We tacked a few hours of San Francisco sightseeing at the beginning of our recent trip to the California wine country. That time is hardly sufficient to explore anything in depth, but as this was not our first visit to the city – just a first one in many years – we were able to hit a number of highlights and re-compose our visual appreciation of this brilliant city.
We started with the famous cable cars. It has all accoutrements of a tourist trap, but I honestly think taking a ride on either Powell-Hyde or Powell-Mason line is a must when in San Francisco. For my money, starting at the Powell/Market end and riding towards the waterfront offers better perspective than going in the opposite direction.
The line at the Powell/Market stop is almost always long enough that you have to wait until you are able to get on. Waiting definitely gets you into the mood of wanting to climb on sooner rather than later.
You can also observe the cars turned around on wooden platforms. Very little mechanization is involved in that, even in the 21st century.
I specifically aimed for riding at the front of the car hanging off its left side. When you do that, you get largely unobstructed perspectives of the way ahead.
The people on the approaching car seem less enthusiastic about riding on the outer step, but they do approximate my position.
Powell-Mason line is slightly less picturesque than Powell-Hyde (for instance, only the latter goes by Lombard Street) and the cars on this line are less crowded.
Here is one reason why I prefer the ride towards waterfront – you get better views of the bay.
San Francisco is full of fun residential architecture, practically on every block. One drawback of our jumping from highlight to highlight is only getting fleeting glimpses of houses like these, and too few of them at all.
A different kind of tram, very retro-looking to my eyes, runs the length of the Embarcadero.
The famous Alcatraz Island as seen from Fishermans Wharf.
Here is a view to the city from the wharf area. Coit Tower and Transamerica Pyramid define the skyline.
Pier 43 Ferry Arch provides a frame to USS Jeremiah O’Brien, a retired participant of the Normandy Beach invasion.
Lombard Street, “the crookedest street in the world”. It is, in fact, a single crookedest block on otherwise straight street. You need an elevated viewpoint to properly appreciate it, but these shots give the idea.
Fun colorful houses can be found here as well.
And here is a perspective similar to what I once posted in my “postcard shots” collection. This is the top of the crookedest block, at the intersection of Hyde and Lombard.
You can see Alcatraz from here as well.
Next are the famous Painted Ladies, a row of Victorian houses on Alamo Square.
De Young Museum, located in Golden Gate Park, offers elevated perspectives over the city from the upper floor of its tower. Here is the view over Richmond District towards Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge.
A view to the California Academy of Sciences and the Twin Peaks in the distance.
The structure in the foreground on the right is called the Music Concourse and the residential area beyond the park in that direction is called Inner Sunset.
And here is a look at the de Young Museum, a striking building by itself.
The gardens separating de Young from the Academy of Sciences.
Our last stop was near Horseshoe Bay, one of the less frequented spots for great pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge.
We could also see the city from here as well.
There are plenty of viewpoints, streets, and points of interest in San Francisco that could not fit in such a short visit. I am sure this was not our last one – we’ll catch more of them eventually.
An extended gallery of shots from Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, and San Francisco, can be found on Flickr.