The hilly city in the north of California is situated at the fabulous Golden Gate. The open bay and gateway to the Pacific with the imposing Gate Bridge is worth a trip alone. But San Francisco has much more to offer: the cable cars, the colorful Victorian houses, the prison island of Alcatraz, the winding Lombard Street, Chinatown as well as the sea lions on the piers of Fisherman's Wharf.
Start your perfect SF day with a delicious breakfast at Café De La Presse, a 1930s French-style café opposite the main entrance to Chinatown and just five minutes walk from Union Square. After a hearty breakfast, head to San Francisco's world-famous Chinatown, home to an estimated 100,000 people from the Middle Kingdom and other Far Eastern countries. In Chinatown - by the way the largest Chinese quarter outside China - you will find a lot of beautiful wall art, many unique shops and of course many Dim Sum restaurants and Chinese bakeries.
From the Dragon Gate it is only a five minute walk to Union Square, the city's commercial center, where you'll find countless shops, cafes, restaurants and a good place to shop; you're sure to find your favorite shop here.
Time for a break and for lunch I recommend a walk to the water. The beautifully designed Ferry Building used to be San Francisco's main harbour, now it has many shops and great restaurants. In the MarketBar you will surely find something tasty for lunch and on the way to the next sights you can get a refreshing ice cream at Humphry Slocombe.
After lunch we take the bus to Alamo Square, a small park where the Painted Ladies line up, pastel houses in Victorian style. The park is the perfect place to take an authentic San Francisco photo with the city in the background. The Painted Ladies were featured in the intro of the 80's TV show "Full House".
Next stop of the day is Lombard Street. This steep east-west street with its eight hairpin bends is considered the most winding street in the world. From here you also have a breathtaking view over the whole of San Francisco, its bay and its most famous bridge.
To get to the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy another authentic San Francisco experience, get into a Cable Car at Lombard Street and chug towards Fisherman's Wharf. Saddle a bike and ride along the shore to the famous bridge. Unlike cars, you can cycle across the bridge for free. Arriving at the bridge, you have a unique view of Alcatraz Island, the bay and San Francisco in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west.
In the late afternoon a boat trip in the bay is worthwhile itself - either with a large sail boat to the Relaxen or you take the ferry, which brings you to Alcatraz Iceland, a small island in the center of the bay, which served in the years 1934 to 1963 as federal prison for the worst criminals of the country. To this day, nobody has ever been able to escape from prison because of the cold water and the rough currents, but an escape attempt in 1962 is still not considered to have been completely resolved.
Back in the harbour, a visit to the famous sea lion colony in Fisherman's Wharf at Pier 39 is a must during a stay in San Francisco. The animals sunbathe on the floating docks and are not disturbed by the photo-obsessed tourists. Nobody knows why the heavyweight animals have settled so spectacularly close to the city and why the number occasionally fluctuates strongly.
For dinner I recommend the legendary Boudin Bakery not far from Pier 39. The restaurant is known for its sourdough bread, which is used in almost all dishes - from pizza to wraps to delicious sandwiches. If sourdough isn't your thing and you're more into seafood, there are plenty of other restaurants around Fisherman's Wharf where you can finish off your SF evening.
How you get there:
from Zurich in 12h non-stop with SWISS
How long should I go:
3 - 5 days
Best travel time:
Summer, combine with a USA-Westrundtrip
Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf