Top 10 things to do in San Francisco

Where to go? What to see? In a city with so many choices, these are big questions. Cut the confusion with our San Francisco Top 10.

1. Catch a cable car city tour and go over Golden Gate Bridge

Make a beeline for San Fran's two most famous experiences. Start with a cable car city tour for a commuter's view of the city's spectacular hills and harbour. Then get yourself over the Golden Gate Bridge on foot, by bike or on a bus. If you're travelling with kids, you can even ride over the bridge on a vintage open-air fire truck. Going under the bridge - on a boat trip - is another way to discover this awe-inspiring feat of engineering.

2. Discover all things Italian at North Beach

North Beach is San Francisco's own slice of Italy. Visit during the day for a perfect espresso at one of the many bakeries or delicatessens. You'll need a little something with that - a slice of Sacripantina cake or maybe a blissful serving of authentic tiramisu. In the afternoon and evening, North Beach becomes cocktail central. Find your way to Columbus Avenue for a martini or craft beer on tap. There's a dimly-lit speakeasy feel about some of the North Beach bars, harking back to the Prohibition days of the 1920s.

3. See the Giants play at Oracle

Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, has massive views of the city and bay. You can watch a ballgame and get a big hit of scenery at the same time. To do this properly, equip yourself with an American hotdog and a pitcher of beer (not to be confused with the pitcher on field). Single game tickets are available on the Giants' website. Before and after the game, explore South Beach neighbourhood around Oracle Park – it's full of excellent eateries and bars.

4. Have a good time at Yerba Buena Gardens

Yerba Buena Gardens are right in the cultural centre of downtown San Francisco - an oasis of water features, sculptures and botanical beauty amidst the skyscrapers. Within the park, the Martin Luther King Memorial is truly inspirational. You can walk behind its thundering waterfalls to read his powerful words etched on glass. There's also a restored carousel (merry-go-round) from 1905 and on most days free performances bring people together on the large lawn.

5. Discover seafood and sea lions at Fisherman's Wharf

The vibrant historic neighbourhood known as Fisherman's Wharf dates back to the mid-1800s and is home to the city's fishing fleet. It's also where you'll find more than 100 restaurants. Some of the best (and least-touristy) are on the fringe of the area, so wear walking shoes. Look for Dungeness crab, risotto with lobster, striped bass and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. And make sure you leave room for dessert - the American passion for sweet things is right at home in San Francisco. Before or after, visit the wild sea lions lazing about at Pier 39.

6. Escape to Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island has played host to some of America's most notorious criminals - including Al 'Scarface' Capone, 'the Birdman' Robert Stroud, George 'Machine Gun' Kelly and Harlem mafioso 'Bumpy' Johnson. It's a formidable landmark that's packed with hair-raising stories. However, it's not all murder and mayhem on Alcatraz. The island is also home to beautiful rare flowers and plants, marine wildlife and roosting birds. Your escape to Alcatraz starts at Pier 33.

7. Explore the Presidio Tunnel Tops

The Presidio Tunnel Tops is a series of parks that connect the Main Lawn of the Presidio to Crissy Field waterfront park, so you can get to the shoreline without negotiating traffic. Designed by the team who created New York's High Line, the parks are home to art exhibitions, play structures and picnic areas. Pop-up food vendors ensure you won't go hungry. From empanadas and gyros to tamales and biryani, there's an ever-changing parade of international flavours that reflect San Francisco's diverse population.

8. Appreciate the Painted Ladies and explore Golden Gate Park

Capture one of San Francisco's iconic images from the eastern side of Alamo Square Park. The Painted Ladies in Steiner Street are a row of pastel-coloured heritage homes. They regularly star in movies and television series. Downhill from the ladies is Golden Gate Park, a massive green space where you can try fly-fishing, rent a bike, go skating or play golf. Within the park is the California Academy of Sciences – a world-class natural history museum with an aquarium, planetarium and four-storey rainforest.

9. See a show in the Theatre District

Encompassing Civic Center, Union Square and the Tenderloin (love that name!), the theatre district is entertainment central if you love ballet, opera, musicals, concerts and drama productions. At any time of the year there's an impressive mix of shows to choose from, so you can find something you'll love. Last minute discount tickets are available online.

10. See the light at SFMOMA

Light art is a San Fran thing. From lit-up street sculptures and buildings to the lights that adorn Golden Gate Bridge, night time walks are illuminating. And every year there's Illuminate SF, a three-month winter festival of light with amazing light installations across 17 neighbourhoods. You'll also find light art at SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), an outrageously cool destination packed with captivating exhibitions and collections.

Keep exploring San Francisco

SFMOMA image courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association and Scott Chernis; Image courtesy of Mike Braid