Top 10 San Francisco Photography Locations
“God took the beauty of the Bay of Naples, the Valley of the Nile, the Swiss Alps, the Hudson River Valley, rolled them into one and made San Francisco Bay.” If Fiorello LaGuardia, the famed mayor of New York City, and from a family of Italian immigrants, could say this about San Francisco, who are we to disagree! Everybody who has visited San Francisco knows that this is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With soaring hills, expansive bridges and an incredible waterfront, everywhere you turn has more great photography locations. But with so many different locations, how can you make sure you get all the best views (and the best pictures)?
Well, never fear, readers. We have put together a list of the 10 best photography locations in and around San Francisco for your picture-taking pleasure.
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest, largest, and most vibrant Chinatown in the Americas. When yo uthink of “Chinatown,” many people think about pagoda-style buildings, red lanterns, and dragon decorations, because many Chinatowns around the world have those decorations. But San Francisco’s Chinatown is where this all started (take our Chinatown walking tour to learn lots more about this fascinating history!) With some of the first pagoda buildings in the United States, and all kinds of amazing decorations throughout the area, Chinatown is a great spot to take pictures in San Francisco.
9. de Young Museum Observation Deck
Located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, the de Young museum has wonderful art installations from around the world. This is one of the premier museums in San Francisco. But for those who just want a great place to take pictures, you can bypass any lines for the museum and go right to the Hamon Observation Tower (which itself is an iconic spot in the city). And even better, admission is free to the observation deck! Once you get up to the top, you can get a 360 degree panoramic view of Golden Gate Park and the rest of the city.
8. Aquatic Park
In a prime spot on the waterfront right between Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, (both of which we visit on our awesome Fisherman’s Wharf Tour!) Aquatic Park provides a great photography location. You can get direct views to the Golden Gate Bridge, Hyde Street Pier National Historic Park with all the old museum ships docked there, and an up-close view of Ghirardelli Square. If you’re walking along the waterfront, don’t miss this great picture taking spot!
7. Treasure Island
Treasure Island is situated in a perfect spot right in the middle of San Francisco Bay. This site, the location for the 1939 World Fair, has incredible views of the San Francisco skyline, the iconic ferry building, and the Bay Bridge. In short, this is a photographer’s dream! You can come here during the day for some great snapshots of the city and the waterfront, or you can wait until sundown to get all the buildings lit up in all their amazing glory.
6. Broadway Street in North Beach
So, we should probably add a quick disclaimer here. Broadway is the traditional “red light district” of San Francisco’s North Beach. So if you are walking around which young children or are sensitive to this subject matter, you may want to avoid this area. However, Broadway has some really cool old-fashioned neon signs that are instantly recognizable. And if you come here at night, you can snap some amazing photos of these historic signs. And don’t forget, our North Beach walking tour goes right by this area and we can tell you all about it!
5. Twin Peaks
Although this is a bit of a trek from the main part of downtown San Francisco, there are few better photography locations than the top of Twin Peaks. From this spot, you can see just about the entirety of the city, as well as views all the way across the bay to Berkeley, Oakland, and farther south. Unfortunately for photographers, this is also one of the first places to get socked in with fog, so it’s hard to predict when you’ll have good weather on Twin Peaks. But on a day of beautiful weather, hop in your car and drive up to the top of the city for some great photos!
4. Dolores Park
Dolores Park, named after Mission Dolores (the first building in San Francisco, located just a few blocks from the park) covers an entire hillside that provides wonderful views of this amazing city. Recently reopened after an expansive renovation by San Francisco, Dolores Park is one of the most popular locations to hang out and enjoy a day of great weather here. Coincidentally located right near some of the best Mexican food you’ll ever taste, Dolores Park is a must-visit for people looking to have a nice relaxing day here, while still managing to take great photos.
3. Fort Point
There is no more recognizable sight in San Francisco than the Golden Gate Bridge. And there are very few better places to take a picture of this amazing bridge than Fort Point, at the very base of the bridge. Sitting on a decommissioned military base, Fort Point is situated right on the waterfront, providing fantastic views of the Golden Gate. You can either take a walk or bike ride along the edge of the water to get here, or you can park your car in the neighborhood to make it over to Fort Point. Come here during the day, or set up your tripod at night to capture the lights and the recognizable International Orange color of this famous bridge!
2. Coit Tower
If you are coming to San Francisco to take photographs, you should definitely visit one of the highest points in San Francisco with a 360 degree observation tower! Coit Tower, named after Lillie Hitchcock Coit (a historically awesome San Francisco lady), is one of the premier photography locations in San Francisco. We should mention, however, that getting here can be a bit of a challenge. Although there is a parking lot at the top of Telegraph Hill (where Coit Tower is located), the lot is frequently full. So you may have to park down the hill a bit and walk your way to the top. This is a great way to get some exercise, but can be a challenge with those with small kids. Once you’re up at the top, though, people of all ages will love the view! (Note: there is an $8 admission fee to go to the top of the tower)
1. Marin Headlands
With a quick disclaimer that this location isn’t in San Francisco, sometimes you have to get outside of the city to get the greatest views of the city. And you can’t find any better views around the Bay Area than the Marin Headlands. Located high up above the Golden Gate Strait, the Headlands offer a pristine, nearly untouched natural location to take amazing photographs. From downtown San Francisco, you merely need to take a 15 minute drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and up the hills to get world class views of the bridge and the city. We should mention, though, that you should definitely bring a jacket along with you when you go up there–the wind off the ocean can be pretty chilly up here. But don’t let that stop you! This is the best possible place to take photos of San Francisco.
We hope you enjoy some (or all!) of these photo spots around San Francisco. There are so many ways to capture this city that we can’t possibly cover everything here. But if you visit these locations, you’ll be guaranteed to have a great photo album when you leave this majestic city.