With travel being a thing of the past as we approach the second year of the pandemic, it's nice to reminisce about good ol' times and beautiful destinations we can't wait to discover once the future allows it again.
In this photo guide, we're covering San Francisco. The City by the Bay is a true west-coast gem, with a cooler climate and distinctive hilly terrain.
Here are San Francisco's top 10 photo spots, including all the best viewpoints for a panoramic vista of the Golden Gate Bridge.
*All photos featured in this article are my own
The Palace of Fine Arts
This beautiful structure in the city's Marina District was originally built as part of the 1915 Panama-Pacific exhibition. Today, the Palace is a beautiful event venue and popular sight for tourists, mainly thanks to its grandiose exterior reminiscent of ancient Roman architecture.
Ocean Beach sits adjacent to Golden Gate Park and spans the entire Sunset District of San Francisco. The beach stretches for three miles, offering an expansive view of the sand and ocean, with beachgoers and surfers en masse. This photo was taken from the Cliff House, a building on the north side of the area. It's a great spot to people watch!
Baker Beach offers one of the most scenic Golden Gate Bridge Views, with glimpses of the faraway Tiburon Peninsula and the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean in the forefront. Catch the sunset at this photo spot for an especially magical Golden Gate Bridge moment.
The Painted Ladies
This row of charming, colorful Victorian houses overlooking the hills may be best known for its appearance in the late 80s TV show, Full House. The houses border Alamo Square, a popular summer hangout spot. The San Francisco skyline in the background makes this unmistakable view an iconic photo location. You can find a large number of Victorian- and Edwardian-style buildings scattered throughout town.
Potentially the most recognizable of San Francisco's hilly roads, Lombard Street features one block consisting of eight sharp turns, making it the world's most crooked and curvy road. Watch cars and motorcycles meander their way down the short section, with tourists walking alongside them. During spring and early summer, you'll find colorful flowers nestled in the greenery, making for a beautiful shot.
The infamous Alcatraz Island is one of the city's major tourist attractions. Located on the island is the former notorious maximum security prison, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, known simply as Alcatraz. Today, the fort is a museum offering tours to those who want to get a glimpse inside of the once highly protected site. Even from far away, the small island looks impressive, demonstrating how sheltered and hard to escape the prison was for its inmates.
The Rolling Streets of San Francisco
The hilly streets of San Francisco are a sight to behold all by themselves. The unusually hilly terrain of the city gives this California metropolis its beloved charm. With more than 50 hills, it is actually considered to be the second hilliest city in the world, right after La Paz, Bolivia.
Battery Spencer, a prime photo spot, offers larger-than-life, close-up views of the Golden Gate Bridge and city in the background. The lookout point is a quick drive away from the bridge itself, and is located in the Marin Headlands as part of Fort Baker, a former army post. It was once a main defense site for the city and San Francisco Bay, and one of four concrete coastal gun batteries—hence the name.
San Francisco's Twin Peaks feature a wildly popular vista point perched on, as the name suggests, two hills near the city's center. The scenic upward drive along curvy roads alone makes Twin Peaks worth a visit, but the panoramic views of the entire city and surrounding bay are truly one of a kind, perhaps offering the most picturesque photo spot in all of San Francisco.
The Golden Gate Bridge
This list wouldn't be complete without mention of the city's most famous landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. No matter where you're located, this iconic beauty adds that "San Francisco feeling" to any view. I've covered some of the best outlook spots above; This particular view can be seen from the south side of the bridge, looking north towards the Marin Headlands, a hilly peninsula at the southernmost end of Marin County, and Sausalito nestled behind the hills.