San Francisco is blessed with vistas that are as inspiring as they are easy to access. When you visit this city’s photogenic panoramas, you’ll see a little bit of everything—hilly urban landscapes, dramatic rocky cliffs, sprawling green spaces and the expansive Pacific Ocean—all without ever leaving city limits. Here are six perspectives that are tough to beat—just don’t forget to bring your camera.
The aptly named Inspiration Point is a secluded overlook located in the Presidio, a 1400-acre park in the northwest corner of San Francisco. Set on a quiet natural hilltop with views of Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Palace of Fine Arts and part of the North Bay, Inspiration Point is an ideal resting spot for hikers and one of the best vantage points in the city.
Towering over San Francisco at 922 feet in elevation, Twin Peaks offers sweeping 180-degree views of the Bay Area with pristine natural surroundings. Throw on your sneakers and windbreaker for a hike up to the top, where you might catch a glimpse of the low-flying native Mission Blue butterfly as well as some of the Bay Area’s original native vegetation.
Lands End and Cliff House
Lands End and the historic Cliff House restaurant are located at the western edge of the city. Take the steps down from the Lands End Lookout to the Sutro Baths ruins—a former lively public bathhouse. Then, hike north along the trail to take in the city’s best view of the vast Pacific Ocean, complete with jagged sea stacks and crashing waves. Be sure to snap a photo or two of the Golden Gate Bridge before turning back.
Set atop Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower serves as a welcoming beacon that has helped define the San Francisco skyline since 1933. The 360-degree views from the top encompass most of the Bay Area, and inside the tower, 81-year-old murals depicting Depression-era California adorn the walls. While taking in the landscape, you may be lucky enough to hear the tropical squawks of the iconic Telegraph Hill parrots that call the neighborhood home.
If you make it out to the city’s western boundary, you won’t want to miss picturesque Baker Beach. Located on the waters of the Golden Gate, this spot is ideal for a romantic sunset or a beach picnic on a warm day. Take a walk down the winding staircase for an iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and its surrounding rocky shoreline.
De Young Museum Hamon Observation Tower
The de Young Museum, itself an architectural wonder, is located deep within Golden Gate Park. Climb the Hamon Observation Tower to take in the panoramic views from its glass walls, and you’ll get a whole new perspective of the city, including the hilly scene of the surrounding neighborhoods and the park’s distinct eucalyptus canopy.