Every year, loads of people come from everywhere to see San Francisco and its famous Golden Gate Bridge. Even though San Francisco is pretty small, it’s full of steep hills and high places. Here’s a list of the incredible San Francisco viewpoints to take some amazing photos in the city. Whether you like nature or city lights, you should check out at least one of these places when you’re in San Francisco.
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Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center
This viewpoint is easy to reach by bus and is popular because it has a parking lot where many tourist buses stop. It can get crowded near the visitor center. However, if you walk along some nearby paths, you’ll find amazing views with fewer people.
Crissy Field is a park located just below the Golden Gate Bridge and is one of the best places to see the bridge in San Francisco. If you follow the path along the bay, you’ll reach Hopper’s Hand with the bridge right above you, offering unbeatable views.
Additionally, the park has barbecue facilities, making it a great spot for an outdoor gathering with friends. Imagine having a barbecue with such amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Golden Gate Overlook
Continuing with viewpoints of the Golden Gate Bridge, a key sight in San Francisco, this spot offers delightful views with a slightly different perspective.
Near this location, you’ll find several defensive batteries, each offering good views of the bridge and the city. However, the Golden Gate Overlook stands out as the best spot. It provides a unique and stunning view of the iconic bridge, making it a memorable place to visit.
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
The Bay Bridge in San Francisco, while not as long as some others in the city, is still an impressive structure. Stretching almost 4 ½ miles with ten traffic lanes, it was once the widest bridge in the world. The bridge is distinct from the Golden Gate Bridge, with its own unique charm.
The Bay Bridge is particularly stunning at night when it’s illuminated and sparkles against the night skies of San Francisco and Oakland. A walk along the Marina in the evening, with a coffee or tea in hand, offers a beautiful view of the city lights reflecting off the water. This makes the Bay Bridge a worthwhile detour for those who love picturesque urban scenes.
For the classic photo of the Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco in the background, Battery Spencer is the ideal spot. Located on the north side of the bridge, this viewpoint offers a stunning view of the bridge and is rich in military history. After a short, steep drive up Conzelman Road, you’ll find a parking area for Battery Spencer. From there, it’s a short walk of less than a quarter-mile to the viewpoint.
Baker Beach is a classic and favorite among the best viewpoints in San Francisco. The beach itself is wonderful, and it offers impressive views of the Golden Gate Bridge. When planning a visit to this beach, it’s a good idea to check the tide times, as they can affect your experience there. Baker Beach is a must-visit for anyone looking to capture the beauty of San Francisco’s iconic bridge.
Moving away from the Golden Gate, Twin Peaks is probably the best spot for panoramic views of San Francisco. These two hills offer an unmatched, comprehensive view of the city.
If you prefer not to walk up, taking the bus is a good option. The specific bus you need depends on your location, and you can use Google Maps to find the best route for you.
The bus stop is about a 5-minute walk from the top of Twin Peaks. The viewpoint here is known as Christmas Tree Point, offering spectacular views of San Francisco.
Coit Tower is another favorite viewpoint, though it’s the only one with an entrance fee. This 64-meter-high tower was built in 1933 in honor of Lillie Hitchcock Coit. She left part of her fortune to San Francisco for its beautification, and the city council chose to build this tower. It’s now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The tower serves as a lookout point and is situated at the highest point in Pioneer Park. The cost to go up the tower is $9. Unlike the previous viewpoints mentioned, which are free, Coit Tower offers a unique perspective of the city for a small fee.
Lands End Lookout
Lands End is a large public park in San Francisco known for its stunning bay views. There are various trails you can explore, but the most scenic is the one along the coast, following the path of old train tracks. While you’re there, make sure to visit the famous Lands End Labyrinth. This park offers a unique combination of natural beauty and historical interest, making it a must-visit for both scenic views and a touch of adventure.
Point Bonita Lighthouse
Point Bonita Lighthouse, across the water from San Francisco in the Marin Headlands, is a stunning location worth visiting. The lighthouse, perched on a rock and accessible via a suspension bridge, offers incredible views. However, it’s only open two days a week, so planning ahead is essential.
To get there, you’ll need a rental car to travel to the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The trail to the lighthouse is always open, but the cave passageway through the rock is only accessible when the lighthouse is. The coastal views from the trails are fantastic. Visitors often hike down (about 15 minutes) and wait for the lighthouse to open.
Mission Dolores Park
Mission Dolores Park is a popular place in San Francisco, liked by both locals and tourists. It’s a big park, covering 16 acres, and has a lot of things like a soccer field, basketball court, six tennis courts, and a playground. Since it’s on a hill, you get a nice view of the city. The view might not be as amazing as from some other places in San Francisco, but it’s still really nice and makes for a good spot to hang out and enjoy the surroundings.
Hawk Hill is an excellent spot for birdwatching, especially for observing hawks, falcons, vultures, and eagles in their natural habitat. Aside from the wildlife, this 923-foot-tall hill provides a spectacular view of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a great place for both nature enthusiasts and those who appreciate scenic city views.
Treasure Island is a really special place in the Bay Area because it’s completely man-made. It was built between 1936 and 1937 and is pretty big, with around 2,000 people living there. What’s amazing about it is the view of San Francisco. Some people even say it has the best skyline views of the city! If you’re around and want to see San Francisco uniquely, Treasure Island is worth a visit.
Bernal Heights Park
Bernal Heights Park may be straightforward, but it’s worth a visit if you’re nearby. From the top of the hill, you can see everything around you in a full circle. This includes views of the Bay, the Bridge, San Bruno Mountain, and downtown San Francisco. It’s a great spot for taking in the scenery and seeing a lot of the area from one place.
The park’s busyness varies depending on the time you visit. It’s open from 5 AM to midnight, so there’s a good chance you can find a quiet time to enjoy it alone if you prefer.
Besides the fantastic views, the park offers a short walking trail, perfect for a stroll. It’s also a great spot for bird-watching and admiring the local plants.
Alamo Square Park is well-known for its beautiful scenery. It’s particularly attractive if you love Victorian architecture, as there are lots of stunning Victorian houses nearby. This adds a charming historical backdrop to the park, making it a great spot for those who appreciate both nature and classic architecture.
Alcatraz Island, once a famous high-security prison, is now a favorite spot for tourists interested in its history. The only way to reach the island is by ferry, which offers a chance to enjoy the bay’s views. Although the island isn’t very large, there’s still plenty to see, like a range of wild birds, rock pools, and several significant buildings. It’s a unique mix of natural beauty and historical intrigue.
Views from Cable Cars
Driving in San Francisco can be tiring and using Uber can get expensive. A unique and fun alternative is to travel by cable car. In 1947, the city planned to shut down the cable cars, but thanks to strong local protests, three lines are still running. Each cable car offers fantastic views of the city, unlike any other mode of transportation. For the best views, try sitting on the side that faces the bay. It’s a great way to experience San Francisco’s charm and scenery.
Even more Incredible San Francisco Viewpoints
San Francisco is full of amazing viewpoints, and while it’s hard to list them all, here are even more of notable ones:
- Top of the Mark: A high-end bar on the 19th floor of the Mark Hopkins Hotel, offering a 360-degree city view.
- Sutro Baths: Beautiful ruins offering a glimpse into historic public swimming facilities.
- Mission District: Known for its Latino restaurants and businesses, and home to the famous Mission Dolores church.
- North Beach: An Italian-American neighborhood with great cafes, restaurants, clubs, bars, and shops.
- Ocean Beach: A perfect spot for birdwatching or relaxing, with 3.5 miles of beachfront.
- Angel Island: A state park with recreational activities, historical sites, tram tours, and stunning island views.
- Lombard Street: Famous for its unique, winding design and lush flora.