San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, with its accommodation being the priciest across United States. Fortunately, that does not mean that touring the Californian city should cost a bomb or anything at all.
From exploring the hippie neighbourhood of Haight-Ashbury to admiring panoramic views of downtown San Francisco from the Hamon Tower, some of the best attractions you can experience in San Francisco are actually free.
Here is our guide to 7 fun free things to do in San Francisco:
#1 FERRY BUILDING
The Ferry Building is more than just a ferry terminal. In fact, it is also a hub of commercial and retail, with commercial office spaces and a market place under its roof. While there are many cafes and restaurants to visit, an interesting vendor that has stopped almost everyone in their tracks is mushroom specialty shop Far West Fungi – it sells an exhaustive variety of mushrooms and you can even purchase a mini farm to grow your own! Do not forget to check out the dock where you will find an unobstructed view of the magnificent Bay Bridge.
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111
#2 GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
The majestic Golden Gate Bridge is the icon of San Francisco and a must-see in every visitor’s checklist. If you are itching for a great workout, you can embark on a three miles long journey by foot on the suspended bridge’s sidewalks. The entrance for cyclists and pedestrians are free but do take note of the bridge’s varying operating hours.
Famous for their colourful striking Victorian houses, this hipster neighbourhood was once occupied by the hippie community in the 1960s. While yuppies seem to be the core group of residents today, the countercultural influence remains at large with sightings of artistic murals, quirky boutiques and alternative musicians.
It is impossible to not catch a whiff of marijuana as you walk through graffiti-strewn streets and alleyways. Prescribed weed is legal in San Francisco and may soon be legalized for recreation purposes. Haight-Ashbury has evolved over the decades and is now home to an abundance of retail stores, restaurants and nightlife entertainment. The district’s diverse eccentricity is undeniably alluring and you will have a great time exploring the surprises it has to offer.
#4 HAMON TOWER
General Admission to Fine Arts Museum de Young’s galleries will cost USD 10 per adult, but what most people did not know is that the entrance to the Hamon Tower is absolutely free of charge.
Skip the exhibitions and head 114 feet up to the Observatory Deck for a visual treat. Remember to bring your camera to capture the aerial view of The California Academy of Sciences (located right across de Young) and a breathtaking 360 degrees view of downtown San Francisco.
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr
San Francisco, CA 94118, United States
#5 LOMBARD STREET
Lombard Street is a peculiar but fascinating sightseeing activity. It is one of the most beautifully crooked streets you can find in the world, characterized by eight sharp U-shaped bends in a single steep block.
The street is an attraction itself, with tourists from all over the world flocking there daily to catch a glimpse of it. Do walk along the side roads to avoid any mishaps. The crowd is so notoriously overwhelming that traffic police are stationed there to regulate the flow. Alternatively, drive through the zigzags for a scenic memorable experience!
1070 Lombard Street
San Francisco, California 94109
#6 PAINTED LADIES
Painted Ladies is actually a stretch of colourful vintage Victorian houses along the corner of Hayes and Steiner Streets. This attraction is a hit amongst photographers for its stunning juxtaposition – beautiful Victorian homes with San Francisco’s skyscrapers in the backdrop.
Take a stroll along Alamo Square Park and enjoy the view of Painted Ladies and the distant city skyline. It also makes a perfect background for your outfit of the day pictures.
Corner of Hayes and Steiner Street
#7 UNION SQUARE
Union Square has been unanimously dubbed as the heart of San Francisco. This 1.05 hectare public plaza is a center of dining, entertainment and retail – you will find yourself spoilt rotten with endless choices.
Walk around Union Square even if you have no intention to shop and immerse yourself in the vibrant ambience. Keep your eyes peeled when seasonal holidays are around the corner, as Union Square will be showcasing many exciting festive events. While transportation on the iconic Instagram-worthy cable cars is not free, you can still admire it from a near distance.
About the writer:
Hui Jun Ng is a staff writer for ladyironchef. She was previously a marketing executive and freelance photographer in the food industry. Her work has been published on Epicure, Lifestyle Asia and Meld Magazine etc.