2 days in San Francisco, between urban life and nature

San Francisco: a bustling city with inexhaustible energy. A kingdom where technology reigns supreme, it's also where counter-cultures flourish like nowhere else in the United States. It's a city with a thousand and one things to see, so it's not easy to know what to visit so as not to miss anything. Here's a detailed itinerary to get the most out of the city in two days.

Aerial view of the Bay Bridge with the city of San Francisco in the background, California

- © TierneyMJ / Shutterstock
San Francisco

✈️ Flights to San Francisco

San Francisco is easy to reach from the UK. 11h30 flight on average from London.
From
£323
Book

Day 1: Discovering the city

The day begins with a stroll around the Embarcadero to get things off to a good start. This great hall is home to numerous small farmers' markets, making for a healthy and hearty breakfast. The next stop is Fisherman's Wharf, one of the city's most legendary districts. You can walk along the bay to get there (20 minutes) and enjoy the view. Once there, you must stop off at Pier 39, famous for its extravagant boutiques and sea lions.

Pier 39 and its sea lions, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

- © canadastock / Shutterstock

After strolling through the streets of the city centre for a quarter of an hour, the North Beach district comes into view. In the distance you can see the Transamerica Pyramid, a true symbol of San Francisco's financial district. The surrounding area is well worth a visit, if only to see the graffiti alley dedicated to Jack Kerouac Alley or to discover the City Light Bookstore, one of the city's iconic bookshops.

Transamerica Pyramid, North Beach, San Francisco

- © Steven Bostock / Shutterstock

If you take Columbus Avenue and then Kearny Street, you'll arrive in Chinatown, where the atmosphere changes dramatically. The oldest Chinatown in the United States, it's a great place to stroll and have lunch. A not-to-be-missed stop-off is Portsmouth Square, where locals play games such as chess. Further down towards the south-east of the city, you come to Union Square and its luxury boutiques: shopping time! To relax a little after this busy morning, you can take a Cable Car. This historic tramway is not only a useful way of climbing the hills of San Francisco, it's also one of the city's must-see attractions. Get on at Powell station on the Powell/Hyde line, enjoy the view, then get off at Lombard Street in the Russian Hill district.

Powell/Hyde cable car, San Francisco

- © Sarunyu L / Shutterstock

Another iconic San Francisco landmark is the Coit Tower in the Telegraph Hill district, opposite Russian Hill. To reach it, you'll need to walk for around 20 minutes and cross Washington Square, one of North Beach's liveliest squares. Once at the foot of the tower, you'll be able to enjoy a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you feel like it, you can visit the tower and climb to the very top by buying a ticket($9).

Aerial view of Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill, San Francisco

- © trekandshoot / Shutterstock

Presidio Park offers a beautiful panorama to end the day. To get there from the Coit Tower, take bus line 30 or 45, and allow around 30 minutes for the journey. Once in the park, you'll have a magnificent view of the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. If you fancy one last visit, the Palace of Fine Arts is one of the city's most beautiful monuments and well worth seeing.

Palace of Fine Arts, Parc du Presidio, San Francisco

- © Vadim 777 / Shutterstock
The Marker San Francisco San Francisco
Booking.com

The Marker San Francisco

With 208 top-of-the-range rooms for two to four people and a host of facilities, The Marker ensures your comfort and welcomes you in luxurious conditions.
7.7 Fine
From
£184 / night
Book

Day 2: 100% natural escapade in the surrounding area

The village of Sausalito

On your second day in San Francisco, head to Fisherman's Wharf to hire bikes from Blazzing Saddles (2715 Hyde Street). Once you've got your bikes, it's time to head for the Golden Gate Bridge. The hour-long ride to the village of Sausalito takes you through some very different landscapes: the city gradually disappears, giving way to beaches and stretches of forest. Once you reach Sausalito, you'll find a timeless atmosphere far removed from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco: a few fishermen on the water's edge, sea lions putting on a show and a divine tranquillity.

Quartier des Houseboats, Sausalito, Californie

- © DAVID ENGLISH / Shutterstock
🚴 Rent a bike in San Francisco San Francisco

🚴 Rent a bike in San Francisco

Here you can hire any type of bike by the hour or by the day, and some offers include a ferry return from Sausalito.
From
£33 / person
Book

This charming little town is famous for its fishing port and its Houseboats district. These 400 floating houses, once inhabited by the hippy communities of the 70s, are the haunt of many artists and Silicon Valley bosses. Strolling through this floating village is a memorable experience, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Going in the morning is ideal for enjoying the peace and quiet without too many tourists. The floating houses are all different, from the most modern to those cobbled together over time with a lot of elbow grease, exuding a bohemian spirit.

Floating houses in the Houseboats district, Sausalito, California

- © charline poher / Shutterstock

Other places worth visiting include Point Bonita Lighthouse, which can be reached by taking the Conzelman Road and crossing a suspension bridge. Perched on a rock above the sea, the site gives you the feeling of being at the end of the world. Now it's time to head back to San Francisco, either by bike for those who have the energy to do the 13 km again, or by taking a ferry and putting the bikes on it. Once back at Fisherman's Wharf, there are plenty of restaurants offering delicious dishes. Another option for lunch is to take a picnic lunch and wait until you reach your next destination to eat.

Point Bonita Lighthouse near the village of Sausalito, California

- © Kevin Kipper / Shutterstock

Muir Woods National Park

Around 30 minutes' drive from San Francisco lies Muir Woods National Monument, a 295-hectare park declared a national monument in 1906 and named after the famous naturalist John Muir. This unique sanctuary is home to one of the last remaining forests of yew-leaf coastal redwoods, also known as redwoods. Some of the trees are over 1,000 years old and stand 150 metres tall.

Low-angle shot of the redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument, California

- © Zack Frank / Shutterstock

The mist that is usually more prevalent in the morning gradually dissipates, while retaining a peaceful, mysterious atmosphere. To make the most of the solitude, avoid visiting at weekends, preferring mornings or the end of the day. You can arrive at the site by car park, shuttle bus or hire car, after making a compulsory reservation at least 90 days before your visit.

Entrance to Muir Woods National Monument, California

- © Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

The park has almost 6 km of trails, all of which are equipped and accessible to people with reduced mobility and pushchairs. The easy walks start from the Visitor Centre and are divided into three loops of 30 minutes, 1 hour and 1.5 hours. Whichever you choose, you'll be able to shorten the journey time thanks to the shortcuts in the form of bridges. Depending on how much time you want to spend in the park, there are also more advanced hikes such as the Ben Johnson Trail and the Canopy View Trail.

Sentier de randonnée, Muir Woods National Monument, Californie

- © topseller / Shutterstock

For the more adventurous, there are other options, such as medium-to-high difficulty trails into neighbouring Mt Tamalpais Park. These are completely untamed routes that will delight even the biggest hiking fans, with higher gradients in a misty, forested landscape. Be sure to bring rainwear and water, depending on the weather.

View from the tip of Mount Tamalpais National Park over San Francisco Bay, California

- © Alisa_Ch / Shutterstock

🔥 Anecdote

The mysterious and impenetrable nature of Muir Woods has led to it being used as the setting for a number of films, including Alfred Hitchcock's Cold Sweat in 1958 and, more recently, Planet of the Apes: Origins in 2011. The park was also used for the filming of the 6th instalment of Star Wars, Return of the Jedi in 1983. The forest is in fact that of the planet Endor where Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia meet the endearing Ewoks.

Practical info

📍 Location: Mill Valley, CA 94941, United States

Times: every day from 9am to 6pm, plan to leave 30 minutes before closing time to avoid a nasty surprise

👛 Price: $15 per person aged 16 and over, plus the cost of parking ($9 per vehicle), which must be booked at least 90 days in advance, or the cost of the shuttle bus.

👉 O ther info: Remember to take a fleece and a windbreaker, as temperatures can change very quickly and it's often cold there even in summer. Please note that there is no WiFi or network.

The Golden Gate Recreation Area

What better way to end the day than enjoying the sunset with one of the most magnificent views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city. With this in mind, we head north to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, an urban national park and one of the largest in the world. The Conzelman Road offers numerous views of the bridge and the bay in an unsuspected natural environment. The car parks are small and fill up quickly, so finding a space can take a little time. However, you can park at the North Tower Golden Gate Car Park and walk to one of them (15-20 minute walk).

Vue sur la Conzelman Road, Golden Gate Recreation Area, Californie

- © Jon Bilous / Shutterstock
by Editorial Team
Need a hand? take a look at our guide
San Francisco
San Francisco
Latest news
Montpellier
Delving into Montpellier's cultural life
Marseille
Our 5 favourite spots on the Côte Bleue: paradise between Marseille and Martigues
Marseille
The 10 most legendary hotels in Marseille
Montpellier
Visit the Ecusson: Montpellier's historic centre
Naples
Discovering the villages of the Amalfi coast, an Italian poem
Read more articles
Best cities