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The Tailor-Made Top 21 Instagram-Worthy Locations in San Francisco

Updated: Apr 29

**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

San Francisco is a feast for the eyes, there are just so many attention-grabbing sights to be seen around this fascinating city. Whether it is the buildings and iconic landmarks, or its art installations and panoramic vistas, a trip to San Francisco is sure to fill your Instagram feed for months on end. Join us on this guide to the best spots to visit and how to grab the perfect shot.

Don’t forget that Tailor-Made Itineraries delights in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if visiting any of these striking sights 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 must-see views of San Francisco.

It is difficult to create a list of the best Instagram-worthy sights and is sure to be a little controversial with some, but here are our top twenty-one.

21 - 16. Lands End Lookout, Vaillancourt Fountain, Belly Good Café & Crepes, Alcatraz, Lombard Street, Baked Bear

A heart shape has been made from pebbles, placed at the Lands End Lookout, with beautiful views over the Golden Gate. Previously a Labyrinth of stones was in place on this site but has been removed due to a number of instances of vandalism.

Vaillancourt Fountain is a large fountain in Embarcadero Plaza, designed by the Québécois artist Armand Vaillancourt in 1971. The fountain is about 40 feet (12 m) high, weighs approximately 700 short tons (640 t), and is constructed out of precast concrete square tubes. An ideal stop when visiting the Ferry Building.

Belly Good Café & Crepes is located in the Japan Center Malls and is a very popular stop for shoppers in the mall. Pick your cute crepe recipe and film it being made in front of you.

Alcatraz Island is located in San Francisco Bay, 1.25 miles (2.01 km) offshore from San Francisco. Famous for operating as a prison from August 11, 1934, until March 21, 1963, there are great views on the ferry approach, at the lighthouse (on the southern summit), and within the cell block.

One of the most famous thoroughfares in the world, Lombard Street is well known for its almost impossibly steep incline, with eight hairpin turns. If you are looking to take some film as you drive down, go as soon after sunrise as possible, since the queue for cars waiting to descend can be long during the day.

The Baked Bear is an open-air café on the border of North Beach and Chinatown, dishing up custom-made ice cream sandwiches, cookie bowls, cones, sundaes & floats.

15. Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

Delightfully nostalgic, the iconic Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar exudes atmosphere in spades. No wonder, since it was a Hollywood set designer who created the themed look and feel. Guests gather around a large central “lagoon,” once the hotel’s indoor swimming pool. Tropical rain, thunder and lightning storms blow through from time to time, while a band plays from a floating boat.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Purchase one of the eye-catching tiki mugs and fill with your cocktail of choice, then say cheese!

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14. Pier 7

Pier 7 is one of the most beautiful piers in the state and it was planned that way. It is designed to serve both fisherman and tourists and its architecture brings back images of a different Victorian Age.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Head to the end of the pier and look back at the stunning views of the San Francisco skyline.

13. Fort Point National Historic Site

Fort Point has been called "the pride of the Pacific," "the Gibraltar of the West Coast," and "one of the most perfect models of masonry in America." The fort was built between 1853 and 1861 by the U.S. Army Engineers. In recent years, the fort has been a prominent location for several films, including Hitchcock's thriller Vertigo, the X-Men Last Stand and the 2014 film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The fort itself is striking, especially the symmetry of its brick arches, but it is the towering Golden Gate Bridge above, that really grabs the attention.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Climb to the roof of the defensive structure for splendid views of the bridge.

12. Cupid's Span

Cupid's Span is an outdoor sculpture by married artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, installed along the Embarcadero. The 60-foot (18 m) sculpture depicts a partial bow and piece of an arrow. The sculpture is made of fiberglass and steel. The artists stated that the piece was inspired by San Francisco's reputation as the home port of Eros, hence the stereotypical bow and arrow of Cupid.

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11. Baker Beach

San Francisco has several lovely beaches, but Baker Beach, which is part of the Presidio, has the best views of the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Take the Battery to Bluffs Trail or the California Coastal Trail from the beach towards the bridge for even more amazing views.

Read on to find out which Instagram-worthy sights are in our top ten.

10. Cable Cars & Historic Streetcars

The cable cars and streetcars of San Francisco have become iconic images of the city. Originally there were 23 cable car lines spreading out through the city, but today, unfortunately, there are only three lines in operation – the California Street, Powell-Hyde, and Powell-Mason lines.

San Francisco operates an extensive network of streetcars, but since the early 1980s, a collection of historic streetcars from all over the country have been restored, refurbished, and put back into service on the F Line. It's like taking a ride in a time machine! The line runs from The Castro, along Market Street, then north up through the Embarcadero towards Fisherman’s Wharf.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: A great place to view the cable cars are at the line-end turntables, which can be found at the junctions of Powell/Market, Taylor/Bay, and Hyde/Beach.

9. San Francisco City Hall

Easily overlooked as an attraction in its own right, San Francisco City Hall is a Beaux-Arts marvel, both inside and out. The building is dominated by its dome, which is taller than that of the United States Capitol by 42 feet (13 m), but it is the impressive rotunda which really steals the show.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: The hall is very popular for marriages and some of the beautiful brides make a perfect focus for your photos.

8. Sutro Baths

Sutro Baths were developed in 1894 by Adolph Sutro, when he constructed an ocean pool aquarium among the rocks north of the Cliff House. A massive public bathhouse that covered three acres was then constructed, which could accommodate 10,000 people at one time. The Sutro Baths were not an economic success, however, and was due for demolition in the mid-1960s when a fire destroyed the baths in 1966. The site has never been redeveloped and today it is a fascinating and photogenic ruin.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: There is a large carpark in the cliffs above Sutro Baths, and there are facilities there too, although these are only open from Friday to Monday.

Read on to find out which Instagram-worthy sight tops the list.

7. Umbrella Alley

Instagram worthy art installations are all the rage these days, so not to be outdone, the area between Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf boasts of Umbrella Alley. This is an interactive mural & art installation, full of fun images to take selfies with.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: There is no charge to enter, but donations are gratefully received.

6. 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.

5. Museum of 3D Illusions

The Museum of 3D Illusions is social media ready with interactive 3D Illusions that will take your breath away, transporting you to a world of fantasy and imagination. Their 40+ 3D illusions produce eye-popping pics, inspired by cartoons, art, current events, movies, and more. You can look forward to flying on the magic carpet next to the Golden Gate Bridge, walking on the edge of the mountain, or even surviving the top of the skyscraper.

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4. Clarion & Balmy Alley

Like street art? Then the Mission District has not one, but two spectacular and colourful areas for you to discover. Balmy Alley is an everchanging explosion of murals and art, while Clarion Alley, has hosted over 700 murals since 1992.

Set to a background of outrage against abuses of global human rights, as well as more local controversial issues, both alleys have seen eye-catching expressions of protest depicted on their walls.

Tailor-Made Top Tip: When visiting Balmy Alley, explore some of the other neighbouring alleys such as Lilac, Cypress and Horace. The street art in these alleys tends to be a little less political and organised, with more tagging and whimsical depictions, but they are equally interesting to see.

3. Palace of Fine Arts

One of the most striking buildings in San Francisco, the Palace of Fine Arts was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in order to exhibit works of art presented there. One of only a few surviving structures from the Exposition, it is still situated on its original site. It was rebuilt in 1965, and renovation of the lagoon, walkways, and a seismic retrofit were completed in early 2009.

The palace is a great place to walk around and marvel at this monumental structure. Perfectly framed by the large pond that is positioned in front, it is a haven for newlyweds and graduates getting their photographic portraits taken.