8 Best Viewpoints in San Francisco

Panoramic San Francisco Views

    There are countless viewpoints in San Francisco, but these are the best (in our humble opinion). San Francisco combines the vibrancy of a big city with scenic nature walks, all spread along the Pacific Ocean. It’s these extremes packed into such a small area that makes San Francisco such a unique and fascinating place. 

    Be warned, many of these photo spots are popular. Everyone wants a few photos with the Golden Gate Bridge, so be patient and expect to queue for that perfect shot. It’s a good idea to head out early if you want a more peaceful view. 

    1

    Twin Peaks Summit

    360-degree views from almost 1,000 ft above San Francisco

    Twin Peaks is one of the tallest viewpoints in San Francisco. It’s located in a residential neighborhood close to the city and is free to access. The whole area is a popular spot for hiking, dog walking, and enjoying the sweeping views.

    You can drive up to the summit to see many of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks in one panoramic frame with the Pacific Ocean in the background. It’s an extremely popular vantage point, even at night. Dress appropriately because it gets chilly. 

    Location: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

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    2

    Coit Tower

    It’s a viewpoint and a beautiful 1930s art deco tower

    Coit Tower is a looming feature rising above the trees in Pioneer Park. It’s 210 ft tall, which is hardly sky scraping, but allows for a surprisingly unobstructed panoramic view of San Francisco city skyline and out into the Bay. This landmark was built in memory of firemen who died in the line of duty, and the design resembles a fire hose. 

    Don’t miss the murals painted by famous artists on the ground floor of the tower. They portray everyday scenes from the early 20th century.

    Location: Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

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    3

    Golden Gate Overlook

    Golden Gate Bridge is the enduring icon of San Francisco

    Located at Battery Park West, the Golden Gate Overlook is one of the most convenient viewpoints in San Fran because you can catch the PresidiGo Shuttle system free of charge from many spots in the city and it will drop you right next to the viewpoint. The view itself is almost parallel with the bridge, rather than the side-on perspective from most other popular spots.

    Location: Langdon Ct, San Francisco, CA 94129, USA

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    4

    Hawk Hill

    Enjoy uninterrupted views of the Bay Bridge

    Hawk Hill is a Golden Gate National Recreation Area, offering amazing views of San Francisco’s most famous bridge, along with Lands End and Ocean Beach – as long as the visibility is good enough. 

    The drive is fairly easy, but traffic can be intense on weekends. Every autumn, this is a good spot to see hawks and raptors on their migration south. It’s also popular for hiking and bike riding. There are no shops, so bring a few supplies with you and be prepared for brisk winds.

    Location: Hawk Hill, CA 94941, USA

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    5

    Alcatraz Island

    Get a convict’s view of San Francisco

    The infamous island prison, Alcatraz, is a 15-minute ferry ride from San Francisco. Also nicknamed The Rock, Alcatraz is now a museum with many features to see. Several stops around the island provide you with breathtaking views. There are several trails around the island, with many places to stop and get panoramic shots of San Francisco from across the Bay. 

    Location: Alcatraz Island Light, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

    Phone: +1 415-561-4900

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    6

    Lands End Park

    A viewpoint for those with a fear of heights

    Lands End Park is a popular recreational spot on the northwest corner of San Francisco. There are miles of coastal paths and walking trails to enjoy, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and several shipwrecks dating back hundreds of years. A popular spot for families is the Lands End Labyrinth – a fun puzzle marked out in stones just next to Mile Rock Beach. The trails can be quite steep though, so you’ll need a moderate level of fitness and decent footwear. Stop for lunch or refreshing drink at the legendary Cliff House restaurant at the end of the walking trail. 

    Location: 680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA

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    7

    Bernal Heights Park

    A beautiful viewpoint, minus the crowds

    Bernal Heights Park is a hilltop expanse of grass and trees rising out of the western suburbs. It’s a great spot to watch a sunrise in San Francisco. The view from Bernal Heights is similar to the more famous Twin Peaks, but without all the crowds. You get a beautiful panorama of the sprawling suburbs in the foreground before the skyscrapers of the Financial District and the Pacific Ocean beyond. 

    Location: 3400-3416 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

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    8

    Alamo Square Park

    The past and the future combine in one shot

    This view has been immortalized in movies, TV shows, picture postcards and even souvenir plates. The juxtaposition of the row of pretty Victorian and Edwardian timber houses in the foreground, with the towering modern skyscrapers behind, represents the mix of old and new in San Francisco in one panoramic frame. Alamo Square is easy to find, just a few miles from the Financial District and Fisherman’s Wharf. 

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    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveler

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