This scheduled plan should give an idea of how each day will be structured, time-wise, and allows for substantial independent time for shopping, touring, eating, and sleeping during the trip. Evidently, public transportation timings are dynamic and activities might be extended or shortened at your own pace, but this should give a rough idea of how each day will be timed.
09:00 – 09:20 Lombard Street
09:20 – 09:30 Walk to Ghirardelli Square
09:30 – 10:15 Hyde Street Pier and Breakfast/Coffee
10:15 – 11:15 Ghirardelli Square Shopping
11:15 – 11:30 Walk to Pier 39 along waterfront
11:30 – 13:00 Pier 39 Shopping and Attractions
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch near Pier 39
14:00 – 14:30 Walk to Powell/Mason Cable Car Turnaround, wait for cable car
14:30 – 14:45 Take Market + Powell car to Powell & Post St station
14:45 – 16:30 Shopping in Union Square
16:30 – 16:45 Walk to Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
16:45 – 17:15 Golden Gate Fortunate Cookie Factory
17:15 – 17:45 Ming Lee Trading
17:45 – 21:00 Dinner in Chinatown, independent shopping time around downtown
21:00 – onwards Nightlife, return to accommodations, etc.
08:30 – 08:45 Purchase tickets for Early Bird ferry to Alcatraz
08:45 – 11:00 Alcatraz Island Tour
11:00 – 11:15 Take F Line to Market & Drumm Street
11:15 – 14:00 Lunch and Shopping at the Embarcadero Center
14:00 – 14:20 Take N Line Metro to Carl & Cole Street
14:20 – 17:30 Haight-Ashbury Shopping and Golden Gate Park
17:30 – 17:45 Take taxi/rideshare to Twin Peaks
17:45 – 18:30 Twin Peaks
18:30 – 18:45 Take taxi/rideshare to the Castro (Castro & Market Street)
18:45 – 20:00 Dinner in the Castro
20:00 – onwards Shopping and/or nightlife in the Castro, return to hotel
Centered on neighborhoods with the best shopping opportunities in San Francisco, this itinerary offers travelers ample independent time to visit a wide variety of shops in the City, from the big-box department stores scattered around Union Square to the eclectic and unique street-side shops of the Haight. This itinerary allows travelers both the opportunity to shop as well as the ability to visit some of the top-rated, must-see destinations in San Francisco. Additionally, since San Francisco is known for its historically-significant (and contemporary!) public transportation systems, this itinerary gives users a taste of how locals and tourists navigate this exciting city. This itinerary includes a brief overview of the two day tour, as well as a timed, scheduled trip plan for those who prefer more structure.
In the morning we’ll start in one of the most elegant and picturesque neighborhoods of San Francisco: Russian Hill. Known for its remarkable views of the City and water from the hilly streets which characterize the neighborhood, the main attraction of Russian Hill is one that is best experienced in the morning, when the afternoon crowds have yet to fill in. Lombard Street, the most “crookedest street in the world”, is a perfect sight to see before the shops on our itinerary open. Choose to walk up the 600 foot long street with a 27 percent grade, or enjoy the views of the Bay from the bottom of the windy avenue.
A short, ten-minute walk down Lombard Street will bring us to Ghirardelli Square, the site of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory headquarters until the 1960s. Today, the complex is home to the five-star Fairmont Heritage Place hotel, as well as several high-end shops and restaurants. After finishing up visiting the square, just across the street is Hyde Street Pier, where you’ll be able to visit a diverse collection of historic and new ships, and see the Golden Gate Bridge from one of the best waterside vista points in the City.
Another ten minute walk down Beach Street will have us end up at Pier 39, the hallmark attraction of the trendy North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Here, visitors will have access to a shopping scene that is heavy on novelty and souvenirs. Choose to ride the two-story carousel, check out the famous arcade, or simply watch the California sea lions as they relax on the docks and under the pier itself. Seen on a clear day, just across the water from Pier 39, is Angel Island, a state park and historic landmark where the Angel Island Immigration Station processed approximately one million immigrants for thirty years between 1910 and 1940.
After lunch at one of the several restaurants on or surrounding Pier 39, another ten-minute walk back down Beach and Taylor will put you at the Powell/Mason Street Cable Car Turnaround. Here, you’ll be able to take the Market + Powell tram 20 stops to the Powell St & Post St station in downtown San Francisco, where yet another shopping district of the City awaits. In Union Square, a three-acre public plaza in between the tallest buildings of the notable ‘Frisco skyline, you’ll have access to some of the most reputable department stores, boutiques, and art galleries in the world.
After spending some independent time checking out your favorite shops around Union Square, a fifteen-minute walk down Grant will have travelers end up in Chinatown, one of San Francisco’s most beloved neighborhoods. If you are able to arrive by 6pm, be sure to visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, a cozy open kitchen where free tours of the cookie-making process are offered. Directly adjacent to the factory is a local favorite grocery store named Ming Lee Trading, where loads of inexpensive Chinese snack foods make up two whole stories inside the store.
This first night in San Francisco culminates here in Chinatown, where you’ll have the freedom to explore the twenty blocks of shops, restaurants, and galleries, which locals say is an atmosphere best experienced at night. If nightlife is something you are looking for, Chinatown offers a wide variety of low-key bars and taverns which ought to make for the perfect end to your first day in the City.
Today will start in North Beach at Pier 33, located several blocks down the waterfront promenade from Pier 39. From here, Alcatraz Cruises offers an Early Bird tour of Alcatraz Island, which includes a roundtrip ferry and tour upon arrival. Located just over a mile off the pier, Alcatraz Island served as a lighthouse, military fort, military prison, and between 1934-1963, one of the most infamous federal prisons in the United States. On the island, visitors will be able to see both the oldest operational lighthouse on the West Coast, as well as the prison itself.
After returning to the pier, you can take the historic F Line streetcar which departs from just across the street at The Embarcadero & Bay Street. A short, eight-stop ride down the line has riders arrive at Market St & Drumm Street, only a few blocks away from the next glitzy shopping destination: the Embarcadero Center. A massive complex in the heart of the Financial District, the Embarcadero Center is comprised of five office towers, two hotels, and one of the best malls in California, with more than 125 stores and restaurants spread across three levels submerged underneath street level.
From the Embarcadero Center, the N Line metro runs down to Carl Street & Cole Street, a station which is only a few blocks south from a San Francisco neighborhood that is much different than the busy downtown districts which were visited earlier on this itinerary. Haight-Ashbury is the crux of the 1960s Summer of Love that has shaped today’s hippie culture, and is now known as one of the most hip and exciting neighborhoods in the entire Peninsula. In the Haight, visitors will be offered a variety of eclectic shops and restaurants, which offer a shopping experience that is both unique and strongly connected to the culture and reputation of San Francisco.
At the end of Haight, Golden Gate Park begins, which is a massive public space that stretches over 1,000 acres all the way to the Pacific Ocean. A quick stroll into the Park will offer sights of sprawling lawns, gardens, and wooded areas, where locals love to bring their families, exercise, and relax on sunny evenings. As the sun begins to set over the city, take a short rideshare or taxi to the summit of Twin Peaks, only a five minute drive from the Haight, where you’ll find panoramic observation decks and some of the best vista points in the entire Bay Area. Many locals prefer to take their guests to Twin Peaks due to the magnificent views of the entire Bay Area that can only be seen at the summit, almost 1,000 feet above the sea below.
Afterwards, a short drive back down the hill towards San Francisco will land you at the Castro, the famous gay and lesbian neighborhood of San Francisco which lights up at night. Here, visitors have access to quirky novelty shops, thrift stores, bars, and restaurants. Similar to Chinatown, the Castro is one of the best places to see the authentic nightlife scene of San Francisco, in one of the most historically-significant and energetic neighborhoods of the City. Twin Peaks at sunset, dinner in the Castro, and an evening stroll down Castro Street will be the perfect way to end our two-day shopping adventure around the City, and should fill travelers with excitement and anticipation for their next opportunity to visit San Francisco!