Looking for some epic San Francisco views? From urban rooftops, hilltop parks, and more, here are 25 places to find the best views in San Francisco!
San Francisco is a city built on seven hills. That probably means that you will be huffing and puffing as you walk around the city, but it also means that you will have no trouble finding some epic San Francisco views.
While San Francisco may not be known for its rooftop bars like NYC, LA, or Chicago (even though they have been popping up throughout the city in recent years), it has no shortage of spots to take in epic views of the cityscape, the breathtaking coastline, and of its most famous landmark, aka the Golden Gate Bridge.
From epic viewpoints, hilltop parks, urban rooftops, breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge views, Instagram worthy photo spots, sunset spots, to hidden spots that only locals know about, there are soooo many amazing views in San Francisco!
Over the years, I’ve wandered through the city in a quest to find the best views in town, and I’ve rounded them up for you here so you can add them to your San Francisco bucket list.
The best part? Checking out these epic viewpoints are also some of the best free things to do in San Francisco!
Looking for the best and most Instagram-worthy San Francisco views? Here are 25 places where you can find them!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase or booking, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Pictures & Words is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to amazon.com and affiliated sites at no cost to you.
The Best San Francisco Views
Twin Peaks is the place to go for a 360 degree view of San Francisco – because it is smack dab in the middle of the city and because it stands at almost 1000 feet in elevation, you can see almost the entire city from here!
From the top of either of the peaks (they both essentially have the same view), you get an epic view of the downtown skyline, the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Ocean, and beyond.
It’s even better if you come for sunrise or sunset – seeing the lights of the city come up against the pink sky is an absolute magical sight.
Personally, I think the best view at Twin Peaks (and one of the absolute best views in San Francisco overall) is from Christmas Tree Point Road. Sure, you’ll be a little bit lower in elevation than from the top of one of the peaks, but you get the cool curvy road in front of the view, which creates a bit more of an interesting photo op. They also have binoculars here if you really want to take a closer look at one of the best views in San Francisco!
The easiest way to get to the top is to drive or Uber to the base of Twin Peaks and then walk up the top (note: the parking lots at visitor facilities at Twin Peaks are temporarily closed due to current health restrictions), but if you want a great workout, why not try walking from Castro & 18th Streets?
Yup, your thighs will burn and you’ll be out of breath as you huff and puff your way up almost 1000 feet, but trust me, the view will be that much more worth it!
This is one of my favorite hikes in San Francisco, and I always feel so accomplished when I do it. The hike ends up being about 2.6 miles round-trip – these are the directions I follow, but I’ve found that the directions on Google Maps are more or less the same.
It tends to get chilly and windy AF here (even when it’s relatively warm down below), so be sure to bring a jacket with you!
Address: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114
Bernal Heights Park
A favorite of locals, Bernal Heights Park has one of the best views in San Francisco, but without the crowds of some of its most popular viewpoints. Come here for a similar panoramic view as Twin Peaks (but slightly less expansive), but far fewer people.
I love Bernal Heights Park because you get those city views along with the feeling that you’re in nature. In the spring, the hills turn green and the wildflowers bloom, which is a beautiful sight. It’s also known as a great spot for bird watching – you can see over 40 species of birds here.
You’ll be able to see the downtown skyscrapers, Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, the San Bruno Mountains, and the southeastern waterfront, along with grassy hills and trees.
It is an easy one-mile loop to the top, and unlike the super steep Twin Peaks, the incline is much more gradual and easier on the thighs.
Also do not miss the rope swing at the top of the hill – you can enjoy these sweet San Francisco views while swinging on it! (although I found that the swing is a bit high so it’s hard to push off enough to really swing on it).
Address: 3400-3416 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110
If you are looking for one of the best views in San Francisco of the Golden Gate Bridge (especially to see the sunset), then you absolutely need to get your butt over to Battery Spencer!
Ok, so Battery Spencer may not technically be in San Francisco city limits – it’s on the other side of the bridge in Marin – but hands down, it’s got one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge (if not THE best).
This is where you get that postcard-worthy shot of the bridge, which almost seems larger-than life from this vantage point. If you’ve ever seen those stock photos of the Golden Gate Bridge on your computer screensaver and wondered where they shot it from, this is the spot!
Aside from the bridge, you also get a beautiful view of the downtown SF skyline, Alcatraz, and the Bay Bridge. If you face towards the left, you can get a photo of the bridge with those city views in the background.
It tends to get crowded here, but there’s plenty of space so there is plenty of opportunity to get your own Instagram-worthy shot of one of the San Francisco views!
Just keep in the mind that the weather is sorta temperamental here, and it can get super chilly and windy AF real fast. Be prepared and bring a jacket with you just in case! It can also get super foggy (especially in the summer because, you know, Karl the fog loves the summer), so be sure to keep an eye out on the sky – if you can’t see the bridge from the SF side, then you probably can’t see it from the Marin side either.
If you get lucky though, you might see fog envelop most of the bridge EXCEPT the very top towers – if you happen to catch this, it makes for a pretty epic photo!
Address: Conzelman Rd, Sausalito, CA 94965
Hawk Hill is also technically outside of San Francisco city limits, but is another spot where you’ll find an epic view of the Golden Gate Bridge. What makes Hawk Hill one of the best views in San Francisco is the unique perspective – you almost feel like you’re standing above the bridge!
Plus, you can really see the beauty of San Francisco and the surrounding area – from the rolling green hills, the rich blue ocean, the iconic reddish orange bridge, and the downtown skyline. You’ll get to see it all from here, which makes it one of the best views in San Francisco!
Address: Conzelman Rd, Sausalito, CA 94965
Golden Gate Overlook
Golden Gate Overlook has become a super popular Instagram spot recently. It’s easy to see why this is considered to be one of the San Francisco views – you get a cool vertical perspective of the bridge, where its towers look stacked on top of each other…AND the two tall trees frame it perfectly.
If you want even more of the best views in San Francisco, I also suggest hiking on the Batteries and Bluffs trail, which starts nearby. From here, you can enjoy some breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge throughout!
If you can’t get enough of the bridge, be sure to check out my guide on the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Address: 1600 Langdon Ct., San Francisco, CA 94129
Alamo Square is one of those iconic San Francisco landmarks that you cannot miss. It’s one of the most photographed spots in the city, and no, you haven’t been to San Francisco if you haven’t been to Alamo Square.
The spot that was made famous by Full House (cue theme song here) has one of the best views in San Francisco, with a postcard worthy photo op of the pretty pastel Painted Ladies in front, with the downtown skyline in back.
The best San Francisco views from Alamo Square are at the top of the hill, from where you can really see all of the skyscrapers in the background. If you have a longer zoom lens, even better! If you want a photo of just the Painted Ladies (without 3894728934 people in your shot), then take it from a lower point in the park.
Late afternoon will give you the best lighting, when the sun is lower in the sky and not casting a bunch of shadows.
It’s definitely one of the most touristy places in the city, but come on, can you really go wrong with that view?
Address: Steiner St & Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Twin Peaks may get all the glory, but standing at 928 feet, Mt. Davidson is actually the highest natural point in San Francisco.
Because all the tourists flock to Twin Peaks and don’t really know that Mt. Davidson exists, you’ll experience far fewer crowds here – another plus! It’s also got more of a rugged feel – you climb through a eucalyptus forest to get to the top.
The only thing that makes Twin Peaks a slightly better viewpoint is the fact that, well, Twin Peaks blocks part of the view from Mt. Davidson. Doesn’t matter though, because you still get one of the best views in San Francisco from the top of Mt. Davidson!
Be sure to also check out the giant concrete cross here, which commemorates the victims of the Armenian genocide.
Address: Dalewood Way & Myra Way, San Francisco, CA 94127
Billy Goat Hill
A tiny green space tucked into a hill between the Noe Park and Glen Park neighborhoods, Billy Goat Hill is a bit of a hidden gem. I had no idea it existed (or that it had one of the best views in San Francisco) even after 10 years of living in San Francisco, until a blogger friend asked me if I wanted to shoot photos here with her.
You’ll see some sweet San Francisco views of the downtown skyline from here. However, my favorite thing about Billy Goat Hill was the rustic vibe – eucalyptus trees, wooden fences, and tall golden grass.
The best time to come to Billy Goat Hill to take photos of one of the San Francisco views is at golden hour – the way the light hits the golden grass is absolutely magical! If you wait around until the sun sets, you’ll also get to see the lights of the downtown skyscrapers twinkle against the pink sky.
If you get lucky, you might also get to take in those views while swinging on a swing – unfortunately, it was taken down when I was there.
Address: 2442 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94131
Hamon Tower at the De Young Museum
This one is another one of those San Francisco views that is a hidden gem, and one that many locals don’t know exist!
Best part? It’s also one of the best free things to do in San Francisco, and you don’t need to pay museum admission to go up to the tower – simply head up the elevator to the ninth floor.
From here, enjoy some stunning views of Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, and the downtown skyline. There’s also a topographical map so you can see exactly what you’re looking at!
Address: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118
(temporarily closed due to health restrictions)
Lands End is my favorite place in San Francisco! It totally sums up why I love the city – because on one end of the city, you’ve got the urban big-city vibe. On the other end, you have plenty of places where you can get lost in nature, and forget that you’re in one of California’s largest cities (and 16th in the USA). And it’s all in this tiny 49 square mile city!
I love that Lands End feels like a big escape from the hustle and bustle of the city – cell reception gets kinda spotty here, even. On top of that, it’s absolutely beautiful and you have some of the best views in San Francisco of the rugged coastline, and the Golden Gate Bridge!
This is also one of my favorite hikes in San Francisco, because it’s a relatively easy hike, but you feel like you got just enough of a workout. Plus there are just stunning views throughout. It’s a place I keep coming back to over and over again, and it still takes my breath away every single time!
Be sure to take the detour to the labyrinth – you’ll find some of the most stunning San Francisco views in the area here! To get there, look out for the turnoff to Mile Rock Beach, and follow the stairs down. You’ll come to a fork – follow the trail under the trees (towards the right) to get to the labyrinth.
You’ll see a super cool stone labyrinth (which you can walk through), as well as a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Address: 680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121
Dolores Park is a favorite with locals – seriously, it’s almost an unwritten rule that says that if it gets over 70 degrees, then you HAVE to come hang out at Dolores Park. And if you’re looking for one of the best views in San Francisco – well, Dolores Park has that, too!
You’ll be able to see an amazing view of the downtown SF skyline, the cute houses in the neighborhood, and the stunning Spanish Baroque architecture of Mission High School in the background. The higher up the hill you go in the park, the better view you’ll get.
However, for the best photo ops, you’ll probably want to come at a time when it’s not too busy. I took the above photo on a weekday evening and loved the peaceful feel of the park.
Address: Dolores St &, 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94114
Ina Coolbrith Park
If you are looking for an epic view of the San Francisco skyline, Ina Coolbrith Park is THE place to find it. This tiny little park is tucked in the Russian Hill neighborhood, at the top of some gnarly hills.
Your reward for making your way up the thigh-burning hills and the Vallejo Street Stairs (or you can take an Uber, but what’s the fun in that?) is one of the best San Francisco views – you’ll see the tall skyscrapers (including the iconic Transamerica Pyramid and Salesforce Tower), Coit Tower, the Bay Bridge, and beyond.
My favorite time to come to Ina Coolbrith park is for sunset – you really can’t go wrong with the tinkling lights of the skyscrapers against the transforming colors in the sky.
Address: Vallejo & Taylor, San Francisco, CA 94133
San Francisco may not have an observation deck as in other major cities, but Coit Tower is as close as you’ll come to one.
Coit Tower is one of San Francisco’s most recognizable landmarks, and you can spot it from various points in the city. The 210-foot tall Art Deco building has been a fixture in San Francisco since 1933, when it was donated to the city to commemorate local firemen (the design is supposed to look like a fire hose).
Confession: even after over 10 years living in San Francisco, I never actually made it to the top of Coit Tower. I still found that the base of Coit Tower still has one of the best views in San Francisco, so I never made it up to the top.
You’ll get some stunning panoramic San Francisco views of the waterfront, Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, and more. I also think that this is where you’ll find the best view of the city’s hills – look to Russian Hill in the west!
You can take an Uber or drive to Coit Tower, but you can also catch some amazing views of downtown San Francisco by walking up from North Beach. You’ll also get to walk up the tree-lined Filbert Street Steps. It’s a steep walk though, but worth it!
Address: 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94133
Most people overlook Treasure Island except for two things: music festival and flea market (which you should definitely check out sometime!). Well that’s a shame because the tiny man-made island is also home to one of the best views in San Francisco.
This is one of the best views of the SF skyline and the Bay Bridge. Most people will head to the viewpoint on Avenue of the Palms, at the water’s edge. Clipper Cove is also where you will find one of the best views in San Francisco.
Want an even better view? I hear there’s a pretty epic viewpoint on top of the hill at Blue Park, past Clipper Cove and at the end of Nimitz Road. Here, you’ll find a bluff overlooking both bridges, and the skyline. You also kind of get an elevated perspective of the Bay Bridge from here, which is what makes it one of the best views in San Francisco. I haven’t been there yet, but I am definitely itching to check it out!
The stretch of California Street that goes through the Financial District, Chinatown, and Nob Hill (from Kearny to Van Ness) is one of the most picturesque streets in all of San Francisco. This is also one of the hilliest streets in the city, which means you’ll also find some of the best views in San Francisco!
If you want to take it all in, you can take the California Street cable car (note: service is temporarily suspended), which starts from California & Davis Streets (near the Embarcadero BART station) and goes to Van Ness.
You’ll get the same fun experience of riding on the last remaining manual cable car system in the world, but avoid the crowds (who usually flock to the Powell-Mason line). The views on the California Street line are much better, in my opinion.
The best view along California Street is at Grant Avenue, near Chinatown. Here, you’ll find a view of the Bay Bridge being perfectly sandwich by the skyscrapers in the foreground! Bonus points if you can capture a cable car making its way up the hill, which is one of the most quintessential and best views in San Francisco because it is so iconic.
If there’s anything better than an epic viewpoint, it’s the fact that you stumbled upon one of the best San Francisco views without even really looking for it (see, told you those gnarly hills are worth it – there are incredible views everywhere you look!).
I stumbled upon this viewpoint while waiting for brunch at Plow (which, side note, is one of my absolute favorite brunch spots in SF). As the wait is usually about two hours, we went wandering around the neighborhood. We climbed one block above the hill and found this stunning view in front of us.
You can find this view at the corner of Texas and 19th Streets. It’s a relatively unknown spot – one that most people overlook because it’s just basically a residential street.
It’s one of the best views in San Francisco for the downtown skyline, waterfront, and Bay Bridge. If you have a longer zoom lens (longer than 50mm), then even better because you’ll get some really pretty depth of field of the skyscrapers in the background (I shot the photo above with my iPhone because, well, that’s all I had with me that day).
As it turns out, Lombard Street is actually not the crookedest street in the world (or even in San Francisco). But that’s okay…because it’s still got one of the best views in San Francisco!
While the entire span of Lombard Street goes from North Beach to the Presidio, the one block stretch between Hyde and Leavenworth is the one that is famous for its eight sharp hairpin turns.
From the top of Lombard, you will see one of the best San Francisco views of the residential neighborhoods below, Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill, and the bay. The lighting can get harsh depending on the time of day – the best light is either early in the morning, or right before sunset.
I actually prefer the view from the bottom looking up, because you can see how crooked the street is. Plus, you get to see the pretty houses and the hydrangeas that line the street!
Remember that Lombard Street is a residential street, so do be mindful and respectful. Also be careful as through traffic does come down the street – try not to jump into the middle of the street (use the walkways on the side).
A relatively new addition to the city, Salesforce Park is a quintessential urban park, attached to the Salesforce headquarters and transit center in the financial district.
It has a similar vibe to the High Line in New York City, where you sort of feel like you’re walking through the skyscrapers.
There’s a walking path, an amphitheater, grassy lawns, and mini botanical gardens. Add to that the towering skyscrapers that surround you and you’ve got some of the best views in San Francisco!
Address: 425 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105
At the top of the 16th Street Mosaic Steps (one of the most popular San Francisco Instagram Spots) at Grandview Park, from which you can enjoy one of the best views in San Francisco. To reach it, climb up the steps, make a right on the street at the top, and take the wooden stairs up to the park.
Fun fact about Grandview Park: the hilltop park stands at 666 feet, on top of a 140-million year old rock formation called Franciscan chert, which formed when the region was part of the ancient sea floor.
You’ll get to see the Sunset district, Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge, as well as the downtown skyline. On a clear day, you can even see up to the Marin Headlands and the Farallon Islands!
I happened to come to Grandview Park at sunset, and found that it was especially beautiful at this time. You’ll get to see the sky fall below the horizon behind the Pacific Ocean, and see the colors in the sky transform. It’s such a magical sight and one of the best San Francisco views!
Address: 1705 14th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122
This giant fiberglass and steel sculpture is a centerpiece of the Embarcadero, from where you can find some of the best views in San Francisco of the waterfront, SOMA, and the Bay Bridge.
The monumental sculpture resembling a large bow and arrow is the work of Dutch artist Coosje van Bruggen, and has stood on the San Francisco waterfront since 2002.
You can get the best photos of the sculpture against the Bay Bridge by standing across the street from it. Or, you can catch a view of Cupid’s Span against the skyline, which I actually prefer (it’s a much easier photo op as well).
I also think you can find one of the best San Francisco views for the Bay Bridge from here – be sure to come around sunset, when you can see the sparkling Bay Lights installation!
Address: The Embarcadero & Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Between the epic city views and stunning Golden Gate Bridge views, I sometimes think that the beautiful ocean views in San Francisco get overlooked. But the city has plenty of them – and you can find some of the best ones at Sutro Baths!
This once used to be the site of a large, privately-owned saltwater pool complex. A tragic fire burned it down and you can see the ruins today. This is one of the most fascinating places in the city, and you’ll see some of the best views in San Francisco of the dramatic coastline and bluffs.
Anytime is a good time to check out the views at Sutro Baths, but it is especially magical during golden hour – if it actually happens to be sunny there, since the area is notorious for its fog. I actually happen to love Sutro Baths on a foggy day too, because it’s got a dramatic, mysterious vibe to it.
Address: 1004 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121
This little wooden pier off the Embarcadero is also where you will find the best San Francisco views of the Transamerica Pyramid and the Bay Bridge.
Pier 7 is a favorite of local wedding photographers, so chances are you’ll see a photo shoot or two going on while you are there. It’s especially beautiful right after sunset, when the sky turns blue, and the city lights and the Bay Bridge Lights turn on!
I love the perfectly symmetrical view of the Transamerica Pyramid here. Be sure to also walk out to the end of the pier to catch some incredible views of the Bay Bridge, Ferry Building, and piers as well.
Address: Pier 7, San Francisco, CA 94105
From the Water
One of my favorite ways to see a city is from the water (see: Chicago, Stockholm, Seattle), and San Francisco is no different.
You have several opportunities for checking out San Francisco from the water:
- On the ferry to Sausalito or Tiburon
- On the ferry to Alcatraz or Angel Island
- Going on a dinner cruise, or champagne brunch cruise
- Take a sunset catamaran cruise (the views from the water at sunset are especially magical!)
- Going on a bridge to bridge cruise, which also sails under the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge
Whichever option you choose, do not miss the chance to see some of the best views in San Francisco! You really do get some spectacular views of the waterfront, both bridges, and the city’s skyline. If you go on a cruise that goes under the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll get an unique perspective of the famous landmark as well, which is one of the coolest San Francisco ciews.
Best Rooftop Bars in San Francisco
San Francisco may not be known for its rooftop bars, unlike other major US cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago. To be fair, that foggy, chilly weather doesn’t exactly scream “rooftop weather.” Even still, I still think that you can still see some of the best views in San Francisco at one of the hip rooftop bars in the city!
San Francisco’s rooftop bar scene is slowly but surely catching on. When I first moved to the city, there were only two of them; nowadays, there seem to be new ones popping up all the time!
Check out some of the rooftop bars listed below, many of which are located at some of the best San Francisco hotels with a view:
Charmaine’s @ Proper Hotel
Charmaine’s is probably my favorite rooftop bar in the city, mostly because the vibe reminds me of the rooftop bars in NYC. The vibe here is chic and upscale but laid-back.
You get some awesome views of Market Street and City Hall, plus you can see all the way out to the bay. The views are especially beautiful at night, when you can see all the skyscrapers lit up.
Plus, they have fire pits so you can stay warm even if it’s foggy and chilly (because, you know, it’s San Francisco). The drinks are pricey-ish ($16) but they’re all really well-made and tasty.
Address: 100 Market Street Entrance, 45 McAllister St at, San Francisco, CA 94102
Hotel Via Rooftop
Sitting directly across from Oracle Park, Hotel Via is one of the newest and trendiest boutique hotels in San Francisco. And, their rooftop has one of the best views in San Francisco!
You will need to be a hotel guest in order to access the rooftop (check rates here), or you can attend one of the many events (sometimes even for free!) that are hosted in the space – check the calendar to see what’s coming up.
I’ve attended several happy hours here, and always end up coming back for the sweet views of the downtown skyscrapers, the Bay Bridge, the waterfront, and the East Bay.
Address: 38 King St, San Francisco, CA 94107
Fun and laid-back are the words that describe the rooftop at El Techo, which sits above the Lolinda restaurant in the heart of the Mission.
You’ll get a sweet view of the downtown skyline from here – and because this is one of the few rooftops that aren’t directly IN downtown, it’s a different perspective than from all the other spots!
Another plus of the location – the Mission is also the sunniest and warmest part of the city (hooray, microclimates!), so chances that you won’t be freezing and shivering here. But, if it does get chilly they have a retractable roof, as well as heat lamps.
Address: 2516 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Top of the Mark @ Intercontinental Mark Hopkins
One of San Francisco’s most elegant cocktail lounges, as well as one of the most iconic, the Top of the Mark has been a San Francisco fixture since it opened in 1926. It’s one of those classic SF spots, and has attracted even celebrities and dignitaries over the years.
Sitting on the 19th floor of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins hotel, Top of the Mark also has one of the best San Francisco views. From here, you get panoramic views of both the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the downtown skyscrapers.
The vibe is elegant, classy, and fancy. It’s also one of the most romantic places in the city, and is one of the top San Francisco date ideas!
Drinks are definitely pricey here, because you’re in a bar of a luxury hotel, but it’s just one of those things you have to do at least once in San Francisco, and a must on any San Francisco bucket list.
Address: 999 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108
(temporarily closed due to health restrictions)
Have you been to San Francisco? What are some of your favorite San Francisco views?
You might also like:
San Francisco Bucket List
Free Things to Do in San Francisco
The Best Hidden Gems in San Francisco
Best Views of the Golden Gate Bridge
50 Instagram-Worthy Photo Spots in San Francisco
18 Epic San Francisco Sunset Spots
Like this post? Save these San Francisco views to Pinterest for later!
Thursday 13th of August 2020
Wow, I didn't realise there were so many amazing photo-worthy views other than the classic bridge shot. I particularly like the Sutro Baths, it looks so ethereal!
Saturday 8th of August 2020
Woww, that's such an awesome post. You have covered almost all the stunning view points. I am definitely looking forward for these view points when I am in San Francisco. Thanks for sharing this, I have saved it to my pinterest to refer in the future whenever I get a chance to travel again.