A popular tourist destination, San Francisco is known for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, Fisherman's Wharf, and its Chinatown district.
We have compiled a list of the most important attractions you can explore without paying anything. From musums, walks and amazing views, San Francisco has everything for everyone.
The Cable and Cable Car Museum (Admission is Free)
The San Francisco cable car system is the one of the world's last manually operated cable car system along with that of the Trams in Kolkata. An icon of San Francisco, the cable car system forms part of the intermodal urban transport network operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway. Of the 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890, only three remain (one of which combines parts of two earlier lines): two routes from downtown near Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf, and a third route along California Street.
The cable cars are pulled by a cable running below the street, held by a grip that extends from the car through a slit in the street surface, between the rails. Each cable is 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) in diameter, running at a constant speed of 9.5 miles per hour (15.3 km/h), and driven by a 510 horsepower (380 kW) electric motor located in the central power house.
The Cable Car Museum was established in 1974. It is operated by the Friends of the Cable Car Museum as a nonprofit educational facility. Admission is Free.
Located in the historic Washington/Mason cable car barn and powerhouse, the museum deck overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables. Downstairs is a viewing area of the large sheaves and cable line entering the building through the channel under the street.
Take a walk over Golden Gate Bridge
The bridge is popular with pedestrians and bicyclists, and was built with walkways on either side of the six vehicle traffic lanes. Initially, they were separated from the traffic lanes by only a metal curb, but railings between the walkways and the traffic lanes were added in 2003, primarily as a measure to prevent bicyclists from falling into the roadway.
The main walkway is on the eastern side, and is open for use by both pedestrians and bicycles in the morning to mid-afternoon during weekdays (5 am to 3:30 pm), and to pedestrians only for the remaining daylight hours (until 6 pm, or 9 pm during DST). The eastern walkway is reserved for pedestrians on weekends (5 am to 6 pm, or 9 pm during DST), and is open exclusively to bicyclists in the evening and overnight, when it is closed to pedestrians. The western walkway is open only for bicyclists and only during the hours when they are not allowed on the eastern walkway.
The Sea Lions at Pier 39
California sea lions have always been present in San Francisco Bay. They started to haul out on docks of Pier 39 in September 1989. Before that they mostly used Seal Rock for that purpose.
Ever since September 1989 the number of sea lions on Seal Rock has been steadily decreasing, while their number on Pier 39 has generally increased. Some people speculate that sea lions moved to docks because of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but the earthquake occurred months after the first sea lions had arrived at Pier 39. It is likely that the sea lions feel safer inside the Bay.
With a plentiful supply of food from the Bay and an environment protected from predators, the PIER 39 Marina proved to be an ideal living situation for the sea lions. Within a few short months, the number of sea lions grew to more than 300 and hit an all-time record of 1,701 in November 2009. While the number of sea lions at K-Dock rise and fall with the seasons, available food supply and natural migration patterns, the world famous sea lions always have a home at PIER 39.
Relax in Golden Gate Park
It is similar in shape but 20 percent larger than Central Park in New York, to which it is often compared. It is over three miles (4.8 km) long east to west, and about half a mile (0.8 km) north to south. With 13 million visitors annually, Golden Gate is the fifth most-visited city park in the United States after Central Park in New York City, Lincoln Park in Chicago, and Balboa and Mission Bay Parks in San Diego.
The Music Concourse is a sunken, oval-shaped open-air plaza originally excavated for the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. Its focal point is the Spreckels Temple of Music, also called the "Bandshell," where numerous music performances have been staged.
Visit Fisherman's Wharf
One of the busiest and well known tourist attractions in the western United States, Fisherman's Wharf is best known for being the location of Pier 39, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, a Ripley's Believe it or Not museum, the Musée Mécanique, Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf, and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
Seafood restaurants are aplenty in the area. Some include the floating Forbes Island restaurant at Pier 39 to stands that serve fresh seafood, most notably Dungeness crab and clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl. Some of the restaurants, including Fishermen's Grotto, Pompei's Grotto and Alioto's, go back for three generations of the same family ownership.
Other restaurants include chains like Joe's Crab Shack and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. The area also has an In-N-Out Burger; local business leaders said they opposed every other fast food chain except In-N-Out, because they wanted to maintain the flavor of family-owned, decades-old businesses in the area, with one saying locals would ordinarily "be up in arms about a fast-food operation coming to Fisherman's Wharf," but the family-owned In-N-Out "is different."
Other attractions in Fisherman's Wharf area are the Hyde Street Pier (part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park), the USS Pampanito, a decommissioned World War II era submarine, and the Balclutha, a 19th-century cargo ship. Nearby Pier 45 has a chapel in memory of the "Lost Fishermen" of San Francisco and Northern California.
Watch the Cars go down Lombard Street
Lombard Street is an east–west street in San Francisco, California that is famous for a steep, one-block section with eight hairpin turns. Stretching from The Presidio east to The Embarcadero (with a gap on Telegraph Hill), most of the street's western segment is a major thoroughfare designated as part of U.S. Route 101.
The famous one-block section, claimed as "the most crooked street in the world", is located along the eastern segment in the Russian Hill neighborhood. The street was named after Lombard Street in Philadelphia by San Francisco surveyor Jasper O'Farrell.