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Explore San Francisco by bike

Exploring San Francisco’s hilly landscape by bike is not as daunting as it may seem. Pick your battles, and if cycling up and down hills presents a challenge, stick to the bustling streets and bike paths that surround the bay. This stunning route will present you not only with outstanding waterfront vistas, but also a clutch of riveting cultural and gastronomic experiences that promise to inspire the mind and body.

You can rent bikes outside of Ferry Building - but don't miss the many celebrated regional artisan producers inside. Photo: Kaare Iverson

Start: Ferry Building

Begin your journey at San Francisco’s historic Ferry Building, home to an exceptional collection of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques and the city’s most vibrant farmer’s market.

San Francisco Bicycle Rentals is conveniently located at the Ferry Building and they have two additional locations at Fisherman’s Wharf and Golden Gate Park, where you can drop off your bike rental at the end of your tour.

Thousands of travelers make it a point to visit the iconic Beaux Arts-style Ferry Building, which was built in 1898, and was, for a time, one of the busiest transit terminals in the world. Today, it’s home to some of northern California’s most celebrated regional artisan producers.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Refuel at San Francisco’s most beloved micro-roasting coffee house before hitting the bike trail. Try their “17ft ceiling espresso,” with its flavor profile of almonds, dried cherries and caramel.

Blue Bottle Coffee

1 Ferry Building #7, San Francisco

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Monday-Saturday: 7am–7pm Sunday: 7am–6pm

At Miette Pattisserie you can find sweets for all tastes Photo: Kaare Iverson

Miette Pattisserie

Cakes, cookies and delicate pastries greet you with the smell of butter and sugar at this Parisian-style patisserie inside the Ferry Building. Don’t leave without trying their famous lavender shortbread cookies and breakfast croissants.

Miette Pattisserie

1 Ferry Building #10, San Francisco

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Opening hours: Monday–Friday: 9am–7pm Saturday: 8am–7pm Sunday: 10am–6pm

Ride onto Coit Tower via Grant Avenue

This is a roughly 20-minute journey. You want to arrive here in the morning when the sun is bathing the cute houses on Telegraph Hill and before the tourists begin to swarm. Built in 1933 as a welcoming beacon to residents and visitors to San Francisco, Coit Tower is highly visible near the top of Telegraph Hill, and bikers could basically construct their own route here just by looking to the skyline for guidance. The landmark building is well known for being featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film, Vertigo, and is one of the city’s most important architectural attractions.

The landmark Coit Tower is, among other things, known from Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo. Photo: Shutterstock

Coit Tower

From the observation room at Coit Tower, visitors are graced with stunning views of San Francisco and Telegraph Hill. Skip the elevator lines by booking an appointment online to tour the tower’s famous murals and architectural details.

Coit Tower

1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco

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Open daily 10am–6pm, with special holiday hours.

Lombard Street with it's curves is one the most known roads in the world. Photo: ShutterstockFortsätt nerför Lombard Street

From Coit tower, cycle down Lombard Street via Powel Street to Fisherman’s Wharf, which is essentially a gentle downhill seven-minute ride.

Take the time to appreciate some of the city’s quirky and unique homes, many of which are painted in a kaleidoscope of colors, from bright pink to purples and blues.

The Painted Ladies, a row of Queen Anne-style homes is San Francisco’s Alamo Square, and represent some of the most flamboyant homes in the city for their wildly exaggerated details like huge bay windows and frilly gingerbread wooden trim.

You might even come across what are referred to as Earthquake Shacks – tiny cottages that were built quickly out of necessity after the devastating 1906 earthquake that flattened and burned San Francisco. They’re a rare sight nowadays, but you can pick them out by their stout one-story presence and their cedar roof shingles.

Fisherman’s Wharf is your next stop

As you get closer to Fisherman’s Wharf the smell of sea salt works its way into your nostrils. The area was developed in the 1800s during the gold rush, when men from all across America headed out west to dig for their fortunes. Many of these grizzled optimists flocked to San Francisco and were fed oysters and crab by the Chinese immigrants who fished the waters off what is today Fisherman’s Wharf. Later, Italian immigrant fishermen expanded the wharf and set up wholesale fishing depots and restaurants. While fishing in the bay just off the city is mostly prohibited, local fisherman still operate in the wharf, bringing to land their local catch which is said to be best between the months of November and July. One of the oldest restaurants here is Fisherman’s Grotto, where patrons have been slurping chowder and cracking lobster tails since 1935.

Fisherman's Grotto is one of the oldest restaurants at Fisherman's Wharf. Their chowder is classicly served in a bowl of bread. Photo: Kaare Iverson

Today Fisherman’s Wharf is largely a rollicking tourist destination with excellent restaurants and the fabulous Maritime Museum. The Wharf is also home to one of the city’s popular attractions, Ghiradelli Square. This area came to prominence in 1893 when Domenico Ghiradelli purchased a city block here for his now-famous chocolate factory. Today, the square is a hectic mish-mash of tourists and locals, who come to shop in the fancy boutiques and sample Ghiradelli’s chocolates.

The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop at Ghirardelli Square

The historic Ghiradelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop is a San Francisco staple, especially for chocolate lovers and families. Try their decadent chocolate brownies or classic peppermint bark chocolate.

The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop på Ghirardelli Square

900 North Point St, San Francisco

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Öppet alla dagar 11–21

Rest your legs on a ferry ride

If you’re feeling ambitious, hop on one of the ferry’s from Fisherman’s Wharf to Alcatraz Island, home to the most notorious and historic former prison in the US. Built by military prisoners at the turn of the 1900s, the vast prison compound holds the title of operating the Pacific Coast’s first lighthouse, and incarcerated immortalized American gangsters including Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. You have to imagine the enormous effort it took to maintain a prison here. Guards lived on the island with their families because the expense of shuttling them back and forth to the city was more than the state could bear. In fact, in the prison closed only 30 years after it was opened, due largely to the astronomical costs.

Det infamous prison Alcatraz is just a short boat ride away. Make sure to book a tour in advance. Photo: Shutterstock

It became a National Park in 1972 and receives nearly 2 million visitors each year. What you’ll notice here first are the birds, mostly Western seagulls, that perch on every outdoor inch of the decaying barracks. You can actually take an avian tour here to learn about the 5,000-plus feathered residents that inhabit the island today. Alcatraz is also popular with plant lovers who come to see its beautiful sprays of wildflowers, poppies and roses.  

Continue towards Palace of Fine Arts

Alcatraz isn’t for everyone, and a lot of travelers avoid it altogether, instead choosing to continue along the bay from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Palace of Fine Arts, an architectural masterpiece built in 1915 for the for the Panama-Pacific exhibition. You can stop here for dinner or to take photos and rest, or cycle on to the Golden Gate Welcome Center.

At Palace of Fine Arts you can take a break and enjoy the architecture from 1915. Photo: Kaare Iverson

Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts is an Instagram-worthy place to pause to snap photos of the complex’s impressive Greco-Roman-inspired work of architecture overlooking San Francisco Bay. They frequently host fascinating events here and also boast a new cafe where you can recharge before biking on to Golden Gate Park.

Palace of Fine Arts

3601 Lyon St, San Francisco

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Öppet: tisdag–söndag 10–17

Head off to the best biew in town

Some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge can be found here, or further up on the grassy expanses of the Presideo. The Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937 and actually takes its name from the Golden Gate Strait, where the bay meets the Pacific Ocean. It’s a major city attraction, and when the weather is pleasant, which isn’t a frequent occurrence in San Francisco, you’ll see hordes of locals here sunning themselves on blankets and sipping wine. A typical ending to a cycle ride out to the bridge is to double back ever so slightly and explore Golden Gate Park. Exotic palms, Japanese tea gardens and the fascinating de Young Museum are among the breathtaking attractions to explore in this city of the city by the bay.

At Golden Gate Welcome Center you'll find one of the best views over the beautiful Golden Gate. Photo: Kaare Iverson

Golden Gate Welcome Center

Golden Gate Welcome Center offers the most spectacular vistas of the masterpiece that is the Golden Gate Bridge. Here is where you rest, take in the views and relish your journey from start to finish. Afterwards, you can ride on to neighboring Golden Gate Park, where San Francisco Bicycle Rentals has a convenient drop-off point for your rentals.

Golden Gate Welcome Center

Golden Gate Bridge, Coastal Trail

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Öppet alla dagar 9–18

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