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Ten Apps to Download for Your Visit to San Francisco

Updated: April 6, 2023
 By Britt

San Francisco has long been considered a land of opportunity, from the days when the original San Francisco 49ers came here to make their fortune in the gold fields, to the current tech savants who have come to fill their pockets with sales of new technologies and apps.

We have another post about the apps to make your life easier while traveling. But there are many other apps that you can download before you come to the city.

Rather than making you wade through 10 million apps on iTunes or Google Play, we've compiled a small list for you to get started.

We've included some of the best parking, restaurant, public transportation, attractions, and park apps around.

In no particular order, read on for our list of the 10 best apps to download for your visit to San Francisco!

1. Routesy (iOS only) - FREE

Between buses, subways, streetcars, light rail, and cable cars, San Francisco's public transportation system can be confusing to anybody!

That's why Routesy is such a wonderful app! When you launch the app, the GPS sensor shows you your location on the map.

Then you type in your destination, and Routesy tells you the best ways to get there.

It will even give you directions to the closest bus/train station to make your life easier.

And better still, it's a free app!

2. Moovit (iOS) (Android) - FREE

Although we absolutely love Moovit to figure out the best way to get from one spot to another, sometimes it's easier to just look up the bus or train route you want.

Routesy provides a list of all forms of public transportation in San Francisco.

And rather than give you the scheduled times when the bus or train or streetcar will arrive (because come on, how often are those schedules correct?) it gives you the REAL time they'll show up.

Every bus and train in San Francisco is equipped with sensors to let us know where they are, so you know exactly how many minutes you'll be waiting.

Routesy does a great job of getting this information and presenting it in an easy-to-navigate manner.

3. PayByPhone (iOS) (Android) - FREE

So you've found a parking space but don't want to run back and forth feeding the meter.

Well, here's the app for you. Once you download the app, you enter in your car information and your payment information, and you can make your parking meter payments right from your phone!

No more setting alarms on your phone (or worse, forgetting to set an alarm!)

The app will notify you when your time is running out, and you can simply refill the meter or move your car.

(Important note: some San Francisco parking meters only allow you to use PayByPhone on specific meters once per 24 hour period. For these, we recommend paying your first two hours with coins, then pay the second two hour period on this app.)

4. Find My Car Smarter (Android) - FREE

Let's face it. This city can be a confusing place.

With all the streets, alleys, hills, and hidden areas, sometimes it can be tough to figure out where you are and where you've been.

Even as locals, we can confess to getting a bit lost at times. And worse, we can definitely fess up to having parked our car and then forgotten where we parked it!

Find My Car Smarter can solve that problem easily. When you park your car, you can just launch this app and it will remember where you parked.

When you need to get back to it, you can get directions right on the app.

5. OpenTable (iOS) (Android) - FREE

Sure, you could use this app in a lot of big cities.

But with the number of great restaurants (according to this 2012 HuffPost article, there are 39.3 restaurants per 10,000 households in San Francisco, making it the largest number of restaurants per capita in the entire United States), you can use this app to find the restaurants closest to your current location and check the availability, reviews, menus, etc. to make it a great meal experience.

Cut through the quagmire of dinnertime decisions with this easy app!

6. Off the Grid (iOS Only) - FREE

Yes, another food app. We love food trucks and we hope you do, too.

We've even written a blog post about Off the Grid and the food truck scene in San Francisco.

We just love them that much! At each gathering of food trucks, you can expect to find food to satiate even the most particular palate.

With this app, you'll be able to track the location of this great food gathering and get there in time to enjoy the city's moveable feast.

With culinary delights from all regions of the world, trust us--you won't be sorry for downloading this app!

7. San Francisco City Explorer (iOS) (Android) - FREE

This app provides you with a pocketful of useful information, articles, and activities.

Designed to give you a real-time experience, the creators of the app have made it a clear and concise guide to all the major San Francisco attractions and opportunities, as well as providing you a platform to ask them specific questions.

This is a great way to get a brief overview of many city landmarks (before, of course, taking a walking tour with Free Tours by Foot!)

8. Top 25 San Francisco Attractions Guide (iOS only) - FREE

This is a useful app to download if you want easy access to important information for the many San Francisco attractions.

From free admission days to hours of operation, this is a great guide to get if you don't feel like scrolling through multiple websites for all the logistics.

It's difficult enough trying to figure out how to get around in this (sometimes confusing) city without having to keep all this information in your head.

This app gives just a brief overview of the basic attractions in San Francisco with only the most critical information attached.

9. ParkNow (iOS) (Android) - FREE

Are you fed up with driving in circles around San Francisco looking for a parking space?

Have you had it with the random street cleaning hours or the two hour parking zones?

Well, we recommend you download ParkNow.

This app allows you to find an open parking space AND even book it in advance. Talk about genius!

And as you pull into that pre-arranged parking space, remember this: you've just saved yourself some gas, taken one car out of the city's crazy traffic, and helped cut down on CO2 emissions. Wow, that felt good!

10. Transit & Trails (iOS only) - FREE

Though San Francisco is a major metropolis, it is also a city that not only has many parks but also encourages the growth and use of the many green spaces.

While you're here, why not take advantage of the natural beauty of the area with a stroll through Golden Gate Park or a hike around Land's End?

With this app, you can find the best places to go, including many incredible places you (and even many locals) may have never heard of.

And better yet, the more you walk around the hills and valleys of San Francisco, the more food you'll be able to eat!


Pocket Penguins (iOS) (Android) - FREE

Have you visited the California Academy of Sciences yet?

Well, whether you have or have not, you may just enjoy this app for the pure adorableness of it.

Watch a real-time video stream of the penguin exhibit in the Academy of Sciences; they're so much better than YouTube cat videos!!

Se habla espanol? Nextland habla de cómo moverse por San Francisco.

About The Author


Britt is a San Francisco Bay Area native, and has spent 25 years in this magical city. He has traveled to over 30 countries, and has never found a place he loves as much as this one! If you come to San Francisco, you might join one of Britt's tours of the city. A graduate of the University of Maryland and University of Southern California, he has been leading tours for Free Tours by Foot since 2015.
Updated: April 6th, 2023
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