San Francisco is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, filled with great views. With so many places to visit and amazing views to take in, it’s hard to know where to start. But don’t worry, as locals to the area, we’re here to help with one favorite spot after another.
In this guide, you’ll learn about some of the best views in San Francisco and what you can expect when visiting and photographing them (including spectacular 360-degree views). From one great spot to another, from the city lights to the ocean beach, SF has everything your tourist heart could want (and more!).
Whether you're looking for a good view of the city skyline from an observation deck or scenic views of Alcatraz Island, we hope this helps make your tour through the best views of San Francisco a smashing success!
The Best Panoramic Views of San Francisco
San Francisco, popularly known as the City by the Bay, is located right off the Pacific Ocean in Northern California. The city has a big, bustling population and is home to many popular tourist destinations, including Golden Gate Park, the Bay Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, and the famous Painted Ladies.
According to the San Francisco Recreation & Parks department, the park gets "an estimated 24 million visitors each year to Golden Gate Park." And according to those countless tourists, the best view in the San Francisco is arguably at the park itself. It is considered one of San Francisco's most beautiful areas.
Additionally, Golden Gate Park offers a variety of activities such as hiking, biking, swimming, and sunbathing, at the additional cost of nothing more than a short climb or easy walk. Being the most popular spot in the area, you'll of course want to make sure to visit during the best time of day to get the most out of your trip.
We highly recommend trying to time your trip on sunny days (or at least a clear day) to take advantage of the vantage point offered by the location. If you can, get their just before golden hour, when the fading sunlight hits the entire city just right.
The same holds true for the Twin Peaks of San Francisco, another one of the best places to take Instagram-worthy photos in SF. Once you find a good parking spot in the parking lot (pretty solid rhyme, don't you think?), head to the top of the hill for the perfect place to take it all in — with your eyes or your smartphone camera.
Sightseeing in San Francisco's Union Square
Union Square in San Francisco is home to countless incredible views. According to CityBop, Union Square is the perfect place to "grab a coffee, sit on the stairs, and enjoy the bustle of activity around you." You can also check out some of the highlights of the area, like the Starlight Room, or take in a show at the Geary Theatre or San Francisco Playhouse.
Plus, you have the unique opportunity to see behind the scenes at how cable cars work. CityBop goes on to say: "The Cable Car Turnaround Powell Street is just blocks away from Union Square. It's located on the corner of Powell and Market Street. Observe the fascinating process of a cable car being manually turned around by a conductor on a turnstile. San Francisco has the world's largest manually operated system, and the iconic cable cars are a national historic landmark."
Pretty neat, right? It's just one more can't-miss things to see in Union Square of San Francisco.
The Best View of the Ferry Building and Coit Tower
Two more exciting options to explore include the Ferry Building and Coit Tower, a pair of unique sights that tourists to the area love to visit and photograph.
The Ferry Building, according to one review on TripAdvisor, is "really worth a visit." The reviewer writes, "This is a delightful venue. Restaurants, shops, food shopping, gifts - all unique and wonderful. I envy those who take the ferry to work as they can stop here to shop on their way home. Great place to assemble a picnic lunch, pick up outstanding macarons, fruit, wine, produce, and more. Outside there are always tents with vendors selling interesting jewelry, art and gifts. Easy to get to on streetcar, cable car, ferry or BART."
Quite an endorsement!
As for Coit Tower, you simply cannot miss the murals that adorn the building that calls the top of Telegraph Hill home. Living New Deal writes of the artwork: "While the structure itself is not a New Deal project, San Francisco’s Coit Tower is the site of a large number of stunning New Deal murals and paintings. Twenty-five artists, supervised by Diego Rivera-trained muralist Victor Arnautoff and funded by PWAP, painted fresco murals on the interior of the tower. The themes of the murals are labor and California life during the Great Depression."
Between these two establishments, you can take in a great work of American art and enjoy a full day of eating and shopping — all while using public transit!
Using Public Transit Across the City of San Francisco
Speaking of public transportation... It is a great way to view the many sights (and hear the sounds!) of SF. Not only does it offer you the chance for city views you might otherwise miss if you tried to traverse the whole city on foot, but it also gives you the option to take in all the gorgeous views without breaking the bank.
In fact, public transit is arguably the best way to get around the city and see the most beautiful views around town. Depending on your overall goals with sightseeing around the peninsula, a visitor center is always a good place to begin.
A welcome center will have experts with knowledge of the city who can help you get around on foot or via public transportation or cab (AKA Uber or Lyft). They can also tell you which of the San Francisco views are the most crucial to take in, if your time in the city is limited.
Wrapping Up the Best Views in San Francisco
The City by the Bay is home to some of the most popular tourist spots in the Bay Area. While there are many more destinations to explore in San Francisco, the tourist areas listed here give you a perfect overview of the city.
With its stunning vistas of San Francisco Bay and its views of the city, not to mention many a great shot of the San Francisco skyline, you can't go wrong with any of these wonderful locales.
For some other areas of interest, you should also check out these hot spots:
- Treasure Island
- Baker Beach
- Mission Dolores Park
- Crissy Field
- Transamerica Building (Transamerica Pyramid)
- Hawk Hill (part of the Marin Headlands in southern Marin County)
- Grandview Park (known locally as "Turtle Hill")
- Mission District
- Lombard Street
- Nob Hill
- Tank Hill Park
- Conzelman Road (some of the most classic and very best Golden Gate Bridge views)
- And anywhere else your heart desires!
Visitors can enjoy easy access to amazing attractions and stunning neighborhoods in each district of SF. In addition, the Financial District and Civic Center offer great places to work or live, while Sanchez District also offers great shopping opportunities. Overall, San Francisco makes a great place to visit for all types of visitors, whether you're interested in seeing the sights or sharing your finds on Instagram for the world to see.
BONUS! A Sightseeing Tip from the Locals...
While you're in town, it's also recommended (by yours truly!) that you stop by the beautifully modern SLEEP365® store at 326 8th St.!
Not only does the showroom offer a welcome respite from the weather (whether swelteringly hot or bitterly cold)... But the sleep and bedding specialists that call the store home are always welcoming to guests and tourists from around the world.
Have a question about getting a good night's rest, or where the best coffee shop in town might be located? We can help with both!
Stop by on your next trip to get the best view of San Francisco from locals that know it best. We can't wait to meet you and show you around the store (and the city!).