Sightseeing in San Francisco

San Francisco is a walkable city but some may find the steep streets a bit of a challenge. When we were there a couple of years ago with our parents, we didn’t do as much walking as we did when it was just me and the hubby. The last sites I’ve chosen for this post are the Palace of Fine Arts, the Painted Ladies and that very crooked street, Lombard Street.

Palace of Fine Arts

I always get a little obsessed with the Palace of Fine Arts. I love just sitting in front of the lagoon and admiring the view and of course, taking a ton of photos of such a beautiful subject. It’s easy to see the influence of Greek and Roman architecture. There’s a lot of detail to take in from the weeping women atop the colonnades to the rotunda itself and all the sculptural frieze. I never tire of it.

The Palace of Fine Arts is located in the Marina District. It was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in the Beaux-Arts style. But this is not the same structure from 1915. The original palace was actually not built well, so it was demolished and re-built in the 1960’s and renovated in 2009. It used to host art exhibits, theatre and was the home of the Exploratorium museum up until last year.

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As you walk around the lagoon, try to see if you can find the wildlife that live there like this bird. Some are well disguised so look hard.




Panoramic view of the Palace of Fine Arts from 1919 (via Wikipedia).





The Painted Ladies

You’ll find “Painted Ladies” all over San Francisco – they refer to the Edwardian and Victorian houses that are painted in multiple colors to enhance the architectural details. The ones below are located near Alamo Square. It was very foggy during our visit and quite cool and windy so we couldn’t appreciate the view or enjoy the park. But I managed to take this photo of the Painted Ladies which are often seen in postcards.


Here’s an ideal view from Alamo Square Park on a bright sunny day courtesy of Wikipedia.


Check out the angle of this street! But this not even the steepest street in San Francisco.


Lombard Street

I’m sure you’ve heard of Lombard Street. It’s usually listed as one of the must-see sites of San Francisco. It is a very steep street with eight very tight turns. The traffic sign at the top states a speed of 5 miles per hour but you don’t have to drive down, there’s a sidewalk if you choose to walk. In the summer, it is filled with flowers; the photo below was taken in January, so no flowers. You can take the Powell-Hyde cable car from Ghirardelli Square or Union Square to the top of Lombard Street so it’ll be easier to walk down. The best spot to take a photo is at the bottom from Leavenworth Street. Just be mindful of the traffic. I can’t even imagine how the people that live on this street put up with all the tourists that visit. But maybe it’s worth it for that view.


The view from the top of Lombard Street looking east towards Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. Pretty awesome view, isn’t it?


Here’s a close up view from the top of Lombard street; you can see the Coit Tower and the church steeples of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church.


To get a better idea of how tight those turns are, here’s a view of Lombard Street from Coit Tower via Wikipedia.


And there you go – a few sites you could visit for free in San Francisco. There are lots of ways to get around the city but you may want to consider driving – who knows, you may find it fun (or scary) to drive up and down those steep streets.  If you do decide to drive, try this route and start at the Palace of Fine Arts, then to Lombard Street (take a detour to Filbert Street which is just a couple of blocks east), next to San Francisco City Hall and then Alamo Square. Enjoy!


About May Dayao

Carpe diem!
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