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Destination guides > North America > USA > West Coast > California > San Francisco > Sightseeing, museums & tourist attractions

San Francisco

Sightseeing, museums & tourist attractions

Alamo Square & the Painted Ladies

The residential Alamo Square neighbourhood in the city's Western Addition is known mostly for its Victorian architecture. An iconic San Francisco photo opportunity is the row of houses facing Alamo Square park on Steiner Street, known as the Painted Ladies, which has appeared in around 70 films and television shows.

710-720 Steiner Street, San Francisco
Bus 21 (stop: Hayes Street & Steiner Street)

Alcatraz Island

This island in San Francisco Bay is one of the city’s most popular attractions. It is the site of an infamous prison that operated for almost 30 years between 1933 and 1963. It is reached by ferries operated by Alcatraz Cruises (tel (415) 981 7625 (981 ROCK); website from Pier 33 at Fisherman’s Wharf. It is extremely popular and during summer it is recommended to book tickets up to a week in advance.

San Francisco Bay (ferry from Hornblower Alcatraz Landing, Pier 33, Fisherman's Wharf)

Ferry Alcatraz Cruises

Tel (415) 981 7625 (981 ROCK)

Website and

Admission sites on the island are free, but the ferry costs $26-33

Open first ferry 9am

Asian Art Museum

This museum has a collection of artworks and artefacts spanning all major Asian cultures. The museum's permanent collection is supplemented by temporary exhibits, the Shanghai exhibition runs until 5 Sep 2010.

200 Larkin Street, San Francisco
BART/MUNI Metro Civic Center tram F (stop: Market Street & Larkin Street) bus 5, 19 (stop: Larkin Street & Mcallister Street)
Tel (415) 581 3500
Admission $12, students $8, first Sun of month free; Shanghai exhibition with general admission $17, students $12, first Sun of month $5
Open Jan Tue-Sun 10am-5pm; Feb-Sep Tue-Wed 10am-5pm, Thu 10am-9pm, Fri-Sun 10am-5pm; Oct-Dec Tue-Sun 10am-5pm

Beat Museum & Beat Generation sights

San Francisco is often associated with the Beat Generation. This group of 'beatnik' American writers included William S Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac who had a reputation as bohemian hedonists out of place in straight-laced 1950s America. The Beat Museum, near the Green Tortoise Hostel, celebrates the Beat Generation with artefacts and displays about the influence of the Beat Generation.

Several important Beat Generation institutions are located nearby including City Lights bookshop (261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco; bus 41 (stop: Columbus Avenue & Broadway); 10, 12 (stop: Broadway & Grant Avenue); tel (415) 362 8193; open 10am-midnight daily), which was the focus of an obscenity trial over an Allen Ginsberg poem that ultimately bought the issue of censorship into the public arena. Vesuvio (255 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco; bus 41 (stop: Columbus Avenue & Broadway); 10, 12 (stop: Broadway & Grant Avenue); open 6am-2am daily) and Tosca (242 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco; bus 8BX, 8X, 41 (stop: Columbus Avenue & Kearny Street); tel (415) 986 9651; open Mon-Sat 5pm-2am, Sun 7pm-2am) are two leading Beat Generation bars that still operate in the North Beach neighbourhood.

540 Broadway, San Francisco
Bus 41 (stop: Columbus Avenue & Broadway); 10, 12 (stop: Broadway & Grant Avenue)
Tel 1 800 537 6822 (1800 KEROUAC)
Admission $5
Open Tue-Sun 10am-7pm

Cable Car Museum

This free museum in Nob Hill has exhibits about San Francisco's famous cable cars including several historic cable cars.

1201 Mason Street, San Francisco
Cable car Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason (stop: Washington Street & Mason Street)
Tel (415) 474 1887
Admission free
Open Jan-Mar 10am-5pm daily; Apr-Sep 10am-6pm daily; Oct-Dec 10am-5pm daily

California Academy of Sciences

This natural history museum features the 378,500 litre Steinhart Aquarium and the Morrison Planetarium.

55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco

Bus 44 (stop: Concourse Drive/Academy of Sciences)

Tel (415) 379 8000
Admission $24.95
Open Mon-Sat 9.30am-5pm, Sun 11am-5pm

California Palace of the Legion of Honor

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is part Holocaust memorial and part art museum with an impressive collection that includes works by many of the great masters.

Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue & Clement Street, San Francisco
Bus 18 (stop: Legion of Honor)
Tel (415) 750 3600
Admission $10, free 1st Tue of month
Open Tue-Sun 9.30am-5.15pm

Cartoon Art Museum

San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum exhibits cartoon art with a permanent collection that includes over 6000 pieces including animation cels, comic books and early newspaper comic strips.

655 Mission Street, San Francisco
BART/MUNI Metro Montgomery tram F (stop: Montgomery Metro) bus 14, 14L, 14X (stop: Mission Street & Third Street)
Tel (415) 227 8666 (415 CAR TOON)
Admission $6, students $4
Open Tue-Sun 11am-5pm

Coit Tower

Dating from 1933, this 64m-high tower on Telegraph Hill offers great views of the city and San Francisco Bay.

1 Telegraph Hill Boulevard, San Francisco
Bus 39 (stop: Coit Tower)
Tel (415) 362 0808
Admission $3.75
Open 10am-6pm daily


San Francisco's Chinatown is one of the world's most famous and attracts more tourists than the Golden Gate Bridge. Dating from the 1840s, it is the North America's oldest Chinatown and despite its popularity with tourists it still retains an authentic ambiance. Chinatown is west of the city's financial district and its main streets are Grant Avenue and Stockton Street.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

The Contemporary Jewish Museum in the Yerba Buena Gardens area of the SOMA neighbourhood hosts a programme of exhibits relating to Jewish culture, however the museum does not have its own permanent collection.

736 Mission Street, San Francisco
BART/MUNI Metro Powell, Montgomery bus 14, 14L, 14X (stop: Mission Street & Third Street); 8AX, 8BX, 8X, 30, 45, 81X, 91 (stop: Third Street & Market Street)
Tel (415) 655 7800
Admission $10, students $8
Open Mon-Tue 11am-5pm, Thu 1pm-8pm, Fri-Sun 11am-5pm

De Young Museum

The M H de Young Memorial Museum in Golden Gate Park has a permanent collection includes African, Melanesian and Polynesian tribal art and pre-Columbian artefacts from Latin America plus an excellent collection of American paintings. The de Young Museum also hosts an excellent programme of temporary exhibitions.

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco
Bus 44 (stop: Tea Garden Drive/de Young Museum)
Tel (415) 750 3600
Admission $10, students $6
Open Tue-Thu 9.30am-5.15pm, Fri 9.30am-8.45pm, Sat-Sun 9.30am-5.15pm


Like many other science museums the Exploratorium is aimed at children, although many people still claim that it’s worth visiting for the pitch-black Tactile Dome.

3601 Lyon Street, San Francisco
Bus 30 (stop: Broderick Street & North Point Street); 29, 91 (stop: Richardson Avenue & Francisco Street)
Tel (415) 561 0360
Admission $15 ($12 students)
Open Tue-Sun 10am-5pm

Ferry Building

This ferry terminal dating from 1898 was the world's second-busiest transport terminal (London's Charing Cross station was number one) until the opening of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges in the 1930s. After recent renovations, the Ferry Building is now home to a popular farmers' market (Tue 10am-2pm, Thu 10am-2pm, Sat 8am-2pm), which is a great place to buy fresh gourmet food. It still operates as a ferry terminal with ferries to Angel Island, Alameda, Oakland, Sausalito, Tiburon and Vallejo. Buses to Amtrak's station in Emeryville also depart from here.

101 The Embarcadero, San Francisco
BART/MUNI Metro Embarcadero tram F (stop: The Embarcadero/Ferry Building) cable car California (stop: California Street & Drumm Street) bus 6, 21, 31 (stop: Steuart Street & Market Street)

Fisherman’s Wharf

The touristy Fisherman’s Wharf at the northern end of the Embarcadero is a collection of bayside shops as well as several historic ships. It’s a pleasant spot to spend a few hours but the influx of tourists means that it is a long way from the working fishing port that it once was.

Jefferson Street (between Powell & Hyde Streets), San Francisco
Tram F (stop: Jefferson Street & Taylor Street Cable car Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason

GLBT Historical Society

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society has exhibits about the history and culture of Northern California's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender communities.

657 Mission Street, San Francisco
BART/MUNI Metro Montgomery, Powell tram F (stop: Market Street & Kearny Street) bus 14, 14L, 14X (stop: Mission Street & Third Street); 8AX, 8BX, 8X, 30, 45, 81X, 91 (stop: Third Street & Market Street)
Tel (415) 777 5455
Admission $4, students $2
Open Tue-Sat 1pm-5pm

Golden Gate Bridge

This 3.25km-long suspension bridge spans the Golden Straits that separate San Francisco City from Marin County. During daylight hours pedestrians can walk over the bridge using the eastern footpath.

Bus 76 (MUNI), 2, 4, 8, 10, 18, 24, 26, 27, 38, 44, 54, 56, 58, 70, 72, 73, 74, 76, 80, 92, 97, 101 (Golden Gate Transit)
Tel (415) 921 5858
Pedestrian walkway open Jan-Apr 6am-6pm daily; May-Oct 5am-9pm daily; Nov-Dec 6am-6pm daily

Grace Cathedral

This Nob Hill cathedral is one of America’s largest Gothic buildings. It is noted for its stained glass and the contemporary murals that adorn its interior.

1100 California Street, San Francisco
Cable car California (stop: California Street & Jones Street) bus 1 (stop: Sacramento Street & Jones Street)
Tel (415) 749 6300
Admission $3 donation
Open Mon-Sat 7am-6pm, Sun 8am-7pm


The neighbourhood centred on the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets is synonymous with the hippy sub-culture of the 1960s. The area has lost most of its hippy vibe, although it still has a somewhat alternative ambience and it is attracts visitors who come to see the former homes of the Grateful Dead (710 Ashbury Street) and Janis Joplin (112 Lyon Street).

Bus 33, 37 (stop: Ashbury Street & Haight Street)

Lombard Street

Lombard Street is often billed as ‘The Crookedest Street in the World’. This steep residential street is noted for its curves, which were built to enable horse-drawn carriages to make it up the steep hill.
Lombard Street (between Hyde & Levenworth Streets), San Francisco
Cable car Powell-Hyde (stop: Hyde Street & Lombard Street)

Mission Dolores

Mission San Francisco de Asis, better known as Mission Dolores, is the oldest surviving building in San Francisco and the Mission District's namesake. The mission was established in 1776, although the current building dates from 1791.

3321 16th Street, San Francisco
MUNI Metro Church & 16th Street (J) tram F (stop: Church Street & 16th Street) bus 22 33 BART 16th Street
Tel (415) 621 8203
Admission $5 donation
Open Jan-Apr 9am-4pm daily; May-Oct 9am-4.30pm daily; Nov-Dec 9am-4pm daily

Museum of Craft & Folk Art (MOCFA)

This museum displays decorative and functional art from around the world including furniture, clothing and jewellery.

51 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco
BART/MUNI Metro Powell Street tram F (stop: Market Street & Stockton Street) bus 5, 21, 31 (stop: Market Street & Grant Street); 14, 14L (stop: Mission Street & Fourth Street)
Tel (415) 227 4888
Admission $5
Open Mon-Tue 11am-6pm, Wed-Fri 11am-6pm, Sat-Sun 11am-5pm

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

This museum focuses on the history of people of African origin throughout the world. It includes displays on the slave trade, human rights and African influence in contemporary multicultural society.

685 Mission Street, San Francisco
BART/MUNI Metro Montgomery tram F (stop: Market Street & Kearny Street) bus 14, 14L, 14X (stop: Mission Street & Third Street); 8AX, 8BX, 8X, 30, 45, 81X, 91 (stop: Third Street & Market Street)
Tel (415) 358 7200
Admission $10, students $5
Open Wed-Sat 11am-6pm

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

This excellent art gallery features five floors of exhibits including the west coast’s largest collection of 20th century art. The museum's permanent collection includes works by Ansel Adams, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Diego Rivera and Andy Warhol.

151 Third Street, San Francisco
Bus 8AX, 8BX, 8X, 30, 45, 76, 91 (stop: Third Street & Howard Street); 14, 14L, 14X (stop: Mission Street & Third Street)
Tel (415) 357 4000
Admission $15; $9 students; free 1st Tue of month
Open Jan-May Mon-Tue 11am-5.45pm, Thu 11am-8.45pm, Fri-Sun 11am-5.45pm; Jun-Aug Mon-Tue 10am-6pm, Thu 10am-9pm, Fri-Sun 10am-6pm; Sep-Dec Mon-Tue 11am-5.45pm, Thu 11am-8.45pm, Fri-Sun 11am-5.45pm

San Francisco Railway Museum

This museum focuses mostly on San Francisco's historic trams (called streetcars in most US cities) and cable cars. It is run by the Market Street Railway (which preserves the trams operating on MUNI's F line).

77 Steuart Street, San Francisco
BART/MUNI Metro Embarcadero tram F (stop: Don Chee Way/Steuart Street) cable car California (stop: California Street & Drumm Street) bus 6, 14, 21, 31 (stop: Steuart Street & Mission Street)
Tel (415) 974 1948
Admission free
Open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm

Transamerica Pyramid

The 260m (850ft) Transamerica Pyramid is San Francisco's most recognisable high-rise building. Not open to the public.

600 Montgomery Street, San Francisco
Bus 1, 30X, 41 (stop: Clay Street & Montgomery Street)

USS Pampanito

The USS Pampanito is a restored World War II submarine, which gives you the opportunity to see how 80 men lived at sea in such tight quarters.

Pier 45, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco
Tram F (stop: Jefferson Street & Taylor Street) cable car Powell-Hyde (stop: Hyde Street & Beach Street)
Tel (415) 775 1943
Admission $10
Open summer Mon-Tue 9am-8pm, Wed 9am-6pm, Thu-Sun 9am-8pm; winter Mon-Thu 9am-6pm, Fri-Sun 9am-8pm

Walt Disney Family Museum

This museum in the Presidio of San Francisco features exhibits on the life of Walt Disney. Displays include artefacts plus video monitors and interactive media.

104 Montgomery Street, Presidio of San Francisco
Bus 29 (MUNI; stop: Graham Street & Lincoln Boulevard), PresidiGO shuttle (stop: 43, 45)
Tel (415) 345 6800
Admission $20; students $15
Open Mon 10am-6pm, Wed-Sun 10am-6pm

Wells Fargo History Museum

This history museum focuses on the Wells Fargo company with an emphasis on San Francisco and California's early history. Museum exhibits include displays about the California gold rush, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and an original stagecoach.

420 Montgomery Street, San Francisco
Cable car California (stop: California Street & Montgomery Street) bus 1 (stop: Sacramento Street & Montgomery Street)
Tel (415) 396 2619
Admission free
Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm


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