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Cable Cars

San Fran has the world's last manually operated cable car system - an old-fashioned ride with breathtaking views.

TravelCurious Tip

For the best views, always nab a seat on the side that faces the bay

The San Francisco cable cars are part of the world’s last manually operated cable car system. Every cable car is tugged along its hilly track by an underground cable which is gripped by a vice-like mechanism operated via the grip lever in the front of the car. If that sounds perilously like a creaking handbrake is the only thing between you and a rocket-ride down into the bay, fear not: every car has three separate breaking mechanisms. You’d have to be pretty unlucky.


Used by commuters and tourists alike, the ultra-safe cable cars are among the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Even the surliest passenger can’t help but me charmed by their wonderful views from this quaint mode of transport. However, you have a few lines to choose between, depending on whether you’re zipping from A to B or lingering for the scenic route.


With the Powell-Hyde Cable Car, the medium is the message: as you crank along this hilly line the Golden Gate Bridge will pop in and out of view. The Powell-Mason Cable Car slowly winds up Nob Hill, as if preparing for a sickening rollercoaster drop on the other side. At the terminus you can find the wonderful Musée Mecanique with its array of mechanical toys and arcade machines.


The California St Cable Car is quieter, riding through Chinatown and climbing Nob Hill to Grace Cathedral. Hop off at Polk St for some boutique browsing. However, it is the Friedel Klussman Cable Car Turnaround which has the best story. In 1947 a lady rallied her garden club against the mayor’s plot to replace the cable cars with buses. When it went to vote, he was trounced. And when Klussman died in 1986, all the cable cars in the city were draped in black.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in San Francisco
Painted Ladies
These colourful Victorian homes are an icon of the city.
Nob Hill
This affluent neighbourhood is one San Francisco's original Seven Hills.
Ghirardelli Chocolate
Started by an Italian confectioner in San Francisco during the gold rush, Ghirardelli chocolate is a San Francisco institution and a must for all travelers.
Old Saint Mary's Cathedral
Built in the heart of Chinatown, the historical landmark has served as a safe and holy place since the beginning of the Gold Rush.
Eastern Bakery
The Eastern Bakery is the oldest Chinese bakery in the City and is famous for traditional sweets served to go and shipped nationwide.
Open Air Product Markets
Stroll through the colorful produce and import goods market of Stockton street to experience bustling Chinatown.

Related Tours

Private Full Day Highlights, with Alcatraz Island
Immerse yourself in the highlights of San Francisco, and discover the infamous history of Alcatraz. On your private tour of San Francisco, you will:

  • Soak up the San Francisco skyline from the top of iconic Nob Hill 
  • Explore Union Square, San Francisco's bustling shopping area
  • Immerse yourself in the customs, cuisine and curiosities of Chinatown 
  • Snap panoramic pictures from statuesque Colt Tower 
  • Venture through North Beach to absorb the community’s Italian heritage 
  • Enjoy striking views of the Golden Gate Bridge from atmospheric Fisherman's Wharf 
  • Dig into some of San Francisco's famous seafood - like clam chowder soup in a sourdough bread bowl (price not included)
  • Visit the world’s most notorious island penitentiary, Alcatraz.
On this Private Half Day Tour of San Francisco Highlights, you will learn about the city’s founding in 1776, when Spanish colonists settled the area during gold-rush fever. See first-hand San Francisco’s colorful mix of quaint buildings and modern architecture in a stunning ocean-facing city that is more than just flower power and social consciousness. 

Your Private Half Day Tour of San Francisco Highlights will take you through an urban landscape, set on the northern tip of a peninsula, shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and the Pacific’s rolling waves. At the top of Nob Hill, soak up an extraordinary cityscape at cable car height. Iconic landmarks, such as Golden Gate Bridge, Japantown, the Colt Tower and the oldest Chinatown in North America. Set on San Francisco's picturesque steep slopes, enjoy a stunning skyline across streets criss-crossed by street cars, yellow taxis and jogging trails. 

Wander through some world-class shopping centered on Union Square, where big-name brands and local stores nestle amongst chic boutiques. At beautiful North Beach, known colloquially as Little Italy, soak up the ambience of the city’s lively historic Italian-American community. Lastly, Fisherman’s Wharf, lined with seafood cafes, is home to basking sea lions, jugglers and mime artists and enjoys striking views across the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Angel Island. At the ‘dress to character’ ferry, your guide will leave the tour so that you can explore the world’s most infamous island prison - Alcatraz. 

Your guide will leave you at the dock for Alcatraz, once you are in line. Then, take an audio tour at a leisurely pace to hear tales of notorious felons such as Al-Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud in this former fort, military prison and maximum security federal penitentiary.  

Please note: Alcatraz tickets are in high demand during the summer and tickets cannot be guaranteed at the time of booking. We will contact you soonest should we be unable to obtain tickets.
Private Half Day Highlights of San Francisco
Dating back to 1776, the city was founded by Spanish colonists, and grew rapidly during the gold rush of the 1840s.  Through the centuries the city has become the centre of several industries - especially banking and high-tech, and is one of the most beloved cities for people on the West Coast. On your private half day tour of San Francisco, you will: 

  • Learn the history of its famous neighbourhoods, including Downtown, the Financial District, Nob Hill, Chinatown, and Little Italy. 
  • Take a cable car to the top of Nob Hill  for spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline.
  • Explore Union Square, San Francisco's bustling shopping area
  • Immerse yourself in the customs, cuisine, and curiosities of Chinatown 
  • Snap panoramic pictures from statuesque Colt Tower 
  • Venture through North Beach to absorb the community’s Italian heritage 
  • Enjoy striking views of the Golden Gate Bridge from atmospheric Fisherman's Wharf 
Considered by many as the USA’s most beautiful city, San Francisco - a.k.a The City by the Bay - is a seductive mix of exotic cultures renowned world-wide for its liberal free-thinking ideals. A vibrant arts, music and festival scene continues to echo San Francisco’s long-standing progressive stance on activism: the city is credited with trailblazing the so-called “Flower Power” peace movement, pioneering the sexual revolution, and powering the gay rights movement to one of the largest and most prominent LGBT communities in the world. Deeply-embedded Mexican cultures stem from San Francisco’s strong historical bonds with Spanish America and Mexico with today’s buzzing Hispanic population fully immersed in the city’s art scene, both in galleries and studios as well as urban murals. 

On this Private Half Day Tour of San Francisco Highlights, you will learn about the city’s founding in 1776, when Spanish colonists settled the area during gold-rush fever. See first-hand San Francisco’s colourful mix of quaint buildings and modern architecture in a stunning ocean-facing city that is more than just flower power and social consciousness. Your Private Half Day Tour of San Francisco Highlights will take you through an urban landscape, set on the northern tip of a peninsula, shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and the Pacific’s rolling waves. At the top of Nob Hill, soak up an extraordinary cityscape at cable car height. Iconic landmarks, such as Golden Gate Bridge, Japantown, the Colt Tower and the oldest Chinatown in North America. Set on San Francisco's picturesque steep slopes, enjoy a stunning skyline across streets criss-crossed by street cars, yellow taxis and jogging trails. Wander through some world-class shopping centred on Union Square, where big-name brands and local stores nestle amongst chic boutiques. At beautiful North Beach, known colloquially as Little Italy, soak up the ambience of the city’s lively historic Italian-American community. Lastly, Fisherman’s Wharf, lined with seafood cafes, is home to basking sea lions, jugglers and mime artists and enjoys striking views across the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Angel Island. 

Please note: Historic cable cars cannot run in adverse weather conditions, so on days with inclement weather you will take an uber or taxi to the top of Nob Hill. 
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