If you want beautiful views that make for popular Instagram photos then head to San Francisco. The city by the bay has iconic landmarks, distinctive architecture and steep, rolling hills that create unique landscapes.
There are countless wonderful photo spots in San Francisco. As you won’t have the time to visit them all, in this article, I will tell you the best places to take pictures in San Francisco.
Best Photo Spots in San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge. The most famous bridge in the world. It spans 4,200 feet and is over 1.5 times as high as the Statue of Liberty. Since opening on the 27th May 1937 it has towered over the Bay.
Finished in its distinctive International Orange when you think of San Francisco you think the Golden Gate Bridge.
Yes, you can get some great views of the bridge from the welcome centre and most places across the city but venture a little further out and you can find the best locations to shoot the famous bridge.
It takes a bit of a trek to get there but the views of the bridge are fantastic. This is a great place to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset as the last of the evening sun shines on the bridge from behind you.
The long walk often means the beach is quiet but make sure you save some energy for the walk back up.
To get to Battery Spence you need to cross over the famous bridge. Head for Kirby Cover (which also offers a fantastic view of the bridge itself) and you’ll find Battery Spence on the way. Perched on top of a hill you get a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the city of San Francisco in the background.
Visiting San Francisco without a car? There’s a bus that stops at Battery Spence.
Fort Point sits at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge and is a short walk from the welcome centre. From here you can get a true sense of the sheer size and scale of this landmark. Completed just before the American Civil War the fort was built to protect from enemies approaching through the bay
From the Bay
The last suggestion is from the bay itself. The surrounding waters are full of boats and most of them are tours that offer a wonderful panoramic view of the bridge.
Some tour bouts will even take you under the bridge itself. Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge from the water offers unique perspectives and photos that are sure to stand out.
For the best views of the city skyline head to the top of Twin Peaks. From here you can see most of the city, from the distinct downtown skyline to the steep hills of the Nob and Russin Hill Neighbourhoods. Of course you also able to see the Golden Gate Bridge off into the distance. The city-wide views make it one of the best photo spots in San Francisco.
Twin Peaks is perfect for sunrise photography as the sun slowly peaks over the hills in the distance. Extra points if you walk all the way up there because the ascent is very steep so you might want to think about driving.
Formerly AT-T Park, Oracle Park plays home to the San Francisco Giants baseball team. It also happens to be one of the most picturesque baseball stadiums in America. You will find captivating views back towards the city as well as out into the bay.
There are all also sights within the stadium, such as a ginormous baseball glove and equally over-sized coca-cola bottle. The baseball isn’t too bad either.
The Rock. Arguably the most famous prison in America, and certainly the most notorious. Over the years Alcatraz became home to some of the countries most notable (and dangerous) criminals. 1.25 miles off the coast of San Francisco, Alcatraz was designed to be inescapable.
Now a popular tourist spot you can get distinctive phots of the San Francisco Skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge from the island. Use the ferry ride to and from to get the best pictures of the island and the former prison.
The most crooked street in the world is one of the cities most famous landmarks. Visitors flock to either walk the steep steps that run alongside or drive down the street itself.
You can take photographs of the winding road itself or venture to the top and see Coit Tower sitting atop its hill beyond Lombard Street.
Fishermans Wharf has become one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. It has grown a reputation as a seafood heaven and it’s also a good place to grab a drink after a long day of sightseeing.
Fishermans Wharf is a great spot to get vibrant photos of people enjoying this unique city.
Full of restaurants and bars Pier 39 also offers you some fabulous views of the sights around the bay. Once again you have the Golden Gate Bridge in all it’s glory. You can also take some great shots of Alcatraz from here.
Pier 39 is also home to a collection of sea lions just waiting for their photo to be taken.
The cable cars running through the city are about as iconic San Francisco as it gets. They first started running way back in 1873 to ferry the cities rich folks up the steep hills of Nob Hill neighbourhood.
Of course, there are plenty of places in the city to take a picture of a cable car but for extra points take a ride on the tram and snap away as the car trundles around the city.
Palace of Fine Arts
If you’re looking for one of the most beautiful examples of architecture in the city then head to the Palace of Fine Arts. Sitting in front of the blue logan this is one of the most picturesque parts of the city.
The distinct dome dominates the surrounding skyline so it can be photographed from many locations.
It takes a steep walk to get there (like so many places in San Francisco) but Coit Tower offers up a fantastic view of the downtown skyline. Standing 210-foot high the tower is found in the Telegraph Hill neighbourhood.
Coit Tower was built in an attempt to ‘beautify the city’. When you see the tower poking out from the skyline you can see the planned worked.
The Ferry Building
Once you’ve taken some pictures of this beautiful building head inside to sample some of its delicious food. Aside from being a great spot for lunch you also get a fantastic close-up view of the Bay Bridge. You can also take some interesting photos of the cities financial district.
Golden Gate Park
Consisting of 1,017 acres Golden Gate Park is full of wonderful photo spots. The park showcases San Francisco’s famed diversity. One minute your standing in the Japanese Tea Garden and the next you’re in the Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers.
It will take you a whole day to experience all the Park has to offer so remember to bring plenty of batteries for your camera.
Few photo spots offer such delicious chocolate as Ghirardelli Square. Originally a chocolate factory established by Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli. Of course, you will want to take a picture of the famous sign.
Standing in the square you will see first hand how the hills of San Francisco create wonderful, quirky scenes.
The Painted Ladies
The subject of 1,000’s of San Francisco Postcards these Victorian homes have become a landmark in their own right. It was in the 1960’s they received their now-famous distinctive colouring. For the best views of the Painted Ladies head across the road to Alamo Square
Often filled with hipsters, sunbathers and picnics Dolores Park portrays the essence of San Francisco. It has been home to politic protests, local sports events as well as free film screenings and even, in the summer, mime performances.
The southwest corner offers panoramic views of the city framed by the parks own palm trees.
Nob Hill and Powell Street
For million-dollar apartments and iconic San Francisco architecture head to Nob Hill. Prepare yourself for a tough climb on the thigh sapping, calf draining steep hills. At the top, the reward is worth it.
You will find the famous Fairmont Hotel. Having survived the 1906 earthquake it has become one of San Francisco’s most iconic hotels.
However, the real star of Nob Hill is the majestic Grace Cathedral. It towers over the neighbourhood from its perch atop Nob Hill. It took 37 painstaking years to rebuild after it was damaged in the 1906 quake. If architecture is for you then this is the place to be.
San Francisco is a city of sights and that makes it a playground for travel photographers. Whether photographing inspiring architecture, iconic landmarks or beautiful scenery San Francisco can offer the lot.
What did you think of my list of best photo spots in San Francisco? Do you have a favourite spot in San Francisco I may have missed? Let me know in the comments below.