San Francisco is one of those cities that flaunts convention and tempts fate. The bay, the fault line that promises destruction, the fog, the jutting and tempestuous hills…it’s a city that by normal rights shouldn’t exist (much like two of my other favorite cities: Amsterdam and New Orleans). But when you’re there, you can see why people refuse to leave and continue to rebuild and adapt. Iconic bridges (with the Golden Gate straddling into Marin County and the Bay Bridge connecting the city to Oakland), impossible hills, beautiful architecture, a temperate quasi-Mediterranean climate, and views to kill for make San Francisco the most beautiful city I have visited in North America to date. You simply can’t understand the insanity of the views until you see them for yourself…and although I’ve tried…no pictures can really do them justice. No wonder this is the city where hippies are eternal, the most daring of bicyclists flock, homeless people retire, and real estate prices soar higher than the headlands.
The following spots we found to be the best bets for leaving you gobsmacked:
- The view from the Marin Headlands scenic outlooks – just over the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge one can tempt fate and precipitously winding roads to end up at the top of the Marin Headlands (which moved upwards a full 40 feet after the 1989 earthquake) where along the way you can see exposed tectonic plates and once parked can enjoy nose-bleed, windblown-hair views of the bridge, bay, and city beyond.
- The view from atop Twin Peaks – right in the city proper not far from the Presidio and Golden Gate Park is this outlook that can be easily reached by car and will shock you with its amazing view of the city spread out below.
- The view from inside Top of the Mark – this swanky but laid-back old-school bar on the top floor of a swell hotel will give you the best building-top views in the city and is the perfect spot for a drink at twilight.
Meanwhile, adventurous walkers should enjoy:
- Walking along the piers, though don’t get sucked into the Fisherman’s Wharf tourist trap (unless you are an East Coaster and must, like us, try an In-N-Out Burger)
- Walking up Hyde or Leavenworth Streets (which is more of a hike as you are going uphill) from the waterfront towards the city center, where when you turn back towards the bay you will get awesome views of Alcatraz, and then hitting up the famous part of Lombard with its improbably steep downward winding street
- Walking through Chinatown
And now for the photos:
Written and Photographed by David H. Schleicher