Want to pack in San Francisco’s hottest tourist spots on your next trip? Then you’ll want to spend plenty of time exploring the Fisherman’s Wharf area. One of the city’s most famous districts, this prime location lets you tick off several top items on your San Francisco bucket list all in one shot.
The waterfront location of Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, gives you a beautiful vantage point to spot Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Whether you’re grazing seafood dinners, shopping at Pier 39, or getting a sugar rush at Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience, you’re treated to stunning views at every turn here.
You’ll lose the history buffs to USS Pampanito Museum and Memorial and SS Jeremiah O’Brien, two impressive WWII vessels that are now floating museums. Meanwhile, it’ll be hard to drag the big kids away from Madame Tussauds San Francisco and Musée Mécanique.
Not sure how to spend your time? This guide to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf will help you decide what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay in this fun neighborhood.
Looking for more ideas for your trip? Check out our California Travel Guide for more tips & recommendations on when to visit, where to go & what to do on your vacation!
What to see & do in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf
The heart of the Fisherman’s Wharf experience, Pier 39 is San Francisco’s most visited attraction. And with dreamy views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Angel Island, it’s one of the most picturesque spots in the city, too. Stretching from the heart of the city’s historic waterfront, this epic complex of shopping, dining, and entertainment is one of San Francisco’s must-see tourist attractions.
You can lose a whole day at Pier 39, with endless attractions to sift through. Nature lovers can spot sea lions, go whale-watching, or visit the Aquarium of the Bay. Enjoy 360-degree views while catapulting through the air on the bungee trampoline and Bay Plunge ride. Or fly into virtual worlds with a flight simulator and 7D cinema. Then find souvenirs for the whole family with an adorable choice of specialty stores.
With waterfront views this lovely, a long seafood lunch is a must-do. There are 11 full-service restaurants overlooking San Francisco Bay from Pier 39. Wrap up with a visit to Wine Therapy, a floating bar that’ll take you on a mini cruise of the city.
Step back in time on your Fisherman’s Wharf adventure to the magical world of Musée Mécanique. The museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of 20th-century coin-operated games and instruments. Its original owner started collecting in the 1920s, and now, his son helps the museum live on.
Inside Musée Mécanique, you’ll find an emporium of vintage treats. There are more than 300 items, including antique slot machines and coin-operated pianos. As you walk in, you’ll be hit with the tinkling of hand-cranked music boxes and the low beeps of antique games. It’s the perfect way to use up all those spare quarters!
Whether it makes you nostalgic or gives you the creeps, put a coin in Laughing Sal and watch her come to life. Or invest your money in a huge carnival and witness its intricate workings from above. Tough guys will want to prove their strength on the arm-wrestling machine.
Madame Tussauds San Francisco
Meet all your favorite celebrities at Madame Tussauds San Francisco. The Fisherman’s Wharf branch of the iconic wax museums features wax stars from the world of pop culture, politics, and sport, as well as lots of important people that shaped the history of San Francisco.
Start in the music zone, where you can meet life-like figures from across the decades. Marvel at Beyonce, bask in the glamor of Lady Gaga and strike a pose with Michael Jackson. There’s even a drum set to test out your own musical skills.
Madame Tussauds San Francisco has an exhibition for aspiring wax modelers. Watch step-by-step examples of the figure-making process and discover the secrets to making them look so realistic.
“The Spirit of San Francisco” is a fun way to learn more about the figures from San Francisco’s past. Cross Golden Gate Bridge and sit by the fire with Janis Joplin. You can even pop over to Alcatraz and meet Al Capone.
USS Pampanito Museum and Memorial
Step on board the USS Pampanito Museum and Memorial. During WWII, this Balao-class submarine made six patrols and took out six Imperial Japanese ships. Today it’s a floating museum and one of the most popular historic vessels in the United States.
The USS Pampanito Museum and Memorial is an icon on the Fisherman’s Wharf waterfront. Visit to discover what life is like onboard a submarine. There’s a self-guided audio tour to listen to the sounds and stories of sailors past.
You’ll be thrown straight into claustrophobia by starting in the tiny torpedo room. Most of the space is taken up by the immense weapons. From here, you’ll discover the complex workings of the engine rooms before stepping into the close living space of the sleeping quarters and mess room. Your final stop will be the mission room, home to exciting controls and route maps.
SS Jeremiah O’Brien
Another dominating figure on the Fisherman’s Wharf waterfront, SS Jeremiah O’Brien is a big San Francisco tourist attraction. It’s one of just two remaining WWII Liberty ships out of 2,710. It’s the last unaltered and historically accurate Liberty ship in the world.
SS Jeremiah O’Brien is located on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. This bustling and pretty area has lovely views over the Bay and is home to some of San Francisco’s top things to do, including the Ferry Building and Pier 39.
This National Historic Landmark will take you back to an exhilarating time of adventure and battle. Hop aboard and learn about life on the ship and how different parts work. Step into the engine room, and you’ll even have control of the guns. At the heart of the ship, there’s a museum with artifacts and stories from SS Jeremiah O’Brien’s journeys in the seven seas.
Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience
Chocoholics will have a mouth-watering time at Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience. The flagship store for the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is a celebration of making chocolate from scratch since 1852.
The ornate 19th-century buildings and fabulous views of Alcatraz and Angel Island make Ghirardelli Square a charming destination for the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience. Step inside for a luxurious Art Deco experience.
Start in the original ice cream shop to learn more about how the San Francisco brand made its mark in the world of chocolate. Watch them turn pure chocolate, milk, and vanilla into hot oozing fudge.
By now, you must be desperate for a cocoa fix. After stocking up at the world’s largest pick and mix, sit down for a classic Ghirardelli ice cream sundae. As well as their famous hot fudge sundae, get an indulgent sugar high from waffle cones, coffees, and shakes, all made with smooth Ghirardelli chocolate.
Where to eat & drink
If the clue wasn’t in the name, Fisherman’s Wharf is a great spot for fresh seafood. With a rich fishing history, many food options here are family-owned with exciting stories to tell. You might find limited options for a night on the town in Fisherman’s Wharf. But San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood is a short walk away and has plenty to get you going.
For shellfish, wine, and floor-to-ceiling views of the Bay, dine at the elegant Fog Harbor Fish House. Everything on the menu is fresh and sustainable. Their complimentary fresh-baked sourdough goes with whatever dish you choose.
Get your fish with Italian flavor at the cozy and traditional Cioppino’s. The name of the restaurant comes from its signature seafood soup dish, once made by Italian fishermen in the 1900s. It doesn’t get more authentic than that!
Pier Market Seafood Restaurant is perched on Pier 39. The popular restaurant cooks their seafood over smoky mesquite charcoal. Eat al fresco on the patio to make the most of the stunning waterside views.
Ever thought you’d find a New England sports bar in California? The unassuming Red Jack Saloon is a fun spot to make new friends and hang out with the locals.
La Rocca’s Corner is a welcoming local sports bar with a long history in the area. The owner has some interesting stories. You might find that your stop for one drink turns into a few more.
Get your art and cocktail fix at the same time in Sweetie’s Art Bar. This quirky spot offers regular exhibitions and jazz nights on top of its fun cocktail selection.
Where to stay
As it’s one of the most popular tourist spots in the city, Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most popular places to stay in San Francisco. You should have no problems finding a fantastic hotel here, even if it’s a tad pricier than in other areas of the city.
Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
This fun and social hotel is in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf. When you’re not out exploring, make a splash in the heated outdoor pool or challenge your new vacation friends to a game of foosball in the games room. The stylish bar serves specialty cocktails and local beers and wines.
Kimpton Alton Hotel, an IHG Hotel
Just one block from the Embarcadero, this trendy hotel is a great base for your stay in Fisherman’s Wharf. Its elegant contemporary design has some rock and roll features to spice things up. Try Filipino-Californian cuisine in the restaurant or sample their colorful cocktail menu in the adjoining bar.
Marriott Vacation Club Pulse, San Francisco
These convenient vacation rentals are three blocks from the waterfront. Large guest rooms have an industrial style with a few luxury touches. Their twinkling courtyard is a great place for socializing, with a fire pit and yard games to bring everyone together.