about lots of stops on my trip!

Peace and love fellow travel bunnies xox


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