This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
While there are many beautiful places to consider for your next vacation, San Francisco never fails to satisfy. The city is an eclectic mix of our past, present and future, where historical Victorian homes and the Counterculture movement of the ’60s collide with booming skyscrapers and the technology of tomorrow (we’re looking at you, Twitter, Yelp, Airbnb, Lyft and Uber).
Whether you aspire to walk up steep rolling hills to visit the Painted Ladies or a more laid back beach day by Golden Gate before the fog rolls in, there’s surely something for just about everyone. Here are our picks for the most Instagrammable places in San Francisco.
1. Lyon Street Steps
In the midst of the Cow Hollow and Pacific Heights neighborhoods are the Lyon Street Steps, a destination for those who enjoy outdoor workouts and breathtaking views of The Palace of Fine Arts. Disney fans can find solace in the Princess Diaries house located at the base of the steps, but those craving more adventure should trek up the stairs to find the home of Senator Dianne Feinstein or the city’s famous heart art installations.
2. Clarion Alley
In the heart of the Mission District lies Clarion Alley, where local artists spend their days creating beautiful murals that reflect the diverse community of the neighborhood. And not surprisingly, it’s also a great place to take a quick photo for the ‘gram. Its murals reflect San Francisco’s socially connected and innovative flair, and since they periodically change, you’ll rarely return to the same backdrop. Not to mention that minutes away are some incredibly delicious taco shops and trendy stores.
3. Battery Spencer
Before the Battery Spencer was a destination for travelers, it was a military outpost from 1897 to 1942. It now holds one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge, producing postcard-like images with the entirety of the landmark in the foreground and the city peaking right behind it. Located just south of the city of Sausalito, visitors can also take a leisurely hike through the Marin Headlands to reach the famed spot.
4. The Painted Ladies
This vibrant group of Victorian houses contrasts the cityscape backdrop, which is probably why it’s one of the most photographed locations in San Francisco. The Painted Ladies reside next to Alamo Square Park, where tourists and locals can stop at Salt and Straw for some ice cream and enjoy the sun (when the city isn’t foggy). Coincidentally, the best time to get the perfect photo is while the sun sets, producing an orange-ish glow over the houses and the city behind it.
5. Lombard Street
Locals will tell you that Lombard Street is not actually the most crooked street in San Francisco, because it isn’t — that title actually belongs to the neighboring Vermont Street. But, it is one of the best locations to admire, with eight hairpin turns all lined by Russian Hill’s rich architecture and foliage. This in turn creates one of the most scenic streets to stroll along, where visitors can take a photo at the bottom of Lombard Street’s contours, or at the top with a view of the bay. After, you can head to North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Chinatown, all of which are within walking distance.
6. Ferry Building
The Ferry Building is one of the most known landmarks in San Francisco, located in the heart of the Embarcadero. Standing tall and proud at the end of Market Street, it is actually a functioning terminal for ferries that cross the San Francisco Bay and also serves as a marketplace for local vendors to showcase their products. Just outside the building is a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge. When the temperatures start to cool and day turns to night, visitors will have the chance to view The Bay Lights, a light sculpture on the bridge that was designed for the 75th anniversary of its opening.
7. Sutro Baths
Built in 1896, the Sutro Baths was once one of the largest swimming establishments in the world where the entrance fee was a whopping $.05. Today, you will find a perfect view of the Pacific Ocean and a collection of salt water pools and a time-worn framework of what used to be. The Sutro Baths are at the end of Land’s End, where you can take an easy hike of the coastline and finish it off with dinner at the Cliff House, with picturesque sights of the Marin Headlands and Seal Rocks in tow.
8. Palace of Fine Arts
Among the most popular sites to visit is the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District. Originally built to preserve and present works of art for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, it was recently renovated in 2009 and in addition to hosting art exhibitions, is now great for weddings — and your Instagram feed. The Palace is surrounded by a small artificial lagoon and a central rotunda situated by the water. Located under the rotunda’s domes are murals by Robert Reid that depict the four “golds” of California: poppies, citrus fruits, metallic gold and wheat.
9. San Francisco City Hall
The original City Hall took almost 30 years to build, and after San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, it took only seconds for it to be destroyed. The City Hall that stands today helped spark a “re-birth” of the city, and stands over a foot taller than the United States Capitol Building. The exterior of the building itself is San Francisco’s masterpiece, but inside are more breathtaking details. City Hall’s marble staircase is a prime location for a quick picture, and if you look up into the dome of the building, you’ll find prestigious paintings that are modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Another excuse for visiting San Francisco’s City Hall? Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were married here. What better way to visit San Francisco than to step where these two once declared their love?
Featured photo of The Painted Ladies of San Francisco, California by Shutterstock
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
- Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Annual Fee is $250.
- Terms apply.
- See Rates & Fees