San Francisco is a wonderful metropolitan city, full of hustle, bustle, amazing food, bars, and cultural landmarks, but it's also an incredibly scenic city with some of the best views in California. It's a coastal city but it's built on steep hills and is just minutes from forests and views that'll knock your socks off.
All of the view points we mention are free, and can be accessed easily by foot or by car.
Battery Point is undoubtedly (in our humble opinion), the absolute best viewpoint in San Francisco. Technically, you'll have to leave the city, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and drive into the hills on the Northern Mainland (the Marin Headlands), but the view south are absolutely unbeatable.
From here, you can see the city center and business District, Alcatraz, and of course, the enormous Golden Gate Bridge directly in front of you. Watch the tankers, pleasure cruisers and yachts come cruising inland as you take a deep breath of the salty sea air, and perhaps wander along the cliffs for a while.
This is a place we visit time and time again, and it's particularyl pleasant at sunset, when the sun sets over the ocean.
This is one of San Francisco's most iconic views, and you'll no doubt recognise it from countless movies set in the Bay area. Lombard Street is famous for its steep gradient and almost impossibly tight hairpin bends (eight in total). Over the years, numerous movies have used it to film car chase scenes (the most recent being AntMan and the Wasp)
It's hard to believe that a wiggly road could garner so much attention but, as arguably one of the windiest streets in the US, it has become immensely popular, particularly with photographers and night photographers.
Twin Peaks are two small hills (Eureka and Noe) located right in the heart of San Francisco. They're found at roughly 925 ft elevation, and the peaks are around 660ft apart a location. Thanks to their central location and ease of access (road to the summit), theyre in a place that allows visitors to soak in panoramic views of the city with very little effort.
Make sure to check out Christmas Tree Point for the best views of San Francisco and the Bay!
Alcatraz is arguably one of San Francisco's most interesting attractions. Its dark past as a prison and military base still draws millions of visitors each year, who want to wander the grounds and experience its eerie atmospehere. For those looking for an even bigger adrenaline rush, Alcatraz also offers night tours! Make sure you book in advance, because the slots do book up quickly!
Over the years, it has served as a maximum security prison, military base, protest site (most famously when it was occupied by the Indians of All Tribes movement for 19 months in 1969) and film set. Sean Connery's "the Rock" was perhaps one of the most famous movie filmed here.
With such a wild and exciting history, it's easy to forget that this is also one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco. While the prison buildings themselves are cold and barren, the views across the bay are glorious. From Alcatraz, you can see the city of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island State Park and more. Definitely a view worth checking out if you have time!
If you've ever seen photos of the Golden Gate Brigde from the shores of a beach, then they're almost certainly from this spot. It's a photographer's paradise, and the scenic walk you can enjoy at the same time is well worth the visit. It's also a popular area for joggers, who enjoy the many miles of scenic coastal trails in this area.
It's also a lot more than just a scenic beach. The land used to belong to the US military, as the area was seen as a significant defense point if the US was ever invaded. Behind the beach, there are still several military bunkers with 'disappearing' guns, designed to pop out and fire when needed. While all of the original guns have now been removed, a new gun was later installed to provide demonstrations to tourists.
Baker Beach was also the original site of the now enormous 'Burning Man' Festival. Eventually Burning Man was relocated to Reno when the event became too big and permits were denied at Baker Beach.
If views are what you're after, then Baker Beach is hard to beat. You're also just minutes from the Ghiardelli chocolate factory if all this exploring has you feeling a little peckish!
San Francisco is known for its incredible scenery, and the five locations I've mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg in this area. Aside from the countless incredible city views you'll find dotted around San Francisco, you're also within throwing distance of places like Muir Woods National Monument (and the enormous Redwoods), Sonoma County and Napa Valley.
If you're a lover of the outdoors and scenic views, then San Francisco is absolutely well worth a visit!