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  • San Francisco City Sights

    San Francisco City Sights
    San Francisco is a magical city with romantic bay views and breathtaking scenery. Here's a guide to the City's world-famous landmarks and most popular attractions. San Francisco's colorful districts are home to additional attractions.


    Fisherman's Wharf
    Golden Gate Bridge
    Golden Gate Park
    Coit Tower
    The Haight
    Ocean Beach
    Financial District
    Lombard Street
    Yerba Buena Gardens / SOMA
    Civic Center
    North Beach
    Marina District
    Union Square
    Mission District
    The Embarcadero
    Union Street
    Bay Bridge
    Cable Cars

    Fisherman's Wharf Back to Top

    Fisherman's Wharf

    San Francisco's fishing fleet is docked on the Jefferson Street promenade. Take an early morning stroll down "Fish Alley" (Jefferson between Hyde and Jones) to view the fishermen at work.

    Family entertainment is the specialty along Jefferson Street with attractions such as the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum and the Red & White Fleet, offering bay cruises with award-winning narration in 12 languages.

    Ghirardelli Square, once home to the world-famous chocolate factory features a Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop with displays of the original chocolate-making machines.

    Experience San Francisco’s authentic maritime history at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park which extends from Aquatic Park to Hyde Street Pier, the only floating National Park. Board the world’s largest collection of historic ships.

    The USS Pampanito, a WWII submarine museum and memorial is open to the public at Pier 45.

    PIER 39, a renovated cargo pier, is home port to the Blue & Gold Fleet and offers two levels of specialty shops and destination dining with over 20 restaurants including Hard Rock Cafe. Aquarium of the Bay, RocketBoat (seasonal) and the handcrafted San Francisco Carousel are popular family attractions. The famous sea lions make their home on K-Dock (seasonal).

    Anchorage Square is a destination for shopping, dining and and other activities.

    Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for its Italian seafood restaurants with waterfront views. Vendors along Jefferson Street sell Dungeness crab from steaming cauldrons, walkaway seafood cocktails and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, a signature San Francisco dish.

    Alcatraz Back to Top


    Alcatraz, Spanish for pelican, was named Isla de los Alcatraces after the birds that were the island’s only inhabitants. The island served as a military fortification in the 1850s and an incarceration facility for war prisoners during the Spanish-American War. A federal penitentiary until 1963, "The Rock" is now a popular tourist attraction.    READ MORE >

    Golden Gate Bridge Back to Top

    Golden Gate Bridge

    The Golden Gate Bridge (Highway 101 North) links San Francisco with Marin County. Often shrouded in thick fog, the bridge sways 27 feet to withstand winds of up to 100 miles per hour.     READ MORE >

    Golden Gate Park Back to Top

    Golden Gate Park

    Golden Gate Park is among the world’s greatest urban parks. Approximately three miles long and a half mile wide (1,017 acres), this treasure is covered with grassy meadows, wooded bike trails, secluded lakes, open groves, and gardens.

    The Conservatory of Flowers, built in 1879 and modeled after London’s Kew Gardens, is a glass Victorian displaying a paradise of flowers. Situated near the eastern edge of the park, the Conservatory of Flowers is a spectacular living museum of rare tropical plants.

    The Japanese Tea Garden is a four-acre refuge of traditional Japanese architecture, koi ponds and bamboo trees.

    San Francisco Botanical Garden is an urban sanctuary, offering 55 acres of beautiful gardens displaying over 8,000 different kinds of plants from around the world. Highlights include the California Native Garden and century-old Redwood Grove; the unique Mesoamerican, Andean and Southeast Asian Cloud Forest collections; and the magnificent Magnolia collection, the most significant for conservation purposes outside of China.

    The herd of bison that graze in an enclosed paddock just off Kennedy Drive have been a tradition at the park since the 1890s. A Visitor’s Center is located in the Beach Chalet at the West end of the park near Ocean Beach.

    The park’s main attractions include two newly-rebuilt museums, the deYoung Museum and California Academy of Sciences which features a living roof and indoor rainforest.


    Victorians Back to Top


    Nearly 514 blocks of San Francisco, including much of Nob Hill and Van Ness Avenue, were destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire. Many beautiful examples of nineteenth-century Victorian architecture were lost in the disaster.

    Today some 14,000 Victorians have been preserved west of Van Ness Avenue in the Cow Hollow, Pacific Heights and Alamo Square districts.

    Distinguished by their design features, the three styles of Victorians include the Italianate, the Stick and the Queen Anne.

    The Italianate which flourished in the 1870s is identified by a flat roof (often hidden behind a false front), slim pillars flanking the front door and bays with side windows that slant inward. These narrow row houses were patterned after Roman Classical ornamentation. Outstanding examples of the Italianate can be found at Bush and Fillmore streets.

    The Stick, which peaked in popularity during the 1880s, added ornate woodwork outlines to the doors, frames and bay windows to the Italianate design. Other additions included the "French" cap, gables and the "three-sided rectangle" bays. View classic San Francisco Sticks at Laguna near Bush streets.

    Designs changed dramatically with the Queen Anne Victorians in 1890. Turrets, towers, a steep and gabled roof, arches, spindles, glass art windows and sections of shingle siding distinguish the Queen Anne from her predecessors. Tour a grand Queen Anne, the Haas-Lilienthal House, located at 2007 Franklin at Washington. (Tours given Wednesdays and Sundays only.)

    Postcard Row is possibly the most photographed spot in the City. These colorful Victorian houses or "Painted Ladies" with the San Francisco skyline in the backdrop have graced many postcards and movie scenes. Capture the view from the center of the park on the edge of Alamo Square at Steiner and Hayes streets.

    Coit Tower Back to Top

    Coit Tower

    Atop Telegraph Hill is the 210-foot Coit Tower, built with funds left to the City by philanthropist Lillie Hitchcock Coit for the beautification of San Francisco. The view from atop the east side of the tower spans 360 degrees. Inside, you'll find a history museum and murals that depict working life in 1930s California.    READ MORE >

    The Haight Back to Top

    The Haight

    The history of the Haight is as colorful as the Victorian architecture that lines the streets of this neighborhood. The Haight Ashbury community is universally recognized for its creativity and diversity expressed by the hybrid mixture of shops, residents, and its landmark place in history. The style and ingenuity that started in the sixties still rings true today.

    Ocean Beach Back to Top

    Ocean Beach

    Ocean Beach is a three-mile stretch of Pacific coastline. While not suitable for swimming, the beach is a great place to sunbathe, stroll and view a sunset.

    The Cliff House sits on a rock perched over the Pacific Ocean with a view of Seal Rocks (a popular hangout for sunbathing seals).

    The original Cliff House structure was a posh playground for San Francisco’s elite, former presidents and writers including Mark Twain. North of the Cliff House are the remains of the Sutro Baths, once the world’s largest swimming pool. Seven indoor fresh and saltwater swimming pools were housed under a giant stained glass canopy until the structure burned in 1960.

    Chinatown Back to Top


    As you pass through the dragon-adorned Pagoda Gates on Grant Avenue at Bush Street, your senses will be tempted by the aroma of ethnic cuisine, bright neon and the sound of foreign languages.

    The heart of Chinatown is Portsmouth Square where San Francisco’s first Chinese immigrants settled in the 1850s. Today, Chinatown is home to more than 10,000 of San Francisco’s Chinese residents.

    Most local Chinese commerce remains along Stockton Street where visitors will find traditional herb pharmacies, temples, fortune cookie factories, garment factories, fresh produce markets, seafood and poultry shops, and many fine restaurants.

    Financial District Back to Top

    Financial District

    "Wall Street West" begins at Montgomery Street and extends east toward the Embarcadero. Although San Francisco’s Financial District is contained within a few city blocks, it is ranked as one of the top four financial centers in the nation. The Transamerica Pyramid (600 Montgomery/ Washington) is San Francisco’s tallest building, rising 853 feet.

    Lombard Street Back to Top

    Lombard Street

    Located in the Russian Hill district, Lombard Street is known as "the crookedest street in the world" because of its eight sharp turns on a 40-degree slope. The turns, known as switchbacks, were built in the 1920s to allow traffic to descend the steep incline. The street zigzags around beautiful flowers and shrubs and offers a nice view of the bay. There are stairways (without curves) on either side of the street for pedestrians. The descent begins at Hyde Street.

    Yerba Buena Gardens/SOMA Back to Top

    Yerba Buena Gardens/SOMA

    The area south of Market Street continues to be transformed from vacant warehouses on industrial lots into a fashionable neighborhood. The South of Market district (SoMa) has emerged as the art and nightlife center of San Francisco and offers a collection of restaurants, cafes, galleries, bars and nightclubs.

    Yerba Buena Gardens, the city’s urban redevelopment plan, includes the Center for the Arts, a visual and performing arts complex, 5.5 acres of gardens with an outdoor performance area, the Martin Luther King Memorial, the Children's Creativity Museum (an arts and technology center), an ice skating and bowling center, and San Francisco’s historic Charles Loof Carousel. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is now the second largest modern art museum in the United States.

    Civic Center Back to Top

    Civic Center

    Van Ness Avenue, the widest street in the City, is home to San Francisco’s city government. The gold-domed City Hall (extensively renovated in 1995-1999) was modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Tours of this “beaux-arts” building (the tallest dome in the U.S.) are available.

    San Francisco’s Main Library is located at the corner of Larkin and Grove Streets.

    The magnificent Asian Art Museum is one of the largest museums in the western world devoted exclusively to Asian art. The museum’s holdings include nearly 15,000 treasures spanning 6,000 years of history.

    Nearby Hayes Valley offers an eclectic mix of restaurants and boutiques.

    North Beach Back to Top

    North Beach

    North Beach, tucked between Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf, is a favorite gathering spot for visitors and locals alike. Waves of immigrants have created a diverse ethnic mix in North Beach which is often compared to Paris’ Left Bank. Today, the area is predominantly Italian and known as Little Italy of the West. At the heart of North Beach is Washington Square, a grassy piazza where the Church of Saints Peter & Paul is located.

    The Beat Generation of the 1950s is rooted in this eclectic San Francisco neighborhood. Upper Grant Avenue maintains the flavor of its Bohemian past. Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights at 261 Columbus Avenue, the first paperback bookstore in the country and Allen Ginsberg’s publisher, was at the movement’s center. Facing City Lights on Jack Kerouac Place is Vesuvio, a saloon worth a visit for its Beat Generation memorabilia.

    It’s the restaurants, however, that draw the crowds to North Beach, and you won’t be disappointed with any selection that you make. Traditional cafes, Italian delicatessens selling homemade ravioli, and bakeries offering tempting pastries line Columbus Avenue.

    Marina District Back to Top

    Marina District

    The Marina District was built on lagoon and marshland filled for use during the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. Remaining from the Exhibition is the Palace of Fine Arts designed by Berkeley architect Bernard Maybeck. Today, the Palace houses the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum containing 650 interactive exhibits. A flat, grassy park favored by sunbathers, picnickers, kite flyers and people watchers, the Marina Green is a great spot to exercise while enjoying a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Japantown Back to Top


    Nihonmachi, also known as Japantown, covers seven square blocks. Located in the heart of Japantown is the Japan Center, a shopping and dining complex. Reminiscent of the Tokyo Ginza, Japantown includes restaurants, shops, hotels, a spa and a movie theater. Other points of interest include the 100-foot Peace Pagoda, a gift from Japan.

    Castro / Twin PeaksBack to Top


    The neighborhood known as Eureka Valley was named for one of the Twin Peaks (the other was called Noe). In the 1880s, a village of dairy farms and Victorian houses flourished as Irish, German and Scandinavian immigrant families homesteaded on the slopes of Twin Peaks. When the Castro Street segment of the Market Street Cable Railway opened in 1887, it became a desirable neighborhood referred to as "Little Downtown".

    Following World War II the neighborhood's Victorian homes attracted a new group of migrants, San Francisco's gay population which was steadily rising after the war.

    "The Castro" we know today, an international symbol of gay pride, evolved from the activism of the '60s and '70s under civil-rights leaders like Harvey Milk. Milk's former campaign headquarters is located at 575 Castro.

    Twin Peaks Bar, located at the intersection of Market and Castro, was the first gay bar in the city, and possibly the United States, with windows to visibly expose patrons to the public.
    The most recognizable attraction in the neighborhood is the Castro Theatre, a movie palace built in 1922. The Castro offers an eclectic mix of shopping and dining.

    Nearby Twin Peaks offers the best panoramic views of San Francisco. A vista area at the parking lot offers stunning views beyond the City to the Golden Gate Bridge and to the East Bay.

    Union Square Back to Top

    Union Square

    Union Square, a shopper’s paradise of designer boutiques and large department stores, is bounded by Stockton, Powell, Post and Geary streets. Located around the square are Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany, Niketown, Gucci and many more. Here shoppers will find the best of Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Napa Valley and North Beach under one roof. Also located nearby (closer to Market Street) is the Westfield San Francisco Centre (home to Bloomingdales and Nordstrom).

    Directly facing the square is the Westin St. Francis Hotel, built in 1904 by Charles Crocker. Ride the glass elevator in the St. Francis Tower for a spectacular view. Other elegant hotels in the area include the Hilton, the JW Marriott, the Nikko, the Clift, the Sir Francis Drake, the Parc 55 Wyndham and the Grand Hyatt.

    Union Square Map (PDF) >

    Mission District Back to Top

    Mission District

    Immerse yourself in the rich cultural traditions of Mexico and Latin America on Mission Street, where visitors can enjoy lavish murals, savory foods and a dazzling range of traditional and avant-garde art.

    One of the City's oldest structures is Mission Dolores, the sixth Franciscan mission along El Camino Real.

    Valencia Street has become the epicenter of the gentrified Mission District. The desirable neighborhood commands high rents and is home to many of the City's "must-try" eateries, hippest boutiques and coolest bars and clubs.

    Just a couple of blocks away, and parallel to Valencia, is Dolores Street. From the top of the hill, Dolores Park offers a spectacular downtown view and is a favorite local gathering spot, especially on sunny days.

    The Embarcadero Back to Top

    The Embarcadero

    The Embarcadero is a waterfront boulevard lined with elegant palm trees, historic piers structures, hip eateries and luxury apartments and condominiums. San Francisco’s eastern waterfront has emerged as one of the City’s most exciting new neighborhoods. The Ferry Building serves as the marker from which piers are numbered, odd numbers are located to the north and even numbers to the south. Located inside is the Ferry Building Marketplace which consists of gourmet shops and restaurants. An outdoor farmer’s market is held seasonally.

    Riding a Muni F-line vintage streetcar is a fun way for visitors to view the San Francisco Bay, Coit Tower and famous Fisherman’s Wharf. The fleet of restored streetcars includes international and domestic trolleys from the 1920s and ’30s as well as San Francisco’s very first street car (built in 1912) and “The Street Car Named Desire” built in 1923 and acquired from New Orleans in exchange for a California Street cable car. The popular F-line runs a total of five miles beginning at its western terminal in the Castro district, down Market Street to the Embarcadero and ending at Jones and Beach streets in Fisherman’s Wharf.

    Levi’s Plaza, located between Union and Greenwich streets and Battery and Sansome streets, is the world headquarters of Levi Strauss. Interesting shops, restaurants and a Levi Strauss & Co. Visitors Center are located here.

    Union Street Back to Top

    Union Street

    The “main street” of the Cow Hollow District is renowned for its preserved Victorians (and Edwardians) that now house art galleries, antique stores, boutiques, fine dining and world-class spas.

    Bay Bridge Back to Top

    Bay Bridge

    The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened in 1936 and links San Francisco with the East Bay.

    The new East self-anchored suspension span of the bridge is 2.2 miles and allows pedestrians and bicycles (currently ending short of Yerba Buena Island). A toll of $4-$6 is collected westbound where pedestrians are prohibited.

    The Bay Lights is the world's largest LED light sculpture, now adorning the West span through 2015.

    Treasure Island, which sits in the middle of the Bay Bridge, was created in 1936 for the World’s Fair and then served as a Naval Base during World War II. Re-development efforts have resulted in old aircraft hangars now housing sound stages for film and television productions and San Francisco’s first full service winery and tasting room. The island is known for the most spectacular waterfront views of the city and is easily accessible by auto, public transit and a marina.

    Cable Cars Back to Top

    Cable Cars

    The cable car was introduced to San Francisco on August 2, 1873. Wire-cable manufacturer Andrew Hallidie conceived the idea after witnessing an accident in which a horse-drawn carriage faltered and rolled backward downhill dragging the horses behind it. The first cable car to descend down Clay Street on Nob Hill was an immediate success. Besides creating a vital link in San Francisco's public transportation system, the cable car opened the door for building on steep hills which until this time was thought to be impossible. Throughout the 1890s, eight transit companies operated 600 cars which covered 21 cable car routes and a total of 52.8 miles. Cable cars remained the primary mode of transportation until the 1906 earthquake.

    Cable cars operate seven days a week from 6:30 am until 12:30 am. The fare is $6 (no transfers issued or accepted) or use your MUNI Passport. Purchase your ticket from the conductor on board where exact change is required.