where I lived
To start of, you need to find a place to live while you’re visiting the city. Of course this will differ depending on what you want to do doing your stay, and who you are. If you want to be in a young hip area, the Mission District will for example be the place for you. I stayed at the Union Square, and loved the location. The Union Square is located right in the center of the city, which meant that I was in walking distance to basically everything (including the BEST shopping areas ever), and even the places I couldn’t walk to, was never more than a 10 minutes Uber ride away.
What to see
San Francisco has one of the largest China Towns in the US, and it is definitely worth a visit. Not only are the buildings beautiful, and the stores cute, but the whole vibe is just something straight from a movie. As a sitenote; China Town is also the place you will be running to, to buy a $10 suitcase the morning of your flight because you shopped too much.
San Francisco premium outlet
When you fly all the way to the US, you of course will need to visit one of their famous outlets. I went to the San Francisco premium outlet, which contrary to the name, actually aren’t placed in San Francisco, but a little outside it (around 45 minutes in train, followed by 10 minutes in bus). The outlet have pretty much every brand you could possibly want, and it is so incredibly cheap compared to both the ‘regular’ store prices, and especially the European prices.
Japanese tea garden
The Japanese tea garden is located in the center of their huge green area. It works sorta like a botanical garden where you pay an entrance fee, whereafter you can walk around in the incredible surroundings as much as you want. This is definitely a place worth visiting, and if you have time, you can always sit down for a cup of tea in the cute little cafe.
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bride is probably the most famous San Francisco landmark, and also one of those thins you NEED to see while you’re there. I had actually planned to walk over it, however, ones I got out there the wind was so bad that I felt super uncomfortable having to walk 2 miles over the bridge (mind you I am absolutely terrified of heights). But, I really do wish I would have just manned up and done it, because it’s sorta a mandatory San Francisco experience.
Sidenote: Not only was the wind super bad the day I wanted to walk over the bridge, but the fog was literally so bad you couldn’t even see the bridge.
Besides Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco are also known for their cable cars which goes up their many super steep hills. This of course are also something you need to try, if not for the experience of riding the cable cars, then to see the beautiful, and quite extraordinary hills. A good tip: do it either really early in the morning, or late in the evening to make sure you won’t be standing in line forever.
Mission District is a super young and hip area. Here you will be able to find the most incredible street art, colourful building, gay flags on every corner, and tons of super cute, cheap and mostly organic restaurants. If you do visit the Mission district, you need to visit Isso, which is the cutest little store, which only carries local designers/brands and local vintage, definitely worth a visit!
When you are in San Francisco you of course will need to see the bay. The bay is quite tourist’y, so it probably aren’t the place where I would go to eat dinner or for shopping, but it is definitely worth a visit.
Close to the water they have this huge farmers market a couple of times a week. Here you can get all sorts of fresh and local groceries, vegetables, baked goods, and even homemade face cremes and other cute products. As I stayed in a hotel I could’t quite shop as much at the market as I wanted to, but I did get a few things (including a super delicious cookie) and a natural deodorant, and I can imagine that if I ever go back and stay in an Airbnb, I will shop ALL of my groceries here. Definitely work spending an hour or so on!
You have probably already head about Alcatraz a million and one time. It’s a very famous prison that is located on a little island right of the cost of San Francisco. It is supposed to be such an incredible (and overwhelming) experience to go there on one of their tours. While I was in San Francisco everybody kept saying how it is definitely worth spending a day on. Something to keep in mind! You NEED to buy the tickets from home, since it is always booked really fare in advance.
Where to eat (and drink)
Chipotle is fast-food done right. It’s cheap and easy, yet freshly made and absolutely delicious . Nothing like McD or BurgerKing. You can easily eat a whole dish without feeling nauseous or unhealthy, and as an extra bonus their veggie option is THE BEST ever, especially with extra guacamole!
Seven Hills is an Italien restaurants which is placed in a very local area a little outside the city center. It is probably one of the best meals I got doing my stay in San Francisco, while being so much cheaper than any of those “sorta-almost-maybe-okay” restaurants in the toursit’y parts of the city.
You have probably heard about San Francisco’s China town, but what many doesn’t know is that they also has a Japan town. This isn’t as beautiful as the China town, but it is definitely the place to go if you like sushi!
Benihana is one of those restaurants where the chef will stand at your table and cook the food right in front of you while throwing a shrimp in his hat and other little tricks. I myself came there more for the experience (sorta like when you eat at a theatre or something), but was honestly really surprised by how incredible the food was. Definitely an experience worth having.
When you go to the US, you NEED to visit a dinner, and Loris Dinner is definitely the place to go. Not only do they of course have that super cute movie-like dinner decorations, and a killer and very American menu, but they are also organic and use mainly local ingredients!
Off the grid
Off the grid is an outside area with a collection of around 30 foodtrucks of all kinds. I read about this before leaving Denmark, and it was definitely on my to-do list for my San Francisco trip, yet I never actually had time to do it 🙁 Defiantly a regret of mine, and definitely a place I will prioritise to go, if I ever go back.
Boba milk tea
This is one of those really trendy things that I would have absolutely no idea that I had to try, if I hand’t seen the tea all over Insta. I don’t know if I would stand in a 25 minutes line again to get it, however, it WAS really freaking delicious, and then it’s also supposed to be really good for you, so hey, just an extra bonus.
Philz Coffee is a coffee house where you can get pretty much any coffee you could possibly dream of. All their coffee is slow-drip, and you can chose the exact coffee beans you want. And trust me, they have coffee beans from pretty much every single coffee producing country out there.
Robotic coffee bar
In Robotic coffee bar, you order you coffee on an tablet, whereafter an actual robotic arm makes your coffee! Probably not the best coffee you will ever taste, but definitely a fun experience to have. I mean you coffee are made by a robot. It is also super practical if you’re in a hurry, since it goes much faster than the human made coffee shops.
Off the grid: As mentioned, Off the grid is a collection of foodtrucks, and I really truly am just beyond upset, that I never got to eat there.
Walking over Golden Gate Bridge: If I ever go back to San Francisco I will definitely make an effort to get over my fear of heights long enough to walk over Golden Gate Bridge.
Stand-up show: San Francisco is know for having good comedy clubs, but the one night I planned on going, all the shows were right in the middle of my dinner reservation. :O Next time, I definitely want prioritise this more.
Not being 21 years’ old: In Europe you can generally drink at 16 or 18, however, this is NOT the case in the states. Not that you can’t have a good time without alcohol, but a large part of traveling depends on going out and meeting new people, which you can’t really do as a 19 year old in the states.
Alcatraz: I’m beyond upset that I didn’t get to visit Alcatraz! I tried to buy tickets to go already my first day in San Francisco, and everything was sold out until 5 days after I had to go home.
Yes, Uber of course are also a thing in Europe, however, the practicality of it are definitely about 10 times larger in the states. I took Uber everywhere I went and it literally did not cost a thing compared to Uber in Europe, and especially compared to taxis. Definitely something to take advantage of while you’re there!
San Francisco very plainly are a super expensive city. Not that it is bad compared to Copenhagen and other large european cities, such as London or Paris, but it is definitely one of the more expensive cities in the states. If you go a little outside the city centre you will be able to find some really good and quite affordable food, however, in the city centre this generally is not the case. It is also not one of those cities where you will be able to find a cheap hostel or any such thing.
Every time I was lost or in doubt about anything I would just stop someone on the streets and ask, and literally every single person was so incredible nice and willing to help. Definitely a change from the people you would find in most other large cities.
Sucky airport + long ines
For starters you need to be prepared for the ages long lines in the airport when you first enter the country, especially if you have to pick up a rented car or something on the other side.
Secondly, you need to know that the airport is soooo boring. There are almost no stores, and only one dinning option. I made the mistake of being in the airport 2.5 hours before take-off thinking that; “I can just cill out and get some food there”, definitely would wish that I had just stayed an extra hour in San Francisco.
Leave the turist’y areas
The turist’y areas have super good shopping, and are very nice and shiny, however, the best food and cutest areas are definitely outside the citycentre, so this is something you should keep in mind.
In the states you need to gives tips. This is something I of course new before going, BUT I had not realised that in most cases these tips had to be paid in cash, even if you pay the product/meal by card. I especially had an embarrassing moment with not having any cash for tips at my hotel after ordering roomservice. Wups…
Be prepared for
The number of homeless people, and the respect they are given
One thing that really surprised me when I first arrived, was the extreme number of homeless people sitting around in the streets. Of course, all large cities houses homeless people, but the amount of them in San Francisco was just extreme. This not only have something to do with the weather (San Francisco is warm enough for the homeless people to live all year around), but also because of the freedom they are given here. In most larger cities, such as for example New York, you would never see that many homeless people sitting around in expensive areas, because they would simply be told to leave. This is not the case in San Francisco.
The obvious Trump resistance
As someone who does’t live in the US, I of course have heard a lot about Donald Trump in the news and such, however, I really did think that people would carry a completely different respect for him than they do. This was definitely NOT the case. I mean you can honestly not walk more than 5 blocks without seeing anti-Trump signs.