48 Hours to Explore in San Francisco

Exploring San Francisco’s expansive culture and scenery may seem daunting, since you’ll be immersed in all things NPC19.

If you have 48 hours (or less), let this serve as your guide to the Golden Gate City.

Day One: Golden Gate and Chinatown

Kick off your tour by getting over to the landmark Golden Gate Bridge. No matter your method of transportation, this is the most photographed bridge in the world, and you’re guaranteed to marvel at its views and timeless architecture. One of the most common lookout spots is at Fort Baker.

Next, head across the bridge to Golden Gate Park. You can spend most of your afternoon marveling at the gardens, museums and recreation areas. With sand dunes scattering the 1,000-plus acre landscape, it is said that John McLaren, horticulturist of the park, “carved out an oasis — a verdant, horticulturally diverse, and picturesque public space where city dwellers can relax and reconnect with the natural world.”

For dinner, wrap up your day in the oldest known Chinatown in North America. This location attracts more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge!


When possible, take the city’s train system, BART. It’s recognized as one of the top public transit options in the United States.

Day Two: Neighborhoods and Cable Cars

Continue your exploration by visiting several of the expansive neighborhoods this city has to offer.

San Francisco is known for its steep hills, but Lombard Street (between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets) is even more unique, long hailed as one of America’s crookedest streets. It is a steep, one-block section, with eight sharp turns.

Be sure to fit in a landmark cable car ride — which stops on Hyde Street, providing a two-birds, one-stone travel opportunity! And, to better broaden your knowledge and discover even more about cable cars, the Cable Car Museum is a great resource for planners to learn about transit challenges and successes within the city, spanning across its 243-year history.

When you think of San Francisco, chances are, one of the images that comes to mind is the picturesque view from the 1990s TV show, Full House. Believe it or not, you aren’t alone — the locals know this, and have mixed feelings about it. The excessive flow of tourists to this escalating formation of Victorian houses — nicknamed the Painted Ladies — with its beautiful downtown skyscraper backdrop has become a neighborhood nuisance to some residents. 

An alternative, we suggest you check out this great list of more than 15 San Francisco places to visit — in order to quench your tourism sweet-tooth.

Finally, head to Fisherman’s Wharf to explore, grab dinner, and to see the sea lions at the Pier 39 K-Dock. Located alongside the Golden Gate Bridge, the wharf is another classic, but necessary, tourist stop. 

More Top Spots of Interest

If you have time, feel free to add in (or swap out) some of these additional San Francisco hotspots.

Want Even More?

If you’d like additional recommendations, including specific restaurants and drink spots, local planners have curated a city guide for you. Zoom in on the map to view spots by location.

We hope San Francisco will be a highlight for you this month!

Top image: Watercolor of activities around the Golden Gate Bridge. Illustration by Tanom/Getty Images.

About the Author
Stephanie Bickel is a marketing associate at APA.

April 2, 2019

By Stephanie Arteaga