The moment I arrived in the City by the Bay, I knew I’d encountered one of my favorite places. Not only does San Francisco have the magic of cities by the ocean, it’s so much more. It’s a picturesque city with so many hip places, where the shadow of the flower power stays in the air, and also the hub of cutting edge technology in the world. There are endless Instagram spots in San Francisco showcasing the beauty of this eclectic city. I was mesmerized by all the San Francisco photo spots and I hope you are too!
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17 Unmissable Instagram Spots in San Francisco
The natural landscape of the city is impressive enough, with all its hills and the bright blue Pacific. Still, it’s the contrast with the architecture details where most Instagram spots in San Francisco get their charm. The famous landmarks also seem a little more impressive in person, and it’s a joy to watch the Golden Gate Bridge and the cable car.
I’d recommend spending at least three days here, because there’s just so much to see – and so many San Francisco photo spots to discover.
If you’re a traveler with a love for photography, I’ve prepared a few Insta-friendly posts from cities around the world. Check out my lists of top spots in Lisbon, Madrid and Australia’s gorgeous capital, Sydney!
San Francisco is one of the US cities with the most personality, with a million things to do. Through GET YOUR GUIDE, you can find incredible tours and experiences to get to know the city in a whole other way!
1. Greet the Most Famous Bridge in the World from Presidio Park
When you think of San Francisco, a single landmark will always come to mind: the Golden Gate Bridge.
This bright-colored structure is one of the gems of the city, and it deserves protagonism among Instagram spots in San Francisco. You’ll find plenty of places to take snaps of the bridge – and Presidio is one of the best. One of the many parks in town, it was a fortress of military value from Spanish colonization all the way to the 1980s. Now, it offers some of the best San Francisco photo spots!
Find the different angles of the Golden Gate Bridge by renting a bike on Fisherman’s Wharf and riding along the coast. Snap some great shots from the distance and as you approach it, all the way until you’re there. Finish off with some pics on the Golden Gate, the most iconic of San Francisco photo spots. Book THIS BIKE & BOAT TOUR for a great day in the City by the Bay!
If you are a bit adventurous and want to see this beauty from above, you have to check out this HELICOPTER TOUR!
2. The Golden Gate from the Battery Park
On the other side, you’ll find my favorite Instagram spots in San Francisco for those who love the bridge. Cross the Golden Gate and head to Battery Park and Marin Headlands, for incredible views of the bay.
Since it’s in California, people assume San Francisco is very sunny, but it’s quite foggy, even in the summer. If you’re lucky, you’ll get an incredible shot of the fog and the bridge on one of the coolest San Francisco photo spots!
3. See the City from the Sea in One of the Loveliest San Francisco Photo Spots
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, keep biking into the nearby village of Sausalito, which offers incredible San Francisco photo spots. Although Sausalito is quiet, its views look a little dramatic, on the hillside with a long shoreline.
Have lunch by the sea here and then head back to the mainland by ferry. The skyline views from the boat ride are some of the coolest Instagram spots in San Francisco!
See Sausalito from above by booking this amazing NORCAL COASTAL TOUR!
4. Snap the City Hills
One of the qualities that makes San Francisco such a picture-friendly city is its very hilly look. The city seems to be almost falling into the ocean, with dramatic falls everywhere. Just walk around town and look up: the loveliest Instagram spots in San Francisco will be there waiting. The panoramic of the hills with beautiful white buildings always offers delish San Francisco photo spots!
5. Visit Lombard, the Crookedest Street in the World
Crooked Lombard is one of the most famous streets in the world – and a common setting for movies set in San Francisco. Remember that famous car chase from Dirty Harry? Well, it’s now one of the ultimate Instagram spots in San Francisco!
Lombard Street is definitely one of the best Instagram spots in San Francisco; however, it is very touristic. The best thing you can do is arrive early to avoid the crowds. If you come by in the morning, start off your day having breakfast at Mama’s on Washington Square. Keep in mind the place is very popular, so the earlier, the more you’ll take advantage of this darling of San Francisco photo spots!
If you’re visiting in spring and summer, you’re in luck, as there are flowers everywhere on Lombard Street. Plus, you can get some great views of the city from above for amazing San Francisco photo spots.
Check out this fun GoCar Tour: Golden Gate Bridge & Lombard Loop!
6. Take the Mandatory Cable Car Pic
If the Golden Gate Bridge is the most iconic landmark in town, the cable car is the second most popular. It’s one of the obligatory Instagram spots in San Francisco!
Keep in mind that every other visitor is also looking to get their pic taken here, so it’s one of those places where early is best. Take the car from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf, and you’ll see some of the most gorgeous San Francisco photo spots.
7. Haight-Ashbury & Its Hippie Remembrance
Back in the days of the flower power, San Francisco reigned supreme. It was the world’s biggest hippie hub, and much of the scene was born in the city – specifically in Haight-Ashbury. Today, a lot of that vibe remains, even though it’s a thoroughly modern district. It’s also an area with lots of cute houses, cool street art and some of the coolest Instagram spots in San Francisco!
Have breakfast here, and imbue yourself in the vibe of the days where Janis Joplin walked these streets. Zazie is my go-to spot for breakfast here, as it’s a super cute French bistro where you don’t have to tip, a rarity in America. You’ll find delish food and amazing San Francisco photo spots in Zazie and throughout Haight-Ashbury!
San Francisco has been the setting of a myriad of classic and modern films, and cinema buffs will recognise landmarks everywhere. How about delving deep into it by hopping on a San Francisco Movie City Tour?
8. Get Your Rainbow On at The Castro & Dolores Heights
San Francisco is one of the most essential gay-friendly cities in the world, so you can imagine how lively the gay district is! Castro District, also known as The Castro, is full of rainbows everywhere and beautiful Instagram spots in San Francisco. You’ll find the coolest street art in town, just walking around the neighborhood and exploring.
Head to the Mission Dolores Park for some breathtaking San Francisco photo spots overlooking town!
As perhaps the most essential of all gay-friendly cities around the world, San Francisco has a long and proud LGBTQI+ history. This incredible 2-Hour Walking Tour through the Castro brings a fascinating focus to the neighbourhood’s history!
9. Head to the Hip Mission Districts
Another sparkly area is The Mission, where so much of the hipster life of the city happens. There are many bright and beautiful Instagram spots in San Francisco around The Mission, as the area vibrates with street art, trendy eateries, and cute boutiques.
Some sections of The Mission look a little rough, but things will run smoothly if you stay around Valencia Street. Here, you’ll find plenty of San Francisco photo spots, and the Clarion Alley murals are a must visit. A lot of street art there is focused on politics.
If you’re around The Mission at night, head to Lolo, a cool Mexican restaurant that’s a perfect place to start a party evening!
10. Meet the World’s Most Impressive Chinatown
Much like how European immigrants entered the United States through New York , Asians came through San Francisco. For over a century, the city’s Asian-American population has thrived and become an essential part of the city. In turn, the local Chinatown is the biggest one outside Asia, offering plenty of Instagram spots in San Francisco!
A feast for the eyes and taste buds, Chinatown is a must-visit in town. The street decorations with red lamps offer incredible San Francisco photo spots. Also, the beautiful southern entrance, the Dragon Gate, is a local landmark, known all over the world.
Head to Chinatown for delicious flavors from all over Asia, and go into the cute little shops to find cool things and cool Instagram spots in San Francisco! Want to get a culinary experience in China Town? Then BOOK THIS TOUR!
If you want a more Southern European vibe, Little Italy is the neighbour of China town. Full of cozy Italian places with delicious pasta & pizza!
11. Take a Shot at the San Francisco’s Designated Landmark no 33 – The Columbus Tower
San Francisco is a city of contrasts and each of its areas has a special character. The Columbus Tower is a great example of this. The green copper house with the skyscraper backdrop is a very popular place among Instagram spots in San Francisco and rightly so. If you want a truly great photo, be up early as the crossing is a very busy one both from traffic and people perspective!
12. Take a Minute at San Francisco’s Most Iconic Square
Union Square might not be the loveliest of all Instagram spots in San Francisco, but it is one of the most iconic. Visit early in the morning, and you’ll get a sweet shot of this famous spot before tourists arrive!
13. Revisit the Most Famous Prison in the World
Even if you don’t actually go into Alcatraz, it’s one of the most iconic San Francisco photo spots. It’s quite impressive to see how close it is to the mainland, knowing how many people died tried to escape it. The remains of this old island prison are a stark reminder of how rough and cold the Pacific Ocean is.
The most incredible Instagram spots in San Francisco to see Alcatraz are the ferry and Coit Tower. Why not book this COMBINED TOUR TO ALCATRAZ.
14. Gaze Into San Francisco from Above at Coit Tower
Coit Tower is a very peculiar building, as this art deco beauty doesn’t reach into the skies like so many skyscrapers of its time. Instead, it’s a concrete beauty in whites, perfectly matching the colors of the city. It’s also, easily, one of the best Instagram spots in San Francisco – and even more so when you enter!
Climb up for what may account to the most incredible of all San Francisco photo spots: a 360 view of the town. You’ll see the bigger avenues and smaller ones in all their beautiful crookedness, up and down. You’ll also get a clear view of Alcatraz and even the Golden Gate Bridge from a long distance.
15. The Touristy Fisherman’s Wharf
Those of you that know me and have been following us around the world, knows that I prefer hidden gems before the tourist attractions. Still, Fisherman’s Wharf is a place to tick off when in the City of Bay, if not just to have a delicious clam chowder. Pier 39 is the most popular spot but if you ask me not very instagrammable. I prefer the colorful boats and seals at Pier 9 for the best San Francisco photo spots.
16. Find the Hidden Gems
There are so many incredible Instagram spots in San Francisco, it’s nearly impossible to count all of them. You’ll find beautiful details and photo ops in every corner. That’s why my ultimate photography advice is simple: let the San Francisco photo spots enrapture you. Explore beyond the touristic route, and you’ll find gorgeous places everywhere.
For decades, North Beach was one of the most eclectic neighborhoods in the world. Writers, poets, and artists of all sorts lived here, making it a hotbed for creativity. See it for yourself in this amazing TOUR!
17. Find Peace at Muir Woods
Once you’ve explored the many San Francisco photo spots, you may be a little overwhelmed. Big cities can confuse the soul in that there’s so much excitement over everything. If you have an extra day to chill beyond the noisy metropolis, the Muir Woods National Park is the place to go.
Breathe the fresh air at this natural wonder, surrounded by the huge redwood trees, after taking advantage of the coolest Instagram spots in San Francisco. It’s such a peaceful place to find your balance again, preparing for the next adventure… If you do not want to go here alone, I recommend THIS TOUR!
San Francisco is a magical city, and you feel a vibe of so many things going on at once. The Silicon Valley innovation, the love for sports, the vibrant LGBT scene, the hippie parts… there’s something for everyone at the City by the Bay!
More from Travel with a Silver Lining
- More on California: Our San Francisco visit was part of a grand road trip across California. Besides the coolest Instagram spots in San Francisco, you can read more about our days in the West Coast here!
- California Hotels: Since you’re reading about Instagram spots in San Francisco, why not go for the nearby Napa, home to California’s legendary wine? When we visited the wine country, we stayed at a lovely boutique hotel called Churchill Manor. Read my review here! We also stayed at two gorgeous boutique hotels in Venice Beach & West Hollywood, The Rose Hotel & Palihouse Melrose.
- More on US: The US is very vast and there are lots of places beyond Instagram spots in San Francisco. Florida never ceases to amaze me and I love visiting different areas of the state. Read about my days in Miami here, and about the Florida Keys over here as well as my Top 4 Luxury Miami Hotels!
- My Top 3 Posts: If you want to see the world through my eyes, why not visit my top three posts? Top 18 Instagram Spots in Lisbon, My Amalfi Coast Photography Guide and the Top 10 Hipster Restaurants in Moscow!
- More Instagram & Photo Guides: I love to travel with a camera in my hand so check out all My Sydney & Mykonos Photo & Instagram Guides. You can also find all of them under the Photographista Section!
Booking & Tours Information
Hopefully seeing the best Instagram spots in San Francisco has inspired you to visit the City by the Bay. Find some useful information below for planning & booking your trip
- Flights: For the best flight deals to San Francisco, click HERE. Momondo is my Go To All in One Travel App. If you have not downloaded it yet – just CLICK HERE!
- Transfer: For a smooth arrival book your transfer in advance with BART, Private Transfer or a Group Transfer.
- Hotels: We stayed at Mystic Hotel with a great location and an affordable choice, however not our usual great boutique hotels. For more hotels check out BOOKING.COM!
- Like a Local: CHECK IT OUT HERE!I love to explore cities like a local to find hidden gems off the beaten tracks. I love that there are more and more tours where you can get a fully customisable tour with a local.
- Tours: GET YOUR GUIDE is one of my favorite tools when traveling. There, you can find fun tours and experiences for every taste, taking you down the road less traveled in every city. Check out this wonderful BAY SAILING TOUR WITH DRINKS and this SONOMA WINE COUNTRY GUIDED BIKE TOUR! For more info on this gorgeous California town, don’t miss their city guide!
Did you like this post on the best Instagram spots in San Francisco? Find some pins for San Francisco photo spots, below!