At the bottom of Lombard Street’s zig-zag pattern with a number of cars navigating the sharp turns.

If you find yourself headed to California, and know that you’ll be passing through San Francisco, you’re a very lucky traveller. San Francisco is a city that has more soul than most and a friendliness that’s infectious but not overwhelming. People will smile at you on the street, many small stores are family-owned and maybe it’s because of the year-round nice weather, but the way of life is a little more carefree and happy here than in a typical huge American city like New York City and Chicago. There are many more than 6 iconic spots to visit in San Francisco, but to start you off, there are the can’t-miss, must-see spots for any first time visitor to San Francisco’s steep, winding streets.

Golden Gate Bridge

Back in 1937, it cost less than NZ$1 to cross this universally recognizable landmark by car. Since then the toll has changed slightly, but the incredible span of architecture you get to cross has not changed at all. If you are up to the challenge you can experience all of it for free by walking or biking across its 2.7km length. Or, if you aren’t one for trekking across it, then just keep your eyes peeled as you go through the city. Glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge are sure to pop up unexpectedly as you travel around San Francisco.

Cable cars

You can’t get more San Francisco than a trip on the cable cars that run all over the city. A network of roller-coaster-esque routes tangle their way throughout the neighbourhoods and for just a few dollars you can hop on the ride. The cable cars themselves are slightly nostalgic for locals as they are a flashback to the era before buses or cars. It’s a cheap and easy way to get a retro-style tour of the city’s hills and popular neighbourhoods like Union Square, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and many other districts.

Alcatraz Island

Perhaps one of the most infamous prisons in the world, Alcatraz Island is home to a cluster of ominous looking buildings that are no longer in use (the last inmate left in 1963), but still, retain a sense of foreboding. Hollywood has done its best to keep Alcatraz in the forefront of our memories and because of the bizarre nature of the place, the people who stayed there and the stories that are passed around of the inmates, Alcatraz remains a popular tourist destination with over a million visitors a year. If you can swing it, pay for the audio tour which features interviews with former cellmates and guards on Alcatraz, which will lend a chilling but powerful vibe to the tour.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Whether you know it or not, Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. If you come by this famous spot early in the morning, you may be able to spot the few remaining fishing boats head out for the day but the traditional bustling life that once sped through here has since moved on. Fisherman’s Wharf is a great place to take a stroll along the waterfront and enjoy a sunny day. Some people love Fisherman’s Wharf and others run from it, but if you are in San Francisco for a few days, try stopping by to see what you think of the street vendors, fortune tellers and other amusements from an older time.

AT&T Park

Try and snag some tickets to the SF Giants baseball games that occur in AT&T Park and fit in with any clothing that’s in the team’s colours—black and orange. While you’re inside the stadium you’ll have incredible views of the bay that may beat the views on the open-air field (depending on the competition) If any players really knock a baseball out of the park, it’ll splash down into McCovey Cove where fans on boats hang out, hoping to make Giants history. Otherwise, settle into your seats with garlic fries and a cold beverage of your choice and enjoy the truly American pastime of watching baseball.

Lombard Street

Another destination for Hollywood buffs, Lombard Street is a perpetual favourite among fans of Steve McQueen. In his 1968 film Bullitt, McQueen has a high-speed car chase down the twisting, turning street. In fact, it is so twisty and convoluted, it has been named the world’s most crooked street. It snakes down steeply past Hyde Street to Leavenworth and passes Victorian mansions and plenty of manicured and landscaped blocks in the process.

Now that these top 6 have been added to your bucket list, you’ll have room for a whole different perspective on the city the next time you visit—and you will likely visit again. A Visit to San Francisco is hard to shake and many find the urge to go back almost as soon as they’ve left. For your international trip to the United States and California consider buying a travel insurance policy from Cover-More New Zealand where you can adjust your travel insurance to cover exactly what you need while passing on what you don’t.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Rachel Kramer