A GUIDE TO SAN FRANCISCO'S MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE PHOTOS LOCATIONS

August 28, 2020

In search of the perfect long weekend destination in the US? Look no further than the City by the Bay. San Francisco may be tiny, measuring a mere seven miles by seven miles, but it packs a mean punch when it comes to cultural sights, historic landmarks, iconic viewpoints, fabulous bars & restaurants and charming neighborhoods. It's the perfect long weekend escape, and I've created an Instagram photo guide that will take you some of the most scenic spots in and around the city including bridge viewpoints, botanical gardens, redwood cathedrals, Dutch windmills, Italian alleyways, mosaic staircases and more. 

 

 

CONSERVATORY OF FLOWERS

Tucked away in Golden Gate Park is one of the prettiest botanical gardens in the state of California. The beautiful Conservatory of Flowers sits in a Victorian glass greenhouse that dates back to 1879, and serves as the tropical home to thousands of plants, flora and fauna from around the globe. Visitors are invited to step into a living, breathing Ferngully that is filled floor to ceiling with lush palms, orchids and exotic ferns. Arrive early to explore the many corners of the conservatory before it fills up with tourists. (100 JOHN F. KENNEDY DRIVE, SAN FRANCISCO)

 

 

PALACE OF FINE ARTS

It was built for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in 1915, but now the Palace of Fine Arts serves as a park and exhibition space in San Francisco's Marina District. The whimsical creation looks like something out of an ancient Greek Roman fairytale, an ornate golden palace of soaring archways and colonnades that surround a spectacular rotunda. The Palace of Fine Arts is a popular spots for tourists, locals and wedding photographers, so best to arrive early if you plan to take photos. (3601 LYON STREET, SAN FRANCISCO)

 

 

ALCAZAR THEATRE

The dreamy exterior of the Alcazar Theatre looks straight out of a trip to Marrakech, Morocco. Located in the Tenderloin just west of Union Square, this theatre has been built, demolished, rebuilt and gutted over its 100+ year history. The current standing structure opened in 1993, and has since been named a San Francisco Historical Landmark. The exterior of the theatre can be accessed any time of the day for photos, it sits on a relatively quiet stretch of Geary. (650 GEARY STREET, SAN FRANCISCO)

 

 

 

GOLDEN GATE OVERLOOK

There are several Golden Gate Bridge viewpoints scattered throughout the city, but one of the prettiest is the Golden Gate Overlook. Unlike most views, this location faces the bridge straight-on for a unique perspective of the iconic landmark. To give the bridge that larger-than-life look, use a zoom lens to bring the bridge closer and increase its size. The small parking lot fills up quickly on the weekend, so arrive early in the morning, or visit on a weekday. (LANGDON COURT, SAN FRANCISCO)

 

 

URBAN FLOWERS

San Francisco is home to dozens of local flower shops, but none as cute as Urban Flowers, in The Castro. The little shop is family-owned, and sits on the first level of a cheery blue building on a quiet neighborhood street. The shop owners are very friendly, and usually don't mind if you snap a couple of photos out front - just makes sure to ask nicely, and give them a heads up. (4029 18TH STREET, SAN FRANCISCO)

 

 

ARIZONA CACTUS GARDEN

Ok, technically, this isn't in San Francisco. Located 45 minutes south of the city, the Arizona Cactus Garden sits on the edge of the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto. The historic garden dates back to the 19th century when it was designed for Leland and Jane Stanford by landscape architect Rudolph Ulrich. Not many people know this desert oasis of cactus, succulents, aloe and agave plants exists, so it's usually a pretty quiet place to take photos. The garden is free to visit, and open 24 hours a day. (STANFORD UNIVERSITY, PALO ALTO)

 

 

GINO & CARLO ALLEY, NORTH BEACH

I love finding local spots that look like they belong in another country, and the Gino & Carlo Alley is one of the best. Located in the heart of North Beach, the charming side street looks straight out of 1950s Rome. The bustling neighborhood, fondly referred to as San Francisco's Little Italy, is riddled with alleys and little streets, making Gino & Carlo an easy one to miss. Use Golden Boy Pizza as a point of reference (and grab a slice while you're at it!). The red, white and green alley is right around the corner from the popular slicery. (548 GREEN STREET, SAN FRANCISCO)

 

 

LOMBARD STREET

They say Lombard is the Most Crooked Street in the World,  and I imagine it's true. A drive down the windy street is a must for tourists visiting San Francisco, but just as fun is a climb up the neighborhood steps. Spend an hour exploring this charming part of the city filled with blooming flowers, and my dream house located at 1040 Lombard St. You can't miss it - it's the blue 1911 structure covered in pink bougainvilleas. (1040 LOMBARD STREET, SAN FRANCISCO)

 

 

MUIR WOODS NATIONAL MONUMENT

Muir Woods is another destination located outside of San Francisco, but it's a mere 20 minute drive to reach this otherworldly setting that sits in Marin County. Miles of hiking trails wind their way through old-growth redwood forest, some trails taking hikers all the way down to Stinson Beach. If photography is the reason for your visit, the most stunning locations don't require any hiking. From the parking lot, follow Redwood Creek into Muir Woods on a trail that leads to the stunning redwood cathedrals of Bohemian Grove and Redwood Grove. Muir Woods is best experienced in quiet solitude, but it's one of the most popular parks in the Bay Area. Best to nab the earliest possible parking permit so that you can arrive right when the gates open. (LOCATED IN MILL VALLEY)

 

 

LEO'S OYSTER BAR

For the cutest restaurant decor in the city, grab lunch at the fabulous Leo's Oyster Bar. The popular seafood joint puts a colorful twist on old school charm with an interior that belongs on Instagram feeds, Pinterest boards and in TikTok videos. Leo's Oyster Bar bursts with pastel shades of pink and green in a space adorned in fern wallpaper, eclectic mirrors, antique style chairs and black & white tiles. My favorite table for photos is located at the restaurant entrance, so best to arrive right when it opens. (568 SACRAMENTO STREET, SAN FRANCISCO)

 

 

BONITA TAQUERIA & ROTISSERIE

If you look hard enough in San Francisco's Marina District, you can find a bit of Sayulita tucked away on bustling Chestnut Street. That's right, there's a bright yellow alleyway filled with colorful tables, funky signs and fairy lights, located between Bonita Taqueria & Rotisserie and Squat & Gobble. The vibrant corridor is a great spot for photos, but arrive early before the tables fill up with lunchgoers. (2257 CHESTNUT STREET, SAN FRANCISCO)

 

 

QUEEN WIHELMINA TULIP GARDEN

One of the best kept secrets in Golden Gate Park is the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden. In a most unusual location next to dreary Ocean Beach, this oasis of flowers that surround a Dutch windmill looks like it belongs in The Netherlands. There are flowers year round, but visitors in early spring are treated to hundreds of bright tulips. It's a popular spot with locals on the weekend, especially if the weather is nice, so arrive early for picnics and photos. (1690 JOHN F. KENNEDY DRIVE, SAN FRANCISCO)

 

 

MOSAIC STEPS

A 163-step mosaic staircase can be found at the intersection of 16th Avenue and Moraga Street in San Francisco's Inner Sunset. The steps create a dreamy mosaic mural of stars, swirls, fish, the moon and sunshine, offering a variety of backdrops for photos. On a sunny day, Ocean Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge are visible from the top of the steps. This is a popular destination for local joggers who use the staircase for training, so you might need to be patient if you want an empty photo with all of the steps. (16TH & MORAGA STREET, SAN FRANCISCO)

 

 

 

 

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