Sights to See
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the strait between San Francisco and Marin County to the north. The bridge took seven years to build, and was completed in 1937. The Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge span in the world when it was completed, and has become an internationally recognized symbol of San Francisco and California. The famous red-orange color of the bridge was specifically chosen to make the bridge more easily visible through the thick fog that frequently shrouds the bridge.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco and even the US, Fisherman’s Wharf runs all the way from Pier 39 through to Municipal Pier at the end of Aquatic Park. For over a century, its historic waterfront was the hub of San Francisco’s fishing fleet and is still famous for having some of the best seafood restaurants in the city. Other tourist attractions at the wharf include museums, souvenir stores, historical buildings, scenic vistas over the Bay and the famous sea lions at Pier 39.
Often referred to as The Rock, the small island of Alcatraz served as a lighthouse, a military fortification, and as a prison. It was home to some of the most notorious criminals of the time including Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. Surrounded by the freezing water of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was believed to be inescapable. The most famous attempt was carried out by Frank Morris, and brothers John and Clarence Anglin using an inflatable raft made from several stolen raincoats. Today, the island is a popular San Francisco tourist attraction and a historic site. It is operated by the National Park Service and is open to tours.
The world-famous Cable Cars run on three lines in the steep streets of San Francisco between Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf. These cars are a fun ride, especially if you get to stand on the running board, if a bit impractical for everyday use though residents do, in fact, use them on a regular basis. The cable car is such an attraction that, especially on weekends, it takes longer to wait in line to ride up Powell Street than it does to walk the short but sloping distance.
Golden Gate Park
Once an area of sand dunes, Golden Gate Park is a large urban park with windmills, bison, museums, lakes and a carousel among its many attractions. At 1,017 acres, it is about 20% larger than New York’s Central Park, so unless you have a bike, you’ll want to plan which area you want to visit. A popular tourist attraction is the Japanese Tea Garden with beautiful plants, ponds, bridges, and Japanese-style structures including a tea house.
Located between Hyde and Leavenworth streets, Lombard Street is famously known as the “crookedest street in the world” although it is neither the crookedest street in San Francisco (Vermont Street is) nor the steepest. The one-block portion of Lombard Street that contains eight hairpin turns was created to reduce the hill’s natural steep slope. The speed limit in this section is a mere 5 mph (8 km/h).
Located in the heart of the Financial District, the Transamerica Pyramid is San Francisco’s other famous icon besides the Golden Gate. According to its architect, William L. Pereira, a pyramid is the ideal shape for skyscrapers, offering the advantage of letting more air and light in the streets below. Finished in 1972, the Transamerica Pyramid has a height of 260 meters (85 feet) and is still the tallest building in the San Francisco skyline.
The Alamo Square is a residential neighborhood and park that is best known for the famous Painted Ladies row of Victorian houses on its east side along Steiner Street. It is often the subject of many a San Francisco postcard. There are also many other pretty Victorians encircling the lovely park. The park includes a playground and a tennis court, and is frequented by neighbors, tourists, and dog owners. On a clear day, the Transamerica Pyramid building and the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge can be seen from the park’s center.
San Francisco’s Chinatown
Established in 1840s, San Francisco’s Chinatown is reputed to be the oldest and one of the largest and most famous of all Chinatowns outside of Asia. Many of the Chinese who settled here were merchants or immigrant workers, working on either the transcontinental railroad or as mine workers during the Gold Rush. The tourist section of Chinatown is mainly along Grant Avenue, from Bush to Broadway.
Palace of Fine Arts
The only structure remaining from the 1915 World’s Fair, the Palace of Fine Arts features a classical Roman rotunda with curved colonnades situated in an idyllic park setting with a classical European-Style lagoon. It’s a great place to unwind, have a picnic, and watch the swans float elegantly by. It also has a theater offering a variety of shows, musical and cultural events.