Complete Guide to Solo Travel in San Francisco

Complete Guide to Solo Travel in San Francisco

San Francisco, renowned as ‘The City by the Bay’, is a vibrant and iconic destination on the west coast of the USA in the beautiful state of California. West Coast best coast anyone? Famous for its stunning landscapes, diverse culture, and technological innovation, San Francisco is a major global city with a rich history and a unique character. On my first-ever solo travel trip to the United States, I visited San Francisco and have visited many times since in my career as a flight attendant. So I’m here to share my expertise in the only guide you will ever need as a solo traveller in San Francisco.

Solo Travel San Francisco: At A Glance

San Francisco landmarks - sunset golden gate

How long should you spend in San Francisco solo? 

For your first solo trip to San Francisco, I would personally recommend around 3 or 4 nights. This was the perfect amount of time for my first solo trip to San Francisco! The location of San Francisco makes it easy to pair with a trip to Napa Valley or Yosemite. San Francisco also makes a great starting point for a Pacific Coast Highway road trip down to Southern California. 

What time of year should you travel to San Francisco solo?

Well, you may have heard the famous Mark Twain quote “The coldest winter was a summer in San Francisco.” Summers are known in San Francisco for being incredibly windy and foggy. My first trip to San Francisco solo was during August and it’s no understatement that I was not prepared for the weather and cold temperatures there. I was naive and expecting beautiful hot Californian sunshine but not in San Francisco. My personal recommendation would be to visit the city in the late spring/early summer (April to June) or early autumn (September to November) for the clearest days. San Francisco is a great place to visit all year round, just make sure to have layers for the unpredictable weather!

Is San Francisco vegan-friendly?

In short, yes! San Francisco is incredibly vegan-friendly — it features on multiple “Top 10 Places to Visit if You’re a Vegan” lists, and has been ranked by Forbes as the #3 city to live in if you’re vegan or vegetarian! That’s certainly saying something! I’ve taken my non-vegan bestie to WildSeed, a vegan restaurant in San Francisco, and she was blown away by the food there! 

Is San Francisco solo travel-friendly? 

Time for the ultimate question, is it safe for solo female travellers alone in San Francisco? I would say yes. As for all big American cities, there are certainly areas to avoid in San Francisco and there is an increase in open drug use and homelessness in certain parts of the city. Stay well away from the Tenderloin district. For the most part, stick to the tourist areas and have your street-smart head on and you won’t get yourself into too much trouble. 

Getting To San Francisco:

The main airport for San Francisco is San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The BART train runs right to the airport from the city. Alternatively, you could fly into Oakland International Airport (OAK) and get the BART. 

Amtrak train is another option to travel to San Francisco solo if you don’t want to fly. The closest Amtrak station is Emeryville. From the station in Emeryville, transfer to Amtrak Thruway Bus Route 99 (Emeryville/Oakland – San Francisco), which will take you directly to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. 

Transportation around San Francisco:

You really don’t need to hire a car in San Francisco to get around. It is advisable not to get a car if you’re staying within the city. It is easy enough in San Francisco to get around solo via public transport such as cable cars, street cars and buses all operated by MUNI as well as using Uber. San Franciso is a city of hills! Make sure to keep this in mind if you decide to explore by foot, 1 mile in a straight line might not quite be as easy as you think if it includes climbing a hill!

Where to Eat in San Francisco As A Vegan

San Francisco is a plant-based haven for vegans! There are options for all cuisines and diets on almost every corner, here are a select few of my very favourite exclusively vegan restaurants. There is also plenty of veggie and vegan-friendly restaurants in all the tourist hotspots so you know you’ll never be too far away from delicious plant-based food whenever the hunger pangs hit.


Seasonal ingredients with a vegetable-forward menu and a focus on fresh wholesome food. It doesn’t get much better than Wildseed for vegan solo travel in San Francisco. It’s honestly my favourite place to eat in San Francisco! Perfect for both lunch and dinner and they offer wonderfully botanical-inspired cocktails and desserts to die for!

Mr Charlie’s

Dubbed as the vegan McDonald’s, this is the perfect place to grab that nostalgic comfort food without the cruelty! From their mouthwatering Chick’n Sandwich to their perfectly seasoned Crinkle Cut Fries, Mr Charlie’s redefines fast food with a cruelty-free twist. Whether you’re a dedicated vegan or simply curious about exploring a plant-based lifestyle, Mr Charlie’s invites you to savour the joy of classic comfort food without compromising your values.

Next Level Burger

I’ll be honest, I found this place totally by accident. Next Level Burger is situated INSIDE Whole Foods Market (can Whole Foods seriously get any better at this point?). This now national chain is famous for its Shakes and Burgers and has revolutionised plant-based fast food. Their “Stylin” Special loaded fries are to die for and a dupe of the iconic Animal Style you would find at Californian classic, In N Out Burger. For the more health-conscious among you, Next Level Burger does also offer salads as a lighter option.


Shizen turns sushi, traditionally made with seafood, into a cruelty-free way to enjoy! This restaurant is a fully vegan sushi bar and izakaya. Classic shojin and sushi techniques have been combined with local, seasonal ingredients to create healthy and flavorful dishes. Shizen offers a vegan sushi experience that harmonizes Californian and Japanese flavours while reducing resource use, safeguarding animal welfare, and softening their overall footprint on the world. A kind way to eat sushi without compromising your values! It’s an absolute must-visit for the BEST vegan sushi!

Solo Travel: Where To Stay In San Francisco

Hostels are always the best bet to stay in as a solo female traveller in San Francisco. They allow you to make friends and connections with so many like-minded people. Many hostels offer social activities and sightseeing trips and are considerably more budget-friendly than a hotel, especially if you’re on a solo travel adventure in San Francisco. Sadly, I believe a lot of the hostels in San Francisco have closed down in recent years, probably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A couple of hostel options in San Francisco are: 

HI San Francisco Downtown (Union Square): In the heart of the city centre, close to the shops of Union Square and the world-famous cable car turnaround. Staying at HI Downtown puts you in the heart of the action of San Francisco.

HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf: Situated in the lively tourist hotspot of Fisherman’s Wharf, this is an excellent location for all solo travellers to base themselves from in San Francisco. Just a short walk from Pier 39 and situated in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, you’ll have stunning bay views from the second you step outside.

If hostels are not your thing, there is an abundance of hotels situated in San Francisco. Some of the best-rated hotels are situated in Union Square. Here are a couple of recommendations: 

Budget: Citizen M San Francisco Union Square and YOTEL San Francisco.

Mid Range:  RIU Plaza Fisherman’s Wharf and Marriot Marquis Union Square.

Luxury: The Fairmont Heritage Place Ghiradelli Square and The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco.

Top Things To Do In San Francisco Solo

San Francisco landmarks - Golden Gate Bridge

One of my favourite elements of solo travel is the ability to create your ideal itinerary based on your own interests. There’s no compromising involved, you get to do what you want to do when you want to do it and no one is there to tell you otherwise. With that in mind, here are the top things to do in San Francisco so you can plan your perfect solo travel trip!

Golden Gate Bridge

One of the most recognised symbols of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge spans the entrance to the San Francisco Bay and offers breathtaking views of the city and the Pacific Ocean. Take a walk across it, cycle across it or even just admire it from a distance, it’s one thing you have to see in San Francisco.

Alcatraz Island

San Francisco landmarks - Alcatraz

Home to the infamous former federal prison, Alcatraz is a popular tourist attraction. You can explore the historic island and prison and learn about its fascinating and dark history.  Alcatraz is one of my favourite things to do in San Francisco solo. You really get to imagine what life was like on the island and in the prison during its operational period, exploring the prison on the self-guided audio tour, narrated by some former inmates is a solo experience for everyone.

Explore The Neighbourhoods

San Francisco is known for its cultural diversity and inclusivity. The city has a long history of attracting people from all walks of life, creating a rich tapestry of ethnic neighbourhoods, each with its distinct character and cuisine. One way to explore the famous neighbourhoods would be to take a guided tour around the area. Here are some of the best neighbourhoods to check out and their relevant cross-streets.

  • The Mission District — Valencia Street between 22nd and 15th.
  • Hayes Valley — Hayes Street between Franklin and Laguna Street. Some small streets that offshoots as well.
  • Fillmore District — Fillmore Street between Jackson Street and Bush Street.
  • Embarcadero — Embarcadero Street along the water.
  • Jackson Square Area — Broadway Street to Davis Street along Pacific, Washington, and Jackson Street.
  • Chinatown — Sacramento Street to Broadway along Kearny, Grant, and Stockton Street.
  • North Beach — Area from Washington Square to Coit Tower
  • The Marina — Chestnut Street from Divisadero to Fillmore Street.
  • NOPA — Divisadero Street from Golden Gate to Oak Street.
  • Castro District — 18th Street from Diamond to Noe Street.

Victorian Architecture:

The city is dotted with charming Victorian and Edwardian-style houses, particularly in neighbourhoods like Haight-Ashbury and Pacific Heights. The Painted Ladies, a row of colourful Victorian houses near Alamo Square, is a famous postcard image of San Francisco.

Cable Cars

San Francisco landmarks - California St Cable Car

San Francisco’s iconic cable cars are both a mode of public transportation and a symbol of the city. These historic cable-driven cars navigate the hilly streets and offer a nostalgic and scenic way to explore the city. There is also a free cable car museum to learn more about this historic mode of transport that was invented in San Francisco.

Visit The Museums

One of the best experiences in San Francisco is visiting some of the many museums, especially when solo travelling! There is a thriving arts and cultural scene and the city is home to numerous museums, galleries, and theatres. These include the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the Asian Art Museum, de Young Museum for those who prefer classical art, the San Francisco Symphony and The California Academy of Sciences for those who love animals and nature. I’m sure San Francisco has a museum to suit everyone’s interests, even if it’s a trip to the trendy Museum of Ice Cream or to the Walt Disney Family Museum for those Disney lovers! (Which I definitely am!)

Epic Views and Breathtaking Sunsets

Sunsets in California are by far some of my favourite sunsets in the world! So what could be better than climbing to a high viewpoint, taking in the scenes and enjoying a stunning sunset? San Francisco being a city of hills makes it the perfect location to get up high and look out over the city. Some of the city’s best views are Twin Peaks, Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower.

San Francisco landmarks - sunset golden gate

Enjoy Beautiful Parks and Gardens

The city boasts several picturesque parks, including Golden Gate Park, which is larger than New York City’s Central Park and has its own Bisons. 1-0 to San Francisco parks. These green spaces offer residents and visitors a chance to escape the urban hustle and enjoy nature. For me being a country girl, nothing beats getting out in nature and it’s the perfect activity to do solo!

Take A Guided Tour

I’m a big fan of doing a guided tour, especially in a new city. Walking tours are one of my favourite ways to get around and explore as it allows you to get your bearings in a new city as well as learn so much about the history and location you’re visiting. There are also open-top bus tours that can take you around all the sights of San Francisco if you want to give your feet a rest.  Or if water is more your thing, you can take a boat over to Alcatraz Island for a self-guided audio tour around the historic prison or a San Francisco Bay cruise that goes underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

Take A Day Trip

Places to visit in California: Yosemite 2

If you don’t fancy an extended trip in Northern California or just don’t have the time during your solo travel, San Francisco is an excellent base for day trips. Some of the best are checking out the Wine Country (Napa and Sonoma Valley), Yosemite and Muir Woods. Yosemite is the furthest away and is around a 3.5-hour drive from the city but it’s totally doable and I definitely recommend it if you’re short on time. If you fancy a bit of wine tasting, Napa Valley will be heaven for you! (Remember the legal drinking age is 21 in the United States!)

Check out these Iconic Must-Visit Landmarks in San Francisco on your solo adventure!

While San Francisco is a little on the pricier side, it is also filled with rich experiences. There is a blend of natural beauty and technological innovation. It represents a true cultural hotpot that will make your trip unique and memorable. It is one of the most perfect destinations for solo travellers with great vegan food and loads of things to do whether you are there for a day or weeks. There’s a reason I can’t help but keep going back! 

Like this post? PIN IT!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.