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w san francisco travel weekly

W San Francisco

SoMa, San Francisco, California, United States

  • Full Review
  • Hip ambience (curated music, trendy design)
  • Lively lobby bar
  • Bright, design-conscious, features-packed rooms
  • Close to Moscone Convention Center, SFMoMA, and other art district destinations
  • 24-hour gym with a futuristic design
  • Pet-friendly
  • No family-oriented amenities
  • Area is dead at night
  • Fee for in-room Wi-Fi (but free in lobby)

Bottom Line

An outpost of the generally solid "lifestyle"-focused chain, the 404-room W San Francisco in the SoMa art district offers a fun vibe in a whimsical, stylish setting. But despite efforts to seem boutique-y, the W is still a big, national chain at the end of the day, and the approach is less about personal touches than overall atmosphere. Scenesters could also try Hotel Zetta San Francisco , a trendy boutique with free property-wide Wi-Fi (the W only offers free Wi-Fi in the lobby).

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Pets allowed, oyster awards.

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Oyster Hotel Review

Sleek and high-style chain hotel .

w san francisco travel weekly

Starwood's W franchise is a brand intent on bringing a hip, hyper-sleek boutique approach to the masses. In the years since the San Francisco outpost opened its doors in the arts district of SoMa, the 404-room property has shaken off some of its clubby, too-cool pedigree and taken on a more laid-back Californian vibe. Of course, calculated trendiness is still very much at play here, from the subtle, seasonal fragrances that infuse the lobby and elevators to the well-curated indie-pop tunes that pump throughout the public spaces. The mood-lit Living Room bar is a hot spot for guests chatting on cell phones and typing furiously on laptops (presumably availing themselves of the Wi-Fi, which is free in the lobby, but not in the rooms). The three-story space houses a working fireplace and a 27-foot LED light sculpture, made from surfboard resin, glitter, and fiber-optic strands.

Room style is in the same playful, design-conscious vein. The signature, pillow-topped W beds -- accompanied by goose-down duvets and an optional and extensive pillow menu -- are excellent, and the big bathrooms come with a six-piece set of Bliss toiletries (Bliss Spa is located on the hotel's 4th floor).

If it's boutique character you're after, there are plenty of other options available at every price point, from the budget-friendly GOOD Hotel to the pricier Clift or Hotel Triton in the nearby Union Square area.

This corner of San Fransisco's SoMa arts district is quiet by day and barren at night

Smack dab in the middle of the SoMa arts district, the W is a culture vulture's dream. It shares a block with the SFMoMA and is a five-minute walk from the Museum of the African Diaspora and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It's across the street from the Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center and Gardens and catty-corner from Moscone Convention Center.

The neighboring blocks were until recently derelict buildings but, despite the economic downturn, have seen a profusion of new high-rises condos and corporate offices within a four-block radius. They're now (somewhat sparsely) populated with tourists, students from the nearby Academy of Arts University, and area desk jockeys during the day -- but on weeknights it's a ghost town. Thirsty revelers willing to hoof it a bit will find a suitable array of nightlife options -- including the rock bar New Wave City and gallery-cum-club 111 Minna.

  • Two blocks from main thoroughfare of Market Street
  • Adjacent to Moscone Convention Center
  • Next to SFMoMa
  • Across the street from Yerba Buena Gardens and Performing Arts Center
  • Short walk to Contemporary Jewish Museum and Museum of the African Diaspora
  • No cable cars run through SoMa; to catch the closest stop -- the Powell line -- requires a 10 minute walk down Market Street
  • Two miles to Fisherman's Wharf
  • One mile to AT&T Park
  • Four miles to Golden Gate Park
  • Half-mile to Union Square
  • Cab ride to SFO airport is approximately 40 minutes

Bright and cheery rooms with fun-loving, mod-leaning style

As to be expected, the airy, light-filled rooms score pretty high on the style scale, with fun design touches. Decor aside, the rooms also don some really great features: enormous desks, 32-inch plasma flat-screen HDTVs with on-demand movies and Sony DVD players, iPod Shuffles (some lucky guests might get a Tivoli radio in their room), Keurig coffeemakers, feather-topped beds, and cotton waffle-weave robes, to name a few. Some rooms have views of the SoMa district and Bay Bridge. Comprehensive minibars offer everything from Kind bars and Pop chips to red wine and whiskey to ear buds and intimacy kits. A DVD lending library is available through the hotel's Whatever/Whenever concierge service.

Signature W beds are firm but comfy and boast fluffy goose-down comforters and an exhaustive array of pillow options via the trademark Pillow Menu (which offers a choice of body pillow, neckroll, firm foam PrimaLoft, or 100 percent down feather pillows). They claim to have 350-thread-count sheets; unfortunately, they felt pretty rough on the skin and appeared to have ink stains on them. Bathrooms have cream-colored tile walls and floors, shower/tub combos, and sets of six Bliss bath products. There is a daily charge for Wi-Fi in the rooms (which is free in the lobby and Living Room bar).

A laundry-list of hip amenities is not without a few flaws, but is generally impressive

w san francisco travel weekly

The moody Living Room bar is a chic environment for drinking, people-watching, and taking advantage of free Wi-Fi (which costs a fee in the rooms). The 24-hour gym, FIT, was renovated in 2014 and is housed in a sleek, spaceship-like space. Modern cardio and strength training machines are under an overhead skylight and color-changing light fixtures are designed to amp up workouts, but some guests gripe about the gym's lack of Wi-Fi. FIT is free, and yoga and Pilates classes and personal-training sessions can be arranged for a fee. The look and feel of the 4th-floor, 5,000-square-foot Bliss Spa -- which has garnered local awards -- seems disproportionately stale compared to the futuristic-looking gym. Guest rooms all come with the Bliss Spa menu, but it's wise to plan ahead and book a treatment in advance, as the hotel's BIP (Bliss Important Person) service doesn't guarantee you'll nab an appointment.

Trace, the hotel's upscale eatery, is influenced by the sustainability movement and focused on bringing locally sourced food to the table. Its breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch menus are based in part on seasonal availability. If that makes you envision a simple farm-to-table spot with a charmingly rustic atmosphere, scratch that. Decor-wise, Trace is true to the W brand, with gray carpeting, black-and-purple walls, and contemporary furniture. The Living Room's award-winning wine list features over 200 organic or biodynamic wines, and all coffee served is organic. 24-hour room service is available.

When guests with pets check in, the hotel's P.A.W. (Pets Are Welcome) pet concierge provides a pet toy, treat, W Hotels pet tag, bags, and a pamphlet detailing pet-related services (like dog-sitting and grooming). In the rooms, pet owners will find a bed and bowls for food and water; pets also receive turndown treats.

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Things You Should Know About W San Francisco

Also known as.

  • w Hotel San Francisco
  • w Hotels San Francisco
  • Cool Corner Room
  • Extreme Wow Suite
  • Fabulous Room
  • Fantastic Suite
  • Spectacular Room
  • Wonderful Room

181 3rd Street, San Francisco, California 94103, United States

(415) 777-5300

Air Conditioner

Airport transportation, basic television, business center, dry cleaning, kids allowed, meeting / conference rooms, mini bar (with liquor), poolside drink service, rental car service desk onsite, room service, separate bedroom / living room space.

Disclaimer: This content was accurate at the time the hotel was reviewed. Please check our partner sites when booking to verify that details are still correct.

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W San Francisco

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W San Francisco Hotel Review

W SAN FRANCISCO HOTEL REVIEW

You could not have more contrasts going from the antiquity of Nob Hill and the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins , to the funked-up modernity of the W Hotel San Francisco. From the staid and sedate, to the artsy and uber cool.

I have experienced my fair share of edgy and cutting edge hotels around the globe, yet this time, I didn’t know what to expect. I was about to review my sixth hotel in 8 days and the disparity between all of them was significant. Not just by brand but by continent. Yet the W Hotel was one that filled me with excitement. I wanted a change of pace. But would it deliver it?

The W Hotel San Francisco lacks the grand courtyard entrance that many hotels offer for arriving guests, which may explain why my taxi dropped me at a side door (which by the way is far better for check in). But it does “own” the chamfered corner of 3 rd and Howard Street from which you have pedestrian access through two giant columns that climb two storeys high. Bold and impressive. Modern.

W HOTEL welcome lobby

W Hotel welcome lobby at Howard Street side entrance.

The down side to pavement drop offs is having no doorman to help you with luggage and I had a lot. Yet once I had negotiated this minor irritation and stepped into the lobby, it was all bells and roses…though very dark inside. And this is where I’ll pause for comment: the staff were noticeably young, brilliantly friendly, immaculately dressed, really helpful and totally put me at ease. No task was to hard for them, male or female, and every request polished off with a beaming smile and a “You’re welcome.” This was not a one-off event either. It held true for the entirety of my three-day stay at the W Hotel San Francisco.

Check-in was fluid and faultless and filled with friendly banter. I grabbed my electronic card key and headed towards the elevator.

W HOTEL elevator door and wall

W HOTEL elevator door and wall

W HOTEL elevator corridor wall purple

THE ELEVATOR

As I rounded the corner and approached the elevator, it suddenly dawned on me that I was in for an experience and not just a stay at the W Hotel. That every detail mattered.

In front of me was a wall of neon purple and dark slated squares. In the middle, lay another square, this time a glass vase of blazing gold flowers. Simple execution. Massive statement.

W HOTEL inside the elevator cherry tree mural

When the silver doors opened, another surprise: a glass mural of a cherry tree. A sort of modern Japanese painting or something you’d find in an advertising agency. I stepped in

My heart beat picked up pace. I felt excited. It had tapped into my childish memories of Christmas. The colours. The presents. The huge variety of wrappings and ribbons. The gift that lay within.

And then my dream world came to an abrupt halt.

When the elevator opened on my floor, I was greeted with a completely different sight of greens and blues. It felt medicinal and industrial. Airport-like. I rubbed my eyes and did a double-take.

“Huh?” I thought to myself. “What just happened?

W HOTEL SPECTACULAR KING GUEST ROOM

W HOTEL Spectacular King Guest Room view

MY “SPECTACULAR ROOM”

I had a long, winding walk to my hotel room which was literally called a “Spectacular Room” and this gave me ample time to wonder whether I had been let down, before I swiped my way into my room. As I pushed open the door, I did my second double-take and stopped.

“Are they trying to make Ikea cool?”

W HOTEL butterfly picture

W HOTEL butterfly picture “Fly Away”!

It didn’t make sense. Was the designer targeting new couples and first-home owners? The beige wood and green glass bench top. The laser-cut floating clouds on the head board? The origami butterflies tagged as “Rare Species: Fahlai Ahwei”. Cute but not funny. Like fortune cookie messages.

But the pluses were there too. Clean, colourful, modern. Definitely spacious. You could hold a party in the bathroom it was so large! And it came with Bliss Spa amenities and their own W Signature Waffle Spa Robes with Terry Lining.

W HOTEL Spectacular King room bathroom

W HOTEL Spectacular King room bathroom – photo does not do this justice.

Their W Signature bed was large, but nothing like the comfort for the Intercontinental hotel mattresses. I appreciated the softness of the goose down duvet and the down pillows which were noticeably fluffy and airy.

W HOTEL eco friendly water sign

W HOTEL eco friendly water sign

And I loved the remote-control blinds and the window seat with their electric blue padded cushions. I often sat on them staring out the window. Even though the view was nothing spectacular and very urban, it was mesmerising.

The desk was not to my homely taste, but it was a really large work area and perfect for my abundance of computers, cameras and papers. The internet cost USD $14.95 per day but I was given free access and it was high speed with no glitches.

W HOTEL Living Room Bar

W HOTEL Living Room Bar

THE LOBBY LIVING ROOM BAR

Every hotel has soul and at the W Hotel in San Francisco it is definitely here. Like bees to honey it pulls in the crowd from within the hotel and from the fashion and art conscious locals.

A plethora of LED lights throw splashes of colour everywhere: on the bar, under it and everywhere around it. Flashes of pink and purple. Slatted silhouettes and a theme that ties it to the rest of the ground and first floor balcony behind it. The big fireplace is also a draw card with comfy seating. The Living Room Bar is a hot spot for the chic and social, touting eight locally renown brews and a covey of international flavours too. And if wines and cocktails are your tipple too, then you won’t be disappointed either, especially served by top-notch staff that score a massive goal for being friendly, fun and switched on. They never erred when it came to recommending food or drinks, especially to our hoard of antipodean corporate travellers.

W HOTEL Living Room Bar menu

W HOTEL Living Room Bar menu

Friday night is a bit more frenetic with really great live music and trust me, the place rocks until 1.30am.  But if you want to escape the mayhem for a second, go to the Upstairs Bar & Lounge on the first level (or 2 nd level if you are American!).

W HOTEL - upstairs bar and lounge

W HOTEL – Upstairs Bar & Lounge

UPSTAIRS BAR & LOUNGE

At the Upstairs Bar & Lounge you’ll find the same décor as the lobby area with square modular seating and a range of scatter cushions. As you ascend to bar on the semi spiral staircase, check out the hanging light. Ultra-modern and a work of art.

Open from 5.00pm to 1.30am (Thursday to Saturday), it is all about local, organic and sustainable offerings.

Secret spaces provide a more intimate spot so mingle and talk, with top shelf liquors and eight seasonal signature cocktails crafted to explore molecular gastronomy.

W HOTEL BLISS spa

W HOTEL BLISS spa – what the girls love!

SPA & FITNESS CENTRE

After a long day of work or play, sweat it out at our restyled  FIT® Gym , available to registered hotel guests 24/7. Take your detox even further with a rejuvenating massage or treatment at  Bliss® Spa .

W HOTEL Pet friendly hotel

W HOTEL Pet friendly hotel

PET FRIENDLY HOTEL

I have been to Paris over 15 times and I’m use to the British love affair with their dogs, but I didn’t expect this in San Francisco. What a great idea to allow pets in too. Great forward thinking.

W Hotel has a P.A.W. program for all your four-legged furry friends, dog or cat that is, where you’ll receive a custom W Hotels pet bed, food and water bowl, floor mat, pet-in-room door sign, W Hotels pet tag, clean-up bags and much more. There are weight restrictions, up to 40kgs, but that is up to the General Manager’s whim on booking.  And they have to be leashed in public areas and kept away from food areas.

PARTING THOUGHTS BY THE WALKING CRITIC  -W SAN FRANCISCO HOTEL REVIEW

I had great expectations stepping into the W Hotel San Francisco , but I felt the ground and first floors were let down by the upper floors. A bit of an anti-climax that left me wondering if the designer ran out of money after pressing “1” on the elevator.

The lower level really is hip and worthy of after-hours drinks. The bar staff were amazingly friendly and switched on. They never erred on a recommendation of food or drinks. Yet the let-down came in my hotel room upstairs. It was very medicinal and airport-like in decor though having nothing wrong with it. It was just better suited to an Ikea-loving crowd or first-homer, than a seasoned traveller and professional. The concept was out of balance and I just didn’t get it.

I liked it, but I didn’t love it. But I did have an awesome time there.

That being said, I now know the W Hotel San Francisco is about to undergo a massive refurbishment which I’m excited about too. The marketing manager, Natalie, knows my thoughts and replied as follows:

Oh we hear you! Thank you so much for your honest opinion on our room design; we agree and are happy for our face lift happening very soon.

Thank you so much for the shout-out to our amazing bartenders. I myself go to them as well when I need that extra insider tip.

I can’t wait for you to see our new rooms! Feel free to reach out to me personally to chat further on design and our cocktail culture. Stay tuned.

It was my first W Hotel San Francisco experience and I will give W Hotels the benefit of the doubt.  I actually can’t wait to try another one.

Yet with all good things comes an ominous warning: if I don’t try the Bliss Spa , I will be killed by about 1,000 women who want to know what it’s like!

Who is Bliss ? And why are they more popular than me?

W Hotel San Francisco

181 3rd Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

Telephone: +1-415-777-5300

Reservations: 888-627-8391

Website:   http://www.wsanfrancisco.com/

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W San Francisco

Modern downtown accommodations.

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San Francisco: W San Francisco Package

Embodying the city's electric energy and style, W San Francisco dazzles with its signature service and wow-worthy amenities.

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One Week in San Francisco Bay Area Itinerary [2024 Guide]

Wondering what to do with one week in the San Francisco Bay Area? This guide has you covered and some.

Spending a whole week in an area is a great way to really get to know it and, in a place as big as the Bay Area, you need at least that long to get around.

I spent a week in the Bay Area exploring a different part of the area each day, here’s the 7 day Bay Area itinerary I recommend (with a few tweaks to do things in a more logical order). 

I based myself in San Francisco for this whole week. It’s not the most central location but it has the biggest range of accommodation and good public transport links. Plus you’ll want to spend 2-3 days in the city itself. 

You could alternatively stay in San Jose which can be slightly cheaper or even in one of the further out areas if you have a car.

Top Tip: Wherever you’re staying, I’d recommend doing the section of the itinerary that’s in/closest to that area first so you can use the first day to adjust and recover from any jet lag.

If you do everything on this one week San Francisco Bay Area itinerary, the cost will add up pretty quick. However, I can guarantee you’ll walk away feeling like you really did the Bay Area. 

You can also save a lot by taking public transport (trains are fine, be careful on buses) and staying in hostels.

San Francisco Bay Area 7 day Itinerary

Day 1-2: san francisco.

Welcome to the vibrant city of San Francisco! Kick off your 7 days in the Bay Area adventure by immersing yourself in the unique charm and iconic attractions of this bustling metropolis.

Begin your day by hopping on one of the legendary cable cars that traverse the hilly streets of San Francisco. Feel the nostalgic charm as you ride through the city in the open-sided car – or maybe hanging onto one of the standing poles if you’re brave!

Try to board the cable car in the central city and ride it all the way to one of the turnaround points on the waterfront or Market Street. they literally spin the whole car around on a turntable.

These cable cars are designed to look like the originals and the system still runs on actual cables which you can hear when you walk across the road.

Next, make your way to Fisherman’s Wharf , a lively, if touristy, waterfront district that offers a ton of attractions. Explore the bustling Pier 39 , home to hundreds of playful sea lions basking in the sun.

seal lions lying on floating platforms at pier 39 one week in the Bay Area

Stroll through the array of shops, indulge in tasty seafood delicacies, and savour a famous San Francisco sourdough bread bowl filled with clam chowder , preferably from Boudin (it’s a SF icon).

No visit to San Francisco is complete without experiencing the iconic Lombard Street . Known as the “crookedest street in the world,” this zigzagging wonder is a sight to behold.

Take a leisurely stroll or drive down the winding curves, marvelling at the beautiful floral displays and stunning city views. Just don’t try walking up unless you want to turn into a sweaty mess!

Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of San Francisco’s Chinatown , the oldest and largest Chinatown in the United States.

Wander through its bustling streets adorned with colourful lanterns, browse through unique shops selling traditional Chinese goods, and savour mouthwatering dim sum or other authentic delicacies.

Top tip: Chinatown is at its best in the evening when the streets are lit up and restaurants are bustling.

On the following day, embark on a captivating journey to Alcatraz Island . Hop on a ferry and venture to this infamous former prison, which housed some of America’s most notorious criminals.

Explore the cell blocks with the help of the (included) audio tour, learn about the gripping stories of escape attempts, and soak in the haunting ambience of this historic landmark.

If visiting in summer or on a weekend be sure to book your tickets in advance, as Alcatraz is a popular attraction. You can either book a cruise-prison combo or go direct to City Cruises for prison-only tickets.

>>Click here to book Alcatraz tickets with a Bay cruise<<

rows of prison cells on Alcatraz island

Before leaving San Francisco, take a visit to the Ferry Building Marketplace , a food lover’s paradise located along the Embarcadero.

Discover a treasure trove of artisanal food vendors, offering everything from gourmet chocolates and freshly baked pastries to local farm-fresh produce.

Try to time your visit for one of the farmers market days if possible, the atmosphere is high and there are more cheap food options.

San Francisco offers a dynamic blend of history, culture, and stunning vistas that will leave you captivated. From the iconic cable cars and creepy Alcatraz Island to vibrant Chinatown, these two days will provide unforgettable memories of your Bay Area journey.

Day 3: Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, and Muir Woods

On Day 3 you’ll cover off the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, a symbol of San Francisco, small-town charm and natural wonders as you explore Sausalito and Muir Woods.

Start your day by walking, biking, or driving across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge . Spanning an impressive 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometres), this magnificent structure offers panoramic views of the city skyline, the sparkling waters of the San Francisco Bay, and the vast Pacific Ocean.

If the fog allows you can get some pretty memorable photos from either side of the bridge.

After experiencing the bridge, make your way to the charming town of Sausalito , nestled along the waterfront. It’s almost Mediterranean in style and feels a long way from the urban grunge of San Francisco.

In Sausalito, explore the cute shops, art galleries, and cafes that line the waterfront area. Or just enjoy a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, taking in the beauty of the marina and the scenic landscape.

For nature enthusiasts, or anyone who’s always wanted to see some California redwoods, a visit to Muir Woods National Monument is a must.

This ancient forest outside Sausalito is home to towering coastal redwoods that have stood tall for centuries. You can walk along the well-maintained trails, enjoy the sunlight filtering through the trees, and marvel at the sheer size of these majestic giants.

light filtering through trees at muir woods

For those without a car, there are several companies offering combined day trips to Sausalito and Muir Woods. >>Click here to check prices and book a Muir Woods and Sausalito day tour<<

Or if you don’t want to see the woods you can hire a bike, it’s a fairly easy and popular cycle to Sausalito. >> Click here to compare bike and e-bike hire prices and book<<

If you’re up for an extra adventure, consider adding a trip to Mount Tamalpais to your itinerary. Located nearby, this peak offers stunning vistas of the Bay Area but the hike to the summit isn’t an easy one.

To finish off day 3 of your Bay Area itinerary, take the ferry from Sausalito back to San Francisco. Enjoy a relaxing journey across the bay, soaking in the stunning views of the city skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge from a different perspective.

Day 4: San Jose and Silicon Valley

Discover the heart of technological innovation in San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley.

Dive into recent history with visits to the Tech Museum of Innovation or the Computer History Museum or visit the campuses of tech giants such as Google, Apple, or Facebook to witness the future in the making (not really, there’s high security).

>>Click here to book a private Silicon Valley Tour<<

>>Click here to buy an audio guide for a self-guided Silicon Valley tour<<

holding iPad looking at diorama at apple campus Bay Area

While you’re in the area, explore downtown San Jose. Fun fact, it’s actually a bigger city than San Francisco, just very underrated.

Alternatively, enjoy wandering the quaint main street of Downtown Palo Alto, stopping in for coffee or shipping in the home of Stanford students and tech execs.

Speaking of Stanford, a visit to the renowned university’s campus is absolutely worthwhile. It’s not really that old but made to look historic with its stone arcades and stunning chapel.

Day 5: Oakland and Berkeley

Cross the Bay Bridge (the not red one) from San Francisco to explore the vibrant cities of Oakland and Berkeley.

You can get there from central San Francisco in 15 minutes by driving across the Bay Bridge, which offers stunning views along the way, or by taking the BARTS train.

Once you arrive in Oakland, make your way to Jack London Square, a waterfront district where you can enjoy a lively atmosphere and scenic views of the waterfront. Dive into the arts scene and explore the unique shopping experiences that Oakland has to offer.

From there, head to Berkeley, home to the prestigious University of California. Wander the campus with a cup of coffee and imagine what life would be like as a student here.

If possible, try to catch a sports game at Berkeley, the home crowd really gets behind UCB!

If you have time, stop into the Berkeley Rose Garden, where you can enjoy stunning panoramic views of the city and the Bay Area as well as some peace and quiet.

view of bay area at night lit up with San Francisco Oakland bridge

Day 6: Sacramento

Venture inland to the historic capital city of California, Sacramento.

It might be a bit of a stretch to call this the Bay Area but it’s super close and a worthwhile inclusion for this San Francisco Bay Area 7 day itinerary.

To get to Sacramento from San Francisco, you can take a scenic drive east on Interstate 80 or hop on Capitol Corridor Amtrak train for a relaxing and convenient journey in under 2 hours.

In Sacramento, immerse yourself in the charm of Old Sacramento, a preserved historic district that will transport you back in time to the Gold Rush era.

Visit the California State Railroad Museum and learn about the city’s rich railroad history. Enjoy a relaxing riverboat cruise along the Sacramento River , taking in the picturesque views.

Don’t forget to explore the vibrant farmers’ markets, where you can savour local produce and indulge in farm-to-fork dining experiences. Take your time wandering the historic streets of Sacramento, uncovering the city’s fascinating history and embracing its cultural heritage.

California state capitol building on a hill with grass in front

Day 7: Sonoma or Napa Valley

Finally, end your Bay Area adventure with a day in the world-renowned wine regions of Sonoma or Napa Valley.

Choose Sonoma’s picturesque vineyards and charming towns or Napa Valley’s grand estates and renowned wineries.

Indulge in wine tastings, scenic drives, and gourmet cuisine at farm-to-table restaurants. Raise a glass and toast to a week well spent in the Bay Area!

If you want a pre-arranged sober driver, consider booking a Sonoma Valley wine tour from San Francisco or Napa Valley tour from San Francisco or even a combined Napa-Sonoma tour (if you’re indecisive and don’t mind travel time).

napa valley

How to get around the San Francisco Bay Area

While most Californians are big on driving, hiring a car is not the only option you have for navigating your 7 day Bay Area vacation.

All the places on this Bay Area itinerary are accessible by public transport from San Francisco, or San Jose if you choose to base yourself there.

The BART trains will take you to most places but there’s also Caltrain (for getting between SF and SJ) and Amtrak (to get to SAC) and local buses, ferries and cable cars.

If navigating public transport or driving isn’t your thing then you can take day tours from San Francisco, I’ve linked some good options above that you can check out.

In Short: How To Spend A Week In The Bay Area

There are so many ways you could spend a week in the San Francisco Bay Area so hopefully, this itinerary gives you a starting point for planning your trip.

If you’re visiting for less time, you could easily pick out the days with the most interesting activities for you.

For more  USA travel  inspiration, check out these articles:

  • One Week In Los Angeles
  • East Coast USA Itinerary

Happy travelling!

USA Travel Resources

  • Find the best prices on hotels with flexible cancellation at Booking.com
  • Find tickets for attractions and awesome day tours on Viator
  • Save $$$ on attractions in NYC, LA, Miami and more with a Go City Pass
  • Compare prices on cars and campervans at RentalCars.com
  • Sort your US dollars with a Wise currency card

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Kate is the founder of Kate Abroad. She has travelled to nearly 40 countries from Austria to Vanuatu, and lived in 3. She's on a mission to empower other Gen Zs and Millenials travel affordably by sharing helpful travel guides, stories and tips to over 200,000 readers.

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The Perfect 2, 3 or 4 Days in San Francisco Itinerary

Last Updated on February 29, 2024

by Audrey Webster

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we may make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our privacy policy.

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San Francisco is one of the most famous cities in the United States. It boasts iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, as well as some hidden gems. Whether you have time for a 2, 3, or 4 days in San Francisco itinerary, this guide includes everything you should prioritize seeing during your visit.

No trip to San Francisco is complete without hitting the highlights and spending some time wandering through the city’s unique neighborhoods, taking in everything this incredible metropolis has to offer. Here is everything to check out while visiting the Bay Area. 

Table of Contents

How Many Days in San Francisco?

Whether you’re visiting San Francisco as part of a longer California itinerary or as a stop on a drive from Los Angeles , San Diego or even Portland or Seattle , it’s essential to figure out how long you need to spend in the city in order to do it justice.

For most visitors, 3 days is the sweet spot for how many days to spend in San Francisco. If you only have 2 days to explore the city, you can get a rough idea of everything ithas to offer, but it won’t feel like a comprehensive visit.

With 3 days, you can see nearly every part of the city, venturing into the eclectic and historic neighborhoods while seeing the main highlights. You can do all this at a relatively relaxed pace. 

Should you have 4 days, you’re in luck. This grants you plenty of time to see the city with a spare day for a trip beyond it. There are several nearby options for great day trips.

Alternatively, you can spend an additional day exploring the city at your leisure or lounging in one of the many local parks. 

Iconic Golden Gate Bridge

Getting To & Around San Francisco 

Most visitors will arrive in San Francisco by plane. You’ll land at San Francisco Airport (SFO) and can take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), the city’s main public transportation, into downtown. You can also take the bus, call an Uber or organise a transfer .

BART will be a useful tool to get around the city during your visit as well. It reaches most corners of the city and runs relatively often. You can also opt for the buses or streetcars operated by Muni.

Most of the city’s main attractions are clustered together in different parts of the city, so you should pick a different area of San Francisco to explore each day.

Once in these neighborhoods, getting around on foot is the way to go. Many of SF’s best highlights can be found when you set out walking through its unique neighborhoods, Fisherman’s Wharf, and other parts of the city.

Make sure you pack a good pair of walking shoes for wandering museums, parks, and the city itself. 

Renting a car specifically for your trip to San Francisco isn’t entirely necessary as the city itself is both walkable and has great public transportation.

However, if you’re spending 4 days in San Francisco and want to go on a day trip, you may find that having your own car is the best option. You can browse Rentalcars.com to find options as it compares prices across many major companies.

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco

2, 3 or 4-Day San Francisco Itinerary

The perfect trip to San Francisco is loaded with quirky neighborhoods, great food, and many opportunities to learn. Here is everything you should consider adding to your plan for visiting the city by the bay. 

Day 1 – Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz & Chinatown

Embarcadero and fisherman’s wharf.

San Francisco’s Embarcadero is the main street that runs along the waterfront from the Bay Bridge to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. This is probably one of the most popular areas in the city.

Here, you can perch to watch the sunset or admire the view on a sunny day. Each pier offers a little something unique for its visitors, from exploratory museums to funky cafes.  You can rent bikes to explore further.

One of the highlights of the Embarcadero is Fisherman’s Wharf. The name comes from the mid-1800s when the wharf was used as a port by Italian immigrant fishermen who sold fish to the city’s booming population due to the gold rush. Here, you’ll find some of the best seafood in the city.

There are museums scattered across the piers, making it a great destination for families. Make sure to stop in to see the sea lion colony that took up residence near Pier 39. 

If you only have 2 days in San Francisco, Alcatraz is a must-visit. This infamous prison was once home to some of the country’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone.

Alternatively referred to as “The Rock”, Alcatraz was the world’s most secure prison: located on an island in San Francisco Bay. You should take the audio tour of the island.

You’ll walk through cell blocks, mess halls, and other parts of the prison while listening to the stories of those who passed through as well as the history of Alcatraz itself. You’ll head to Alcatraz Island from Pier 33 along the Embarcadero. 

You can pre-book tickets here that includes transport or organise a half-day tour here that combines Alcatraz with a short bay cruise.

Alcatraz Island

Lombard Street

Once you’re back in San Francisco proper after visiting Alcatraz, pay a quick visit to Lombard Street. This steep zig-zagging street curves down a slope lined with homes and flower beds.

San Francisco is a city filled with steep streets. City planners spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to plot a city on such terrain. In 1922, the people living on Lombard Street deemed it too steep to drive safely. They set out to make it more drivable.

The result was a curvy road with eight hairpin turns and one of the most famous landmarks. The best view is from the bottom. If you’re brave enough to drive the street, you have to start from the top. It was made a one-way street in 1939.  

Ride the Cable Cars

Riding the cable cars in San Francisco is an experience too unique to pass by. The routes are clustered around Lombard Street and Fisherman’s Wharf, making it easy to hop a ride in between destinations.

There are three routes, so navigating them is easy. You can prepay for your tickets online or buy tickets at the cable car stops. 

San Francisco is home to the largest Chinatown outside Asia. It’s located near Lombard Street and a great place to round out your first day in San Francisco.

Before visiting this neighborhood, it’s important to note that it’s massive. Chinatown spans 24 city blocks and is one of the most densely-populated neighborhoods in the city.

Grant Avenue is the most picturesque street, and where most tourists spend their time. It’s worth your time to venture off this main thoroughfare. You’ll find the best Chinese food in the city—probably some of the best in the country. You can also go on a food & walking tour to learn more and taste some dishes.

Visit the local bakeries, shops, and try a tea sampling at Vital Tea Leaf. 

Chinatown in San Francisco

Day 2 – Golden Gate Bridge, Presidio & Golden Gate Park

Golden gate bridge.

Your first day on your trip to San Francisco was filled with some of the major highlights in the city. Day two is a little slower. There is perhaps no other landmark in San Francisco more characteristic of the city than the Golden Gate Bridge.

This bright red suspension bridge dominates the skyline and has been named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. If you have time, you should take a walk across the bridge. It stretches about 1.7 miles, so it should take around 40 minutes to walk each way.

Upon construction in 1937, it was the longest bridge in the world. Between its striking color and huge towers, it’s no surprise this is one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. 

If you want to get a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge, you can get this from Marin Headlands after crossing the bridge – it’s easiest to reach this by car, however, you can definitely walk, as well.

Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge

Presidio of San Francisco

The Presidio is located where the Golden Gate Bridge starts. It originated as a military outpost for the Spanish who arrived in the Bay Area in 1776. Over the years, it maintained its military post status and became one of the most beautiful outlooks in the city.

The National Park Service took control of the Presidio in 1994. Today, this sprawling green space is filled with trails, forests, fun architecture, and unbeatable views. 

Golden Gate Park

Despite its name, Golden Gate Park is not directly next to the bridge, but it’s well within walking distance from the Presidio. Continue your time in San Francisco’s green spaces by visiting the largest public park in the city.

You can spend an afternoon in the park visiting museums and gardens, like California Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, or the de Young Museum. Alternatively, you can have a picnic or wander around the park.

A visit to Golden Gate Park is the best way to slow down and enjoy the city.

Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco

Day 3 – Haight-Ashbury, The Mission District & Twin Peaks

Haight-ashbury.

When experiencing San Francisco in 3 days, you should spend one day dedicated to the different neighborhoods. San Francisco is a city full of eclectic neighborhoods, none more iconic than Haight-Ashbury.

It became famous for being one of the centers of the counterculture movement in the 1960s. The Haight was where the Beats met and where the Summer of Love happened.

Haight-Ashbury is best experienced by spending a couple hours strolling around the neighborhood. You can also take the San Francisco Love Tour to learn more about the history.

Keep an eye out for the quirky shops, psychedelic murals, and beautiful Victorian architecture. You never know what you’ll come across in Haight Ashbury.

Victorian houses in Haight Ashbury

The Painted Ladies

The Painted Ladies are the postcard-perfect row of Victorian homes in the city. They sit on the eastern side of Alamo Square Park and are set against the backdrop of the city’s modern downtown skyscrapers.

They are known for their pastel colors and near identical architecture, making them one of the most photographed landmarks in the city. You’ll notice similar-looking homes throughout the city.

The name “Painted Ladies” doesn’t necessarily refer to these homes in particular, but rather the style in which they’ve been built. 

Mission Dolores Park 

Mission Dolores Park is at the heart of another one of San Francisco’s best neighborhoods: The Mission District. The park itself sits on nearly 26 acres and is one of the most popular parks in San Francisco.

If you visit during a sunny weekend afternoon, don’t be surprised to see the park entirely packed with people. These comfortable green lawns are surrounded by tall palm trees with a view of the city’s skyline.

The Mission District is known for its food scene. Grab a burrito and take a walk through the city to admire the towering murals. Mission Street is the main road that is filled with restaurants and shops. 

Seated at 922 feet above sea level, Twin Peaks offers arguably the best view of the city. It’s a great way to round out your 3 days in San Francisco. Many visitors take a tourist bus to the top, but you can also walk or bike.

Here you can find a snapshot of the local flora and fauna. No matter what time of day you visit, be prepared for high winds. San Francisco is already a city known for being windy, but here that’s elevated.

Bring a jacket, sturdy walking shoes, and be prepared to be a little cold.

Those who aren’t interested in this stop may also like to venture back into the city center and instead take the time to explore the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. 

Road up to Twin Peaks

Day 4 – Muir Woods or Napa Valley

If you’re lucky enough to see San Francisco in 4 days, you should consider taking a day trip beyond the city. The Muir Woods National Monument is the perfect day trip. The woods are located about 16 miles from the city, which is about a 40-minute drive without traffic.

Muir Woods is filled with walking trails and historic redwood trees. Driving yourself is the best way to visit Muir Woods from San Francisco. You’ll take curvy roads up a mountainside, so drive slowly, especially if you get carsick easily.

Before visiting Muir Woods, make sure to reserve a parking space. If you show up without a reservation, you will be turned away.

If you don’t have a car, you can either organise a bus transfer here or take a guided tour that includes time to explore along with lunch in Sausalito.

Napa and Sonoma Valleys

Any lover of great wine will want to add a day trip to Napa and Sonoma Valleys to their San Francisco itinerary. Here you’ll find some of the most famous wines in the world, and for good reasons. The wine regions are about an hour outside of San Francisco.

If you want to spend a day wine tasting in either Napa or Sonoma (or both), you will want to rent a car.

There are also guided tours available such as this full-day tour that goes to both Napa and Sonoma or this full-day tour that combines wine country with a visit to Muir Woods. However, you will have more freedom to see the area at your leisure if you can drive yourself.

Napa Vineyards

Where to Stay in San Francisco

Orchard Hotel – This boutique hotel located in downtown San Francisco is an excellent choice for exploring this Californian city. They are located within walking distance of Union Square and have a restaurant and bar on site. There is also parking and a great breakfast included.

Axiom Hotel – If you’re looking for a luxury stay in San Francisco, then this chic hotel is a great option. It is located right off Union Square, and has incredible modern facilities and amenities along with a larger number of rooms to choose from.

Green Tortoise Hostel – Those trying to stick to a tight budget when visiting this notoriously expensive city will love this highly-rated hostel. There are a number of dorm beds and some private rooms to choose from, common areas to meet other travellers and a free breakfast daily to help you save even more!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in San Francisco!

A few days in San Francisco is the perfect amount of time to catch the city’s main highlights, immerse yourself in day-to-day life, and take a day trip outside the city. Use these itinerary recommendations to help guide your own trip planning and enjoy your time in San Francisco. 

Are you planning to visit San Francisco? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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About Audrey Webster

Audrey Webster is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an Oregon native who has visited countries across the globe and currently spends her weekends exploring the Pacific Northwest and surrounding states. Her approach to traveling combines exploring famous tourist sites and wandering off the beaten path to discover new destinations.

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Vacation packages to San Francisco

Want a vacation packages to San Francisco? Let WestJet Vacations bring you there. It’s really no surprise you’ve been looking forward to essential, majestic San Francisco; after all it is home to the de Young Museum, SFMOMA and Golden Gate Park. At WestJet Vacations, we appreciate that getting away is important to our guests, and we want to help remove as much stress as possible by offering friendly and safe flights that are also affordable. Browse our selection below to choose a package, and before you know it you’ll be relaxing in Frisco.

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Let WestJet take you there

No matter where you’re headed, you can rely on WestJet Vacations to provide reliable and convenient travel options. This is why you can rely on us to fly you to some of the most popular destinations in the world. As part of our commitment to providing our guests with great service, we offer extensive flight schedules and free changes or cancellations within 24 hours of your booking. These are some of the many reasons why we’re a reputable Canadian airline, and why you should count on us when it comes to vacation packages to San Francisco.

What are you waiting for? Book your ideal getaway with WestJet Vacations today!

Search for great westjet vacations, find vacation packages in san francisco:.

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    Hotel Zetta San Francisco55 5th St, San Francisco, CA 94103.4 miles InterContinental San Francisco888 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103.3 miles Hotel Zetta San Francisco55 5th St, San Francisco ...

  2. travel42 Hotel Review: W San Francisco

    Omni San Francisco Hotel 500 California St, San Francisco, CA 94104.5 miles JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square 515 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94102 .6 miles The Jay, Autograph Collection 433 ...

  3. Luxury Hotel in San Francisco

    Silver Winner for the 2022 Travel Weekly Magellan Award. Living Room Bar. ... Pets are welcome at W San Francisco, and upon arrival your dog or cat will receive: a custom W Hotels pet bed, food and water bowl with floor mat, pet-in-room door sign, W Hotels pet tag, clean-up bags, and much more. ...

  4. W San Francisco features 'Weekend Warrior' package

    The W San Francisco, situated in the SoMa district, is offering the Weekend Warrior package, designed to highlight the city's nightlife experiences as curated by the hotel's W Insider, Sara Hamza.

  5. W San Francisco

    Adults (Maximum: 6 Guests/Room) 1 Adult per room. Decrease quantity Increase quantity

  6. W SAN FRANCISCO

    Book W San Francisco, San Francisco on Tripadvisor: See 2,484 traveler reviews, 1,282 candid photos, and great deals for W San Francisco, ranked #89 of 248 hotels in San Francisco and rated 4 of 5 at Tripadvisor.

  7. W SAN FRANCISCO

    Now HK$3,095 (Was H̶K̶$̶3̶,̶6̶4̶3̶) on Tripadvisor: W San Francisco, San Francisco. See 2,513 traveler reviews, 1,319 candid photos, and great deals for W San Francisco, ranked #84 of 235 hotels in San Francisco and rated 4 of 5 at Tripadvisor.

  8. W San Francisco Review: What To REALLY Expect If You Stay

    An outpost of the generally solid "lifestyle"-focused chain, the 404-room W San Francisco in the SoMa art district offers a fun vibe in a whimsical, stylish setting. But despite efforts to seem boutique-y, the W is still a big, national chain at the end of the day, and the approach is less about personal touches than overall atmosphere.

  9. Hotel Rooms in San Francisco

    A new-found rush of living on the edge unfolds in our newly redesigned rooms and suites, inspired by San Francisco's history of gold mining and the art of searching for fortune. Each renovated room features a signature W Hotels Bed with pillow-top mattress, ergonomic work spaces, Wi-Fi access, bedside tech hookups, and W Mix Bar for a little play.

  10. W San Francisco

    Group Travel ; Imagine Your Dream Vacation. Get inspiration and plan your next getaway. Explore Vacations . CLOSE. Our Brands. The Ritz-Carlton; St Regis; Edition; ... W San Francisco. 181 3rd Street, San Francisco, California 94103 USA +1 415-777-5300. Phone: +1 415-777-5300 +1 415-777-5300; Fax: +1 415-817-7893; Sales: +1 415-777-5300;

  11. W San Francisco

    W San Francisco. 411 Rooms, 84 Suites. Revel in the heart of the SoMa district of San Francisco amid art exhibitions, film screenings, fashion shows, and concerts. Bask in panoramic views of the city skyline at W San Francisco, across from the beautiful Yerba Buena Gardens. Retreat to the smart style, dynamic design, and cool comfort of the ...

  12. W San Francisco Hotel Review

    Every hotel has soul and at the W Hotel in San Francisco it is definitely here. Like bees to honey it pulls in the crowd from within the hotel and from the fashion and art conscious locals. A plethora of LED lights throw splashes of colour everywhere: on the bar, under it and everywhere around it. Flashes of pink and purple.

  13. W San Francisco

    5.0/5 (6 Reviews) Costco Star Rating. 4.0 Star Hotel. 345 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA, 94108, United States. Located in the heart of San Francisco's shopping and entertainment district, the fashionable hotel on Union Square welcomes travelers with impeccable services, sophisticated décor and upscale amenities. Learn More.

  14. W San Francisco Meetings and Events

    Meeting space and convention information at W San Francisco. W San Francisco Meetings and Events- Deluxe San Francisco, CA Hotels: Travel Weekly The Travel Industry's Trusted Voice

  15. San Francisco: W San Francisco Package

    W San Francisco. Costco Member Reviews. 4.0/5 (7 Reviews) Costco Star Rating. 4.0 Star Hotel. 181 3rd St, San Francisco, CA, 94103, United States. Experience newly renovated rooms overlooking downtown and gain insider access to San Francisco's must-sees and exclusive happenings. Learn More.

  16. San Francisco Business News

    Travel & Tourism. Reset: San Francisco. ... Weekly Digital Edition. ... In an address at the Commonwealth Club, Mary Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, seemed favorable

  17. One Week in San Francisco Bay Area Itinerary [2024 Guide]

    You can also save a lot by taking public transport (trains are fine, be careful on buses) and staying in hostels. Contents. San Francisco Bay Area 7 day Itinerary. Day 1-2: San Francisco. Day 3: Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, and Muir Woods. Day 4: San Jose and Silicon Valley. Day 5: Oakland and Berkeley. Day 6: Sacramento.

  18. The Perfect 2, 3 or 4 Days in San Francisco Itinerary

    The Muir Woods National Monument is the perfect day trip. The woods are located about 16 miles from the city, which is about a 40-minute drive without traffic. Muir Woods is filled with walking trails and historic redwood trees. Driving yourself is the best way to visit Muir Woods from San Francisco.

  19. San Francisco Travel Guide: 30+ Fantastic Things To Do in San Francisco

    Use your Conservatory of Flowers members pass to get in for free, buy tickets at the door or visit at 9am on M, W, F f or free admission . 11. San Francisco Botanical Garden. The Botanical Garden of my favorite San Francisco places to visit as a local.

  20. JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square

    Traditional Hotel, contemporary designs and soft colors in a relaxed setting, fine dining; located one block from Union Square. Westin St Francis335 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94102.1 miles Taj ...

  21. Mist Opportunity: San Francisco Is Wooing Tourists With Chilly Weather

    SAN FRANCISCO—Forget all the talk about the doom loop. San Francisco is leaning into its gloom loop. A few weeks ago, marketers for Pier 39 put up a billboard in an inland California city where ...

  22. Westin St Francis- Deluxe San Francisco, CA Hotels- GDS ...

    JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square 515 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94102.1 miles Taj Campton Place 340 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108 .2 miles InterContinental Mark Hopkins 999 ...

  23. Vacation packages to San Francisco

    Find vacation packages in San Francisco: Family. Destination Wedding. Honeymoon. Christmas. Summer. Spring Break. Spa. Count on WestJet Vacations when it comes to vacation packages to San Francisco.

  24. Four Seasons Hotel at Embarcadero

    The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco600 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94108.4 miles Omni San Francisco Hotel500 California St, San Francisco, CA 94104.1 miles The Jay, Autograph Collection433 Clay ...