I’m excited to share Part 1 of my San Francisco trip with you today! Last week I went on a mini girls trip to San Francisco with my bestie Laura. It has been around four years since I last visited the city and was thrilled to have a few days to explore, shop and eat. We made a shared Google map listing all the places we wanted to visit and most of them were either bakeries or breakfast places. In total we had around 3 days to see everything so after we made an enormous travel wish list we narrowed our top picks to pace ourselves and give us enough time to chat and catch up since we now live on opposite coasts. We stayed at the Palace Hotel San Francisco which was the first time either of us had visited this hotel. Both of us had a great experience here and loved the customer service – we both agreed that it’s one we would both most likely return to on future San Francisco trips (more on this in Part 2 coming soon).
We covered quite a bit of ground during our stay. I’ve thought about how to share our trip and decided for this post it would be most helpful to share this in a San Francisco in 3 days kind of format. Our trip was really spread over 4 days including travel time, but our actual time in the city was around 3 so if you’re planning a quick trip or extended weekend kind of vacation this might be helpful. We both would have loved to be able to say the entire trip was a hit filled with all amazing experiences. We actually had a few misses, but we didn’t let it spoil our fun. If anything it made for some good memories we can laugh about in the future.
Day 1: Thursday
I flew into San Francisco in the morning and arrived around noon. The trip from SFO to the city was around 35 minutes. We both arrived at different times so I had a few hours to walk around Union Square and stopped by Barneys and Sephora (bought the Milk Blur Liquid Matte Foundation in Golden Sand). After Laura arrived in the city, we walked to the Nespresso Boutique excited for good coffee and a light sandwich but were both extremely disappointed with the poor service and food quality. Both of us have been to Nespresso cafes before so we were shocked at the rude service, dirty tables, incorrect coffee orders and long wait time we experienced after we were seated. Based on our experience I will never be eating here ever again. However we did not let that spoil our spirits and we decided to walk around Union Square to do some window shopping.
By the time we checked into our hotel room we completely forgot the sour experience at Nespresso as our hotel room was just so adorable and it had the perfect setup. We had a New Montgomery Street view room (around 300 sq feet) on the 7th floor. It was on the small side but the rooms looked like they had been renovated within at least the last year. The bathrooms were modern and everything was clean and pristine inside. The toilet seats were heated and now I want one of my own. More on this lovely hotel in Part 2!
For dinner we met up with one of Laura’s friends at Nopa. All of us fell in love with this place and thought it was well worth the long wait. The restaurant books up pretty fast and by the time I had tried to make reservations there was nothing left! They do have a bar area and shared table which is unreserved and open on a first come first serve basis. We arrived at around 6:10 and every seat was already filled so we waited 30 minutes at the bar and had some drinks before something opened at the shared table. The food was phenomenal and the drinks were amazing. We did some shared plates which was plenty of food for the three of us and I ate the best tomato salad I’ve ever had in my life. Service was quick and professional – if you’re not a fan of crowded restaurants you definitely should make reservations in advance. After dinner we walked around the corner to a small market and bought some cookies for dessert before heading back to the hotel to wind down. At the hotel we both whipped out some sheet masks I had brought while we watched TV until we passed out granny style lol.
Day 2: Friday
Our priority on this trip was a visit to Tartine Bakery. We had both been here before on separate occasions and fell in love. Tartine is on my must-do list for every SF trip! This round it was every bit as amazing as we had remembered. I got my usual which is a morning bun, croque monsieur and a latte. Laura got her usual which is the ham and cheese croissant but also tried a few other new pastries including a lemon poppy seed cake. We heard that a restaurant opened called Tartine Manufactory but we didn’t make it this round. After breakfast we headed to Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies – it was such a beautiful area and we were really surprised how many people we already in the park sitting to take in the city views. We spent around 30 minutes sitting and snapping pictures.
Our next stop was Fillmore Street where we stopped by Space NK and the store is beautiful! If you’re looking for an intimate and quiet place to do some beauty shopping this is it. The staff at the individual stores are always so nice, not pushy and really helpful. I bought a pack of 111SKIN Sheet Masks because I find them life changing. I also picked up a By Terry Glow Expert Duo Stick in Amber Light (excited to try this) along with a Stylo Blackstar in Maroon Glace (also excited to see how this wears!). I convinced Laura to buy a pack of the 111Skin sheet masks as well. She bought the By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra-Primer – I’ll have to ask her what she thinks about it. We wandered around Fillmore a bit more and stumbled across an Atelier Cologne boutique. I had to stop inside as I’ve never seen a full store before. We were helped by an associate named Homer who was one of the most knowledgeable perfume experts I’ve ever met. He was patient, friendly and helped us sample almost everything in the store. I bought Bois Blonde in the travel size. There are also sampler sets you can buy as well in case you can’t smell them all in person. If you can stop by a boutique I highly recommend it, the service is phenomenal and they aren’t pushy at all. These days I find retail shopping can often be an unpleasant experience (outside of Sephora or Nordstrom) with pushy sales reps or reps who don’t know the products well. Both SpaceNK and Atelier Cologne had excellent service with knowledgeable staff that were friendly and fun. Plus the interiors are well maintained and clean!
The day ended with an amazing dinner at Gary Danko. I’ve been here several times with my husband (reservations are highly recommended) and it’s one of the best restaurants I’ve been to with a fancy yet unpretentious atmosphere. The experience is truly special and words cannot explain how lovely this place is.
Day 3: Saturday
We decided this was the day we would do some hiking and get some good photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately it was cloudy everywhere we went! We started the day at Land’s End. It was foggy but still beautiful for a short hike. We started at the Suttro Baths end made it to the half-way point until we reached the steep staircase, took a look at it, decided we didn’t want to go up hill to check out the view on the other side and turned back to look for some food. The total hike was around 2 miles to the half way point and was really easy. Later on the trip my friends told me if I was hiking there to get good views and photos all I had to do was walk to the end and take an Uber to the other side, snap a picture and then fake tell everyone I hiked the whole trail. If it weren’t cloudy and my friend wasn’t expecting I probably would have tried to walk all the way.
Our food adventures this day were misses. We decided to look for some Bun Mee so Laura googled “best bunmee SF” and we decided to try a place called Saigon Sandwich because it had over 2,800 reviews with a 4.5 star rating. We did not realize this was in the Tenderloin nor did we really know what the Tenderloin was like. We navigated through some pretty rough areas where the streets were filled with drug addicts and twitching people. We both thought there was a chance we’d get stabbed. Still we braved the few blocks to the sandwich shop and both opted for the combination sandwich. This place is a take out kind without seating so we decided to take our sandwiches to Union Square out of the Tenderloin to eat them. Based on the high rave reviews we let down but perhaps we had too high expectations. Neither of us finished our sandwiches – maybe we just got the wrong kind. The meat was flavorless for me and the bread was super crunchy. Laura thought her tooth broke after she took a bite. Since we were in Union Square, we decided our next stop would be Diptyque on Geary Street and it was just so beautiful inside! I had visited the original one on Maiden Lane but they moved locations into a new space. I bought two mini candles to take home as a souvenir in Baies and Verveine.
By mid-day we decided to search for something sweet and headed to Miette for some pastries. We ended up going to the location with mostly candy and macarons instead of the one with cakes but decided to try the ice cream sandwiches which barely had any taste. We decided after a few bites they weren’t worth the calories and didn’t finish them. As an FYI we went to the Miette on Octavia Street. When we arrived at the store we were told the one at the Ferry Building had a larger selection of cakes and cupcakes so if this is on your list, I’d recommend you go to the one at the Ferry Building instead.
After two semi-fails for food we decided to visit Media Noche which also had high ratings for great Cuban food. I ordered the Lechon Bowl and Laura ordered a Media Noche sandwich with some empanadas. We’re both obsessed with Cuban food and had high hopes. I’d give it a solid B+ rating but the local Cuban sandwich shop in St. Petersburg Florida has pretty much ruined me for life as I now consider this the standard for the best Cuban food I’ve had and to date nothing has come close in comparison. We notices reviews on Yelp complained about the small portions and we found the portions quite generous. The Agua Fresca of the day was quite amazing there, SF has some of the best fresh drinks and juices I’ve ever had.
We decided to give our food adventures one last try in search for some ice cream. We both had Bi-Rite Creamery on our list (which I’ve already tried and really liked) but there was one right down the street about a block or two away called Garden Creamery which has good reviews and interesting sounding flavors. There was a long line out the door when we arrived but it was probably only a 10 minute wait. They’ll let you sample flavors when you get to the counter and I got two variations of coconut. It was perfectly smooth and creamy without being overly sweet. They also have dairy free vegan options. I liked it enough that I would definitely go back – the flavors are so unique! Little details like that make places special. Just an FYI their “single” option is actually two scoops and you can either get 2 of the same flavor or 2 different ones.
The last part of our day was to try and catch the sunset by the Golden Gate Bridge. We took an Uber directly to the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center and much to our dismay the fog had rolled in. The wind was pretty strong so we waited around 30 minutes hoping it would pass as we walked around but had little luck. It was still fun to see the interesting weather.
Day 4: Sunday
This was our last day together in the city. We started the day off with another visit to Tartine then headed to Golden Gate Park to see the Conservatory of Flowers and California Academy of Sciences which has one of the most impressive aquariums we had ever seen. There’s a fun butterfly exhibit inside their rainforest section with some of the biggest butterflies I’ve ever seen. I didn’t leave until the next day so after saying goodbye to my friend at the hotel I wandered around the city for a few hours to stop by Bloomingdales to pick up the Charlotte Tilbury exclusive lipstick Miss Bloomingdale. I also stopped by Nordstrom and bought one of the Dior Rouge Liquid Lip in Delicate Satin and a MAC Dazzleglass in Sugarrimmed. They had a mini Sugarfina boutique inside so I picked up several cubes of candy as there isn’t one in Tampa. I met up with friends in town that night and we had dinner in the Castro at a cute place called Finn Town which was delicious and I would definitely go back to.
A few other thoughts and notes:
- Navigating the city: San Francisco is the perfect place you can travel to without a car. It’s actually better not to have one. We got around easily on the Muni, Bart and Uber. Like any major urban city, there are going to be busy times that aren’t ideal for getting around quickly in which case Uber is usually a better option but a lot more expensive. Out of all the big cities I’ve visited, navigating the San Francisco is probably one of the easiest and most straight forward even for a novice traveler.
- Weather can be unpredictable: Laura flew in from Los Angeles and I flew in from Tampa. Both of us had looked at the weather reports and still under packed by a long shot in terms of warm clothes. We doubled up on our sweaters and long sleeve shirts and even though we had a warm weekend there were times we felt like we were freezing.
- There’s so much more we wanted to see. There was a lot on our list we didn’t get to but we felt like we accomplished a lot in a short amount of time.
- Food highlights: Tartine, Nopa and Gary Danko.
I hope you enjoyed this San Francisco roundup! We covered a lot of ground in a few days. Part 2 to follow with a packing list and recap of our stay at the Palace Hotel. Have you done short trips to San Francisco? What are your favorite spots? Any go-to restaurants or bakeries you love?