The Best Views of San Francisco

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I don't know about you, but whenever I visit a new city, I always make it a mission to get at least one really great shot of that city's skyline. It must be the small-town, country girl in me that's always fascinated by the fact that other places even HAVE skylines (because we certainly don't have them in rural Ohio…).

And, even though San Francisco isn't a huge city, it DOES have a pretty recognizable skyline, with the 853-foot Transamerica Pyramid at its center.

San Francisco

So, as I wandered through San Francisco's various neighborhoods over the course of a week, I kept an eye out for the best places from which you can see the city's signature skyline.

The best views of San Francisco

These are 5 of my favorite views of San Francisco:

5. Twin Peaks

If it's all of San Francisco you want to see, head up to Twin Peaks on a clear day (which of course is sometimes easier said than done in SF, where fog and clouds often shroud this lookout point). I was lucky enough to hit up the City by the Bay during a week of uncharacteristically sunny and warm weather, and so got quite a good view from Twin Peaks.

Cost: Free

Twin Peaks, San Francisco

Twin Peaks, San Francisco

Twin Peaks, San Francisco

4. From Alcatraz

If you're heading out to explore Alcatraz island, make sure to also look over your shoulder back toward San Francisco a few times. The island is only 1.5 miles from downtown, meaning you can get a great view of the skyline from the ferry and the island itself.

Cost: $28 to visit Alcatraz

San Francisco

Alcatraz

RELATED: The Two Sides of Alcatraz

3. Coit Tower

If it's the quintessential San Francisco skyline photo you want, head to the observation deck of Coit Tower, situated atop Telegraph Hill. You can get here by car or bus or, if you really want a challenge, by the Filbert or Greenwich steps. Inside the tower are some amazing WPA murals, and the views from the top on a clear day really can't be beat.

Cost: $7

Coit Tower, San Francisco

Coit Tower, San Francisco

Coit Tower, San Francisco

2. Alamo Square Park

If it's a slightly different view of the city you want, be sure to visit Alamo Square Park. Most people come here to photograph the famous line of Victorian houses known as “the Painted Ladies,” but if you stand at the highest point of the park in front of these houses, you can snap a fantastic photo with the San Francisco skyline in the background, as well.

Cost: Free

Alamo Square, San Francisco

1. Dolores Park

My favorite spot to view the city from is fairly unconventional. In fact, many visitors to San Francisco probably don't even know about it. Located in the heart of the Mission District, Dolores Park doesn't really look like it would give you great views of downtown. But simply walk to the highest corner of the park and turn around to be surprised. I loved this spot most because it seemed the most “San Francisco” to me. Only here can you find this many people out sunbathing on a Wednesday afternoon.

Cost: Free

Delores Park, San Francisco

Delores Park, San Francisco

Want to explore San Francisco on your next visit? Check out these awesome tours from Urban Adventures:

 

Urban Adventure Tours

Which of these views is your favorite? Do you know of any other great ones in San Francisco?

 

Best views of San Francisco

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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50 Comments on “The Best Views of San Francisco

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  1. Nice list! May I also add the observation floor at the top of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park? ๐Ÿ™‚

      Of course you may add it! I sadly didn’t make it to Golden Gate Park (unless you just count driving through a few times, which I don’t), so I’ll take your word on it!

      Agree with Henry on this one. The view from the top of the DeYoung is stunning. You’ve collected some great views here, Amanda, and reminded me why San Francisco is still my favorite city in the world.

        I can definitely understand now why so many people love San Francisco!

    Beautiful photos – I think my favorite view is from Coit tower. I unfortunately didn’t see any good views when I went. San Fran was mired in its famous fog.

      Thanks, John! I know how incredibly lucky I got with the weather in SF. I like to think it was just the weather’s way of saying sorry for being so crappy while I was in Iceland. Lol.

    So you finally got to see the “Full House” house! I love San Francisco. My favorite city in America (I won’t say the whole world because I have yet to travel much of it). If you want a delicious burrito, go to Taqueria Cancun in the Mission. I went there twice in one trip, it was that good (recommended to me by a Bay Area native — I’m from the east coast; I know nothing about Mexican food).

      Actually, the “Full House” house is not in Postcard Row, like a lot of people think! I did go and find it, though… more on that later! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      And yes, I was told if you want a burrito, definitely go to the Mission!

    Awesome photos – I got to take some skyline photos as well when I was there from Alcatraz and Coit Tower…another great spot for photos is from the Golden Gate Bridge, if you get to walk it (did that twice) and the weather is great ๐Ÿ™‚

      The Bridge also gives great views, but yes, only on a nice day! When I biked the bridge, it was pretty cloudy/foggy over the city.

    What a great list! Thanks for this – I might be heading to San Fran in August so this will be incredibly useful! Looking forward to more posts on San Fran!

      Hopefully you get a few nice days like I did so you can see some of these great views!

    If you’re looking for a hidden gem without the crowds, Kite Hill Park is located between Dolores and Twin Peaks and offers a pretty spectacular view of San Francisco (on a clear day!). It was right near where we were staying in The Castro and loved it up there.

      Ooo, thanks for the tip! I didn’t even hear of that one in the city.

    Doh! Coit Tower. How did I miss that when I was there?! Great shots, I’ll get mine next time! ๐Ÿ™‚

      It’s easy to miss if it’s foggy! But if you catch a nice day, it’s well worth it!

    Beautiful shots! I don’t ever get tired of that view. There are so many places offering views of San Francisco but my favorite you shared he was Alamo Square. Don’t ever get tired of the Painted Ladies with the city behind. Beautiful.

      Alamo Square Park really is a fantastic spot in the city!

    The one of Alamo Square Park is my favorite–because it reminds me of watching Full House as a kid! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Yes that’s the whole reason I went there! ๐Ÿ™‚ That, and it’s a really pretty spot, especially on a sunny day!

    Great article!!!! I saw the picture of Alamo Park and I had a flashback. I went to S.Francisco 2 years ago with my girlfriend and I remember the Alamo Park very well because I enjoy my time sunbathing at the Park I stayed at the Hotel Kabuki (http://www.prontohotel.com/usa/san_francisco/hotel-kabuki-a-joie-de-vivre-boutique.htm) standing a few stroll away Alamo park.

      Well I’m glad this post could help bring back some good memories for you! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Great post. Love that you discovered unconventional viewing areas that hardly ever get mentioned.

      I got to explore at LOT of San Francisco, including some parts most tourists never visit. It was a great trip!

    Loving your SF posts! Just got back from a week trip there about a month ago so this is fun reliving it. I definitely agree with your #1, Mission Dolores Park really surprised me with its view. Looks like you were there on a very pretty blue sky day too. Wish I’d made it to Twin Peaks, love how you can see “all” of SF. Another place I went that had awesome city views and included the GGB was up in the Marin Headlands but it definitely needs to be one of those elusive clear days.

      Thanks, Cat! Yes, I scored an amazing week weather-wise for my trip… I only had 2 cloudy mornings, which gave way to sunny afternoons. The rest of the days were amazingly clear!

    Bernal Heights also has a good view and, as a bonus, is a great dog park.

      Good to know! Someone told me there are more dogs than children in San Francisco… hence the large number of great dog parks!

    The view from the Crissy Field is pretty good too – hard to go wrong with SF on a clear day!

      The only time I was at Crissy Field, SF was kind of hazy. But it definitely would be nice on a clear day!

    I love the Full House shot and Dolores Park! These are awesome photos. I admit I haven’t been to some of these places but I will need to explore some when I am there in July. I am loving the photos with the new camera. I mean this in the nicest way but you really really suck – no one gets weather this nice in SF on their first trip! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks, Jeremy! I really recommend heading to any/all of these spots next time you’re in town (if the weather cooperates, of course). And yes… I know how lucky I got with all those blue-sky days! I’m convinced it’s just the weather gods making up for Iceland… haha.

    All great viewpoints! I went to college out in the Bay area and my favorite view of the city was always from Fish Ranch Road in the East Bay. You can see both Oakland and San Fransisco in one view.

    I’ve actually seen a great shot of SF’s skyline from the airplane. On departure to Long Beach, CA … the airplane flew right over downtown area. Such a spectacular site to see the buildings, bridge, and the peninsula. Beautiful photos you have there! I hope to visit again and/or move there. Cheers!

      Oh that sounds like an awesome view, for sure! Aerial views are always pretty special.

      I hope you get to visit again soon!

    I second Fred – Bernal Heights has some great views over the entire city and the Bay. Love that you went to Dolores Park – not many people make it there but we loved it. You were so lucky with the weather… perfect blue skies!!

      Dolores Park was nice. I was glad I went to the Mission period; many people don’t, but it’s definitely worth visiting!

    Great photos Amanda! I made it to some of these when I was in San Francisco a few years ago, but definitely not all of them. It really is a beautiful city!

      I guess you just have good reason(s) to go back! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Great post! I spent two years living just under Twin Peaks and had a blast going up there all of there times ๐Ÿ™‚ You would think it would be a weekly experience!

    Another suggestion for a different view of SF’s West side (less skyline, more rows and rows of 2-story houses and the Pacific Ocean) is Hawk Hill Park. A complete hidden gem!

    Some of my favorite photos of San Francisco are here…

      When you live in a place, I feel like it’s almost a given that you end up taking for granted what’s right outside your door!

      Thanks for sharing that other hidden gem!

    […] and very, very beautiful. From New York City to the Florida Everglades to the Grand Canyon to San Francisco, this country has SO much to offer. And so much to […]

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