Ready, set, eat! Make the most of the city with delicious food aplenty, while you take in the sights and surrounds of the bay.
It’s best to arrive in San Francisco on an empty stomach.
Spectacular to behold and steeped in American cultural and artistic history, the city is also jam-packed with some of the most exciting and delicious eateries, bars, and eating experiences the world has to offer.
If you’ve lived your life believing American cuisine is pretty awful, San Francisco and Northern California will make you think again—from the cheesesteak you’ll eat in the bleachers at AT&T Park, to the crab cake burger and gelato you find at Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Mission-style burrito that will change your life.
Here, we break down the very best spots to sample a little of the flavour of the bay city when you’ve only got a day to spare (and don't worry, we've included activities other than eating!)
9:00 AM Coffee and pastries at Vive La Tarte
True foodies and carbohydrate-enthusiasts will have heard of Tartine—the bakery in San Fransisco's Mission District that is largely credited with creating the world's very best sourdough. Queues aside, it is well-worth a visit, but if patience is not your virtue, we highly recommend a visit to Vive La Tarte.
Croissants at Vive La Tarte.
Housed within a former printing press in SoMa, Vive La Tarte serves croissants with decadent toppings and creamy fillings like blood orange, black coffee, and mocha. There are also Berliners (jam doughnuts) and Roman-style square cut pizzas by the slice for something savoury.
The bakery is in full swing towards the back of the warehouse space, while the front segment features wide communal tables and bleacher seats, designed by the bakery's owners, Belgian husband-and-wife team Arnaud Goethals and Julie Vandermeersch. Coffee is available in all formats, with beans from Slightglass Coffee around the corner.
10:00 AM Soak up a little baseball history with a VIP guided tour of AT&T Park
Whether or not you are a Giants fan, a tour of this world-famous harbourside baseball stadium includes incredible views and a little insight into the city's sporting past and America's 'great past time'. You'll visit a Major League dugout, the press box, a luxury suite, the visitor's clubhouse, the playing field, and a room lined with glass cabinets that are brimming with baseball history and diamond-encrusted World Series Rings. Find out more about the tour here.
Behind the plate at AT&T Park.
And if you're in town for a game, you won't be short of options for something super delicious to eat during the seventh-inning stretch. Try Outta Here Cheesesteaks or beef chilli nachos served in a plastic souvenir ballcap from El Gigante Nacho Cart. Then there's The Garden—an actual farm-to-table restaurant that uses produce grown on site at AT&T Park (what else would you expect at a baseball stadium in San Fransisco?).
12:30 PM Lunch in Mission Delores Park with an artisanal, organic picnic from Bi-Rite
As well as being the heart of foodie San Fransisco (maybe even the world), the Mission is one the city's most historic quarters, being the spot where a Spanish priest set up Mission San Francisco de Asis on June 29, 1776. Famous former inhabitants include Carlos Santana, but it's also the birthplace of the Mission-style burrito that so many of us love here in Australia (the sort served with guacamole, rice, and sour cream).
Once you've taken in the street art of the Mission (The Women's Building is breath-taking), make a beeline for Bi-Rite. Not your typical deli-style community supermarket, Bi-Rite is a mecca of everything edible and artisanal—trust us, you'll be besotted. Think sustainable meat, poultry, and seafood, a curated cheese department, organic produce, and pre-made meals like garlic shrimp risotto, stir-fry with summer veggies, and fish tacos.
For something sweet, stop over at Bi-Rite Creamery across the street for a scoop of some of the best ice cream in the city (the salted caramel soft serve is a must).
2:30 PM Cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge
Once you've had your fill, jump on the BART (subway) at the 16th Street Mission station. Change to a classic San Fransisco tram at Powell Street, which will take you up a steep hill and down to the sparkling harbourside. Blazing Saddles on Hyde Street rent bikes to ride across the iconic rust red Golden Gate Bridge, and provide maps and ideas for pit stops over at Sausalito on the other side.
4:30 PM Pre-dinner snack at Fisherman's Wharf
One of the most famous food destinations in San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf is where you'll find fresh seafood (clam chowder, crab legs, steamed mussels) as well as a whole host of other artisanal treats and delights to bite and browse. Try the historic Boundin Bakery, have a wharf-side cocktail at Aliotos or Gold Dust Lounge, or try the fish tacos at The Codmother foodtruck.
7:00 PM Drinks and dinner at China Live
Though it may be a little tricky to find at first, China Live in Chinatown has to be one of the most exciting venues in San Fransisco right now. Inside you'll find a tea and pastry cafe, two restaurants, a speakeasy, a homewares store, and a soon-to-open rooftop bar. Designed by New York-based AvroKO architects, China Live is a culinary journey for the senses.
A table at 8 Tables by George Chen.
Begin your evening with a cocktail at Cold Drinks, a stunning upstairs saloon with neon dragons on the walls and cocktails served in copper pineapples. Head back downstairs to the lively Market Restaurant, where you'll be served dumplings and dim sims from a set of open kitchen stations. For something more luxurious, try the tasting menu at the more private, exquisitely appointed 8 Tables by George Chen.
Stay: Find an Airbnb in the city that started it all
Back in 2007, schoolmates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia couldn't afford the rent in their San Fransisco loft apartment so they set up an air mattress in their lounge room and turned it into a makeshift bed and breakfast called 'Air Bed and Breakfast'. A year later, Airbnb was born in the heart of San Fransisco. The city has thousands of listings to suit any budget, and these days, Airbnb allows you to browse properties based on two key trip types too: family or work.
If you prefer a little luxury or five-star service, the Fairmont San Fransisco atop Nob Hill is an institution in the city with a stately, elegant sort of style. For something fresher, try St Regis or Proper.
Other top picks
- San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MoMA)
- Avital Mission District Foodie Tour (tour the Mission hotspots with a local—you won't leave hungry!)
- Head up north to Sonoma County to sample some of Northern California's greatest wine.
Images by Sammy Preston.