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Top 10 Once in a Lifetime Things to Do in San Francisco

San Francisco is such an enjoyable city to visit! I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t entirely in love with the town when they lived. It’s fantastic, mainly because of all the free things you can do and see throughout San Francisco dotted across the city.

The beautiful hilly landscape, with a backdrop of the ocean and its incredible inhabitants, makes it one of the top tourist destinations worldwide.

While there are plenty of great activities to enjoy in the city, it’s challenging to locate some of the things that are free within San Francisco. This is why I’m sharing my top picks after having visited numerous times.

To help you, I’ve put together this list of the most accessible activities to enjoy within San Francisco. Make the most of your visit!

1.) Go down Lombard Street

Go down Lombard Street
Go down Lombard Street

Lombard Street is probably the most fascinating and well-known street in San Francisco (perhaps even in California?). It is between Russian Hill, North Beach, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Why is it so well-known? The answer is simple, Lombard Street is famous for its eight hairpin turns and planted flower beds. They were created in 1922 to make the hill less steep for vehicles and pedestrians walking along the road. The 600-foot (182 meters) long street is lined with beautiful Victorian homes and the speed limit for driving at 5 mph.

If you’re brave enough, try driving along the street, but walking may be the best option for a more extended, pleasant experience. It’s one of the cheapest activities to enjoy when you visit San Francisco, even if your visit is small.

2.) Take a San Francisco City Guide

Take a San Francisco City Guide
Take a San Francisco City Guide

It’s a blessing for tourists visiting San Francisco; local volunteers enjoy the city just as much as they love their city.

They’re so good that they’ve provided gratuitously guided city tours since 1978! The terms cover topics ranging from the 1800s in San Francisco to Alfred Hitchcock. Regular neighbourhood tours are also offered.

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The dates vary from specific tours offered all year round, from May to October. Tours run for 1.5 to two hours, and reservations are required only when you’re part of a group with eight people or more.

For more information on the tour and schedules, visit

3.) Go to Pier 39

Go to Pier 39
Go to Pier 39

Yes, it’s located within Fisherman’s Wharf, but it deserves to be mentioned as an individual, especially for the seals.

Pier 39 is a colourful combination of sounds, sights, and smells (of the smelly seals) that are well worth a walk. In addition, it’s one of the few free activities within San Francisco that you can make taking a walk.

If you’re looking for a funky and trendy hotel, check out The Hotel Zeppelin, based in the heart of San Francisco. The rooms are bustling!

4.) See The Golden Gate Bridge

See The Golden Gate Bridge
See The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is the most famous landmark in San Francisco and one of the most well-known bridges around the globe. It is entirely free to cross during the daylight hours, and cyclists can also bike across it at any time or night.

Most visitors stroll about halfway over the bridge. They snap some photos and go back to the city – except obviously, you’re interested in the workout. Additionally, it’s among the free activities during your time in San Francisco that won’t cost you a cent!

To find excellent accommodation (after doing all the activities for free during your visit to San Francisco, check into Hotel G. It’s a stylish hotel that is stunning.

5.) Take a trip to the beach

Take a trip to the beach
Take a trip to the beach

With water flowing all three ways, it should be apparent that San Francisco is home to gorgeous beaches. In reality, it’s one of the most enjoyable activities when visiting San Francisco on a sunny day.

What’s more enjoyable than spending nothing while strolling along the Pacific Coast beach? Ocean Beach, located near the Richmond district to the west of San Francisco, offers a gorgeous seaside directly in the Pacific.

To enjoy breathtaking views of Golden Gate Bridge and nearby cliffs, travel a little further north towards Baker Beach. The beach also offers spots for picnics, as well as access to trails for hiking.

If you’re searching for an elegant hotel to stay in for the night, consider The Galleria Park Hotel, which is gorgeous.

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6.) Explore Fisherman’s Wharf

Explore Fisherman's Wharf
Explore Fisherman’s Wharf

It is located in the northern part of the waterfront located in the north of the waterfront area of San Francisco; Fisherman’s Wharf is a neighbourhood and tourist attraction. It was built on the rubble remnants of the massive earthquake which hit San Francisco in 1906. The region quickly gained fame through its Fishing Fleet, now more than three generations old.

The most well-known catch at Fisherman’s Wharf is the Dungeness crab which is harvested in the annual harvest that begins in November.

Take in all the sounds, sights, and history during a stroll through the Wharf. Maybe you’ll even have an enticing meal of crab or Chowder (though it’s going to cost you).

7.) Visit the ‘Really Really Free Market.’

Visit the 'Really Really Free Market.'
Visit the ‘Really Really Free Market.’

As the name suggests, it’s free! And it’s unlike any other market you’ve visited. It’s located in Dolores Park; anyone can see the market and trade anything, such as ideas, knowledge or entertainment, discussion, or items made from scratch. Why not drop by?

Perhaps you could discuss ideas and exchange opinions with other people. This “potluck” market is held on the last Saturday of each month.

8.) Check out Ghirardelli Square

Check out Ghirardelli Square
Check out Ghirardelli Square

The former chocolate factory has become an attractive public shopping area west of Fisherman’s Wharf.

Ghirardelli Square is now on the site of once the Ghirardelli Chocolate factory. The equipment used to make chocolate is on display to this day.

Visit the shops, admire the view, and get a piece of Ghirardelli chocolate! (Truth, I’d heard nothing of Ghirardelli chocolate before visiting. However, I’m not one to refuse the opportunity to get chocolate for free!)

9.) Visit the Maritime National Historical Park

Visit the Maritime National Historical Park
Visit the Maritime National Historical Park

Anyone interested with Pacific Coast maritime history can go to The Maritime National Historical Park. It is located in the neighbourhood of Fisherman’s Wharf; visitors can see historic vessels docked on Hyde Street Pier.

The tourist centre is stuffed with photographs that tell the history of San Francisco’s maritime past. (If you’re not fascinated by anything nautical, it’s best to skip this place).

Additionally, it’s among the free activities within San Francisco that won’t break the bank.

10.) Go to Union Square

Go to Union Square
Go to Union Square

If shopping in the window (really just looking) is your passion, Union Square is for you. It is regarded as the city’s “Crown Jewel of shopping districts” Union Square is ideal for actual shoppers and those who want to know what’s on offer.

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Saks Fifth Avenue sits on one end of the Square. The Saks Fifth Avenue sits on one side of the Square, while Macy’s is on the opposite. If you don’t have anything else to do, you want to sit down and watch some impressive people here. If you’re not a fan of shopping, this could be one you can leave until the end of the day, after you’re out of opportunities to have fun within San Francisco

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