Thanks to the sharing economy, there has never been a better time to rent a bike and make your way through uncharted grounds in a new city. In San Francisco, a new app has launched to help travelers find bikes in a quick and uncomplicated way. Simply download Bluegogo, locate the bike that is nearest you, reserve it, unlock it and get riding.
However, before you push off, there are some things to consider. First, one of the characteristics that makes the city unique is its incredibly hilly landscape. To avoid pedaling uphill to get back to your home base, we recommend reserving a luxurious room at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco. The posh property is centrally located in the heart of downtown on Market Street, which has a special lane reserved for bikers.
Second, the weather is often chilly and windy. For your day of biking, be sure to wear layers and don’t forget the sunscreen.
Third, come up with an achievable one-day itinerary — or simply follow the one we’ve put together for you below.
The Ferry Building
Once you’ve got your Bluegogo bike, head down Market Street toward the Embarcadero. It’s a short ride to the Ferry Building, a food hall and marketplace that is a trendy destination for tourists and locals alike.
Park the bike and head inside to get breakfast. Grab a cappuccino at Blue Bottle Coffee and a baked egg sandwich with sautéed mushrooms and Gruyère cheese at Cowgirl Sidekick — both are Bay Area institutions where quality and delicious products flow as effortlessly as the espresso.
Other standouts at the Ferry Building include El Porteño empanadas (pick up the best-selling fugazzeta empanada that’s filled with aged cheddar, shaved onions and oregano for a mid-morning snack on your ride), Urban Remedy (raw, cold-pressed juice) and Recchiuti Confections (sensational chocolates).
If it’s a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, you’re in luck because that’s when the farmer’s market shelves will be open for the picking. The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a culinary delight for the senses with everything — from potatoes to pickles, flowers to fennel and tomatoes to tofu — available for purchase.
Browse the stands for super local fruit, look out for chefs (like Alice Waters) shopping the goods or order a treat from one of the food trucks.
The Golden Gate Bridge
Once you’ve had your fill of the Ferry Building, venture west on Embarcadero Street toward the Golden Gate Bridge. There is a bike path; the road is flat, and the view scenic. You’ll pass the Exploratorium, the boat dock for Alcatraz and Pier 39. The Embarcadero turns into Jefferson Street, a popular tourist row dotted with souvenir shops and clam chowder joints.
Keep riding until you hit Hyde Street. Turn left on Hyde and ride three blocks uphill (we promise these are the only uphill blocks) until you hit Bay Street.
Next, turn right and keep pedaling down Bay past Fort Mason. Go right on Laguna and follow the curve of the road as it turns into Marina Boulevard. Continue westward.
Look to your right and you’ll see the breathtaking bay, Golden Gate Bridge and Marina Green. Glance left and you’ll find some of the most stunning real estate in the city.
Marina Boulevard will lead you to Crissy Field, where you can park the bike and walk along the beach, snapping Instagrammable photos underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Marina District
Although you could ride your bike across the burnt red bridge, it’s an adventure not for the faint of heart — and not one that we advise. Instead, simply take in the majestic bridge from the sand.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, head back the way you came. Turn right on Baker Street and ride six blocks until you hit Chestnut Street.
The heart of the Marina District is dotted with chic boutiques and scrumptious restaurants, so when you come across something that catches your eye, stop to check it out.
For lunch, we recommend that you try Tacolicious. There are several locations of the Mexican spot in the Bay Area and for good reason — the cuisine is some of the best contemporary Tex-Mex around.
To start, order the gooey chile con queso dip and the albacore tuna tostadas. From there, take your pick of mix-and-match tacos. There are nine different kinds, so you can devour everything from traditional carnitas to Baja-style Pacific cod. Wash it all down with a margarita or a chupito, a potent shot made with infused tequila and tropical juices (just be careful of drinking and pedaling).
After lunch, hop back on the bike and trek up Chestnut Street to Franklin, turn left, then make a right on Bay Street. Pedal up Bay until you hit Columbus Avenue. If you’re thirsty, make a pit stop at Rogue Ales Public House, a brewery on the corner of Washington Square Park.
In the mood for something more spirited? Continue biking up Columbus until you arrive at Comstock Saloon. This old-school watering hole has live music nightly and plenty of room to pull up a chair.
The craft cocktails are well executed and potent. Our favorite is the classic South Side, a blissful combination of gin, lemon juice and mint. Be careful, though: they are incredibly easy to drink, so the buzz can sneak up on you and you’ve got a bicycle to maneuver.
For dinner, head across the street to Tosca Cafe, an iconic San Francisco eatery that’s been serving hungry patrons for almost 100 years. Chef April Bloomfield is behind the Italian-inspired menu that has something for everyone, from the adventurous (fried anchovies with chili-caper sauce) to the cautious (bucatini with tomato guanciale sauce).
Although it takes an hour to prepare, the roasted chicken for two is well worth the wait. The skin is crackly, the meat succulent and the Marsala sauce addictive. Plus, it’s served on a giant crouton soaked in the chicken’s juices and slathered with housemade ricotta.
After a whirlwind day, you may be too tired to get back to the hotel on two wheels. If that’s the case, leave the bike and Uber back to your home base. Otherwise, it’s a short ride up Montgomery to Market Street. Turn right on Market, ride a block and a half, and you’ll be back at the Four Seasons just in time to collapse in your plush bed.