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San Francisco

Holidays in San Francisco

This city puts the ‘u’ in unique

With beautiful open spaces, a bridge that’s the envy of the world and charming harbour-side towns, The City by the Bay is a sight to behold. Union Square’s shopping, Alcatraz Island and a stunning Golden Gate Park make for an offbeat city that refuses to blend in.

We fly to San Francisco daily

11 hour flight
M T W T F S S
London Heathrow
Connect from other UK airports

You can also fly from Aberdeen or Edinburgh on one of our partner airlines.

Hotels in San Francisco

Retrieving our hand picked hotels...
San Francisco cable car

San Francisco and West Coast tours

There is no better way to experience the West Coast than with a tour. Start with a guided tour in San Francisco to absorb the must-see highlights of the city and nearby National Parks. More of an adventurer? Take to the open road with a self-drive tour and immerse yourself in all things West Coast at your own leisure.

Free Car Hire

USA and Canada car hire

Rev up your motor, set the sat-nav and make sure you’ve got a tin of sucky sweets in the glove box — we’re heading off along the highways and byways of the USA and Canada

Partnered with Alamo/National, we’re able to offer you car hire in over 280 locations within North America and Canada with award winning service, plus:

  • Free Additional Driver in Fully Inclusive package  
  • 2-hour grace period
  • Online check in to speed up the pick up process
  • Gold Plus package which includes Child Seats, GPS, tank of fuel, underage driver fees, 3 additional drivers
  • Free one ways within Florida and within California, free one ways between California and Nevada and Arizona
  • Free Ski racks
  • Reps and dedicated area in Orlando

Essential information for San Francisco

Local time
-8hrs
Currently
Language
USA flag
American English
Currency
US Dollar $
Official currency of the United States
Flight information
11h
San Francisco (SFO)
Direct flight
Getting around
San Francisco is one of the few places in the world where people can ride on a national historic landmark. The cable cars are the world’s last permanently operational manually operated cable car system, and are the most convenient way to get around. Be sure to stop off and visit the Cable Car Museum for a look at the powerhouse behind the machines.

Do I need a visa?

To travel to the USA, you will need an ESTA visa. Please make sure that you have this approved at least 3 days before you head off on holiday.

Find out more about Travel Visas here »

Why visit San Francisco with Virgin Holidays?

Stay local in the Golden City

San Francisco has it all. Iconic landmarks and a fascinating history draws visitors from all around the world. If you prefer to travel off the beaten path, we can recommend experiences you might not see in the tourist guides. Experience San Fran like a local and fall in love with the city by the bay.

Book your California road trip with us

San Francisco is a great base to explore western USA. We have hotels across California and beyond, for every stop you make, allowing you to book your whole holiday with us. Whether you're heading to Monterey, Yosemite National Park or down the Big Sur scenic highway, we've got it covered.

Your holiday is protected

Our people on the ground know how to look after you – and they do. Nothing is more important to us than your holiday happiness and safety. So we make sure our hotel partners are up to scratch.
And, as you’d expect, we’re ATOL and ABTA bonded.

Discover the city by the bay: San Francisco Highlights

Grab your love beads, dust off your caftan, and paint a peace sign on your cheek, we’re heading to San Fran baby, yeah! Okay, so actually, you can forget all that, because one of America’s most iconic destinations left its Summer of Love reputation behind a long time ago, and is now a 21st century hot-spot for trendy travellers. It’s still rebellious, but it does it digitally. And it’s turning into one of the best foodie paradises on the West Coast, too.

The enormous tech industry just up the highway in Silicon Valley has provided San Francisco with a new generation of pioneers, trailblazers, and visionaries. That means there’s an explosion of cool bars, trendy restaurants, and boutique hotels popping up left, right and centre, making San Francisco one of the best spots to holiday in northern California. You’re right in the middle of wine country, and you’ve got iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate bridge, the wonderfully wiggly Lombard Street (complete with no less than eight hairpin bends), and the imposing Alcatraz Island to explore.

Our San Francisco holiday packages are designed to put you right in the middle of all this uniquely Californian lifestyle. It’s genuinely one of our favourite destinations in the world, and one visit is never enough. So hop onboard a streetcar named Desire, hold on tight, and let’s take a look at San Francisco in all its crazy glory.

San Francisco is packed with great places to stay. With a decision to make between boutique and big name, and city centre or beachside resort, choosing is not always easy. To help you out, we’ve suggested some of our favourite places to stay on holidays to San Francisco.

Hotel Triton: The Triton definitely feels like a San Francisco hotel. It’s colourful, cool, and just a little bit crazy – and we love it. Situated in the heart of the downtown area, it’s a bohemian hotel that specialises in style. Your shopping can be picked up from various Union Square boutiques for you and spa treatments can be ordered right to your room. Did we mention there’s a complimentary wine hour each evening?

Kimpton Buchanan Hotel: slap-bang in the heart of the city, you’ve got Chinatown, Pacific Heights and The Fillmore all within walking distance of the Kimpton Buchanan Hotel. It’s ultra-chic, full of vintage touches that give it a distinctly boutique feel, and serves one of the best breakfasts you’ll ever taste.

Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf: just two blocks from the cable-car turnaround point, the Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf is a family-friendly hotel packed with great features, including its own heated swimming pool. Fancy a trip over to Alcatraz? You’re just two minutes from the ferry.

If you want the luxury to get ramped up to an eleven on your holiday to San Francisco, check yourself into one of our many luxury hotels for some serious pampering.

The Argonaut Hotel At Fisherman’s Wharf: with a nautical theme and a flawless level of service, this quirky yet incredibly luxurious hotel is perfect for romantic couples. Premier rooms have amazing views of Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

W San Francisco: this is a very, very special hotel. The W San Francisco is a no-expense-spared, 5-star hotel complete with bespoke spa treatments and rooms that have their own (uniquely San Franciscan) rating from ‘Wonderful’ to ‘Extreme Wow’. This is upscale Californian hotel living at its best.

The Marker Hotel: The Marker Hotel is opulent - Art Deco beauty on the outside, and stylish, ultra-chic sophistication on the inside. The lobby welcomes you with a floor-to-ceiling grand fireplace, and a marble staircase that just begs to be sashayed down! You’re right in the most fashionable quarter of the city too, just minutes away from theatres and restaurants.

There’s so much to see and do on San Francisco holidays that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Not to worry, we’ve got a few ideas to get you started.

  • Go and watch the Giants: The San Francisco Giants, the city’s famous baseball team, are one of MLB’s best, and play at the fantastic AT&T Park. Situated right next to the water, big home runs send balls flying into the Bay, where dozens of kayaking collectors compete to retrieve them. It’s a great day out (just don’t say, “It’s a bit like rounders, really, isn’t it?” to any of the Giants fans).
  • Take a cruise to Alcatraz: - not for the faint hearted, a tour of the infamous Alcatraz prison is a spooky experience that will put your nerves to the test, but also teach you a lot. Great for kids and adults alike, the cruise across the Bay is also a great highlight of the experience. So, don’t forget your camera to take some epic shots of the city from the water.
  • Visit the Golden Gate Bridge: - want the most atmospheric photo of San Fran? Head down to the Golden Gate Park early in the morning, point your camera towards the bridge, and watch the world’s most recognisable bridge slowly emerge from the mist.
  • Shop ‘til you drop at Pier 39: right on the waterfront is this shopper’s paradise, stuffed full of great little boutiques and super-trendy eateries. It’s still got that hippy vibe, but the quality of the jewellery and clothes in particular is seriously high-end, not home-made and tie-dyed.
  • Make the most of the art scene: San Francisco has always been famous for its cultural contributions, so it’s no surprise it’s home to some of the best art museums and galleries in the country. The Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum, and the de Young Memorial Museum are all must-visits for art lovers.
  • Cherry Blossom festival: for two weekends in April the city is filled with the sight and scent of cherry blossom. It’s a wonderful celebration of spring in traditional Japanese style, complete with sushi, rice paper folding, drumming, and parades.
  • Hunky Jesus: this is definitely a very different (and uniquely San Franciscan) take on Easter Sunday. The morning’s for the kids, but the afternoon’s shenanigans are much more adult-themed!
  • Carnaval: May sees one of the biggest multicultural festivals in California. Parades, dancing, and some amazing street food is on offer.
  • San Francisco LGBTQ Pride Parade: it’s big, it’s bold, it’s fabulous, and it’s insanely colourful! The Pride Parade is one of the most friendly and inclusive of all the city events, and everyone is welcome.
  • Public transport: San Francisco has one of the most extensive and efficient public transport systems in the whole of the United States. Encompassing buses, trams, the Metro and commuter rail services, the city’s transportation network will get you anywhere you want to go. A payment card, known as the ‘Clipper Card,’ can be used to pay for all forms of public transport.
  • Cable cars: no holiday to San Francisco would be complete without at least one journey on the city’s iconic cable cars. Not only are they a part of the city’s history, but they’re handy for getting up all the steep hills!
  • Car: renting a car for the duration of your stay is a good idea if you want to explore other parts of California or head up to the mighty forests of Oregon. We’ve teamed up with several reputable car hire companies to provide you with the best deals possible.

San Francisco is a foodie’s dream city. If you fancy fresh seafood, head to the waterfront. Good Chinese food? Wander down to the city’s large Chinatown neighbourhood. Here are a few of our top restaurants to whet the appetite.

  • Nopalito: Mexican food is incredibly popular throughout the country, but particularly so in California. Nopalito utilises fresh, local ingredients to put a San Francisco spin on this slow-cooked cuisine. We recommend the traditional and oh-so-tasty pozole rojo.
  • Del Popolo: San Francisco is home to a whole host of quirky restaurants, many of which can be found in entirely unexpected places. Del Popolo used to be one such restaurant (it started life as a glass-sided food truck with a fully functional pizza oven in the back). It’s now put down some roots and become one of the best pizza places in the city.
  • Kin Khao: renowned for the wide variety of international foods available, San Francisco’s culinary scene is full to the brim with great Asian food. However, Kin Khao might just be the best. A beautifully original take on Thai cuisine, Kin Khao’s chefs take dishes from all over the country and reproduce them in their smart, simple restaurant in Tenderloin.

Generally, San Francisco experiences mild winters and dry, sunny summers. Spring, summer and autumn are all pleasant times to visit, with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine.

  • June to August: San Francisco summers are typically defined by dry days, pleasant temperatures and those magical misty mornings. Average highs reach 30°C.
  • September to November: September and October are actually San Francisco’s hottest months, due mainly to the fact that the city’s mist begins to clear. Highs of around 32°C can be expected.
  • December to February: if you prefer it cooler then take a winter break in the city, with temperatures between 7-15°C.
  • March to May: spring is gorgeous in San Fran, with temperatures of up to 20°C.

If you’ve always imagined yourself riding cable cars up and down the San Francisco hills, celebrating as you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, or wandering the streets of historic Haight Ashbury, make it a reality by checking out our San Francisco hotels and holiday packages now.

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Latest Foreign & Commonwealth Office repatriation travel advice


Over the past few weeks, we have repatriated our customers from overseas who wanted to come home.  

Please visit this page to keep up to date with the Government’s travel advice on returning to the UK, and to register for email alerts.
 

Your holiday may be affected by travel restrictions or cancellations

We are continually reviewing our flying schedules, taking into account the  Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice against all non-essential travel. Depending on when you are due to travel, your holiday may be affected and we’ll email you to let you know as least 21 days before travel.

You’ll be away before you know it

Your next holiday is only a click away - our website has thousands of options ready to book. But if you need more help, just give us a call on 0344 472 9499.

Looking for inspiration? Explore our destinations and holiday types and save your faves to your very own Wishlist. Or dive right in to our 2021 holiday offers.

For extra piece of mind, new bookings made before 30 September 2020 for travel up 30 April 2021 also have the flexibility to amend free of charge. If you need to change don’t worry, you can move your holiday as far out as 31 December 2021 subject to availability.

How would you like to talk to us?

With many customers needing our help, we are prioritising those customers due to travel before 31 December 2020. Log in to Manage my booking where you can message us about your options or you can give us a call. Bear in mind you may have to wait longer than expected. We continue to review this and working to open up these options to more customers. In the meantime check out our FAQs to see if this can help answer any immediate questions.

Stay tuned for the latest updates


Rest assured; we will notify you as soon as we know if your holiday has been affected.  

We are continually reviewing our flying schedules, taking into account the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice against all non-essential travel. Depending on when you are due to travel, your holiday may be affected and we’ll email you to let you know as least 21 days before travel.

Please look out for emails from us or visit our dedicated Covid-19 (Coronavirus) page for the latest updates.

Let’s talk


If you need to speak to us to change or cancel your booking you can call our team on 0344 472 9646.

For the latest information on Covid-19 you can check our FAQs here.

Payment flexibility


Don’t worry if you’ve missed a payment or just need a little more time to pay; we have options available to help you. If your holiday is going ahead as planned, you can continue to pay for your holiday in Manage my booking, even if travelling in less than 12 weeks. If you’re unsure, you can delay any additional payments by choosing a new time to travel by requesting a call back in Manage My booking for one of our team to look at options. If your holiday is more than 6 months away, you may wish to set up a Direct Debit to spread the cost. This can be arranged whilst rebooking or afterwards in Manage my booking.

We're flexible with your holiday plans


We understand that you may wish to change your holiday plans and we appreciate the need for flexibility. 

We'll be in touch by email letting you know how to register to change your holiday plans. You can also log into Manage my booking to find the details there. 

Please look out for emails from us or visit our dedicated Covid-19 (Coronavirus) page for the latest updates.

You're holiday is going ahead as planned


If we haven’t notified you of any changes, your holiday will be going ahead as planned but if you prefer to move your holiday to a later time we can help. You can call our team on 0344 472 9499 who can look at options for you.

Thank you for your patience and understanding


Payments are being prioritised based on when the request was made, working in order from March 2020 onwards. We will always try to process refunds at the earliest opportunity, for requests before August our maximum timeframe is 120 days. As we are steadily reducing the maximum processing time for each new request, for refund requests made in August, we expect the maximum processing time to be 80 days, from the date the refund is requested. For those requesting a refund in September, we expect it to be processed within a maximum of 60 days, and then reduce to 30 days for refunds requested in October, before returning to normal levels.

We'll be in touch soon


To finalise the amendment, one of our customer advisors will phone you. We need to work through amend requests in departure date order so we can prioritise those with the most imminent travel plans, so you may have a longer wait than usual until we’re able to ring you back. We will help everyone that wants to move their holiday.

I returned early from holiday and have further questions?


You can contact our team by emailing feedback.backhome@virginholidays.com to discuss options on unused portions of your holiday. If you need to contact our team about amending an existing holiday or requesting a refund please log in to manage my booking.

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