A day trip to San Francisco

A day trip to San Francisco

Article updated on 10.13.22
On the way to the National Parks, we stopped for a day in San Francisco. Not having any particular plan, we visited the city by foot and by bus. Here are some nice places to visit if you happen to be in the city.

Little tips if you are in a van

Free parking

If you’re visiting the city by van, it’s not always easy to find suitable parking for your vehicle, especially if you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg.

Free parking at Crissy Beach (see on Google Maps) is perfect to park your van during the day. Located at the entrance of San Francisco, close to the Golden Gate, you just have to take the bus 30 to go around the city and to the center. The bus ticket for the day costs 5 dollars.

Sleeping in the city with a van

Looking for a free place to put your van for the night? Parking on city streets is one of the best solutions to not having to pay 100.- a night at a campsite.

The iOverlander application (see our article on the 10 tips for a roadtrip in the USA) allows you to find the best spots available. There are a lot of spots where the streets are quiet and safe. This one for example was perfect near a park: 37.79217, -122.42897

Free activities in San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge

Before entering the city, it is essential to visit the SF must-see bridge. There are several ways to visit the place. For our part, coming from the north of California, we took the exit 442 of the highway 101, just before crossing the bridge. By taking a left at the exit, the road leads directly to a small parking lot. From there, it’s possible to go for a walk on the bridge or climb the hill to see the bridge from a vantage point.

Location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/S9tEP6rSA7z7QqTa6

If you are already in town, it is possible to rent bikes and ride to the bridge along the ocean.

Pier 39

Want to see lions? Pier 39 is a waterfront pier on the Alcatraz side. In addition to being a marketplace where you can find fresh fish and small snacks, the pier is home to a large number of Sea Lions who bask in the sun all day.

Location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/ibaH2UxTTXtUtKQB6

Coit Tower

Looking for a viewpoint to see the city from above? The Coit Tower is located not far from Pier 39. Perched on top of the small hill of Telegraph Hill, it gives a breathtaking view of the city as well as the San Francisco Bay, the Alcatraz prison and the Golden Gate.

Location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/VjhUUC18pRpZ9qf87

Twin Peaks is also a known spot to watch the sunrise over the city.

Location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/PBpuWbL283ZqNGMe9

China Town

Change of scenery in the heart of San Francisco. Taste the atmosphere of Chinatown, one of the largest and oldest in the US.

Location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/hyvcFFCN2ByZnLeT7

California Street

A visit of San Francisco without passing by California Street would not be a complete visit. This mythical place with its sloping street and its old tramways is a must-see place in the city.

Location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/K2VS6afE6a86eBV6A

Union Square

Feel like shopping? With stores like Nike and The Northe Face. Union Street is the street you’re looking for. In the middle of downtown San Francisco, you’ll also find a great selection of restaurants and coffee shops.

Location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/Aq9ZqqtWsHUVWuzW7

Salesforce Park

An uncommon place? Located on the roof of a building in the heart of downtown, Salesforce Park is a quiet place, perfect to take a break and recharge for a while. Depending on the schedule, there are also concerts and yoga classes.

Location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/E1xAop11gggaLMPF7

Lombard Street - non-essentials

Lombard Street is the most mythical street of San Francisco. So we couldn’t avoid going there to see it in real life. But to be honest with you, this place is more interesting in the movies than in reality. So we recommend you to go there only if you have time and nothing else to see.

Location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/xV6AxoKDEcoCxijk9

Restaurant in San Francisco


To eat, we received the advice of a local and it did not fail. Want to eat a good burger without going to a fast food? Garaje is a totally unusual and unmissable place with an industrial look. In addition to eating delicious burgers, great tacos and tortillas, you’ll find a great selection of craft beers.
This place isn’t close to downtown, but it’s well worth a visit.

Website: https://www.garaje475.co/

The menu: ici

Location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/DpcphNPbfD97tfys5

San Francisco is one of the cities that we enjoyed visiting in the USA. If we had to give one advice from our experience, it is to visit the city by foot. It is the best way to sneak in the alleys and to really appreciate what the city has to offer. If we had to do it again, we would spend several days there in order to really take the time and to enjoy a maximum.

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