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Your Ultimate Guide to Bar Hopping in San Francisco

Your Ultimate Guide to Bar Hopping in San Francisco

Your Ultimate Guide to Bar Hopping in San Francisco

There’s no shortage of newly-founded and legacy bars in The City. In fact, choosing the best places to visit can be quite a challenge as the options seem never-ending.

From the jump, you’ll find San Francisco’s rich history and tradition partially reflected in the bar scene. Whether you’re exploring the Bay Area or going beyond the city proper, you can find places that have been serving customers for decades, if not a century.

From cocktail havens to joints serving premium craft beer, here’s our selection of the best bars in San Francisco.

1. The Plough and the Stars

Those looking for the lively atmosphere of an Irish bar will be at home in this music venue. 

Excellent whiskey and beer flow freely here at The Plough and the Stars, the bar patrons are friendly and ready to engage in conversation, and there are live music performances almost every weekday. 

The bar seldom gets crowded, providing an excellent opportunity for dancing. And if you know your way around an instrument, you can even join the band on the scene for a jam session on some evenings.

2. Balboa Cafe

If you visit this place at night, you’ll find a staggering number of suits inside. But during the day, Balboa cafe becomes one of the best bars in San Francisco for day drinking.

There’s delicious food to enjoy and cocktails to follow, but the best way to enjoy them is at one of the tables on the sidewalk.

3. Aunt Charlie’s

One of the rare San Francisco gay bars still in existence in the Tenderloin neighborhood, Aunt Charlie’s has been attracting new customers and loyal patrons alike for almost 35 years. The historical bar houses dance parties, DJs, and drag shows on select evenings.

While the place boasts a vibrant atmosphere, cheap drinks, and even free Thanksgiving dinners, bear in mind that the Tenderloin is notorious for its high rate of violent street crime. Therefore, take your fun time out here with a healthy dose of caution.

4. ABV

Straightforward in its design, frequently visited, yet never overcrowded, ABV is a great place for conversations over drinks. The pleasant background chatter is always present in ABV but never too loud to make you yell.

There are plenty of perfect cocktails and local tap beers on offer, as well as various bar snacks. But if you’re after a more serious bite to eat, don’t hesitate to order what could well be one of the best burgers in this part of the world.

5. O’Keeffe’s

Tucked away from the Inner Richmond’s hotspot for bars, this Irish-themed bar is the ideal place for a beer. The owner, Annie O’Keeffe, is still there every other day of the week, serving drinks and greeting local customers by name.

Although there are no draft beverages in O’Keeffe’s, you can order everything from Guinness to IPA by the bottle at a very reasonable price. And by the time you finish your drink, you’ll forget the bar isn’t somewhere on the Emerald Isle, as the Irish affectionately call Ireland.

6. Madrone Art Bar

Everywhere you look, you’ll find something to catch your eye in this funky bar. The walls abound with decorations, from the handwritten menu on one side to an impressive, colorful bottle wall on the other, as well as the ever-changing series of photos.

Those who pay attention to the patrons will be delighted at the fact that the crowd that doesn’t stay the same two nights in a row. Come here often enough and it will be like you went on a tour of San Francisco. 

The titular art of the Madrone Art Bar isn’t just on the walls – it’s in the very people.

7. Lone Palm

Inheriting a historic space that has housed a bar for more than 100 years, Lone Palm started its operations 30 years ago. 

Its interior, with tables adorned in white cloths lighted by candles, breathes Art Deco. The atmospheric lounge is equally well-fitted for a romantic first date and a night of drinking and forgetfulness. 

8. Hi Tops

If you’re looking for a relaxed, upbeat sports environment, this bar is ideal for grabbing a drink while you watch a game of your choice on one of the TVs. 

Besides the good vibes and the drink to be had in Hi Tops, you can enjoy tasty meals and snacks readily available from the menu.

9. Wild Side West

Counted among the dwindling number of lesbian bars in San Francisco, Wild Side West has been in business for well over 50 years.

The brand started in Oakland and its name takes inspiration from the movie ‘Walk on the Wild Side’. However, the final word in the bar’s name alludes to the fact that the establishment moved to the west of the city. Ever since then, it’s been attracting a loyal, long-time clientele.

The eclectic design of the place is what makes it truly stand out, although the strong and affordable drinks certainly contribute to the overall appeal.

10. Biergarten

A place with a distinctly German twist, Biergarten has picnic tables tightly packed near a number of shipping containers. It’s an ideal place to flock to and enjoy the warm Californian weather. 

Naturally, the main staple of this bar is beer, mostly the German varieties. There are snacks in the form of pretzels and sausages that go perfectly with the large drinks. All of this and some good company make for an afternoon you’ll enjoy to the maximum.

The Ultimate Bar Crawl

The old sales phrase ‘something for everyone’ is apt to describe San Francisco’s many bars. Whatever your tastes, interests, and sensibilities may be, you can find the ideal place in The City to answer your needs. 

While no list of San Francisco bars can begin to exhaust the available options, the places listed here certainly make for a good start. Explore the scene and immerse yourself in everything this city has to offer.

San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge (And Seven Other Must-Visit San Francisco Sights)

Golden Gate Bridge (And Seven Other Must-Visit San Francisco Sights)

Golden Gate Bridge (And Seven Other Must-Visit San Francisco Sights)

Overlooking the Pacific coast, San Francisco is a Northern Californian gem with plenty of history, culture, fun, and nature to offer. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss on your next visit to San Francisco.

Sightseeing in San Francisco can seem to be never-ending. After all, there are rolling hills, the gorgeous oceanside, and several world-renowned attractions – and that’s only what immediately comes to mind.

No visit can be long enough to cover all of the city’s attractions. From the famed Golden Gate bridge to the idyllic Angel Island, here are the eight sights you mustn’t miss on your next trip to San Francisco.

1. The Golden Gate Bridge

Of all the sights in San Francisco, the iconic orange bridge certainly needs no introduction. And if you haven’t seen it getting destroyed in one of the many disaster movies, you’ve been watching the wrong ones.

Luckily, the Golden Gate is safe and sound, looking over the San Francisco Bay like it has been since 1937. About two miles long, the bridge is open to vehicles, bikers, and pedestrians alike, although you can traverse it without a car only when there’s daylight.

It’s understandably the most photographed site in San Francisco by far. The Golden Gate Bridge even has several well-established vantage points ideal for snapping a photo.

2. Walt Disney Family Museum

Disney has built up a legacy with its beloved cartoons, garnering millions of fans worldwide. And in San Francisco, you can visit the expansive museum that documents Walt Disney’s life. 

The Walt Disney Family Museum features plenty of historical items placed throughout the 40,000 square feet of the establishment. 

You’ll see the numerous awards Disney won over his prolific career, as well as a miniature replica of the famed Disneyland. Especially worth seeing are the early drawings of some of the most iconic Disney characters.

If you want to see your favorite Disney heroes come to life on the silver screen, there’s a theater inspired by Disney’s Fantasia that has daily showings of the classics.

3. Alcatraz

Tourist attractions are rarely as notorious as Alcatraz Island and the eponymous penitentiary on it. The prison was in operation until 1963 when it closed, only to reopen 10 years later as a historical tourist attraction.

The site tour includes audio recordings of former guards and inmates of the infamous prison, giving you a vivid insight into the life that went on behind the impenetrable walls. 

What might be more impressive for some is the fact that the history of the hundreds of people that inhabited the island at one point or another still echoes through the empty cells – perhaps even more loudly than the recordings.

But another kind of inhabitant has settled on Alcatraz Island – ones that sing an altogether different song. They are the seabirds that chose this spot for nesting. They bring a brighter tone to an otherwise sad place.

4. Yerba Buena Gardens

You can find the exceptionally beautiful gardens downtown, where they serve as a decoration to the urban landscape. The gardens are full of theaters, museums, restaurants, and cafes, but the central point of interest is undeniably the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.

The outdoor events held in Yerba Buena Gardens take place throughout the year and include carousels, ice skating, bowling, and much more. Yerba Buena Gardens count as among the best in the whole country and the reasons for that are quite apparent.

5. Fisherman’s Wharf

Another heavy hitter among San Francisco’s attractions, Fisherman’s Wharf is a tourist area with a unique charm. 

It’s home to several amazing museums, but this city section is best-renowned for authentic restaurants and shops. The view of the city further contributes to the area’s beauty.

As if all that wasn’t enough, you can see many restored historic ships at the pier that has become the Maritime National Historical Park.

6. Ocean Beach

With so many sights all over the city, it can be easy to forget that San Francisco actually has a gorgeous beach. Covered in white sand and rarely crowded by visitors, the Ocean Beach is a wonderful, quiet, and peaceful spot in the city, with the only sounds you’ll hear often coming from the water and the birds chirping in the distance.

The beach belongs to the Golden Gate National Park, which means you’ll seldom see traces of human interference with the natural order. That is if you choose to ignore the iconic bridge that’s clearly visible from the location.

7. Cable Cars

It’s another part of San Francisco that’s often seen in movies. After all, the iconic cable cars have traversed the city streets for about 150 years. 

But besides bearing historical value, these vehicles still serve as means of public transportation and are the only system of that kind that’s considered a monument of history.

8. Angel Island

With a population of no more than 60 lucky souls, Angel Island is a beautiful feat of nature that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

You can jump on the air tram for a tour as soon as you get on the island from a ferry. Alternatively, you could get coffee and some snacks in one of the excellent bars. 

You might also be lucky enough to catch a live music event – or check the schedule in advance if you don’t want to rely on luck.

The City of Beauty

San Francisco undeniably has plenty of wonders, both artificial and natural. That’s why if you’re looking for a place where you won’t get enough of your sightseeing, look no further than the jewel of the Bay. While certain attractions are well-known to everyone around the globe, some hidden gems await those willing to do some more exploring. One thing is certain: One visit to San Francisco will not be enough. Once the beautiful sights leave you in awe, you’ll want to return to see even more.

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