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48 hours in San Francisco - fit the Bridge, the Bay and the burritos into one weekend

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While the Bay Area region includes an enormous area of land and several cities, San Francisco itself is one of the most compact cities in America, making it perfect for a short visit, with plenty of scope to hop across the Bay to other places too. Here’s the best way to squeeze everything into 48 hours in the city.

Friday

5 p.m. - One of the benefits of San Francisco’s relatively small size is its well-developed public transport system. Whether your flight touches down at San Francisco or Oakland International airport, you’ll immediately be on the grid of BART (the Bay Area Rapid Transport system), which will take you into town for less than $9. Taxis are also available from both airports, but will cost up to $60 depending on traffic.

7 p.m. – Once you’re settled in, head to the center of town to check out one of the city’s prettiest buildings: the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. It’s well worth joining the official tour to get the full story behind the Beaux-Arts architecture. Afterwards, wander downhill towards the towering buildings of the Financial District, making sure to go via the gorgeous Grace Cathedral.

 

9 p.m. – The Tadich Grill is in the heart of the Financial District and is San Francisco’s oldest restaurant. It specializes in seafood - the “Oysters Rockefeller”, shellfish topped with a melted four-cheese blend and fresh spinach, is spectacular. If you feel like a dance afterwards, Public Works is nearby. With a spacious and airy dancefloor, a potent Funktion One sound system and great guest DJs every week, there aren’t many places better to get your groove on.

 

Saturday

9 a.m. - Make sure you’re up early to catch the city’s most famous landmark before the traffic strikes: the Golden Gate Bridge is stunning in the bright morning light. Beware though: San Francisco is famous for its morning fogs, so remember to pack a sweater even in summer.

 

11 a.m. - From the Bridge it isn’t far to San Francisco’s other most popular tourist spots. On your way from the bridge to Fisherman’s Wharf, check out the Palace of Fine Arts if you want a taste of high culture, or the Walt Disney Family Museum across the street if you don’t. From the piers at Fishermans Wharf you can catch boats that take you out across the bay for more stunning views of the bridge, or to Alcatraz.

 

1 p.m. - Head back west via Lombard Street, the famous winding road decorated with colorful flowerbeds, to Golden Gate Park. Here you can find everything from a golf course and a polo field to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens and the California Academy of Sciences.

 

4 p.m. - Also in the park you’ll find the M.H. de Young Museum, packed full of pre-Hispanic art from Central America and Peru; American art from the 17th century to the present day; and a large collection of fashion and textile exhibitions.

 

7 p.m. - A short cab ride from the de Young Museum is the Cliff House restaurant, where you can eat tangy clam chowder with an awe-inspiring view of the Pacific as the sun begins to set over the horizon.

 

9 p.m. - After dinner take a stroll down from Cliff House to Ocean Beach, a quiet spot where you can enjoy the Californian tradition of beach fires and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of one of the sharks that patrol offshore.

 

Sunday

9 a.m. – Another early morning and another great view, this time for Twin Peaks Summit, a spot right in the middle of town with fantastic views over the whole city and back across the bay. It’s well worth the trip up the winding roads – but once again make sure you arrive before the traffic starts to back up.

 

11 a.m. – Descend the trail back down into the Mission district. If you’re feeling energetic you can join a Mission Trail MuralWalk around the areas famous artwork. If you want to relax, head to one of the many cafes around beautiful Mission Dolores Park and sip a hot cappuccino on the grass while enjoying the view.

 

2 p.m. – San Francisco is America’s burrito capital, and you’ll find plenty of places competing to serve you the biggest and best. Two of the city’s finest are in the Mission District too. Take your pick between El Farolito and La Taqueria, just a block apart from each other, both serving the biggest, juiciest, spiciest burritos and tacos in town.

 

4 p.m. – Now’s your chance to walk off your Mexican lunch in the celebrated Castro District, from where Harvey Milk campaigned for gay rights in the 1970s. It’s a great area to just wander around, but the Castro Theatre in particular is worth a look – especially when there’s a film festival on.

 

5 p.m. – The San Francisco Giants baseball team play at AT&T Park, and a day out there is highly recommended even to non-sports fans. The arena is situated right on the shoreline, with fantastic views of the waterfront. Settle down in the sun, and if the action on the field doesn’t grip you, you can just watch the boats slide lazily over the serene blue waters of the bay.

 

If you have more time…

If you end up staying in San Francisco a little longer than 48 hours, or if you just want to explore the Bay Area more, there are plenty of things to do nearby. Oakland, just across the bay, is San Fran’s sister city and has some of the best Asian food in the Bay Area. Try the steamed dumplings at Shanghai Restaurant; or enjoy some surf and turf with a view over Lake Merritt at the Lake Chalet.

 

Head for a drink at Café Van Kleef after dinner - their mouth-wateringly sour Greyhounds are world-renowned. Downtown Oakland is full of bars and clubs that fill up with young professionals and Silicon Valley types on a Friday night, but if you feel like taking it easy go and see a show at the stunningly Art-Deco Paramount Theatre around the corner.

 

College district Berkeley is just a short BART ride from Oakland is also worth a visit. The whole Berkeley area is full of thrift stores and second-hand record stores, while the college campus itself has plenty of scenic buildings. If it’s the right time of year, try and get a ticket to see the College’s California Golden Bears play football at the California Memorial Stadium.

 

If you’re willing to travel a little further, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is full of beautiful trails and is just across the bridge. Further still, Napa Valley and its wineries make a great day trip.

 

Location/contact details:

Day one

San Francisco War Memorial Opera House

San Francisco, CA 94102

 

Grace Cathedral

1100 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

www.gracecathedral.org

(415) 749-6300

 

Tadich Grill

240 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

www.tadichgrill.com

(415) 391-1849

 

Public Works

161 Erie Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

publicsf.com

(415) 496-6738

 

Day two

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, California

www.goldengatebridge.org

(415) 921-5858

 

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

3301 Lyon Street, San Francisco, CA 94123

www.palaceoffinearts.org

(415) 563-6504

 

The Walt Disney Family Museum

104 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94129

waltdisney.org

(415) 345-6800

 

Alcatraz Island

San Francisco, CA 94133

www.nps.gov

(415) 561-4900

 

Lombard Street

Lombard Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

 

San Francisco Botanical Garden

1199 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94122

www.sfbotanicalgarden.org

(415) 661-1316

 

California Academy of Sciences

55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118

www.calacademy.org

(415) 379-8000

 

de Young Museum

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118

deyoung.famsf.org

(415) 750-3600

 

Cliff House

1090 Point Lobos Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121

www.cliffhouse.com

(415) 386-3330

 

Day three

Twin Peaks Summit

501 Twin Peaks Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94114

sfrecpark.org

(415) 831-6331

 

Mission Dolores Park

19th & Dolores St, San Francisco, CA 94114

sfrecpark.org

(415) 554-9521

 

El Farolito

2779 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

www.elfarolitoinc.com

(415) 824-7877

 

La Taqueria

2889 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 285-7117

 

Castro Theatre

429 Castro Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

www.castrotheatre.com

(415) 621-6350

 

AT&T Park

24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107

sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com

(415) 972-2000

Shanghai Restaurant

930 Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94607

(510) 465-6878

 

Other tips

Lake Chalet

1520 Lakeside Drive, Oakland, CA 94612

www.thelakechalet.com

(510) 208-5253

 

Cafe Van Kleef

1621 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612

www.cafevankleef.com

(510) 763-7711

 

The Paramount Theatre

2025 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

www.paramounttheatre.com

(510) 465-6400

 

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA

www.berkeley.edu

(510) 642-6000

 

California Memorial Stadium

210 Stadium Rim Way, Berkeley, CA 94720

stadium.berkeley.edu

(800) 462-3277