15 Instagram-worthy views in San Francisco

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San Francisco is all about colour. The blue ocean, the red Golden Gate Bridge, the pretty pastel Painted Ladies, street art, and rainbows. Virtually everywhere you look is an Instagram-worthy moment.

But where are the best spots to let your camera or phone go nuts? I’m glad you asked, it’s all of these places!

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE PUBLIC VIEW POINT

Every time I try to get a nice shot of the #goldengatebridge it’s cloudy and/or foggy. Welcome to #sanfrancisco

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Everyone knows that the most iconic symbol of San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge. There are heaps of great places to see it from, like Battery Point, Fort Point, Baker Beach to name a few. My absolute favourite spot to capture it from though, is the Golden Gate Public view point, high above the bridge and the city on the Marin Headlands. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a not too foggy day, you’ll get a great view of the bridge and the city laid out before you. Think of the fog as a smoke machine. If you get there and it’s on, it just adds to the drama!

16TH AVENUE STEPS

San Francisco wouldn’t be what it is today without community art groups and projects. There’s more coming, but this is by far, my favourite. The 16th Avenue tiled steps was a mosaic and garden project that spans the steps between Moraga Street and 15th Avenue. They’re steep but I recommend climbing them because it’s difficult to take it all in from the bottom.

COIT TOWER

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As you can see, Coit Tower is a great vantage point from which to photograph the city. It’s situated on Telegraph Hill, which also offers some fabulous view points. It’s a bit of a slog getting up there if you’re walking, but worth every second for the view.

PAINTED LADIES


If you watched Full House as a child, then you’re familiar with the style of the Painted Ladies. The row of Victorian houses skirt Alamo Park and are a tourist flashpoint. They’re the real deal when it comes to iconic San Francisco housing.

CHINATOWN

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If crowds don’t bother you, head over to Chinatown for a different view of San Francisco. Grocers, dollar stores, souvenir shops and dim sum restaurants are crammed into Chinatown. But not as crammed as you’ll feel on the footpath. Don’t be scared away by the people, there’s always great things to see and photograph here.

THE ALCATRAZ FERRY

Alcatraz is one of those must-do attractions, especially for film and history buffs. Keep your eyes peeled on the ferry ride over though. Apart from the seagulls gliding along in the ferry’s wake, you’ll catch some beautiful views of the city from the bay. Boats on the water, bridges spanning the divide between the peninsula and East Bay, and Alcatraz Island itself.

CASTRO

My new favourite house lives in Castro.

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You can’t go past Castro District for colour, drama and excitement. Apart from the beautiful houses, which I’ve obviously fallen in love with, there’s always something going on. There’s Castro Theater, built in 1922, and rainbows every which way you look. The spirit of San Francisco lives in Castro.

PIER 39 FISHERMAN’S WHARF

Having a little lie-in this Presidents Day.

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A trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without a visit to the Fisherman’s Wharf seals! Sure they’re just lazing around, soaking up the sun, but can you blame them? They’re in one of the best cities in the world! Really they’re waiting for you to whip out that camera and get a shot of them with the best looking backdrop around.

UNION SQUARE

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Union Square is basically the center of big name San Francisco shopping. Shops like Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Louis Vitton and Swarovski all have presences there. There’s always something going on in the square, whether it be the giant tree and Menorah at Christmas time, or the San Francisco hearts.

CORONA HEIGHTS

San Francisco from above.

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Want a panoramic view of the city stretched out before (and behind) you? Then you need to get yourself to Corona Heights Park. It’s only a short climb and you’ll feel like you’re in the clouds. This is also a great place to get the lay of the land so to speak. It’s easier to orient yourself when the city’s right in front of you just like a map.

GOLDEN GATE PARK


Golden Gate Park is huge. There’s so much to see and photograph that frankly, you could easily spend an entire day in there. There’s the San Francisco Botanic Gardens, the bison, Fine Arts Museum complete with its own sculpture garden, windmills, and the Japanese Tea Garden. You could also stumble across this waterfall, like I did while running Bay to Breakers!

CLARION ALLEY, MISSION

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Photo courtesy of Clarion Alley Mural Project.

It’s not San Francisco without awesome street art, and Clarion Alley in Mission is the place to go to find it at its best. The Clarion Alley Mural Project is a community group run by artists and uses public art as a voice for the marginalised.

LANDS END LABYRINTH


I mentioned that the list of spots to capture the Golden Gate Bridge from is long. This is another of them, although that’s not the angle I chose for this shot. Lands End kicks butt for views of the East Bay, the bridge and it’s a great little hike up to Sutro Baths, which isn’t too shabby in terms of views either. Plus, you get a labyrinth to boot!

PALACE OF FINE ARTS


This is one that you’re not going to want to miss, guaranteed. The Palace of Fine Arts was first constructed in 1915, then rebuilt in 1965. With its own artificial lagoon, this is one grand “pergola”, completed in a style that wouldn’t be out of place in Europe.

POINT BONITA


Let’s be honest, Battery Point, Fort Point and Baker Beach are usually crowded because everyone wants that Golden Gate Bridge shot and they’re the easiest ways to get them. But if you’re willing to drive a little further, you can still get an awesome shot of the bridge, and the bay on a beautiful day.

MAPS TO GET YOU THERE

  1. 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, 16th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122
  2. Corona Heights Park, Roosevelt Way & Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114
  3. The Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114
  4. Painted Ladies, Steiner St, San Francisco, CA 94117
  5. Clarion Alley Street Art, 90 Clarion Alley, San Francisco, CA 94110

    1. Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St, San Francisco, CA 94123
    2. Golden Gate public view, 5702 Conzelman Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941
    3. Point Bonita look out, Fort Barry, Sausalito, CA 94965
    4. Lands End Labyrinth and Sutro Baths, USS San Francisco Memorial Parking Lot, 2300-2404 El Camino Del Mar, San Francisco, CA 94121
    5. Golden Gate Park, Martin Luther King Jr Dr, San Francisco, CA

  1. Alcatraz Ferry, Pier 33, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133
  2. Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, Beach Street & The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133
  3. Coit Tower, 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94133
  4. Chinatown gate San Francisco, Grant Ave & Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94108
  5. Union Square, 333 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94108
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54 thoughts on “15 Instagram-worthy views in San Francisco

    1. Thanks April, there are so many great spots to gaze out at here. I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface with these!

  1. What a great post! I’ve always wanted to visit San Francisco since watching ‘What’s Up Doc’ as a child, and this has made me more determined. I love all the photos – but those stairs and houses! I definitely need to Instagram them all!

  2. I was born in San Fransisco but the last time we went back to visit was just a bit before the Instagram era!! I love this post because there are so many beautiful views/secret spots that I didn’t even know about. San Fran wasn’t even on my mind but now I really want to go back with my insta and find all these spots! I’ll be pinning for later 🙂 #wanderfulwednesday

    1. You’re welcome and I’m sorry! Hehehe, but you really should come back for a visit, it’s my adopted home for now and I love it as much as Sydney (if not more). I’m glad that you liked the post, your comment made me smile, thanks so much Sarah!

    1. Me too Allison! I was thinking “where is this place where all the houses are stuck together and they have an upstairs!”
      I may have been a slightly strange child.

  3. what a great post! I lived in the Bay Area for 8 years, but still need to check some of these off my list! I’ll be there in two weeks, this list will come in handy!

  4. This is so great! I need to save this for the future. I’ve been to San Francisco a couple of times (years ago!) and clearly, i did not do my research. I don’t know about half of these! The 16th avenue steps looks amazing and I didn’t know there’s a waterfall in the Golden State park!

  5. Oh there’s so much fun stuff to do in SF! I am so keen to visit one day. I love how there’s a mix of outdoorsy stuff, architecture, arts, enough to keep anyone happy!

  6. I admit that I’ve covered most of them! My favorite spot though is on top of Filbert street (before going up the stairs). I spotted it on Pinterest and got really lucky when I realized where the spot is!! I was very lucky with the weather though, it was perfect when I visited #wanderfulwednesday

    1. Ooh that sounds like one I’m going to have to hunt down Anna. Thanks! I also left out Lombard Street, kind of on purpose.

  7. Great photos! I haven’t been to San Francisco yet but it’s definitely the top place I want to visit in the US. Also, I just came across your blog from the Female Travel Bloggers group and saw that you’re an Aussie expat in the US! I’m the opposite haha. I’m from the US originally and moved to Melbourne. I’m in New Zealand now, but hoping to get back to Aus 🙂

    1. How cool, thanks for visiting Christie! And it’s great to know where you found me. I hope you’re loving Australia and New Zealand as much as I’m loving the US! I’m from Sydney, but Melbourne is probably my favourite Aussie city.

    1. Loved Lands End so much… even though it was such a massive pain to find! Well for me anyway. Everyone else probably wouldn’t have an issue.

  8. Love Love Love!! I am actually going to SF for a short trip and this post has inspired some major wanderlust 🙂 Thank you for breaking it down with this awesome list! #FlyAwayFriday

  9. Golden Gate’s Park and Land’s End seem so lovely!! And the sea lions at the wharf are just so cute! I think I could spend weeks in San Francisco just taking pictures all the time!!

    1. I’ve spent months in SF taking photos and still seem to find more interesting things to see and do. 🙂

  10. Such an ace round up. I’m feeling very smug that I’ve been to most of these but equally excited to have a few new places to explore next time I’m in San Fran. Because there will be a next time! Side note: Coit Tower is my new favourite. The views are ah-mazing!

    1. You SHOULD feel smug! I’ve been to Coit Tower three times. Once walking up there and twice driving. Because that hill is just amazing…

    1. Hahaha, and even if you don’t, I just keep ramming it down your throat, right? I’m glad you like the staircase, it’s one of my absolute favourite places here.

    1. Glad to bring back some good memories for you Sue! Thanks for visiting and I hope you have a great week as well!

  11. I really need to get back to San Francisco! It’s been so long since I’ve been, but I only have great memories from this city! This is such a great list and I recognize a lot of these spots from Insta/Pinterest. What a great resource for all those photo-lovers out there 😀

    1. They are goodies for a reason. I left out a few of the really obvious ones, and put in a few that I thought probably hadn’t been mentioned much. Thanks for visiting!

  12. I’ve always wanted to visit San Francisco. We got to the states a couple of years back but didn’t venture beyond LA when we were on the west coast. We’re planning another trip in 2020 so bookmarking this for potential research!

    1. You’ll have to come to SF when you come to the west coast next. And Seattle! I love them both. LA’s great, but it didn’t wow me as much as further up the coast. 🙂

  13. Look at your readership grow and your instagram feed too. Impressed with this post (as I am with all of them) and loved looking at places I recalled seeing too. I got about 6 or 7 of them! Thank you for sharing your adopted City! Lovely.
    Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek 23/52. Next week: Public Holidays.

    1. Thanks Denyse! It’s slowly growing but I’m having fun so I guess that’s the main thing. When it becomes a massive chore I think I’ll throw it in. Although I do love keeping my hand in the writing arena. You did well when you were here! You got lots of those places in 🙂

  14. So timely as I am planning a November tip here! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the heart and hope it is still there come November! Thank you for joining Fly Away friday and we hope to see you this week!

  15. Ooooh I love this post Kat! I’m a huge SF fan and I love that you organized an Instagrammable list….although I feel like everywhere is Instagrammable up there 🙂 Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you this weekend! xo

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