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The Tailor-Made Top 15 Viewpoints of San Francisco

**Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Regardless of this, please be advised that all opinions expressed in this blog post are genuine and authentically my own.**

Author: Barry Pickard

The iconic San Francisco skyline has been wowing visitors for over a century, at least when it is not engulfed in its infamous fog! Read on to discover the best places to get stunning panoramic views of this beautiful city.

Don’t forget that Tailor-Made Itineraries delights in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if visiting any of these viewpoints appeals to you, reach out to me by email. I would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements incorporating the panoramic vistas of San Francisco, or indeed, a general tour of the city.

It is difficult to create a list of the best viewpoints and is sure to be a little controversial with some, but here are our top fifteen.

15. SkyStar Wheel

Standing 150 feet tall in Golden Gate Park's Music Concourse, SkyStar Wheel boasts great views from downtown San Francisco to the Pacific Ocean. Installed in 2020 as part of Golden Gate Park’s 150th anniversary celebration, SkyStar will remain in San Francisco until March 2025.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Combine with a trip to the de Young Museum and/or the California Academy of Sciences.

14. Treasure Island

Treasure Island is an artificial island in San Francisco Bay and a neighbourhood of the City of San Francisco. The island was built in 1936–37 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. The island gives a spectacular view of the San Francisco shoreline.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Treasure Island is an ideal detour if you travelling to or from Oakland.

13. Buena Vista Park

Buena Vista Park is the oldest official park in San Francisco, established in 1867 as Hill Park, later renamed Buena Vista. The park is on a steep hill that peaks at 575 feet (175 m), and covers 37 acres (150,000 m2). The layout of the park uses the steepness of the hill to good advantage, offering good views of the city (particularly to the north).

12. Hamon Observation Tower, de Young Museum

The de Young Museum is a must for art lovers. With a collection exceeding 27,000 works of art, there is always plenty to see, whether it is in their permanent displays or their interesting exhibitions. But make sure to set aside 20-minutes to visit the museum’s Hamon Observation Tower. The tower can be accessed to the right of the ticket desks, and you can get a breath-taking panoramic view of the Golden Gate Park and beyond.

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11. Pier 7

Pier 7 is arguably the most beautiful piers in the city. It was designed to serve both fisherman and tourists and its architecture brings back images of a different Victorian Age. Although this pier was dedicated in October 1990, a Pier 7 has existed at this spot since 1901. The original pier was damaged in the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and had to be demolished and removed. Walk to the end of the pier and look back for some stunning views of downtown.

Read on to find out which viewpoints are in our top ten.

10. Ferries and Alcatraz

Whether it is taking a ferry to Sausalito or Tiburon, or whether you are exploring Alcatraz Island, you can get a great view of the city from on the water.

9. Corona Heights

Corona Heights Park is a park in the Castro and Corona Heights neighbourhoods. The base of the hill is at approximately 300 feet (91 m), while the peak extends to 520 feet (158 m) above sea level.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Corona Heights is just a ten-minute walk from Buena Vista Park, so combine the two when visiting the area and compare the panoramic views.

8. Billy Goat Hill

Billy Goat Hill has amazing views of the city and bay, and a mix of urban forest and grassland plant communities. American kestrels and other raptors often soar overhead. Billy Goat Hill has a small trail network consisting of 0.2 miles.

Read on to find out which viewpoint tops the list.

7. Grandview Park

Grandview Park has stunning views stretching from downtown San Francisco and Golden Gate Park to Point Reyes and around to Lake Merced. Grandview has a small trail network, consisting of 0.2 miles ascending to the top of the park hill. The majority of the climb is made up of wooden stairs. You can enter the park via two sets of stairs: a concrete stairway at 14th Avenue and Moraga on the east side, or a wooden staircase that ascends the hill’s southwestern flank from Noriega Street.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Street parking is widely available around the park. Muni line 66 has stops near the park.

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6. Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks, at 922 feet in elevation, is second only to Mt. Davidson in height, and offers spectacular views of the Bay Area. Originally called “Los Pechos de la Choca” (Breasts of the Maiden) by early Spanish settlers, these two adjacent peaks provide postcard views and a treasure trove of animal and plant diversity.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Most visitors to Twin Peaks drive to the small north peak parking lot to enjoy 180-degree views of the Bay Area.

5. Mission Dolores Park

Mission Dolores Park is situated on land that was once a Jewish cemetery. The City bought the property in 1905 and established the park. In 1906 it served as a refugee camp for more than 1,600 residents made homeless by the earthquake and fire. The park encompasses nearly sixteen acres and enjoys spectacular views of the city’s skyline and beyond.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Check out the Golden Fire Hydrant which is just outside the park on the corner of 20th and Church. It was this hydrant that saved the Mission District in 1906 after San Francisco burst into flames.

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Mission Dolores Park, San Francisco Viewpoints
Mission Dolores Park

4. Coit Tower

Coit Tower has been an emblem of San Francisco’s skyline since its completion in 1933. Its observation deck, reached by elevator, provides 360-degree views of the city and bay. The tower is named for Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy eccentric and patron of the city’s firefighters, but contrary to popular belief, Coit Tower was not designed to resemble a firehose nozzle.

3. Mount Davidson

Mount Davidson is the highest geographic point on the San Francisco skyline. It provides a peaceful 39-acre oasis of public open space, a forest in the middle of San Francisco's dense built-up environment.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: The peak hosts the Mount Davidson Cross and offers spectacular views. The cross stands 103 feet tall. It is also the site of a famous scene from the film 'Dirty Harry'.

Have you guessed yet which viewpoint tops the list?

2. Battery Spencer

Constructed in 1895, Battery Spencer dominated the entry of the Golden Gate with its 12-inch guns. It was in a perfect location, being almost 500 feet above the bay. Now abandoned, making an interesting photographic subject in its own right, the battery has the most iconic view overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and city skyline.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Visit the battery at sunrise – not only will you get the best lighting for shots of the bridge, but you will guarantee parking. If you don’t go early, be prepared to park some distance from the site.

1. Bernal Heights Park

Towering over the Mission District and Dolores Heights, Bernal Heights Park seems to rise from nowhere! Geologically, it is a folded hill, created by the "wrinkling up" effect of the Pacific Plate subducting under the North American Plate. But what has been left is perhaps the best lookout point over the whole of San Francisco.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Make sure to wear appropriate footwear, as some of the tracks in this park can be difficult to traverse.

Where to Stay in San Francisco

As befits a world-famous destination, San Francisco has a wide range of hotels to cater for all tastes and needs. Travellers should note, however, that hotels here tend to be more expensive than other US cities. There are some budget hotels in the Tenderloin area, but I would advise against staying there.

Luxury Icons: For travellers seeking opulence, there are plenty of grand establishments that blend historic charm with modern amenities. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to stay the night, I enjoyed a lovely lunch Fairmont San Francisco and a drink in their iconic Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar.

Other excellent hotel options would be Hotel Adagio, Autograph Collection and the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SOMA.

Boutique Gems: San Francisco boasts a variety of boutique hotels, such as the historic Victorian charm of Queen Anne, or the modern quirkiness of the Staypineapple.

Family Fun: As for families, they are also well catered for, especially around Fisherman’s Wharf, with the likes of the Hotel Zephyr and the Argonaut.


San Francisco has a varied range of viewpoints which beautifully capture the essence of this enchanting city. Whether framing the city's skyline or surveying its iconic attractions, these viewpoints are an essential addition to your San Francisco itinerary.

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