You know how you can live in a place forever but never see its main tourist attractions? We all fall subject to this sometimes. I went to high school in Palm Springs, and yet I have never been to those amazing dinosaurs that anyone who vacations there (or goes to Coachella) will inevitably visit. If you’re living in the Bay Area (or you’re visiting – lucky you!), you know San Francisco is a tiny city. It’s famously a square 7 x 7 miles, meaning that anything you could want to do here is within reach. So I’m going to share the prettiest, coolest, most Instagrammable places in San Francisco. Just grab a camera and a friend and go!
1) Get the best of SF streets at Clarion Alley.
The Mission district is famously decked out with street art, and Clarion Alley is a street art lover’s mecca. It’s a single alleyway, tucked behind regular shops and residences. It makes for gorgeously vibrant pictures. Go here early to avoid crowds!
2) Go avant garde at SFMoMA.
San Francisco is home to the ever-inspiring SFMoMA, sister property of the epic Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The museum gets pretty busy on weekends, so aim to get here in the AM. Bonus: There are lots of public installations outside the museum, so if you’re short on time or cash, just breeze by and appreciate these beauties.
3) Take in some history and get the best view of SF from Alcatraz.
Okay, okay, it’s not technically part of the mainland San Francisco, but it’s so worth the trip. Book your tickets in advance to take the ferry out to Alcatraz. There’s no good or bad time of day to visit, but on any day, it can be windy and cold, so bring a jacket (maybe with a hood if you’re like me, always trying to preserve a DryBar blowout). The views of San Francisco from Alcatraz are second to none, so don your favorite sunnies and get a couple frames with the city behind you. Pro tip: There’s also a limited-access flower garden on Alcatraz that makes for gorgeous pics, so look for it outside!
4) Get your best Golden Gate pics at Baker Beach.
Hands down, my favorite view of San Francisco’s most famous bridge comes from Baker Beach. Here, you can sit on soft sand, enjoy the white-capped waves of the Bay, and feel like you’re truly right under the bridge.
5) See it all at the Legion of Honor.
It’s a killer museum with Rodin, Monet, and Van Gogh pieces. Even better: The exterior of Legion of Honor is also a flawless backdrop for photos. It’s modeled after a French building, and it’s got epic Roman pillars lining the full courtyard. You’ll want the pics. There’s also icing on this cake: the Legion of Honor is located overlooking the stunning, rocky coast of the city, and you’ll get another view of the Golden Gate, too.
6) Escape the city (without leaving) at Lands End.
This is a stunning two-for-one stop. Lands End feels less like the city and a lot more like Big Sur. You’ll get sweeping views of the rocky coastline and the Golden Gate. If you’ve got extra time, make sure to hike down to the remaining ruins of the Sutro Baths, a (now-defunct) grand indoor swimming pool with a swoon-worthy view. To get the best view of Lands End without the hassle of finding a parking spot (and trust me, it’s a hassle), go straight to the USS San Francisco Memorial Parking Lot.
7) Feel regal at Palace of Fine Arts.
This is my absolute favorite spot to take visitors, even though they’ve almost never heard of it. They’ll love the Palace because it’s a classic Ancient Greco-Roman style structure. I love it because every time I visit, it surprises me with its beauty. Aim to visit here during golden hour, about an hour before sunset, when the sunshine really makes the warm tones of the Palace glow in your photos.
8) Indulge your foodie followers at Liholiho Yacht Club.
Are you a fan of @IHaveThisThingWithFloors? Once I discovered this page on Instagram, I saw floors in a new way. Liholiho Yacht Club — which is actually a restaurant and bar — serves meticulously designed plates and drinks ready for your best foodstagrams. The real showstopper, though, is an enviable tile entryway, begging for you to snap a pic. Wear your cutest shoes.
9) Take in the views from The View.
I’ll be honest and say this is totally a tourist place. Sitting atop the Marriott Marquis hotel not far from Union Square, a cocktail at The View will run you about $15, but to me you’re paying the premium for the breathtaking view. Arrive just after it opens at 4:00pm to get a seat against the floor-to-ceiling windows. You can get an up-close portrait, or if you’re feeling dramatic, shoot from far away to get a dark silhouette in front of the sweeping San Francisco landscape.
10) Get bookishly boozy at Novela.
Stepping into this cocktail bar, you’ll discover quickly that Novela really shines because both the cocktails and the interior design are beautiful. The walls are lined with colorful books; the floor is a black-and-white zigzag; the seating is plush and demure. Relax and toast to your very Instagram-worthy day.
What instagrammable places in San Francisco do you think should’ve made this list? Let us know in the comments!
featured image source: weheartit.com
Amanda Delzell Treese seeks out the things that make her happy: Pretty photos, travel, craft cocktails (and champagne and good beer and South American wines). She's also obsessed with pretty much any TV comedy that exists. Having struggled with anxiety for many years, Amanda is passionate about bringing transparency and eradicating taboo around mental health. A UCLA alum living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she lives in a never-quite-fully-decorated apartment with her husband and two cats.