15 Best Views in San Francisco: A Guide to the City’s Scenic Spots

San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and its views are some of the best that you will find anywhere.

Millions of travelers from all over the world come to visit San Francisco, California and its most iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. But, in terms of views, I’m here to tell you that the city offers so much more than that!

Whether you are looking for a place to take photos or just enjoy the natural beauty of the city, there are so many scenic spots dotted around the city that simply will not disappoint!

In this guide to the best views in San Francisco, you’ll discover some of the best scenic spots in the city. Some require a walk, some require a car–but whether you’re looking for sweeping panoramas or intimate vistas, San Francisco has something to offer everyone!

So pack your camera and get ready for some stunning photos from San Francisco’s most epic viewpoints!

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Here’s a quick overview of all the useful info you need to plan an awesome trip!

  • When To Go: September to November, though any time of the year is still going to be great, honestly!
  • Where To Stay: San Francisco Marriott Marquis Union Square for downtown convenience, Noe’s Nest Bed and Breakfast for charming Victorian vibes near the Mission District, Beck’s Motor Lodge if you plan on renting a car and want free parking (which is rare in the city).
  • Nearest Airport: San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Oakland International Airport (OAK)
  • How to Get Around: Public transportation within SF (free parking is hard to come by). If you plan on taking day trips outside of SF, you will need a car. We recommend using Rentalcars.com to find the best deal.
  • Must-Do’s: Explore the trendy Mission District, quirky Haight-Ashbury, and buzzing Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods. Explore Fisherman’s Wharf with a sourdough bread bowl filled with clam chowder. Take a ferry ride over to explore Alcatraz Island. Go to the Saturday Farmers Market at the Ferry Building. Get pastries at b. Patisserie or Tartine Bakery.
  • Before You Go: Pack your puffy jacket, windbreaker, and a beanie no matter the time of year — SF’s weather can be unpredictable, and fog/wind can strike at any moment within the city!
  • Money Tip: If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing, consider picking up a CityPASS or Go City San Francisco attraction pass! These passes have the potential to save you a ton of money on paid attractions and tours throughout the city.

Looking to see more of San Francisco, CA?

15 Best Views in San Francisco, California

1. Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks - Best Views in San Francisco

If you’re walking around the city and you’ve spotted the Sutro Tower antenna jutting out into the sky, then you’ve spotted Twin Peaks!

Twin Peaks is definitely one of the best places to get 360 panoramic views of San Francisco! Located in the heart of the city, these two massive hills almost 1000 feet high offer travelers some of the most unforgettable views of the city.

From the viewing area at the top, you can see many of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the Transamerica Building, Market Street, and even Alcatraz! Don’t forget to snap a photo of that gorgeous swirl in the road!

Twin Peaks - Best Views in San Francisco

On a clear day, you’ll even be able to see Oakland, Berkeley, and Mount Diablo to the east of the city.

To get there, you can either hike or drive up. If you’re open to hiking, the walk up the trail of rugged stairs about 0.7 miles to reach the top. Street parking is widely available off of Crestline Drive.

If you’re not looking to break a sweat, I suggest driving up there as the main parking lot is free. Go early or be prepared to wait for a parking spot, especially on the weekends.

Pro Tip: Try to go on a clear day. When it’s foggy, Twin Peaks will offer nothing but views of fog.

Address: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114

2. Muir Woods

muir woods national monument

For those who want to get closer to nature, Muir Woods is a must-visit. This scenic spot is just a short drive from downtown San Francisco and features towering redwoods, crystal-clear streams, and a peaceful atmosphere (you’ll find more peace and quiet on weekdays). It’s easily one of the best day trips from SF!

Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, this coastal redwood preserve features majestic redwoods and scenic hiking trails that draw more than 1.5 million visitors each year. The trees range from 400 to 800 years old, with heights up to 250 feet tall!

Visitors can enjoy flat, easy trails that loop through the groves. Due to its ever-growing popularity, you will need either a shuttle pass or a parking reservation. If you’re driving a car, continue the drive further north and visit the charming towns of Mill Valley and Stinson Beach.

It’s hard to believe that such a beautiful region exists so close to a major city like San Francisco. If you’re looking for a place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Muir Woods (and its little communities nearby) is the perfect spot.

Whether you want to go for a hike, have a picnic, or just sit back and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, you’ll find a healthy dose of nature out here.

Looking to visit both Sausalito and Muir Woods in one go? Check out this combo tour, combining both iconic areas into one exciting day trip.

Address: Mill Valley, CA 94941

3. Coit Tower

Coit Tower - Best Views in San Francisco

Another great spot for sweeping waterfront views is Coit Tower. This iconic historic landmark is located in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood and offers 360-degree views of San Francisco. From here, you can see the Financial District, Chinatown, North Beach, and much more.

Most people go to Coit Tower for the views, but don’t miss the colorful Diego Rivera-style murals in the lobby, a collection of 25 artworks created in 1934 as part of a Public Works of Art Project.

You can walk up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower, following Filbert Street from its intersection with Grant Ave in North Beach. It’s a steep climb, but the views you get will be so worth it!

The 360 views of the city are magical at any time of day, but the sunsets are amazing.

Coit Tower Views - Best Views in San Francisco

Pro Tip: There is an entrance fee to get to the observation deck of the Coit Tower. What you can see from the top of the tower isn’t that much better than what you can see from the parking lot, so save your money and skip the observation deck.

Parking in the lot outside Coit Tower is for area residents only on weekends (permit required). During the week, visitors can only park for 30 minutes, and waits to get into the lot–and to use the elevator to get up the tower–can be long.

I’d recommend just walking to the Coit Tower instead and skipping the top of the tower.

Address: 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94133

4. Hawk Hill

Hawk Hill - Best Views In San Francisco

Hawk Hill in San Francisco’s Marin Headlands is probably one of the city’s best-kept secrets. If you can, come for the gorgeous sunsets!

On a clear day, Hawk Hill offers visitors some of the best 360-degree views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Oakland, Bay Bridge, and SF cityscape!

Visiting on a rather foggy day? Since you’re at a high vantage point, when the fog rolls in to cover the city, part of the bridge will be sheathed in a layer of fluffy, marshmallow-like clouds. It’ll actually make your photos dreamier!

Pro Tip: The steep hill (923 feet) is very popular with cyclists, so be prepared to encounter them on the drive up. It gets pretty busy on the weekends, so good luck finding parking! I’d recommend coming on a weekday if possible.

Once you park, it’s a short 300-foot walk up a fairly steep road to reach the top of Hawk Hill from the parking lot below.

Address: Conzelman Rd San Francisco, CA 94965

5. Lovers Lane

Lovers Lane - Free Things to Do in San Francisco

One of the best things to do while in the Presidio area is to take a quick stroll through the trees! The best views for this one can be seen during the walk, not at the end.

We like the short Lover’s Lane Trail (just 0.6 miles long). It’s the oldest footpath in the Presidio and only takes about 30 minutes to complete.

On this route, you’ll get to experience Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line installation, a zigzagging sculpture made of fallen tree trunks located in the eucalyptus forest just east of the trail.

Address: The intersection between Pacific Ave and Presidio Ave

The Presidio Lover's Lane - 60 Free Things To Do In SF - Travels With Elle

6. Dolores Park

dolores park san francisco

Dolores Park is one of the main landmarks in the Mission and one of the top reasons why I love the Mission District so much.

Dolores Park is one of the best places to enjoy views of San Francisco! This park is located in the Mission District and offers sweeping panoramas of the city. From here, you can see downtown San Francisco, Twin Peaks, and much more.

It’s absolutely the perfect place to grab some food, have a picnic, and sunbathe on a sunny day (not to mention the great opportunities for people watching). The best part of all, the people who come here are actually locals.

If you grab a spot higher up on the hill, you will be treated to some outstanding views of the urban skyline. Bring a picnic, a blanket, a football, a pair of sunglasses, and some speakers and you’re sure to have a great time!

There are lots of food establishments nearby— grab a burrito, a cup of ice cream from Bi-rite Creamery, or pastries/sandwiches from Tartine Bakery and bring it along for your picnic.

Whether you’re enjoying a picnic or just taking a stroll, Dolores Park is just a lot of fun to do with friends/family.

Address: Dolores St &, 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

7. Land’s End / Sutro Baths

sutro bath lands end san francisco

The Land’s End area is a sight you need to see for yourself. Instead of offering cityscape views, this viewpoint offers nature, hillsides dotted with wildflowers, and the Pacific Ocean. You can also view the Golden Gate Bridge from here!

Land’s End is also home to the ruins of the Sutro Baths. Sutro Baths was once a world-famous public swimming complex in San Francisco, California. The baths were originally built in 1896 but were damaged by fire in 1966 and never reopened.

Today, the Land’s End area is a popular spot for picnicking, hiking, and exploring. The area is chock full of hiking trails, stunning views, and wildlife.

You could easily spend 2 hours here walking the trails, soaking in the views, and smelling the fresh oceanside air!

Sutro Baths - 55 Best Things To Do In San Francisco CA - Travels With Elle

Do like the locals do and head here early in the day for a morning jog or stroll on one of the trails sprinkled with gorgeous cypress trees! This is one of our favorite spots to visit when we’re in the city early in the day.

There’s a huge parking lot and parking is free. However, do try to come early (especially on weekends) because the lot does tend to fill up.

Address: 680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

8. Grandview Park

Grandview Park - Best Views In San Francisco CA

Grandview Park is one of the best places to enjoy views of San Francisco! This park is located in the Sunset District and offers incredible views of the cityscape.

From here, you can see downtown San Francisco, Twin Peaks, and much more.

Also, half the fun of this one is getting up there! To get to the top, take the 16th Avenue Mosaic Staircase, a colorful set of stairs known for its 163 colorful ceramic tiled steps.

Not only will you get to admire the beauty of the staircase, you’ll also be working your way up to some awesome panoramic views of San Francisco. Double whammy!

Secret Garden Steps - Things To Do in San Francisco

Whether you’re enjoying a picnic or just taking a stroll, Grandview Park is a great place to spend a few moments before moving on to the rest of your SF itinerary.

Address: 1705 14th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

9. Battery Spencer

Golden Gate Bridge - Free Things to Do in San Francisco

Battery Spencer is one of the best places to enjoy views of San Francisco, especially if you’re looking to get up close and personal with the Golden Gate Bridge!

Battery Spencer is perched on a bluff atop of the Marin Headlands (just about a 5 minutes drive from Hawk Hill), about eye-level with the top of the north tower of the Golden Gate.

Not only will you get a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but you’ll also be able to see the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the city skyline of San Francisco.

There are designated parking lots that are free to use. If those are filled, you can also park along the side of the road.

Address: Conzelman Rd, Sausalito, CA 94965

10. Kirby Cove

Kirby Cove - Best Views In San Francisco

Kirby Cove is a secluded beach located in the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco. This beautiful spot is well worth the hike down to it, as it boasts stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the city skyline.

Kirby Cove is super easy to get to from Battery Spencer and well worth the mini hike down to the beach. I mean, who doesn’t want another perspective / view of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge?

The cove itself is sheltered by cliffs on three sides, making it a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery. Kirby Cove is a great spot for a picnic or a day of relaxation, and it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular destination.

If you’re looking for a little adventure, Kirby Cove is also a great place to go tidepooling. The rocky shores are home to a variety of marine life, and it’s a great way to explore the area’s natural beauty. Just be sure to take caution when exploring the tidepools, as they can be slippery.

To get to Kirby Cove, drive across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and take the exit for Alexander Avenue. Park as close to Battery Spencer as you can, as that’s where the trailhead starts.

Head down the path located to the right of the parking area for Battery Spencer.

Address: Kirby Cove Rd Sausalito, CA 94965

11. Alamo Square

Painted Ladies - Free Things to Do in San Francisco

Let’s take a trip down memory lane by heading to Alamo Square Park where you’ll find the iconic Painted Ladies!

Unfortunately, you won’t find actual ladies here. Instead, you’ll find some of the most beautiful houses in all of San Francisco, and they are free to enjoy from the outside!

These six Victorians, built between 1892 and 1896, are the epitome of Queen Anne-style architecture and are perhaps the best-known row of Victorian homes in America.

Visitors are not able to go inside these buildings since they are privately owned, but still worth admiring and having a picnic across the street.

If you’re familiar with the hit television show Full House, you will want to catch a glimpse of the Painted Ladies for yourself.

Pro Tip: The best time to visit is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is at its lowest and casts a warm glow on the brightly colored homes.

Address: Steiner St & Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

12. Bernal Heights

Bernal Heights - Best Views in San Francisco CA

For a local’s perspective of SF, head to the neighborhood of Bernal Heights, take the dirt trail up, and grab a seat on the Bernal Heights swing!

In addition to a super dreamy IG-worthy swing, you can also find sweeping views of the city skyline, with the Golden Gate Bridge to your left and the Bay Bridge on the right.

This spot has definitely gained popularity over the past few years, so do plan ahead and allocate some time to wait for a photo on the swing if that’s what you want.

This swing can be found by GPSing to Bernal Heights Park. Once you park near the bottom of the hill, make your way up on foot. The walk up the hill is not bad and can be done in just about 5-10 minutes at a gradual incline. You’ll find the swing near the top!

If you don’t care for the swing, head here at night after spending the day in the City. Soaking in the views of the twinkling city at night is a great way to end the evening. There typically aren’t many people there at night, but the views of the city are so gorgeous!

Address: 10 Bernal Heights Blvd San Francisco, CA 94110

Bernal Heights at night - Best Views in San Francisco CA

13. Treasure Island

San Francisco Skyline at Treasure Island - Best Views in San Francisco CA

If you’re looking for a truly unique perspective, make sure to check out the Bay Bridge from Treasure Island. This man-made island offers incredible views of both the bridge and the cityscape beyond.

You’ll be amazed at how different the city looks from this vantage point. On a clear day, expect panoramic views of the city skyline!

For those who can appreciate a good skyline, Treasure Island provides absolutely breathtaking views. Definitely one of the best views in San Francisco.

To get here, you’ll want to hop onto the Bay Bridge and head towards Treasure Island. If you have extra time to spare, why not explore the island a little?

You can enjoy a morning brunch at Mersea or Aracely Cafe and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the island by bike! Don’t miss Clipper Cove, a nice sandy beach featuring more great views of the Bay Bridge.

Address: Treasure Island, San Francisco, CA

14. Lombard Street

Lombard Street - Free Things to Do in San Francisco

Lombard Street is one of the most unique roads in all of San Francisco. It’s a one-way street filled with 8 full twists and turns that you can actually drive on. Since this is such a popular attraction, be prepared for lines of cars waiting for their turn to drive down.

A better alternative is just to walk up and down the street. This way, not only can you go at your own pace and enjoy the beautiful bushes, trees, and gardens lining the street, but you can also avoid the headache of having to be stuck in that car traffic.

Best of all, there’s a great view of the city from the top, so don’t forget your camera! You can see Coit Tower in all its glory from here!

You can get here by taking either the cable car or other public transport available in the city. Most SF hop-on-hop-off bus passes also have a stop close by, allowing you to get here with just a short walk.

Address: Lombard St, San Francisco, CA 94133

15. Pier 7 (Transamerica Pyramid)

Pier 7 - Best Views In San Francisco California

And last but not least, we have Pier 7! If you’re looking to snap the perfect photo of the Transamerica Pyramid, head to this spot. You can also capture great shots of the Bay Bridge from here too!

Pier 7 is loved by wedding photographers, which should tell you a thing or two about this spot. You might even catch a wedding photography shoot happening here during your very own visit.

After admiring the views of the Transamerica Pyramid, walk out to the end of the pier to soak up the incredible views of the Bay Bridge, Ferry Building, and other nearby piers.

Address: Pier 7, San Francisco, CA 94105

Best Rooftop Bars For Views Of San Francisco, CA

  • Top of the Mark at Intercontinental Mark Hopkins – Luxury hotel vibes! Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome on a first-come-first-served basis.
  • Charmaine’s at Proper Hotel – upscale and modern bar boasting some really great city views, with fire pits!
  • Hotel Via – you will either need to be a hotel guest in order to access the rooftop or attend one of the events that are hosted in that space.
  • El Techo – Latin American street eats and cocktails are the draw at this vibrant restaurant with a rooftop patio. Located in the heart of the Mission!

Looking For Other Things To Do In SF? Consider The Go San Francisco Pass

If you plan on hitting up a few of SF’s most popular museums/attractions during your time here, you should consider getting a version of the Go City San Francisco Pass. It’s a really great way to see what you want to see while saving a bunch of money.

The Go City All-Inclusive Pass is really great for travelers who want to see as much as possible while they’re in San Francisco. With the Go City San Francisco All-Inclusive Pass, you can choose between a 1, 2, 3, or 5-day pass that will give you free admission to 25+ museums and attractions. This includes the following:

  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Exploratorium
  • Escape from the Rock (Alcatraz cruise tour)
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • The Walt Disney Family Museum
  • Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus 1-Day Classic Tour
  • All-day bike rentals
  • and a bunch more good stuff not listed here…

If you don’t plan on visiting a ton of different attractions, Go City also has an Explorer Pass which will still save you a lot of money.

With the Explorer Pass, you’ll pay one flat fee for a 2,3,4, or 5-choice pass. You’ll then have 60 days to use it. There is also no need to pick attractions ahead of time, simply choose attractions as you go! Passes start at $55 for 2 choices.

No matter which pass type you pick, you’ll ultimately save far more with these passes compared to buying separate attraction tickets!

Essential Tips For Visiting San Francisco, CA

  • If you’re driving around the city, be careful of break-ins! Hide all your belongings before you arrive and park. Better yet, leave nothing in the car and take all valuables with you.
  • If you’re driving into the city from elsewhere, be prepared for the horrendous Bay Area traffic, especially on weekdays during the morning and afternoon rush hours. The same goes for driving out of the city! Hopping onto the bridge to leave San Francisco could take almost an hour during rush hour. Plan your drives accordingly to avoid traffic.
  • Do not rent a car if you’re primarily going to stay in SF. Traffic sucks and parking is an expensive nightmare. What’s worse is that if you do rent a car, many hotels charge $35+ for overnight parking. If you’re considering street parking as an alternative, good luck because most hotels are located in metered street parking areas. San Francisco is relatively small, so most tourist attractions are close to each other and public transportation options are plentiful.
  • 511.org is a great resource that will provide you with detailed SF and Bay Area transportation information. Available both as an app and on the web, it should be your go-to resource for Bay Area traffic, transit, carpool, vanpool, and bicycling information. Since it’s catered towards commuters, it’s more comprehensive than Google Maps.
  • Dress in layers. Even in the summer, mornings and evenings in San Francisco can be cool and chilly due to the coastal climate. Packing layers when you head out to explore will help you stay prepared for any kind of weather. Of my 20+ years of living in the Bay Area, I have never gone to SF without bringing a jacket with me.
  • Wear extremely comfortable walking shoes. Even though public transportation is plentiful, San Francisco is a very walkable city and you’re going to be doing some hill climbing while you’re at it.
  • Expect fog and wind while in San Francisco, and bring layers so that when it rolls in, you’re prepared! Sure there are clear, sunny days, but that’s more common in the summer and early fall.

San Francisco, CA is truly a city like no other, and its views are one of the many things that make it so special. I hope you’ve discovered a few new spots and enjoy exploring these scenic views of San Francisco!

Looking for more San Francisco travel tips? You might like:

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Elle Leung

My name is Elle and I'm a travel blogger and adventurer based in California. I love helping people plan trips and create unique itineraries based on their interests and their budgets. I'm a huge fan of outdoor adventures and doing off-the-beaten-path things in my state (and all around the world too)!

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