There’s nothing quite like the natural high San Francisco gives you. And we’re not just talking about the picture-perfect peninsula with plenty a-hill-top to gaze down from. The city simply teems with energy and bohemian verve.
One day in its embrace and you surely will be leaving your heart in the city of San Francisco. The question is, which wondrous spot will you pick to populate your holiday photo album? With scenic wonders around every corner, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a favourite. But here are our top picks when it comes to San Francisco’s unmissable scenic photo opportunities.
The far-from-creepy Twin Peaks
For anyone who’s watched the TV show, it’s hard to get that theme tune out of your head when talking about Twin Peaks. But wait a moment, San Francisco’s Twin Peaks are something of an altogether different feel.
These looming summits tower 1000 meters above the city and are positioned in its epicentre. That means unbeatable views, a full 360º panorama. Imagine seeing the city’s iconic bridges, skyscrapers, Victorian rooftops and Alcatraz across the shimmering bay.
Tremendous as the views are, there’s also something to be said for the sense of achievement in scaling the peaks to get those memorable snaps of yourself, victorious, if not a little ruddy-cheeked. And yes, if your knees creak at the mere thought of all that climbing up and down a multitude of feet, you can cheat, and drive up by car.
Travel to the sky in a cable car
Now heights are a common theme in San Francisco. It’s a city of hills to be sure, and this lends itself to some momentous photos. But aside from the vistas, the cable cars of San Francisco are a sight to behold.
These quaint little cars will make you feel like you’re stepping back into a different era. Brave them in rain or shine – with the added protection of a snug waterproof on wintry days – and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most memorable experiences the city has to offer.
There are plenty of tips for making the most of your cable car experience, but one thing’s for sure, you should definitely take a moment to snap yourself in blustery glory along your route.
Walk the Golden Gate Bridge
The great thing about the Golden Gate Bridge is that there are views from every spot. Take a snap from the river bank before you even embark on the trek across, or position yourself right in the middle of the bustle that flows from both directions on the bridge itself.
Peering over the dizzying height of the Golden Gate Bridge at centre point, you’ll see the river water beneath your feet, to the backdrop of the humming motors behind you.
If you really are a history buff, take a guided tour of the bridge and discover more about its past. Or, set up camp at the delightful art deco styled Round House Café to sup on some San Franciscan cuisine.
Feel the history at the Castro Theatre
The Castro neighbourhood itself is something of a must-see when visiting San Francisco. Famously at the forefront of the gay rights movements in the 60s and 70s, the village is still a buzzing hub of cafés, shops and restaurants, welcoming to those in the LGBT community.
So where does the Castro Theatre fit in? Quite simply, if you want a jaw-dropping backdrop on your ramble around The Castro, this theatre is the place to stop. An imposing façade reminiscent of a religious landmark greets you on your approach. Brimming with 1920s old-world glamour, you won’t be able to resist ambling up its steps for a closer look.
If the mood takes you and you have a few hours to spare, it’s well worth taking in a show there. If only to ogle at the glorious décor within, not to mention the showstopping art deco chandelier in the auditorium.
Wander down Filbert Steps
Walking enthusiasts delight! There’s another hike that will set your soul alight, and it’s the trip down the Filbert Steps. You could say that this particular trip gives you some of the best sights of San Francisco and a true sense of the spirit of the city.
Make your way up to the peak, and you’ll find the rather iconic Coit Tower, built in memory of the firefighters that lost their lives in the city’s big fires. Surrounded by leafy trees and perched atop Telegraph Hill, it offers some of the most beautiful vistas across the city.
Unlike many uphill jaunts, reaching the top isn’t what this walk is all about. To make the most of your wanderings, keep your eyes peeled for the weird and wonderful along the way. You’ll see green parrots peering from the trees and colourful houses, providing a surreal setting as you scale the steps.
Behind bars at Alcatraz
It’s one of San Francisco’s biggest attractions for a reason. Atmospheric, sobering and stunning in turn, your trip to Alcatraz will be forever etched into your memory. From the wind-blown outing across to the imposing island on the ferry to your hushed walk through the prison blocks, Alcatraz is a place of contemplation as much as it is for taking a photo to remember it by.
Donning headphones to explore its walkways, you’ll be transported back through history, to immerse yourself in life as it was. Uncomfortable as it is unforgettable, a quick turn in the postcard-worthy gardens post-cell block will blow away the cobwebs of the past.
Bay views at Pier 39
There’s something to be said about sitting at the dock of the bay in San Francisco. To round off your trip, take in the sights, sounds and indeed the smells at Pier 39. Keep your wits about you as you navigate through the intimidating clusters of sea lions basking along the wooded islands, and find a spot to perch to watch the ebb and flow of the bay tide.
To finish, find one of the charming bayside eateries and try the city’s famous clam chowder, made with the catch of the day.
Explore the diverse city of San Francisco on our ‘America’s Golden West‘ tour.
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