A Guide to San Francisco

There's something magic about San Francisco that always has you coming back. I'd visited six years ago with my family and have been itching to visit again ever since. The chance finally arose once Spring Break from school came around, and I took the trip with my friend Christie. This was a pretty big deal for me since growing up, I had gone on many vacations, but this was my first trip by plane without my family. The idea that I was going on a vacation 'independently' for the first time added an extra layer of excitement. 

We couldn't have traveled during a better time. San Francisco had been experiencing weeks of rain that ended the day we arrived and almost our entire trip showed perfect weather-- clear skies, 50-60 degree temperatures. We stayed in Bernal Heights, which ended up being probably one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. The area is abundant with hills, which definitely made the run I did one morning a challenge, but I'll never forget the views I was able to see there (check them out below).

The city was bigger than I remembered. Uber was our best friend, and my calves were sore by the end of the trip from climbing all of the hills. Of course, I had a ton of spots bookmarked to visit in the city, and I'm glad to say that I visited almost all of them. So here's what I did and saw and ate throughout my five days in San Francisco.

Pretty Places to Visit

San Francisco Proper
We stopped by the San Francisco Proper Hotel on our first day in the city, and it was like aesthetic heaven. The decor was gorgeous, especially in their bar/restaurant Villon. However, the hotel was in a pretty sketchy area of the city and I would definitely not recommend walking around outside at night.

The Painted Ladies
A San Francisco trip wouldn't be complete without visiting the Painted Ladies. These gorgeous houses always look like a real-life post card with the stunning view of the city as the backdrop. I visited this spot a couple of times and sat in the park since the weather was so nice. I would definitely recommend visiting at sunset because the sunshine on the city behind the houses glows perfectly during golden hour.

SF Flower House
Tucked away in the Sunset district is the cutest house in San Francisco. I think one of the things I miss most about SF is all of the beautiful architecture and home design. I couldn't help but stop to admire a house or two on every block... The streets were all just lined with color and I felt so inspired by all of the creativity. 

The Palace Hotel
This place had me feeling like I had just been transported into a fairytale. Located in a busy area of the city, it was cool to find such an exquisite and spacious area with amazing architecture and light. I can't even imagine what it would be like to stay in a room here if just the lobby was gorgeous itself. 

Palace of the Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is a monumental structure that was created for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and has remained ever since. The structure itself is architecturally stunning and I love the fact that it was left open so the public could walk through it. The surrounding lagoon and park are so peaceful, too. There were lots of birds, including a swan that sat gliding across the water. This is surely the perfect spot to sit and relax for an hour or two.

For Views

Bernal Heights Park
Since we were staying in Bernal Heights, we decided to visit Bernal Heights Park as soon as we arrived in San Francisco. The weather was absolutely perfect, and the view of the city was incredible. I could definitely imagine myself picnicking or hiking there regularly if I lived in the area. The swing was definitely over-hyped. There was a pretty long line, and it was definitely harder to take photos than it looked, but we tried our best.

Land's End
Land's End is the perfect spot for a small hike. With views overlooking the gorgeous Golden Gate Bridge and the surrounding coastline, I could have stayed there all day. We stopped by this lookout point that let us look down on the waves crashing against the stones on the beach. There was a little labyrinth of small stones there, too. I'm glad we got to visit on such a beautiful day.

Battery Spencer
The best view of the Golden Gate Bridge, in my opinion, can be found at Battery Spencer. We went at sunset and caught the most amazing golden hour. I was so grateful that there was perfect weather and no fog (I mean, look at those clouds!). Even photos can't truly capture the beauty of this night. This is definitely a spot I'll come back to visit over and over again every time I'm in San Francisco.

Ina Coolbirth Park
For my favorite views of the city, visit Ina Coolbirth Park. From the bottom, it was a bit of a climb. Although I was super sweaty by the time I reached the top, the view was so worth it. If you visit at the right time of the year, you can catch the flowering trees and blooms there too.

Where to Eat

Pho 2000

This was the first place we got food after we arrived in San Francisco. We were super hungry after not having eaten much in the morning, and this pho just hit the spot. On our visit, we actually ended up getting pho two days in a row, and I thought both were better than a lot of the NYC pho I've had. It was also amazing because the prices were so affordable and the portions were huge.

In n' Out
We obviously had to get some In n' Out while in California. We visited their only location in Fisherman's Wharf, where the crowd was horrendous. Nevertheless, we got our burgers. And fun fact, this was the first burger I ever had. I'm a very picky eater but finally, after twenty two years, got to eating one. And it was amazing. Now I've got to try Shake Shack to compare back on my home coast.

Marufuku Ramen
Marufuku Ramen is the star gem of San Francisco's Japantown. Everybody I asked for recommendations from suggested it. I'd heard that we had to get on the Yelp waitlist two hours ahead, and that sadly wasn't wrong at all. We waited two whole hours to get seated. And the ramen was good. Just not two-hour-long-wait good.

Tartine Manufactory
I had been long-awaiting a visit to Tartine Manufactory, and we finally got to go on our last morning in SF. I think that this brunch can rival a lot of the New York brunches I've had. First, the space itself was gorgeous... Probably the prettiest place I have ever brunched in. And the food was amazing too. I ordered the Orange Sesame Teacake along with the Emmer Porridge, which featured pear, mascarpone, and candied pecans. I really never wanted that meal to end. The meal was definitely a bit pricey, but this was another stop that was worth it for me (at least once).

Sweet Treats

Salt & Straw
We visited Salt & Straw twice on our trip because the first time wasn't enough. The ice cream is super creamy, and they serve a variety of unique flavors. The line was out the door both times we visited (at two separate locations, too). I tried the Salted, Malted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and the limited edition Cupcake Royale's Salted Caramel Cupcake. Both were amazing.

Honey Creme
Christie and I were super excited for Honey Creme, which uses honeycomb-sweetened ice cream and offers a variety of unique toppings. I ordered the Popcorn Honey Creme and Christie ordered the Cotton Candy Honey Creme. Super creamy & amazing as expected. Can they please come to NYC?

Dandelion Chocolate
We stopped by Dandelion Chocolate right before heading to the airport for our flight home, and I'm so glad we did because the chocolate there is SO. GOOD. In addition to sampling every single one of their chocolate bars at least twice, I also got their Papua New Guinea S'more, which was just so rich and perfectly made. Definitely one of my favorite desserts from the trip. I also grabbed some chocolate bars to bring home as the perfect gifts.


Caffeine Fix

Le Marais Bakery
Le Marais was the first coffee shop I visited in San Francisco. It was super cute (those tiles!) and spacious, and the sunlight lit the place perfectly. I didn't get any pastries since I was planning to head to another coffee shop right after, but I wish I did because they all looked amazing. Would have loved to try their brunch, too!

The Mill
I put this in the coffee section, but what really blew me away here was the toast. We got the almond butter toast and it was INCREDIBLE-- Definitely the best almond butter toast I've ever had. I wish I could have just brought the bread alone back with me to NYC. No wonder this place is so popular (the line went out the door early on a Sunday morning).

Cafe Reveille
Cafe Reveille is a great spot for brunch, though I didn't really order a true brunch there. I stopped by first thing in the morning on a weekday and had one of their almond butter toasts along with a matcha latte. There was lots of space and I really loved the vibe of the place.

Saint Frank
This was probably a tie for my favorite coffee shops in San Francisco. The coffee and pastries were great, the shop spacious, the light was perfect, and the staff was so friendly. What more could you ask for?

Wrecking Ball Coffee
Wrecking Ball Coffee was a really cute coffee shop on Union Street. Though it was small, it felt very homey, and the wallpaper wall was adorable. I sat outside for a while in the nice weather and sipped on my almond cappuccino.

We stopped by two Sightglass coffee locations while in SF. The one on 7th Street was so spacious and it was cool to see how they packaged their coffee on site. The location on 20th Street in the Mission District was the tie to Saint Frank for my favorite coffee shop on the trip. It was right next to Trick Dog and True Laurel (which I will talk about later), and really close to Tartine Manufactory. Everything about this location was perfect-- especially the aesthetic and the coffee. I think I fell in love.

Home SF
Went here for the rainbow Birthday Cake Latte and was not disappointed. I have the biggest sweet tooth and this latte definitely hit the spot. There was definitely a younger vibe to this coffee shop-- I could definitely see myself studying there all the time if I lived in the area.

Cocktail Hour

The Douglas Room
We stopped by The Douglas Room on our first night in San Francisco. It was pretty late according to NYC time, so the bar was the perfect place to be on a Saturday night. I ordered the Slick Rick, a drink made with vodka, aperol, strawberry, rhubarb, ginger, and lime. This was probably my favorite drink in San Francisco-- it was very sweet, almost like a strawberry smoothie, and I could hardly taste the alcohol (dangerous).

True Laurel
We visited True Laurel on Saint Patrick's Day, which was perfect for us because we got the best low-key bar night. The place was nearly empty when we visited around 8pm. The atmosphere in True Laurel was probably my favorite of all the bars we visited on our trip, and if I lived in SF, it would definitely be my go-to cocktail bar. I ordered the Lightning in a Bottle, which was sweet and refreshing. It was also nice that this spot had bar food, too. We ordered the Beef Cheek and Aged Cheddar Fondue and Bar Nuts (which were both really good). Everything was a bit pricey, but this spot would definitely be worth it every once and a while.

Trick Dog
Trick Dog was definitely the coolest bar we visited on our trip. The menu featured thirteen original designs by Idle Hand Tattoo, from which Trick Dog created thirteen original cocktails to match. I ordered the Rose of Death, which tasted incredible and was very strong. The vibe of the place was very laid back, yet still mature. 

A visit to San Francisco is never a bad idea. Even though this wasn't my first time visiting, I still felt like I had so much to discover there. Now that I'm back in NYC, I miss the beautiful houses lining the streets, the smell of California air, and the overall more relaxed vibe of the city. I left my heart in San Francisco but will definitely be back to find it again.


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