1. Golden Gate Bridge
One of the world’s most iconic suspension bridges spans the channel between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The bridge was completed in 1937, and saw 200,000 people cross it by foot (and roller skates!) on opening day. We’re just glad the U.S. Navy did not get their way: They wanted to paint the bridge black with yellow stripes for greater visibility.
2. Fort Point
that iconic spectacle, make your way down to the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge to Fort Point, which was built in the mid-1800s (yep, well before the bridge). Its first cannon mounted in 1861 to protect the Bay from naval attacks, but it was never actually used in battle. It’s now a prime spot for bridge gazing.
The Presidio dates back to 1776, when the Spanish fortified the area. It’s since seen plenty of soldier activity as a strategic military base: It was occupied by the U.S. Army and active in the the American Civil War and World War II. It eventually became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, so that we can all enjoy its beauty.
4. Telegraph Hill
A semaphore telegraph (precursor to the electrical telegraph) was built atop this hill back in 1849 to signal to the rest of the city what types of ships were coming through (hence the name Telegraph Hill). By the early and mid-1900s, poets and bohemians flocked to the area. Today, Coit Tower is its main attraction; otherwise, it’s mostly a cozy, affluent neighborhood and home to the city’s famous wild parrots.
5. Treasure Island
Situated in the Bay, but technically part of San Francisco, Treasure Island is actually artificial! It was built for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. It’s been mostly used as a naval base, but we prefer to head there for the Treasure Island Music Festival in October and the monthly Treasure Island Flea Market. The views are pretty spectacular, too (see above)!
6. Union Square
The focal point of downtown San Francisco is surrounded by high-end stores, hotels, art galleries, and theaters. A spot that hosted pro-Union rallies during the Civil War, Union Square is still the site for various protests, as well as public concerts and events.
7. Mission Dolores
Founded in 1776 by the Spanish, the Mission is the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco. The large basilica beside it was completed in 1918. Today, it’s in quite the hotspot, near local fave Dolores Park.
8. Conservatory of Flowers
Completed in 1879, this gorgeous greenhouse is the oldest building in Golden Gate Park, and it was one of the few spots to survive the 1906 earthquake and fires. It contains a large collection of rare and tropical plants and is one of the more romantic SF hideaways.
9. Aquatic Park Historic District
Nautical nerds will want to head to this Bayside area, which saw its first ship back in 1775. The building here was once a bathhouse, but is now home to the San Francisco Maritime Museum. Outside, you may see swimmers, rowers, and kitesurfers braving the chilly waters.
10. Mark Hopkins Hotel
This luxury hotel sits atop the impressive Nob Hill, at 999 California Street. It was once the address to the wife of Mark Hopkins, a founder of the Central Pacific Railroad (he died before the mansion was completed). After her death, her second husband donated the building to the San Francisco Art Association. Today, it’s one of the city’s premier hotels and its rooftop bar, Top of the Mark, is a popular date spot.
11. Glen Canyon Park
One of San Francisco’s more underrated parks was actually once home to the country’s first dynamite factory! Today, it’s a great spot to hike, play ball, and admire nature.
12. Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral
Sitting on the edge of Chinatown is this historic cathedral dating back to 1853. At the time, it was the tallest building in all of California. It was completely destroyed in the 1906 fires, but renovated and opened again just three years later, and the parish here remains active.