When you have an extra long stopover between flights the thought of trying to find ways to get through the long, slow hours stuck at the airport can be daunting. If you have a long enough stopover though, you can turn this into an awesome travel opportunity. Why would you want to spend hours upon hours inside an airport when you could be outside exploring the world.
I recently had an eight-hour stopover in San Francisco airport, and even though I was absolutely exhausted from days without sleep, food or showers (and had already visited this city before) I didn’t want to waste an opportunity to go visit one of the most stunning cities in the world…
We managed to see all of the main sights in just under three hours (six hours including transportation). Who said you had to have multiple days in a place to see the highlights? Here is my itinerary for you if you ever find yourself in San Francisco for only a short amount of time also.
Our flight landed at 8.30am and by 9am we had cleared customs and checked our bags back in. We went straight to the Information Centre to collect maps of the city and find out the best ways to get there from the airport.
The main attraction we wanted to see was, of course, The Golden Gate Bridge, so we made this our first stop on the itinerary. We caught the ‘Bart’ train from the airport to Daly City station, which took about fifteen minutes (note that the Bart only departs from the airport every twenty minutes). We then caught the #28 bus from the train station to the ‘Golden Gate Toll’ stop. You will know you are in the right place as you will, for one, see the Bridge as well as hundreds of people and buses everywhere. We spent about fifteen minutes here, taking photos from a few different spots and admiring the harbour. You could also walk a portion of the bridge if you have a bit of time up your sleeve.
From the Golden Gate Bridge we caught the #28 again, but in the Fort Mason direction. We intended to catch the bus to the famous Lombard Street ‘Crooked Street,’ but we accidentally got off at the wrong stop. My excuse for the confusion is the homeless man whispering creepy things behind me (huge amounts of homeless people in San Fran, sadly), but it could have also been sleep deprivation or just silliness. We started walking to our destination but the map was not to scale and the walk was taking much longer than we thought. We hopped in a cab to help us out with our time restrictions. We caught a taxi ($7) to the corner of Leavenworth and Filbert Streets, which ended up being perfect as it meant that we got to avoid climbing the super steep streets by foot and were only a few metres from the Crooked Street. I read in the city guide-book from the airport that the best place to photograph this was from Leavenworth Street, so that worked out super well. It is SO much harder to photograph than I imagined though, as there are people everywhere and Police constantly manning the site to ensure tourists are off the roads so that cars can still drive through. Due to this I didn’t love the photos I got, but I’m still happy to have seen it.
From Lombard street we followed Leavenworth Street down towards the Bay, which took us straight to Fisherman’s Wharf. I really love the vibe at Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s crowded but just has such a nice ‘California’ feel to it (plus it’s one of the only flat roads in the notoriously steep city). This is where we had our lunch. San Francisco is famous for their Clam Chowder, I recommend trying out Boudin!
After a nice lunch we made our way to Ghiradelli Square where the infamous Ghirardelli Chocolate Cafe can be found. It’s been almost five years since I was in San Francisco last and I still remembered this place for their delicious chocolate and ice cream sundaes. The Brownie Sundae is my favourite!! They almost always have free chocolate samples too!
One block back towards the bay will take you to the station to catch a Cable Car into the city centre. The Cable Car is an institution in San Francisco, one that has affected the culture of the city completely. Ride the Cable Car into the city where you can have a quick wander before hopping back on to the train, at Powell Street station, bound for the airport. We were back at the airport by 2.45pm, so that’s less than 6 hours to see the main sights (including round trip transport) of San Francisco.
We used the Clipper Card for payment on all transport (besides the taxi). A day pass costs $17 (though we somehow still had $9 credit left on the cards upon return), which you can purchase at the airport train station.
The only main sight that is missed on this list is Alcatraz Prison, so if you have an extra long stopover you could consider adding this to your itinerary (plus other beautiful sights and eateries).
There you have it – how to see San Francisco in one day!
Have you visited San Francisco? What were your highlights?
Tell me in the comments below!