Hidden rooftop gardens are just one more thing that puts San Francisco into the best city in the world category. Thanks to city planners, terrace gardens are found at some extraordinary addresses. Some of these are POPOS, or Privately Owned Public Open Spaces, and exist due to a 1985 downtown planning code that offered incentives to encourage the development of open space in the city.
So, grab your coat and hat and visit these magical, hidden rooftops of San Francisco (some not so hidden) — parks, garden, and public spaces. They should most definitely be on your SF Things To Do list. Ride the elevator to these pocket-size oases where you can enjoy an alfresco brown bag lunch with fountains, greenery, and spectacular views as your backdrop.
It's a magical rooftop meadow in the center of a concrete jungle! California pines, shrubs and fruit trees dot the urban meadow with scented grasses, lilies, carnations, roses, peonies, and tulips. Hop across the stepping-stones behind the fountain and the 50-foot-tall Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. Cross the footbridge to Howard Street and ride the vintage 1906 merry-go-round with carved giraffes, camels, horses and rams. From the garden terrace you can peer below to the throngs of conventioneers at the Moscone Center.
The Fairmont Hotel has been making San Francisco a greener place with its rooftop garden since the turn of the 20th century. Royal palms, citrus trees, olive trees, birds-of-paradise and busy bees make it into a Nob Hill oasis. At the entrance on California Street, take the elevator to the lobby level and follow the corridor on your right to the rooftop garden. It's open to the public. 950 Mason Street.
Ascend a regal stone staircase with Roman columns, an arched pergola, and a fountain cascading with water. Follow the walkway through the Embarcadero Center Building. The rooftop garden sits atop the garage at the end of the footbridge, taking you from cement to celadon. 285 Washington St.
Take the elevator to the 15th floor for views of Treasure Island and the Transamerica Pyramid. In the central plaza is a bold, colorful obelisk that represents the four seasons. Take a seat at one of the white benches that encircle giant planters holding olive trees. Patio tables and chairs offer you spectacular views of the skyline.
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Enter from Mission Street or from First Street, up the lobby escalator, and down a small hallway into a garden terrace. The ocean-wave fountain is a highlight. Also worth the visit is the grass-filled terrace and comfy patio tables and chairs.
Sit on long, circular benches under the canopy of trees. Coral bougainvillea covers the arched trellis. Added bonus is the sound of water gushing from a lion's mouth into a basin. To get there, walk into Wells Fargo and take the stairs or elevator upstairs. One Montgomery Street.
There are actually two terraces here. One is accessed from the Wells Fargo Bank lobby (see above) on Montgomery, the other is one flight up of stairs from the food court at the Galleria. Planters are filled with flowers and perennials to keep this urban sanctuary colorful year round. Joggers and walkers use the gravel trail that follow the perimeter. Get there early if you want to grab a lunch spot. 59 Post Street.
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