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


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. […] 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 […]

    Great post! I spent two years living just under Twin Peaks and had a blast going up there all of there times 🙂 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!

    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! 🙂

    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!

    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!

    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 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! 🙂

      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.

    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!

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