36 Hours In San Francisco, California - Updated 2022

36 hours in san francisco
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Being the cultural hub of northern California, San Francisco or else the City by the Bay, is a city that has a little bit of everything. The bustling city is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and is home to more than 50 hills, while there is fun for all ages. The city is also home to brilliant landmarks and attractions, such as the welcoming Golden Gate Bridge, the Fisherman’s Wharf, the nostalgic and picturesque cable cars, colorful Victorian houses, the Coit Tower, and many more. If you decide to visit the city and have only 36 hours, rest assured you will see the most important sights, so check out this comprehensive itinerary for your next visit to San Francisco, California, USA.

Day 1: Afternoon - Stroll on the Golden Gate Bridge and visit the Aquarium of the Bay (from USD 29.0)

36 hours in san francisco | day 1: afternoon - stroll on the golden gate bridge and visit the aquarium of the bay
Source: pexels

If you find yourself in San Francisco, perhaps the first thing you would like to do would be to see the infamous Golden Gate Bridge, which, by the way, is probably the most photographed bridge in the world. This suspension bridge is 1 mile (1.6 km) long and actually connects San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. If you feel romantic, a good spot to gaze at it is the Fort Point National Historic Site. After your stroll, pay a visit to the fascinating Aquarium of the Bay, home to more than 20,000 marine animals. This is an underwater haven that will amaze kids and adults alike, with animals such as the hypnotic jellyfish, sleek sharks, and river otters passing by your surprised eyes.

San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay General Admission Ticket

Duration: 2 hours

196 reviews

Day 1: Evening - After dinner, night tour of Alcatraz (from USD 219.0)


Treat yourself to a nice restaurant, and get ready for an exciting night tour of Alcatraz Island. The famous tiny island has served as a lighthouse for the West Coast, and later as a military fortification and eventually as a federal prison. Notorious imprisoned people, such as Al Capone were kept here. This creates a mysterious atmosphere around the island, especially on a night tour. The ferry from San Francisco takes only 15-20 minutes to reach the national historic landmark and it is definitely worth seeing several important buildings and ruins.

2-Day Alcatraz Night Tour and Silicon Valley Tech Tour Package

Duration: 2 days

Day 1: Night - Watch late night movies at the Clay Theatre

Posted by The CLAY Theatre San Francisco's Midnight Madness Midnight Movies on Thursday, 20 December 2018

Continue your night at the Clay Theatre, a rather historic and art deco movie house that has been in operation for more than a century, and as such, it’s one of the oldest theaters in San Francisco. They feature both classic and new indie films, while they do offer a full-service restaurant along with beer and wine. So, feel at home and sit back to enjoy a nice movie while sipping on your drink, before you go to rest.

Landmark's Clay Theatre

Address: 2221, 2261 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115, United States

Website: Landmark’s Clay Theatre

Day 2: Morning - Late breakfast at Vive La Tarte or Verve Coffee Roasters, then San Francisco Zoo (from USD 25.0)

Hearst Grizzly Gulch - San Francisco Zoo
Source: Photo by user Brocken Inaglory used under CC BY-SA 3.0

You will probably wake up a bit late, but no matter what time you do, set on for a unique coffee experience in either Vive La Tarte or Verve Coffee Roasters, both excellent shops for coffee and more. Vive La Tarte is actually a bakery, apart from a gathering point, that specializes in stuffed croissants, Tacro (taco croissant hybrid) and also specialty coffee, while Verve Coffee Roasters serves a variety of blended coffee in a comfy and bright space. After enjoying your cup of coffee, head to the magnificent San Francisco Zoo, a must experience for the whole family. The tremendous zoo hosts more than 2,000 endangered and exotic animals in its gorgeous gardens.

San Francisco Zoo General Admission

Duration: 6 hours

162 reviews

Day 2: Evening - Dinner, then evening boat tour (from USD 50.0)


Taste some more of the local cuisine and then jump on a boat to have a tour of San Francisco. Check out this marvelous city in its night lighting from a different perspective. There are numerous boat tours to choose from, and it doesn’t really matter if you are here to enjoy nature, get some fresh air or soak in San Francisco’s history. Besides, there is a reason San Francisco is called City by the Bay, so don’t miss a chance to explore it by boat.

San Francisco Bay Twilight and Sunset Cruise

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

888 reviews

Day 2: Night - Catch a show in the Theater District (from USD 22.0)

2017 Curran Theatre 445 Geary Street
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Beyond My Ken used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Don’t go yet to bed as there is still one more thing to do before your departure. San Francisco has a rather booming theater scene, thus you can’t leave if you don’t visit the elegant Theater District, which clearly implies what this district is all about. Over two dozen legitimate theaters are hosted in impressive buildings around this neighborhood, so have a look at their agenda and who knows, you might be lucky enough to catch a hot Broadway musical.

Carolina Lugo's and Carolé Acuña's Ballet Flamenco

Duration: 2 hours

Day 3: Morning - Breakfast, then stroll through Ghirardelli Square for shopping

Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user DroneEddie used under CC BY-SA 4.0

On your last morning, and surely after your breakfast, there is nothing better to do than go shopping (and walking) in the fancy Ghirardelli Square. This square is actually a bayside landmark itself, since 1862, and it’s a beautiful blend of restaurants, shops, and also the original home of chocolate manufacturing in San Francisco. The area was named after an Italian who based his ‘chocolate’ company here, so make sure you try this famous chocolate before you leave. It will, anyway, leave you a sweet taste of San Francisco!

Ghirardelli Square

Address: 900 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109, Russian Hill, Fisherman’s Wharf

Website: Ghirardelli Square

Enjoy the City by the Bay

36 hours in san francisco | enjoy the city by the bay
Source: pexels

If you are looking for a short holiday in a busy environment with tons of options, look no further than San Francisco. Be it a visit to the Zoo, admiring skyscrapers, gazing at the unique Golden Gate Bridge or just enjoying a cable car ride, this city will absolutely amaze you. So, even 36 hours are plenty to appreciate the beauty of this place.

Day 2: Afternoon - Tour the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, visit the Exploratorium, and then ride a cable car (from USD 29.0)

day 2: afternoon - tour the san francisco maritime national historic park, visit the exploratorium, and then ride a cable car
Source: Pixabay

Finish with the zoo and go pay a visit to this maritime park that is meant to provide visitors with an insight into the Pacific Coast maritime history. The park includes the Maritime Museum, an aquatic park pier, a visitor center, historic ships, and the Maritime Research Center. Notice that several services are currently unavailable due to the federal government shutdown. Next stop will be the stunning Exploratorium, a museum that shows the world through science, art and human perception. The museum is ideal for all ages and includes interesting activities and an exhibit collection as well. To carry on your already exciting day hop on for a fascinating cable car ride since you will find only here, a manually operated cable car system. Relax at a local coffee shop to recharge your batteries.

San Francisco Exploratorium General Admission Ticket

Duration: 2 to 5 hours

78 reviews
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Curious to see the world and eager to learn, I grew up trying to find ways to escape my comfort zone. Starting from my home country, Greece, I went on to explore many European countries. Then, I...Read more

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