Wow, I can’t believe that next month will mark a year since we headed off to San Francisco for the start of our California road trip – I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. I’d planned to blog about each place we visited a long time ago but, with buying a house etc., it’s all been a bit busy! I managed to write about our time in Yosemite and now I’m back on the case and happy to today be sharing with you what we got up to with our 2.5 days in San Francisco.
It’s a jam packed post, but I’ve broken it down into where we stayed, what we did, where we ate and our overall impression – which I hope is useful to you if you’re planning a trip and/or daydreaming about visiting San Francisco. I’ve also added in various photos from our time there.
Where we stayed
The Beresford Arms on Post Street. While the hotel itself felt a little dated, it was comfortable enough for us and we knew we wouldn’t spend a great time of time in it as we’d be out exploring. The hotel is also only a 10 minute walk to Union Square, which has heaps of shops, restaurants and links to other parts of the city – an ideal spot for us.
Where we ate
During our stay we really tried to avoid tourist traps (with a couple of exceptions!) and instead aimed to be guided by Google reviews of local restaurants near where we were staying; with only a couple of days to explore we were exhausted by the evening so local was key for us.
- Breakfast: Mr. Holmes Bakehouse. I’d stumbled across this bakery via Instagram before our trip, so when I found out it was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel I knew we had to pay a visit. The food didn’t disappoint; their offering is really unique and I especially remember how good the pastrami and pesto danish was. While there isn’t any seating inside, it’s a great spot for grabbing breakfast and seemed popular with locals.
- Lunch: Mijita. We walked past this Mexican cafe as we came off the ferry from Sausalito and thought it looked good, so popped back the following day for lunch. We both had a tortas sandwich and a fresh juice and it filled us up nicely. As far as Mexican places go, we both loved this place.
- Afternoon pit stop: Mojo. After visiting the Painted Ladies and with the wind picking up, we popped into Mojo, a bicycle cafe, for a hot drink. The staff couldn’t have been friendlier and we spoke for ages about our trip, with them giving us recommendations. I could’ve spent more time there; the hot chocolate was super tasty too!
- Dinner: The Cheesecake Factory. OK, definitely a tourist trap but we wanted to see what all the fuss was about. This was our very first meal and, incredibly jetlagged, it was nice and local to our hotel – at the top of Macy’s on Union Square. The burger and milkshake we had was so tasty and we couldn’t resist having some cheesecake. Delicious.
- Dinner: Sakana. This was probably our favourite meal during the stay, a low-key sushi restaurant on Post Street. This restaurant had a friendly local feel to it and the staff were incredibly friendly to us. Plus, the food was delicious and just what we’d been after (figuring San Francisco was a good place for sushi) If I ever went back I would definitely pay Sakana another visit.
- Dinner: Sai Jai Thai (they don’t seem to have a website, so I’ve linked to their Trip Advisor page). In our continued quest for local spots (and to avoid just eating burgers, chips etc.) we opted for Thai on our final night and found this restaurant through a Google review. Less than 10 minutes from Beresford Arms, I had Pad Thai here (one of my favourite Thai dishes). Delicious, really tasty food. Very local and definitely no-thrills, the food speaks for itself I’d say.
What we did
With just over two days in San Francisco we knew it was going to be jam packed, but we saw and did loads. Below is an overview of some of the places we visited, though we saw quite a few more places using the City Sightseeing hop on hop off bus pass.
- Hired bikes and rode across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. We caught a tram to take us as far down as we could and came across Blazing Saddles, on Beach Street, where we hired bikes for a few hours. The team guided us on the route to the Golden Gate Bridge and we were off. This was on the very first morning of our trip and is still one of my highlights of those three weeks. The weather was glorious and it was a great experience. We reckon it was about 10 miles we cycled all in all and, had we had time, we definitely would’ve liked to have spent some time in Sausalito – the town you arrive in across the bridge.
- Walked around Fisherman’s Wharf. Between arriving back from Sausalito and catching the ferry to Alcatraz we had a bit of time to walk around Fisherman’s Wharf. I do understand why it’s popular, but it’s a major tourist trap and really wasn’t our kind of place.
- Visited Alcatraz. Part of our package (booked with Flight Centre) included a booking to Alcatraz island and a tour of the old prison. We were told to book before we went, so I’d recommend booking before you go. Alcatraz was certainly an enlightening experience and I’m pleased we went. I had no idea people, including children, lived on the island while the prison was open. I certainly learnt a lot during our visit.
- Used our 48 hour City Sightseeing hop on hop off bus pass. With limited time, this was the perfect way for us to get around the city and see the bits we wouldn’t have time to fully explore (like Japan town). The guides were friendly, funny and told us lots and lots of useful information about the city.
- Walked up Lombard Street (the crooked steps). We got off the hop on hop off bus around North Beach and walked all along Lombard Street to the crooked steps, which we then walked up. Tough going, especially as it was a warm sunny morning, but good to do and there are some gorgeous houses to be spotted as you walk it.
- Visited the Painted Ladies on Alamo Square. Using the bus pass again, we got off the bus around Fell Street and walked over to see the famous row of houses, names the Painted Ladies. It’s a hugely popular area, so much so that tourist buses aren’t allowed to drive there. It’s also on Steiner Street – a reference to Mrs. Doubtfire that made me smile (sadly we didn’t have time to go and see that house). Alamo Square is also home to a patch of grass that a lot of people hang out on, so we took some time out here to enjoy the pretty scenery.
The weather has to be mentioned… San Francisco is odd. One of the tour guides told us to bring clothes for every weather and he wasn’t wrong – in a day it went from being bright blue skies and really warm to cold, windy and having a downpour, before that bright blue sky came out. I struggled with the weather and even went to H&M to buy a big jumper because that bitter cold wind was horrible. But that’s more me being unprepared than anything else.
I’ve also got to say how much we noticed people running and keeping fit – especially with all those hills, kudos to them. I reckon I’d have to join in with them if I lived in San Francisco!
My only wish for San Francisco is that it hadn’t been our first stop of the trip, as I really struggled with jet lag and getting into the swing of the holiday. Those first couple of days felt like a blur and so, for that reason, I’d love to go back to San Francisco one day and spend a good week there exploring all the different areas.
Other places we visited on our road trip
More posts coming soon (I’ll update this page as soon as a new post goes live). If you fancy a look, here’s the map of where we visited on our trip.
If you’re planning a trip to San Francisco, I hope this post is really useful for you. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have too, so drop me a comment below or tweet me and I’ll be pleased to help. Before we went to California I also created a Pinterest board, with lots of ideas of places to visit – so be sure to check that out.
Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good day.