Things to do in San Francisco: Eating, drinking, staying and doing

Photo credit: GABRIEL BOUYS - Getty Images
Photo credit: GABRIEL BOUYS - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Ask anybody who's been to San Francisco about the best things to do there, and they'll have a list as long as their right arm. The city is stuffed full of sight-seeing and cocktail spots, excellent eateries and photo opps, all the while giving off the most welcoming vibe of 'cool'.

Whether you're planning a long weekend or a road trip stop, here are our pick of the best things to do in San Fran. You'll want to go again before you've even left.

Where to stay

The Tilden Hotel

Located a stone's throw away from Union Square, the financial district and Market Street, The Tilden's location is brilliant. Tidy and unique, the hotel prides itself on supporting and promoting local artists, giving it an edgy vibe. Check out The Douglas Room for a night cap and speciality cocktail, or hang out in the lobby for a game of Connect 4 on their navy corner sofa. Things can get a little noisy outside during the night, but such is the case with any inner city hotel, so bring your ear plugs!

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Check Out The Tilden Hotel

What to do

To say San Francisco will keep you busy is an understatement: there is SO much to do during your city break. Here are just a few suggestions:

Edible Excursions Japan Town Tour

Immerse yourself in one of California's remaining Japan Towns with an Edible Excursions tour, which will take you on an eating experience while sharing some of the history of the district. You'll have the chance to sample everything from moreish mochi balls to sweet potato latte (trust us, it's delicious), and you'll leave feeling fully satisfied.

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Sail around the bay on a Catamaran

There's no better way to see the bay area of San Francisco than by boat, which makes the AdventureCat bay sail perfect. Float past Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge, before getting an incredible view of the city's skyline on your return. Photo opportunities to boot.

Visit Alcatraz

No trip to San Francisco is complete without a visit to Alcratraz, the small island that housed a federal prison until 1963. The self-guided tour is absolutely fascinating, giving you an insight into what prison life was like on the island, as well as the many failed escape attempts. If you only have time for one excursion, make it this.

Ferry Building Farmers' Market

The Ferry Building Farmers' Market is a must for anyone who is vaguely interested in food (that's everyone, then). The covered market is a perfect stop whether you're people watching or feasting, and has a kitchen shop you could spend hours in. Whether you're after snacks from an independent seller or a yummy lunch for sustenance, they've got you covered.

Charmaine's Rooftop Bar & Lounge

The West coast of America's sunsets are second to none. Catch one like the below from Charmaine's Rooftop Bar, and dance with a cocktail of your choice in hand while the sky turns from blue to pink to orange. It's special.

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Cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge

Unsurprisingly, inner San Francisco is not the only thing this part of California has to offer. Hire a bike from Bay City Bike Rentals & Tours and head across the Golden Gate - not only will you get beautiful views while up close and personal with the bridge, but you'll see what towns like Sausalito have to offer, too.


Because what's a long weekend away without a bit of ~culture~ thrown into the mix? San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art has exhibits from David Hockney to Andy Warhol, and was the first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th-century art.

Where to eat


Palette prides itself on not only being where the cool kids hang out, but on creating a concept that is so much more than just a restaurant. Combining an art gallery, eatery and gift shop, Palette's mission is simple - encourage creativity through both art and food, in a setting that inspires all. If you go, order the scallops and halibut (pictured below), and definitely ask the sommelier for wine advice.

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The fact Noosh is owned by the husband and wife team behind two Michelin starred restaurants in New York might give you an idea about how delicious the food is. Inspired by family style eating, the dishes are made to be shared; think Mediterranean dips, meat skewers and fresh salads. Not only is it surprisingly affordable, but the red pepper dip could be the best thing you ever put in your mouth.

Hog Island Oyster Co

No trip to San Francisco is complete without some fresh seafood, and the queue outside Hog Island Oysters will tell you it's the top spot to go. Set within The Ferry Building Farmers' Market, it's worth waiting for a table outside, so you can drink their signature cocktails and watch the world go by. The clam chowder is the restaurants speciality, but the chipotle oysters are also exceptional.

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Uno Dos Tacos

At Uno Dos Tacos you can bag a breakfast burrito for under $4, that will set you up for all the sight seeing you can muster. What's not to love?

August (1) Five

Explore the nuances of Indian cuisine at a restaurant that challenges everything you thought you knew about South Asian cooking. Alongside an extensive cocktail menu of twists on classics, August (1) Five encourages sharing food, so guests can sample offerings from their cold, warm and hot menus. The menu changes seasonally, but the palak chaat is a must, and the sticky toffee pudding is a delight.

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Tartine Manufactory

While Tartine Manufactory might not be the most convenient to get to, the journey is worth it when you've tried their egg sandwiches. Fresh bread and perfect pastries are made on site, while people queue out the door for a chance to taste the coddled eggs or berry french toast.

Things you might find useful

  • America is big on tipping, and it's customary to do it everywhere you go. As a rough guide, you should try and leave 15-20% gratuity for seated service and $1/per drink for bar service, 15-20% on guided tours, and $1-$2 per day for hotel staff, such as housekeeping and the bellmen.

  • San Francisco's housing crisis means homelessness is not unusual in the city. While this absolutely isn't a reason not to visit, it's just something to be aware of.

  • You won't need a car in the city, and tourists tend to walk or get taxis everywhere. If you're flying straight in to San Francisco, you can get an airport shuttle into the city from $17.00, or a private taxi for around $25.

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