The Stunning San Francisco Skyline – A City-Wide Photo-Op

There are plenty of skyscrapers here, but there's much more to the stunning San Francisco skyline than just tall buildings. Some of the country's most famous sights are found here, not just multi-story skyscrapers you can see in any big city.

There's no difficulty to capturing good photos either. San Francisco is known for seven famous hills offering great vantage points, so you can easily make some perfect shots to remind you of your time here. As we said, you can certainly spot tall buildings, but there are plenty of other unusual buildings and sights piercing the skyline and dotted throughout the city panorama. Let's take a virtual tour of a few highlights of the San Francisco skyline.

The Photo-Worthy Glory of the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge dominates the San Francisco skyline and no set of vacation photos is complete without the bridge's looming towers in the distance. Since its opening in 1937 this is undoubtedly the country's most famous bridge. The Art Deco-inspired structure is the city's iconic symbol, so make sure that you create some photos with the bridge in the background.

One of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge is from Fort Point, almost directly underneath the bridge. Or, head across the bridge and stop at a vista point in Marin County (across from the city, such as Battery Spencer), allowing you to get the San Francisco skyline in the background with the bridge in the foreground. Back on the SF side, hike out to Lands End to enjoy the bridge without the crowds you're likely to find at some of the more popular viewing points.

The huge 220-foot-high towers loom over the bay, an impressive sight every single time you set eyes on it. On weekday mornings and at weekends you can still walk across the 4,200-foot (1,300 meter) bridge, and a beautiful photo opportunity is a great excuse for a rest halfway across.

Skyscrapers in the San Francisco Skyline

Skyscrapers

The recent construction of the Salesforce Tower has made it the city's tallest building at 1,070 feet (330 m) and an impressive new addition to the San Francisco skyline. It's now California's second tallest building and the twelfth largest in the country.

The Salesforce Tower may be the city's tallest but it's not necessarily the most impressive. The Transamerica Pyramid at 853 feet (260 m) was, until recently, the highest feature in the city and this unique modernist-inspired building is far more interesting than most other tall buildings found here. It has slowly, but surely, worked its way into the hearts of the locals.

It's well worth a trip to the Transamerica Pyramid to gaze up at its tower from ground level. Keep your eyes peeled for an unusual plaque dedicated to the city's most famous dogs, Bummer and Lazarus, who became beloved residents of the city due to their rat-catching talents. They were so revered that their exploits were covered in newspapers and even by Mark Twain. Close by is the distinctive Sentinel Building which may be overshadowed by the surrounding skyscrapers but is well worth tracking down. You'll spot it easily, the copper on the exterior has long since turned green.

A little blockier, the 52-story skyscraper at 555 California Street (named for its address) is one of the city's most distinctive. Standing at 779 feet (237 m), the brown-coloured tower is an intimidating sight. The neo-gothic Russ Building, 436 feet (133 m) high, is another feature of the skyline to look out for. Built in 1922, it has an immediately recognizable design that has made it one of the most characteristic buildings in the city.

Not Quite As High…

Coit Tower

Nestled alongside the bay you can see the San Francisco Ferry Building, easily identifiable by the building's clock tower which soars 245 feet (78 m) high above the bay and the ferry boat docks.

Despite a height of just 210ft (64m), Coit Tower is visible from all across the city. The Art Deco tower can be found at the summit of Telegraph Hill in North Beach, looming over much of the city. The viewing platform at the top of the tower offers sensational views of the financial district, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and some of the city's famous hills including Nob Hill and Russian Hill.

More of the Best Skyline Viewing

Best Skyline Viewing

A mile or so offshore lies the site of the world's most famous prison, itself an important feature of San Francisco. Aside from the attraction of Alcatraz Island, there are great skyline views from the island and during the ferry trip across the bay, especially at night when downtown is lit up for your viewing pleasure.

As we said, Battery Spencer (across the Golden Gate Bridge) is a fabulous spot to gaze in wonder at the bridge and the skyline beyond. But there are other places that give you long and unique views of the city. For example, it's worth the trip out to Twin Peaks. At 922 feet (281 m) it offers stunning views along Market Street down to where it intersects with the financial district.

San Francisco is built on numerous hills, many of which offer striking views of the city. Just uphill from Fisherman's Wharf you find Russian Hill, where you can gaze across the city to spot Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower in the distance. Nob Hill is another popular area where you can appreciate some stunning views down to Fisherman's Wharf and the San Francisco Bay.

Finally, there are parks across the city from where you can enjoy beautiful views. One such place is Ina Coolbrith Park, shown in the photo above. From here you can see the whole financial district displayed in the middle distance while you relax with a picnic or a good book. Corona Heights Park is a popular spot with locals and from this vantage point at 540 feet (165 m) you take in views of both downtown and Twin Peaks. Just south of Mission District, Bernal Heights Park also offers some of the best views of the San Francisco skyline, with a 360° panorama that includes the Financial District, the bay and, again, the Golden Gate Bridge.

What's Quakin'?

Don't Miss a Single San Francisco Travel Tip — Sign Up For Our Newsletter Today