San Francisco, USA

The cultural heart of California, San Francisco is one of the US West Coast’s most popular cruise destinations, offering a satisfying and contrasting choice of historic, cultural and natural attractions to enjoy.

6 hours in… San Francisco

One sight you literally won’t be able to miss when you visit this legendary city is of course the Golden Gate Bridge. Built in 1939 when the city hosted the World Trade Fair, this is one structure which has more than stood the test of time to become one of America’s most famous landmarks. Whether you view it from afar as part of that perfect Bay Area holiday photo or actually make use of it for the purpose it was intended, it’s definitely one for the bucket list.

San Francisco’s other legendary attraction is famous for an altogether different reason. Arguably the world’s best-known prison, Alcatraz is the city’s busiest tourist destination, offering an insightful and atmospheric journey through the history of the maximum security island. Today, you can enjoy an altogether less foreboding trip over the bay to the prison, with snacks available on the boat and a cable car up to the entrance if you don’t feel like the climb. Tours are available throughout the day but if you’re visiting on a cruise and stay, night tours are always very popular, but whenever you decide to visit, it’s always a good idea to book a cruise excursion, as tours often get booked up in advance.

A panoramic view across San Francisco

A panoramic view across San Francisco

San Francisco’s famously steep streets are something else that it will be forever associated with and while it may not seem like too much fun making the steep climb on foot, the legendary cable cars are both a practical way to get from A to B and to experience another of the city’s landmark attractions.

Fisherman’s Wharf is the city’s most tourist-centric area and the place to head if you want to soak up the atmosphere and a little of the city’s maritime heritage. Seafood lovers will be in their own watery heaven with all manner of crab and clam dishes available and the vibrant boardwalk atmosphere won’t fail to lift your spirits.

Been before?

Somewhere a little off the tourist trail but located conveniently in the city itself, Golden Gate Park is a great place to head if you’re already familiar with the major landmarks. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the leafy abundance and while there’s a Japanese tea garden, there are also a number of other attractions to be found inside the grounds, such as an aquarium, a planetarium and the California Academy of Science.

The world-famous Lombard Street in San Francisco

The world-famous Lombard Street in San Francisco

No doubt owing to San Francisco’s huge popularity, there are a number of cruise excursions available which concentrate on themed experiences, often outside the city and away from the main tourist attractions. Cultural tours are designed to showcase the diverse nature of the San Francisco’s neighbourhoods, from hip Haight Ashbury to exotic Chinatown, and will show you numerous sides to the city as well as offer you the chance to try out the cuisine they’re famous for too.

Outside of the city itself, wine country tours are another popular choice. California is big on its wine and such an excursion will have the added bonus of taking you over the landmark Golden Gate Bridge to soak up the gorgeous scenery of the Presidio and enjoy the stunning view from North Visit Point. Such excursions usually offer you the opportunity to visit a number of wineries and of course, sample some of the vintages for yourself.

Can’t keep away?

If you’re especially fond of Frisco, there’s a wealth of cultural attractions to uncover in the city and its surrounding areas which are rarely on first-time visitors’ to-see list but nevertheless are rewarding places to visit. The Palace of Fine arts certainly lives up to its name, offering positively princely architectural appeal, while the Exploratorium is a great place to visit with the family, offering a host of exhibits to keep the kids entertained. Speaking of kids, the Walt Disney Family Museum is a go-to place of pilgrimage for many, which you’ll likely have missed as it lies a way out of the city itself. It’s a fascinating journey through Disney’s history, telling both the story of Walt himself and the characters he created. The Walt Disney Museum is located in Presidio, an area renowned for its for natural beauty and if experiencing the great outdoors is an important part of your holiday, you’ll certainly be wanting to spend some time here.

San Francisco's iconic trolley cable cars

San Francisco’s iconic trolley cable cars

Don’t even bother!
If you want to try a cable car ride, avoid the busy Powell Street line and take the less tourist-centric California Street line. If you’re in search of a souvenir, avoid the pricey Union Square and browse the boutiques on a neighbourhood tour.

Emma Smith
Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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