San Francisco is strategically located at the northern tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast in the state of California. A compact city of steep rolling hills surrounded on three sides by water, the city is renowned for its summer fogs, Victorian architecture, cable cars, and exquisite vistas. The famous quote “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” isn’t from Mark Twain but it is a fairly accurate statement of the city’s weather. If visiting the city is your bucket-list remember to carry warm clothing.
Let’s take a look at the top tourist attractions in this incredible city.
Number 10. Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is the only structure remaining from the 1915 World’s Fair. It features a classical Roman rotunda with curved colonnades situated in an idyllic park setting with a classical European-Style lagoon. It is a great place to relax, organize picnics, and gaze at the swans floating gracefully. It also features a theater offering various shows, musical and cultural events.
Number 9. Chinatown
Established in the 1840s, San Francisco’s Chinatown is known to be the oldest and one of the largest and the most famous of all Chinatowns outside of Asia. Many of the Chinese who settled in this part of the city were merchants or immigrant workers, working on either the transcontinental railroad or as mine workers during the Gold Rush. The tourist section of Chinatown is mostly along Grant Avenue, from Bush to Broadway.
Number 8. Alamo Square
The Alamo Square is a residential neighborhood and park that is popularly known for the famed Painted Ladies row of Victorian houses on its east side along Steiner Street. There are also many other stunning Victorians surrounding the beautiful park. The park includes a playground and a tennis court, and is frequently visited by neighbors, tourists, and dog owners. On a clear day, the Transamerica Pyramid building, the top of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge is clearly visible from the park’s center.
Number 7. Transamerica Pyramid
Located within the heart of the Financial District, the Transamerica Pyramid is San Francisco’s other famous icon besides the Golden Gate. According to its architect, William L. Pereira, a pyramid is the perfect shape for skyscrapers which presents the advantage of letting more air and light in the streets below. Completed in 1972, the Transamerica Pyramid has a height of 853 feet and is still the tallest building that dominates the San Francisco skyline.
Number 6. Lombard Street
Lombard Street, located between Hyde and Leavenworth streets is particularly known as the “crookedest street in the world” though it is neither the crookedest street in San Francisco nor the steepest. The one-block component of Lombard Street that contains eight hairpin turns was created to lessen the hill’s natural steep slope. The speed limit in this section is just 5 mph.
Number 5. Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park, once an area of sand dunes is a large urban park with bison, windmills, and a carousel amongst its several attractions. It is about 20% bigger than New York’s Central Park, so unless you have a bike, you’ll want to plan which part of the area you would like to visit. A popular tourist attraction is the Japanese Tea Garden with beautiful ponds, bridges, and Japanese-style structures including a tea house.
Number 4. Cable Cars
The world-famous Cable Cars run on three lines in the steep streets of the city between Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf. These cable cars are an entertaining ride, especially if you get to stand on the running board. They are perhaps a bit impractical for everyday use though residents do use them on a regular basis. During the weekends, it takes longer to wait in the queue to line up Powell Street than it does to take the short but sloping distance
Number 3. Alcatraz
Frequently referred to as “The Rock”, this small island of Alcatraz over the course of history has served as a lighthouse, a military fortification, and as a prison. It was home to some of the most notorious criminals of the time including Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. Surrounded by the chilly water of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was thought to be inescapable. The most famous attempt was carried out by Frank Morris, and brothers John and Clarence Anglin using an inflatable raft made from several stolen raincoats. Today, the island is a popular tourist attraction and a historic site. It is operated by the National Park Service and is open to tourists.
Number 2. Fisherman’s Wharf
One of the most popular attractions in San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf runs all the way from Pier 39 through to the Municipal Pier at the end of Aquatic Park. For more than a century its historic waterfront was the hub of San Francisco’s fishing fleet and is still well-known for having some of the best seafood restaurants in the city. Other tourist attractions at the wharf include souvenir stores, historical buildings, and scenic vistas over the Bay and the famous sea lions at Pier 39.
Number 1. Golden Gate Bridge
The most recognizable structure of the city is a large suspension bridge spanning across the Golden Gate, the strait between San Francisco and Marin County to the north. The Golden Gate Bridge took four years to build and was completed in 1937. The Bridge was the longest suspension bridge span in the world back then when it was completed, and has become an internationally recognized icon of California. The famous red-orange color of the bridge was particularly chosen to make the bridge more easily visible through the thick fog that frequently covers the bridge.