24 Hours InTravel

24 Hours in San Francisco with Victoria Smith of sfgirlbybay

by Stephanie

Our 24 Hours in San Francisco City Guide comes to us from Victoria Smith of sfgirlbybay. Victoria has called San Francisco home for nearly 20 years and has definitely come to know the ins and outs of this city by the bay. She also just recently announced the exciting launch of her new book, dedicated to a photographic journey through San Francisco by neighborhood which features all her places to visit. Today she shares a few of those favorite spots with her ideal 24 hours in the city she calls home. Thanks for taking us on this guided tour, Victoria! —Stephanie

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg

Read the full guide after the jump…

I’m always excited to share my version of San Francisco with friends and fellow world travelers. There’s nothing quite like an insider’s point of view when you’re traveling to a new city, especially when you might like visiting the city like a local, and not as a tourist. I tend to steer friends away from the typical San Francisco tourist destinations and instead share small neighborhood gems. That’s how I like to spend my life here, and I think it’s a much more intimate way to get to know a city. Here’s my idea of a perfect weekend.

8am – Truthfully, a few more zzzz’s would be nice, but my dog Lucy is the boss around here, so we get out of the house by 8, and first stop is coffee at Martha & Bros on Church and Duncan in my neighborhood, Noe Valley. They know me by name and my order is in before I have to speak, which I love.

24 Hours in SF with sfgirlbybay

8:30am – On weekends we head to our favorite place, Fort Funston. Perched on the Pacific Coast, it’s a former WWII military lookout point, but now it’s just beautiful trails through sand dunes and Cypress trees down to a long, lovely stretch of beach, where we like to run around and roam for a few leisurely hours.

10:30am – I like to hit up one of the local farmers markets, and there are several to choose from. There’s a small organic farmers market on 24th in Noe Valley, but I tend to drop by the larger Alemany farmer’s market. It’s a bit more ethnically diverse and more moderately priced, with lots of interesting and exotic produce I like to experiment cooking with. And the selection of flowers is the best, but without big prices.

24 Hours in SF with sfgirlbybay

12pm – I’m hungry.  If I could choose anywhere for lunch or brunch, I’d meet up with friends at NOPA on Divisidero. I think the best way to enjoy eating here is to share a little bit of everything on the menu. Well, maybe not everything, but it’s all so good, four or five orders among friends will make you very happy. They have yummy Bloody Mary’s and a few of my favorite choices are the Smoked Trout on a Sea Salt Bagel, Goat Cheese Bread Pudding, and Butter Basted Eggs.

2pm – I need to walk this off, so let’s wander around Divisidero Street and stop into some of my favorite shops: Rare Device is right across the street, a sweet little boutique filled with beautifully handmade and unique gifts, jewelry, artwork and home wares. Say hi to owner Giselle – she’s awesome.

Let’s stop into Bi-Rite Market, too – because even though I’m completely stuffed, it’s one of the loveliest little gourmet markets around and I like to oooh and aaah at all the pretty produce and delicacies here. Maybe pick up some Hooker’s Salted Caramels for later. It can’t hurt.

A few more doors down, a visit to The Perish Trust is a must-see, too. A tiny shop filled to the brim with vintage oddities, collectibles and some really good reads. They carry an assortment of my favorite print journals, like Cereal, Kinfolk and Anthology and I get my magazine fix here.

If you need a quick pick-me-up, stop into the very pretty Mill for one of San Francisco’s finest brews, Four Barrel Coffee. I hear they make killer toast here, too, but I’ve yet to try it.

24 Hours in SF with sfgirlbybay

4pm – I need a short nap and a bit of sunshine, and there’s no better place to grab both than the Mission District’s Dolores Park. Sometimes there’s so much going on, it’s hard to doze, but you’ll be guaranteed some excellent people watching and a stunning view of the city no matter what. Lucy can run around a bit here, too, because part of the park is designated for dogs off-leash. If I was feeling a bit peckish I would wander across the street to Bi-Rite Creamery (their other location) — this one serves some of the best ice cream in the city – I’m a mint chip girl, myself, but I hear the honey lavender is pretty amazing, too. Or, you can wander a little further up the block to Tartine Bakery where you can’t go wrong eating anything on the daily menu.

5pm – Time to wander home and get ready for the evening, and my usual route is up and over palm tree-lined Dolores Street. It’s one of my favorite streets, lined with stunning old Victorians and epic views of the city and downtown looking north.

24 Hours in SF with sfgirlbybay

7pm – Oh, man, is it really time to eat again? You’ll probably ask yourself that question a lot while visiting San Francisco. Just keep walking up and down those hills and all will be well. My very favorite restaurant in the city is one that’s been around a while, Zuni Café on Market Street. I’ve been going here for almost 20 years and I don’t think I’ve ever changed my order. I go with a group of good friends and we stick together and share this menu every time: a good bottle of white wine; a dozen or so oysters on the half shell; Caesar salad; pom frites; and Zuni’s signature roasted chicken + bread salad. It sounds like a lot of food, but share it with a big group of your favorite people and it’s one of the best meals you’ll ever have. I promise. You can skip the dessert.

9:30pm – If I’ve got an ounce of energy left in me, I’ll walk down to one of my favorite bars in the city, Two Sisters Bar & Books in Hayes Valley and let Michael the bartender extraordinaire mix us up one of his specialty cocktails. He makes a mean Chamomile Whiskey concoction that will serve as the perfect nightcap on a picture perfect day.


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  • my two favorite blogs combined! i recently moved back to SF and i love everywhere victoria suggested. the only two spots i have yet to try are zuni and perish trust. they’re on the to do list now, thanks!

  • I love San Francisco :) I only live an hour away and I’m going to college there in two years!

  • Wish I had this when I visited SF for the first time in October! At least I hit up Bi-Rite Creamery and Tartine Bakery on my last day! :) Hopefully I’ll go again this Fall. Thanks Victoria!

  • Every time my friends come to visit SF we go to Big Lantern in the Mission. It has the best chinese food- both vegetarian fake meat and regular meat so it’s easy to please everyone. It’s not very healthy though ;D
    I also drag them to Arizmendi Bakery, also in the Mission. The employees are always nice, even to a mom like me with her toddler (trust me, that can be very hit or miss in the city). Their chocolate chip cookie is impressive. I think there’s a hint of espresso in it!

  • I’m going to San Francisco with my husband next week, and since we’ve been there several times already, I really appreciate the new ideas in this post!

    • John

      We’ve already offered a much more comprehensive guide to SF before. You can see it here: http://www.designsponge.com/2013/02/san-francisco-design-guide-2.html

      As I’ve explained many times before, these guides are intended to be quick design-focused tips from the perspective of a particular (local) personality. We ask them to give a short, focused guide that someone could do during a stop-over or 1-day trip to the city. This is not intended to be a full guide to the city because you could never DO the full city in 24 hours, it’s just too dense.

      If you’re not familiar with the nature of this series, please click the “24 hours in” tag at the top of this post to see more examples. Or you can visit the full city guide page for larger guides. Victoria’s suggestions are not weak, they are her own and they are exactly what we asked for (and what this column aims to provide): a short, personal guide to a quick visit to the city.


  • The picture of the coffee shop and coffee is not actually from the Mill, which looks much different..but I’d be curious to know where it is from because it looks delightful! I’m assuming it’s also in SF…

  • I’ll have to share this with my husband…he’s going there again soon. Thanks!

  • Victoria nailed it for a great day in SF! I would maybe add a walk to Alamo Square Park, just a block up from Nopa. Take your coffee and toast from the Mill up to the park for a beautiful view and a peek at the pretty Painted Ladies. Walk around the 1 city block park – touristy, yes, but I live here and still marvel at that view.

  • melissa – sorry, that’s my fault, i should have clarified my coffee shops! that is the first one i mentioned – martha & bros. on church street! :)

  • sorry, john, but i’d pass out if i included any more fun in one weekend! but as grace said, i’m just sharing a few of my favorites. do check out their guide to SF – which is full of other great spots to visit.

  • I’m a local and I think this is a lovely one-day itinerary. Are there other things to do? Yes, like a billion! But this is a good start. Mmmm, Zuni Cafe!

  • i love San Francisco! we visited last year – my boys loved Dolores Park…great bay views but forget TartineBakery – the que of people waiting was down the street haha!

  • I am in San Francisco this week — loving the city. If you are in the shopping mood, you’ve got to check out Covet Boutique (covetsf.com)! I visited their location at 2042 Union Street today. They have such unique collections….and you can’t beat their prices.

  • I love Bi-Rite – did not know they had a shop on Divis also. I love their over-priced artisan goods. I only wish I could afford them.

  • Thank you for this! I am going to use it as a reference for the next month or so – I will be living in San Francisco from April 13th – May 10th! I am going to be on the hunt for some great interior design stores too!

  • A fun romp through a fabulous city! I’m particularly intrigued by The Perish Trust and Two Sisters Bar & Books…adding them to my list. Thanks Victoria! (and Grace :)