San Francisco Travel Tips and Ideas: Views of San Francisco

by Julie on July 20, 2012 · 9 comments

On our last trip to San Francisco I was chatting up a photographer who was selling his photos on the street. He told me that it was great being a photographer in San Francisco, because the hills made for fabulous views.

He’s so right.

On our trips to other cities, we’ve often sought out a tower or building where we can go up and “take in the view.” We’ve been in the Sears Tower and Hancock Building in Chicago, the top of Rockefeller Center in NYC, and the Top of the Hub in Boston, just to name a few. And my guess is you’ve been in some of those types of places yourself.

But in San Francisco you don’t have to seek out views…they’re everywhere.

Here were some of our favorites from this trip:

Alamo Square

If you were a Full House fan — and even if you weren’t — you probably recognize this view from the show’s opening credits.

I took this picture from Alamo Square, which is directly across the street from the Victorian houses called the Painted Ladies. I was in good company. The park was full of people taking in this view and getting their own picture of the iconic houses backed by the San Francisco skyline.

Alamo Square is a stop on many city tours and it’s also pretty easy to seek out on your own. Either way you won’t be sorry as it’s a lovely place to stop, rest, and take in the view.

Lombard Street


Lombard Street is known as the crookedest street in the world and many travelers seek it out for that reason alone.

It is pretty remarkable. And the beautiful homes and flowers are worth the trip too.

But my favorite part of visiting Lombard Street are the incredible views of San Francisco at the top. This one looks out toward Coit Tower with the Bay Bridge in the distance.

And if by chance you walk up the very steep hill that is Lombard Street, instead of getting dropped off at the top, you’ll need a few moments to not only take in the views, but to catch your breath as well.

I won’t tell you how I know that, except to say it may or may not have involved us getting on the wrong Cable Car line.

From the Water

In my last post I shared with you how amazing the views from Alacatraz are. Truthfully, you can’t go wrong with the views from anywhere on the Bay.

They combine the city skyline with boats on the water and the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.

There are at least three great ways to take them in:

  • A tour of Alcatraz
  • A San Francisco Bay cruise
  • Taking the ferry across the Bay to Sausalito or Tiburon, where you’ll find yourself at another charming destination.

I’m sure there are more, but I can vouch for all of these.

Open Top Tours

This last suggestion isn’t specific to San Francisco, but it’s one our family especially likes: an open top bus or trolley tour.

Taking a double-decker open top tour allows you to hit all the high spots and get a (low-flying) bird’s eye view of the entire city. We almost always do one of these on our first day or two in a new place, to get the lay of the land and to identify sites or locations we’d like to go back to.

Do you have a favorite place for views of San Francisco or another place you’ve visited?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Niki {Hello Paper Moon} July 20, 2012 at 8:26 am

Looks wonderful. We went about three years ago, my kids loved the open-topped bus tour. That was probably their favorite thing.


Julie July 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm

How fun, Niki. It’s my favorite too.


krantcents July 20, 2012 at 9:52 am

My wife loves Union Square because of the shopping. There are many neighborhoods that are very interesting and historic. There are free tours sponsored by the city where you just tip the tour guide such as Pacific Heights.


Julie July 23, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Thanks for mentioning that, KC; a neighborhood tour would be a cool option for us next time. The neighborhoods of SF are one of the best things about it.


Tackling Our Debt July 20, 2012 at 11:53 am

Your pictures are absolutely gorgeous! Love the Painted Ladies

I’ve been to San Fran twice and love it.

The first time was for a 4 day conference and the second time was just for a day. The second time we arrived by cruiseship and at 7 in the morning we sailed in under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was amazing! On both trips a friend of mine that lives there took us around to show us as many of the hot spots as possible. We did the crooked street and things at the Wharf. We also did a drive through a huge beautiful park. Can’t remember the name of it offhand.


Julie July 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Probably Golden Gate Park, TOD. That’s my guess anyway. I’ll bet that cruise under the bridge was incredible.


Lance @ Money Life and More July 20, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Seems like I’ll have to add San Fran on the list of cities to visit. I’m a huge 49ers fan so even though they’re moving to Santa Clara I think it’ll get me in the neighborhood!


Julie July 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Close enough, Lance. There were Giants games going on while we were there and fans were everywhere. It was a fun atmosphere.


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