2 Days in San Francisco: The Perfect Itinerary (First Time Visit)


The Best Itinerary for 2 days in San Francisco (+ Where to Stay)

You’re planning to spend 2 days in San Francisco and you’re looking for the best things to do?

You’re at the right place!

In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared for you the perfect 2-day itinerary in San Francisco.

During your trip, you will discover all must-see attractions of the city such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz island, Lombard Street and a lot more.

In addition to the best places to visit and activities for each stage of your itinerary, I will also give you all my best tips and accommodation suggestions depending on your budget.

So, what are the best places to visit in San Francisco in 2 days? Where to stay?

Let’s find out!

How to save a lot of time at San Francisco’s tourist attractions

As in many touristic cities such as New York, Barcelona or London, the main attractions and museums of San Francisco are often crowded and you should expect to see a long waiting line, no matter what time it is.

Needless to say, when you have planned a 2-day visit to San Francisco, you don’t want to waste your time waiting!

Hopefully, there are 2 very simple ways to avoid this.

Here they are:

1. The San Francisco All inclusive Pass

First option: buy the San Francisco All inclusive pass by Go City.

It’s a great solution to save time and money during your 2-day trip to San Francisco, as it will allow you to access about 30 different activities.

The San Francisco pass will also make your life much easier: it’s 100% digital, so you will just have to present the pass on your smartphone at the entrance of each attraction or activity!

Nothing to print (of course you can still print if you prefer, but it’s not mandatory at all) and no physical card that you can lose: this is another great advantage, especially if you’re like me and always lose stuff 😅.

After booking, you will get an email featuring a digital guide with all the necessary information to do the activities: opening hours, how to get there and if you need to book a timeslot in advance, like for guided tours.

The San Francisco All Inclusive Pass includes:

  • Cruise around Alcatraz Island
  • San Francisco Bay Cruise
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • Fisherman’s wharf walking tour
  • Mission district tour
  • Castro district walking tour
  • Entrance to the museums.

To buy your San Francisco All inclusive pass for your 2 days in San Francisco, simply click on the green button below:

2. Buying tickets in advance for San Francisco’s best tourist attractions

You second option to visit San Francisco in 48 hours and save time is to buy tickets in advance only for the sites you want to visit.

In San Francisco, you can book all the best visits, guided tours and activities online, so it’s very convenient!

For more information and to book your tickets, simply click on the orange links below:

2 Days in San Francisco – Must-See Attractions

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you want to book other activities in San Francisco, you should always use these 2 reliable and safe websites:

One Last Tip for a Perfect 2-Day Stay in San Francisco

If you already know your travel dates (or as soon as you will have them!), you should really book your accommodation.

As San Francisco is one of the most touristic cities in the world, the hotels offering the best value for money are often fully booked months in advance.

As a seasoned traveler, I can assure you that it’s always by planning as far in advance as possible that I’ve found the best hotels or apartments deals.

You agree that it would be a shame to somewhat ruin your stay in San Francisco by ending up in a not-so-great hotel that costed you a fortune, right? 😅

So your best bet is to take 5 minutes now to have a look at traveler’s favorite hotels in San Francisco.

And if you like one of the hotels you find, book it!

It’s fast, it’s easy and most accommodation offer free cancellation. That’s the best way to protect yourself from the inconvenience of finding nothing but mediocre rooms at exorbitant prices.

To check the best hotels deals in San Francisco, simply click on the green button below:

After securing your dream stay, it’s time to continue reading this guide!

The best 2-day itinerary in San Francisco

Let’s now see how to visit San Francisco in 2 days.

For each day, I will give you a detailed itinerary with all the details you need for your visits, along with a map of the city. This will help you optimize your trip and enjoy a stress-free stay in San Francisco.

I assume you’ll be staying 2 full days in San Francisco and that you have purchased the San Francisco All inclusive pass  or skip the line tickets.

This way you will be able to see as many places as possible during your 2 day stay!

If, after reading this guide, you still have questions (or need help organizing your trip), you can ask me in the comments section at the very end of this article.

So, what are the best places to visit in San Francisco in 2 days?

Day 1 of your itinerary in San Francisco – The must sees

4 days in San Francisco Day 1 itinerary
2 Days in San Francisco – Day 1 itinerary

Day 1 visits:

A. Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge
B. Optional: Walt Disney Museum family
C. Alcatraz or San Francisco Bay Cruise
D. Fisherman’s wharf
E. Madame Tussauds or Aquarium of the Bay
F. Lombard street
G. Coit tower
H. Chinatown
I. Ferry Building Marketplace

A. Presidio’s Viewpoints over the Golden Gate Bridge

Your 2 day-trip to San Francisco begins with the city’s most iconic landmark: the Golden Gate Bridge.

Start your day at the Presidio, a former military post turned national park, offering some of the most stunning views of the bridge.

At the Presidio, don’t miss the chance to visit Battery East Vista, where you can capture postcard-perfect shots of the Golden Gate.

For a unique perspective, also head to Crissy Field and stroll along the shoreline with the bridge towering in the background.

There also other viewpoints like Fort Point, Marshall’s Beach and Baker Beach, each of them offers unique angle of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you’re driving, remember to check for parking options in advance as spots near popular viewpoints can fill up quickly and arrive early to avoid the crowds.

Golden Gate bridge from Presidio of San Francisco
Golden Gate bridge from Presidio of San Francisco

B. Optional Visit: Walt Disney Family Museum

For those interested in animation and film history, the Walt Disney Family Museum* is a must-visit.

Located in the Presidio, this museum offers a deep dive into the life and legacy of Walt Disney, showcasing early drawings, animations, and rare artifacts.

You’ll discover the story behind the man who created Mickey Mouse and Disneyland, so if you’re a Disney fan, you will really enjoy the visit!

Voyage Tips - Advice

You need book to book your skip the line ticket to Walkt Disney museum by clicking on the button below:

*Note that the entrance to the Walt Disney Family Museum is included with the San Francisco All inclusive pass.

C. Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts is the next stop on your 2-day stay in San Francisco.

This architectural marvel, originally built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, is actually my favorite monument in San Francisco!

It’s a perfect spot for leisurely walks and photography, with the massive rotunda and colonnades reflecting beautifully on the lake.

The Palace of Fine Arts is also a hub for art exhibitions and cultural events, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts.

Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco
Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco

D. Alcatraz island or San Francisco Bay Cruise

You can’t visit San Francisco in 2 days without seeing one of the city’s most famous place: Alcatraz island.

Depending if you want to visit the Prison or not, you have 2 options:

Alcatraz Island offers a glimpse into a unique piece of history. Once a notorious federal prison, Alcatraz is now a national park.

The audio tour of the cell house is a must-do, providing an immersive experience into the lives of inmates and guards.

Remember, tickets to Alcatraz often sell out quickly, so you really need to book in advance!

The ticket includes the return ferry ticket + entrance to Alcatraz + audio guide to the prison and needs to be purchased by clicking on the green button below:

Please note that the entrance to Alcatraz isn’t included in the San Francisco pass.

Alternatively, if you want to use your San Francisco pass and see Alcatraz (but you won’t disembark from the boat to visit the prison), you can opt for a cruise.

2 boats tour are included: “Escape from the Rock” or the “San Francisco Bay Cruise”.

It offers a relaxing way to enjoy San Francisco’s skyline, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the city’s waterfront.

And don’t worry if you don’t have the pass, you can also do this boat tour. You just have to click on the button below to book it in advance:

And for a more romantic and VIP experience, you can also do the San Francisco Bay cruise on a catamaran. Click here for more information and to book!

Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island

E. Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39

After your morning adventures, it’s time to refuel with a delicious lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf.

This bustling area is known for its variety of dining options, ranging from casual seafood stalls to upscale restaurants.

You should definitely try the famous San Francisco clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl, a local favorite!

After lunch, enjoy a leisurely walk along Pier 39.

This popular tourist spot is not just about shopping and dining; it’s a place full of street performers, unique shops, and the famous sea lions lounging on the docks.

The lively atmosphere here perfectly captures the essence of San Francisco’s waterfront.

Don’t forget to visit the end of the pier for a stunning view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Pier 39 San Francisco sea lions
Pier 39 San Francisco sea lions

F. Visit Madame Tussauds Museum or the Aquarium of the Bay

Next, you can choose between 2 attractions: the Madame Tussauds Museum or the Aquarium of the Bay.

Both attractions are located at Fisherman’s Wharf, making them easily accessible and a convenient choice for your afternoon itinerary.

At Madame Tussauds, get up close with wax figures of celebrities, historical figures, and sports stars.

It’s a fun and interactive experience, offering plenty of photo opportunities.

Alternatively, you can go to Aquarium of the Bay to learn more about the marine life of San Francisco Bay.

Walk through the glass tunnels surrounded by sharks, rays, and hundreds of fish. It’s an educational and good activity, especially for families with children.

Voyage Tips - Advice

Both of these attractions are included in the San Francisco All inclusive pass.

If you don’t have it, you need to purchase tickets online in advance for either attraction to avoid long lines and potentially save on admission fees:

G. Lombard Street

As the day progresses, make your way to the iconic Lombard Street, known as the “crookedest street in the world”.

This unique street, with its sharp curves and beautiful flower beds, is the most famous street of San Francisco.

Walking up and down this famous hill offers provides picturesque views of the city, but the best spot for photos is from the bottom, looking up.

lombard street San Francisco
lombard street San Francisco

H. The Coit Tower

Your next stop is the Coit Tower.

Perched atop Telegraph Hill, this tower offers panoramic views of San Francisco and the bay.

Inside the tower, don’t miss the murals painted in the 1930s, depicting scenes of California life during that era.

Entry to the Coit Tower’s base and its murals is free, but there’s a small fee to go up to the observation deck. The view is definitely worth the price!

Coit Tower San Francisco
Coit Tower San Francisco

I. Chinatown

As the end of the afternoon approaches, you should head to San Francisco’s Chinatown.

This vibrant neighborhood, one of the oldest and most established Chinatowns in the U.S., is a melting pot of culture, history, and delicious cuisine.

Stroll along its bustling streets lined with colorful shops, authentic Chinese restaurants, and historic landmarks.

Make sure to go see the Dragon’s Gate, the famous entrance to Chinatown at Grant Avenue and Bush Street.

Inside Chinatown, you can explore herbal shops, try one of the tea houses or dim sum restaurants. I really loved finding authentic Chinese dumplings (that reminded me my trips to China!) and some bubble tea as I wandered through the neighborhood.

And for a unique souvenir, visit one of the local shops selling traditional Chinese crafts and goods.

Voyage Tips - Advice

To make sure you don’t miss anything of Chinatown, you should take this guided walking tour:

Chinatown San Francisco
Chinatown San Francisco

J. Ferry Building Marketplace

To conclude your first day, head to the Ferry Building Marketplace for dinner.

This historic building, located along the Embarcadero, is a haven for food lovers. It houses a variety of artisanal food vendors, gourmet restaurants, and specialty shops.

Whether you’re in the mood for cuisine with fresh farm produce, seafood, or international dishes, the Marketplace has it all.

You will love to enjoy your meal with views of the Bay Bridge and the bustling waterfront!

It’s also a great place to pick up gourmet gifts and souvenirs.

Ferry Building Marketplace San Francisco
Ferry Building Marketplace San Francisco

Day 2 of your weekend in San Francisco – What to do and see?

4 days in San Francisco Day 2 itinerary
2 days in San Francisco – Day 2 itinerary

Day 2 visits:

A. Golden Gate Park
B. De Young Museum or California Academy of Sciences
C. Haight Ashbury Ditrict
D. The Painted Ladies
E. The Mission district
F. Castro district
G. San Francisco Museum of modern art
H. Union Square

A. Golden Gate Park

Your 2-day itinerary in San Francisco continues with a visit to the Golden Gate Park.

This urban oasis is larger than New York’s Central Park and is filled with gardens, museums, and hidden gems. Start your morning with a leisurely stroll or a bike ride through the park’s scenic paths.

Golden Gate Park is huge, so it’s a good idea to plan which areas you want to explore in advance or rent a bike to cover more ground.

And if you want to do a fun activity, you should book this 2h30 guided tour of the park by segway (click here!)!

In my opinion, you should really see the Conservatory of Flowers or the Japanese Tea Garden, where you can enjoy some tranquility amidst beautiful landscapes.

The park also offers a variety of activities and attractions, including paddle boats on Stow Lake and the picturesque Dutch Windmill.

Golden Gate Park Japanese tea garden
Golden Gate Park Japanese tea garden

B. Optional: de Young Museum or the California Academy of Sciences

While in Golden Gate Park, you can visit one of its renowned museums.

The de Young Museum is perfect for art lovers, featuring an impressive collection of American art, as well as art from Africa, Oceania, and South America.

The museum’s architecture and observation tower, offering panoramic views of the park and city, are also not to be missed.

Alternatively, the California Academy of Sciences is a must-see during your 2 days in San Francisco if you are interested in science or traveling with kids.

This unique facility houses an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and a living rainforest.

Voyage Tips - Advice

Entrance for both of these museums are included in the San Francisco All-inclusive pass by Go City.

If you don’t want to take the pass, you need to buy tickets online for the museums:

C. The Haight-Ashbury District

Next, you can continue your 2-day visit of San Francisco in the historic Haight-Ashbury district.

Famous for being the heart of the 1960s counterculture (hippie) movement, this neighborhood is a fascinating mix of vintage clothing stores, eclectic bookshops, and unique eateries.

Strolling through the streets, you’ll witness the iconic Victorian homes and psychedelic murals that capture the spirit of the Summer of Love.

Be sure to visit some of the local vintage stores for a unique shopping experience and don’t miss Amoeba Music, one of the largest independent record stores in the world, where you can find rare vinyl and CDs.

Haight Ashbury District San Francisco
Haight Ashbury District San Francisco

D. The Painted Ladies and Alamo Square

After exploring Haight-Ashbury, make your way to the nearby Painted Ladies, the row of Victorian houses famously featured in the opening credits of the TV show “Full House”.

Located opposite Alamo Square, these houses perfectly represent San Francisco’s architectural charm.

For the best photos, you should go to Alamo Square, a popular spot among locals and tourists alike, and the perfect place to photograph the Painted Ladies with the modern city in the background.

With the San Francisco All-inclusive pass by Go City, you can enjoy a guided walking tour around Alamo Square.

Painted Ladies of Alamo Square
Painted Ladies of Alamo Square – 2 days in San Francisco

E. Mission District

Your next destination is Mission District, renowned for its colorful street art and murals.

This neighborhood, the home of Latin American culture in S.F, reveals an ever-changing gallery of murals, especially along Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley.

And if you want a better understanding of what you see, you should join a guided tour. You have 2 options: the one includes in the San Franciso All inclusive pass, or if you don’t have the pass, you can book your walking tour by clicking here!

The district is also home to some of the city’s best eateries. For an authentic Mission experience, you should try some local cuisine, such as a burrito from one of the many taquerias.

Mission District Murals
Mission District Murals

F. Walk Along Castro District

Continue your walking tour of San Francisco with a visit to the Castro District, known as one of the most prominent symbols of LGBTQ+ activism in the world.

The neighborhood is full of history, with rainbow flags proudly displayed along the streets.

Explore the Castro Theatre, a historic movie palace known for its concerts and classic film showings.

If you want to learn more about the history of the LGBTQ+ community in San Francisco and beyond, you should visit the GLBT Historical Society Museum

The streets of Castro are lined with shops and lively bars, creating a welcoming atmosphere for all visitors.

The San Francisco Pass includes a guided tour of the Castro. It’s a great activity to do during your weekend in San Francisco!

Castro District san francisco
Castro District – San Francisco

G. Optional: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

If you’re interested in art, you should consider adding the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) to your itinerary.

SFMOMA, with its striking architecture and impressive collection of contemporary and modern art, showcases works from artists around the globe, spanning various mediums and styles.

And don’t miss the sculpture garden for a moment of tranquility.

Admission is included with the San Franciso All inclusive pass. As usual, if you don’t have the city pass, the best is to book your entrance tickets here!

H. Shopping and Dining at Union Square

You should conclude your second and last day in San Francisco with a visit to Union Square, the city’s main shopping, dining, and entertainment district.

This area is home to a wide array of retail stores, from high-end boutiques to popular department stores.

After shopping, enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants surrounding the square. You can find dishes from all over the worlds, so I am sure you will find something that suits your taste!

Union Square is also known for its lively atmosphere, with street performers and artists frequently showcasing their talents.

You now know how to visit San Francisco in 2 days! Spend one last night at your hotel before your flight home the next day.

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you’re visiting during the winter’s holiday season, there will be festive decorations and the ice-skating rink in Union Square.

Union Square San Francisco
Union Square San Francisco

Where to stay in San Francisco

Last but not least, you’ll also need to know where to stay during your weekend in San Francisco!

In order to help you out, I have selected for you the best hotels in San Francisco, depending on your budget.

Simply click on the names of the hotels in orange to check the price for your travel dates.

And as always, to get the best prices, you should book your hotel as early as possible. 

Here is my selection of the best hotels to stay in San Francisco:

  • HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel: Youth hostel located in Union Square. Beds in dormitories from €50. Strong points: location, warm welcome, friendly atmosphere. An excellent choice for cheap accomodation in San Francisco!
  • Grant Hotel: Located 5 minutes’ walk from Union Square. Rooms are decorated in a slightly old-fashioned style but are spacious and clean from €105 per night. Strong points: location, free coffee and biscuits, friendly staff.
  • Greenwich Inn: Located between Presidio Park and Fisherman’s Wharf. Double room from €150 per night. Strong points: free parking, warm welcome, spacious room, plenty of restaurants in the area.
  • Handlery Union Square Hotel: Located in Union Square. Very spacious and comfortable double room with large windows from €210. Strong points: outdoor swimming pool, perfect for visiting San Francisco, comfortable beds.
  • Riu Plaza Fisherman’s Wharf: Located in Fisherman’s wharf. Modern, comfortable double room from €270, breakfast included. Strong points: outdoor swimming pool, location, good breakfast, very helpful staff.
  • Hotel Nikko San Francisco: Located in Union Square, this 5-star hotel offers tastefully decorated rooms from €500. Strong points: indoor pool, spa, attentive staff, design, valet parking.
View on the Golden Gate from Baker beach
View on the Golden Gate from Baker beach

Visit San Francisco in 2 days with your family

Is this 2-day itinerary in San Francisco suitable for a family trip?

The answer is yes!

You can totally follow this itinerary in San Francisco with children.

Other places to visit during your 2 days in San Francisco

If you want to organize your own 2-day itinerary in San Francisco or simply add a few activities or guided tours, you should definitely read my article dedicated to the city.

In this guide, you will learn everything about the best places to visit.

Simply click on the following link to read it: The 27 best things to do in San Francisco.

Map of your 2-day itinerary in San Francisco

To help you visualize your daily itineraries during your 2 days in San Francisco, I have created this map with all the places to visit day by day. You can view the map’s legend by clicking on the top left button, the one with a little arrow.

You can thus see the suggested itineraries for each day.

Flight prices to San Francisco

As always, you should book your plane tickets as early as possible to get the best prices.

To check the rates and schedules for flights to San Francisco, you can use our flight comparator, in partnership with Skyscanner:

Need help planning your 2 days San Francisco itinerary?

Don’t hesitate to ask me your questions in the comments section below, I will be happy to help you plan your stay.

Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in the US? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about USA: All my articles to help you plan your trip to USA are listed there.

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Best places to visit in San Francisco in 2 days
Best places to visit in San Francisco in 2 days

Creator of the Voyage Tips blog, travel and photography lover. I give you all my best tips to plan your next trip.

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