One Day in San Francisco: Building the Perfect Itinerary

San Francisco is the place I call home, a city that’s a melting for diversity, and also the city with 4 seasons in one day. The city has plenty of great eats, breathtaking views, and an abundance of evening fog, but offers plenty to do for visitors. Whether you’re coming from the East Coast on a stopover, driving from another state or Southern California, or just wanting to explore the city, here’s how I would explore the city for a day.

Full disclosure, rather than build an expensive itinerary, these options are intended to be budget friendly. San Francisco can be a really pricey city to visit, but rather than blow your budget on experiences, there much to do as a fraction of the price.


Like most urban cities, San Francisco has an abundant amount of solid coffee shops, but rather than catching coffee, try some authentic Hong Kong milk tea and breakfast. Not only is Hong Kong breakfast cheaper than American breakfast, it is lighter and you can get your day started without feeling bogged down. If a full breakfast isn’t your style, don’t worry there ae plenty of Hong Kong Style bakeries that offer Pineapple Bun, Cocktail Bun, or other delicious sweat buns along with authentic hot milk tea (not to be confused with overly sugared Boba tea). If you’re craving a heftier meal, grab some dim sum before venturing down to Union Square.

After grabbing breakfast, you have several great options. Starting from the downtown area, you can take a quick stroll around Union Square before catching a ride on the city’s famous cable car taking you all the way to Ghirardelli Square. Once there, you can grab some free chocolate samples, drink some world famous hot coco, and see how the most famous chocolate spot in San Francisco produces their chocolate.

Breakfast Options

Jen’s List

  • Golden Gate Bakery
  • Good Mong Kok Bakery
  • Good Luck Dim Sum

Calvin’s List

  • Mr. Bread.

Mid Morning to Afternoon

After tasting some sugar treats in Ghirardelli, head over to Fisherman’s Warf for a quick stroll and some of the city’s famous sourdough bread if interested. Boudin is a local company that offers a showroom where you can observe the complex process of making sourdough. They also offer sourdough in kid friendly shapes. Otherwise, grab an electric scooter operated by one of the many brands (Bird, Lime, Lyft etc. ) and scooter over to the Ferry Building where you can check out local specialties. The shops aren’t earth shattering, but riding a scooter along the Embarcadero next to the bay is a one of a kind experience.( If you’re lucky you might even run into Hunter Pence)

After a nice ride, head other to the Golden Gate Bridge. If daring, you can walk across the bridge and enjoy the breathtaking views. I usually recommend visiting the bridge in the the early afternoon once the morning fog has burned off and before the evening fog aggressively blankets the bridge.

Fog Day vs Normal Day on the Golden Gate Bridge

Lunch Options

Boudin – Famous Sourdough Spot

Gott’s Roadside – Local Burger Joint that also serves delicious garlic fries

Late Afternoon – Evening

After a delicious and filling lunch, head over to Golden Gate Park or lands end for a nice walk and be the sunset. Lands end and the iconic Sutro Baths is a wonderful spot to catch the last glimmer of sunlight. This spot can get chilly at times so layer up or pack a warm jacket just in case. If you’re into something like a sky deck, head over to the De Young Museum for the Hamon Observation Tower. This free attraction at the museum(Museum entry isn’t free) gives you an amazing 360 view of the city.

Land’s End

Lands End/ Sutro Baths at Sunset in the Summer – Photo by Calvin Lim

Hamon Observation Tower

Official Picture from De Young Museum Website

Since the Hamon Observation is located in Golden Gate Park, you can head over to Inner Sunset for a great dinner and a sweet treat. Here, you’ll find a variety of different Asian foods including good sushi, Korean Cuisine, ramen, Shabu-Shabu, and much more. This area is close to Golden Gate Park so you don’t have to waste time getting stuck in the city’s suffocating traffic. Land’s end is a little farther and next to Ocean Beach giving you an opportunity to explore the Richmond District or you can head to one of the many unique cultural areas like Japantown, Chinatown, Little Italy, and more for authentic international cuisine. If you’re daring, you can also make a reservation at the famous House of Prime Rib. Just remember, parking can be a bit of a pain.

Dinner Options:

House of Prime Rib

Mensho Tokyo (Also on my top 3 ramen places in the bay)

Manna Korean

Farmhouse Thai (One of Jen’s Favorite places of all time)

San Tung (Famous chicken wings Jen’s MUST TRY IF YOU LIKE WINGS)

Crustacean SF (Seafood with a bougie twist)

K – Elements BBQ (Solid Korean BBQ Spot)

Toyose (Hole in the Wall Korean Spot where Jen and I had our first date)


After a nice delicious dinner, it’s time for more views. The city has several locations that offer mesmerizing views after dark. Here are a couple of options to finish out your night:

  • Twin Peaks
  • Bernal Heights
  • Pier 14
  • Pier 7
  • Palace of Fine Arts
concrete building during night time
Photo by Zaw Win Htun on

Have you thought about visiting San Francisco for a quick trip or layover? Have any activities that you would like to share? Let me know in the comments sections!

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