Where is the best architecture in San Francisco?

Answers from Our Experts (3)

Katie Sweeney

Known for its incredibly hilly landscape, San Francisco also offers visitors spectacular urban architecture throughout the city. With it's rusty red color and sweeping towers, the Golden Gate Bridge is a one-of-a-kind architectural structure known all over the world. The Palace of Fine Arts is a gorgeously lit Beaux-Arts dome that was originally constructed for the 1915 Panana-Pacific Exposition. The Transamerica Pyramid is the tallest building in the city; it defines San Francisco's iconic skyline. The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, is a white greenhouse that is home to a collection of rare plants. Grace Cathedral is the city's beautiful European-style episcopal church that has two medieval-style labyrinths. Another Beaux-Arts monument is the City Hall. At 308 feet high, it's slightly taller than the building it's modeled after: Washington D.C's Capital Building. The Painted Ladies, a row of colorful Victorian and Edwardian houses on the border of Alamo Square Park, were made famous by their appearance in the popular 90's television show Full House.

Maria Hunt

You’ll find that the San Fransicso region is filled with distinctive architecture. While the Transamerica Pyramid, Coit Tower, San Francisco City Hall and the Golden Gate Bridge are some of the best-known man-made structures, there’s lots more to see:

1. Alamo Square.  Architecture buffs flock here to see the “painted ladies” — the Victorian houses clad in shades of lavender, blue and green.

2. Uptown in Oakland.  You’ll find some Art Deco marvels in this area of Oakland that’s filled with theaters, hip restaurants and bars. The standout is the Paramount Theater, which has thrilling friezes in the lobby and auditorium. The deep cobalt tile and gold detailing on the former flower shop that's now a restaurant called Flora is magnificent when the sun hits it just right. 

3. The Palace of Fine Arts.  This Marina district landmark is one of the most iconic sights in San Francisco. Set on a blue lagoon, its graceful curves and terracotta columns are all that remain on the original site of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

4. Golden Gate Park. The sprawling 1,000-acre park is filled with many distinctive structures from different eras including the Victorian Conservatory of Flowers, the de Young Museum designed by Herzog & de Meurn with its sculptural copper façade and tower, the terrarium dome on the LEED Platinum-certified California Academy of Science and the circa-1894 Japanese tea house.

Kimberley Lovato

Wander through the varied neighorhoods of the city and admiring the buildings becomes part of the fun! From Victorian houses to Beaux-Art beautiies there's something for any architecture buff.

Of course the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, burnt orange hue and art deco details is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.  The Palace of Fine Arts  was built for the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition and was designed by a well known local architect Bernard Maybeck who studied architecture at the Paris Ecole des Beaux Arts. The Fairmont Hotel was originally conceived and designed by James and Merrit Reid but the 1906 earthquake and fire damaged hotel to the point that many experts thought that it could not be salvaged. The structure survived, but the interior was heavily damaged. San Francisco born architect and engineer Julia Morgan was hired to repair the building. The Dragon Gate on Grant Avenue at the southern entrance to San Francisco's Chinatown was a gift of the government of the Republic of China in 1969 and is a great picture taking spot. The Asian Art  Museum at the Civic Center is housed in waht used to be the city’s Main Publication Library building and was converted by renowned Italian architect Gae Aulenti whose award-winning projects include the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. 


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