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San Francisco Sights

Coit Tower

  • Building/Architectural Site

Updated 05/05/2014

Fodor's Review

Whether or not you agree that it resembles a fire-hose nozzle, this 210-foot tower is among San Francisco's most distinctive skyline sights. Although the monument wasn't intended as a tribute to firemen, it's often considered as such because of the donor's special attachment to the local fire company. As the story goes, a young gold rush–era girl, Lillie Hitchcock Coit (known as Miss Lil), was a fervent admirer of her local fire company—so much so that she once deserted

a wedding party and chased down the street after her favorite engine, Knickerbocker No. 5, while clad in her bridesmaid finery. She became the Knickerbocker Company's mascot and always signed her name "Lillie Coit 5." When Lillie died in 1929 she left the city $125,000 to "expend in an appropriate manner... to the beauty of San Francisco."

You can ride the elevator to the top of the tower—the only thing you have to pay for here—to enjoy the view of the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge; due north is Alcatraz Island. Most visitors saunter right past the19 fabulous Depression-era murals inside the tower that depict California's economic and political life, but take the time to appreciate the first New Deal art project supported by taxpayer money. The federal government commissioned the paintings from 25 local artists, and ended up funding a controversy. The radical Mexican painter Diego Rivera inspired the murals' socialist-realist style, with its biting cultural commentary, particularly about the exploitation of workers. At the time the murals were painted, clashes between management and labor along the waterfront and elsewhere in San Francisco were widespread. The elements, the thousands of visitors that pass by them every year, and the lack of climate control in the tower have taken their toll on the murals, but restoration work done on the tower in 2013 should help protect them. The views from the tower's base are also expansive—and free. Parking at Coit Tower is limited; in fact, you may have to wait (and wait) for a space. Spare yourself the frustration and hike up, if you're in good shape, or take the 39 bus.

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Sight Information

Address:

Telegraph Hill Blvd. at Greenwich St. or Lombard St., San Francisco, California, 94133, United States

Phone:

415-362–0808

Sight Details:

  • Free; elevator to top $7
  • Mar.–Sept., daily 10–5:30; Oct.–Feb., daily 9–4:30

Updated 05/05/2014

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Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating

By Jeff

  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Nov 13, 2005

Sights from Coit are something to exploit

Best place to see most of the sights SF has to offer.

By Denise

  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Mar 4, 2005

There's got to be a better way to get there

The view from atop Coit Tower may be fantastic, but I also come for the beautiful murals depicting the San Francisco history on the main level. Parking is horrendous at the top of Telegraph Hill where Coit Tower is located. Cars will idle for 20-30 minutes waiting for someone to pull out of a parking spot. Once I walked about 6 blocks to the top of Telegraph Hill and boy was that steep! I don't recommend that. If there was only a good way to

get there. But don't let that stop you from going.

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By Philip

  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Jun 9, 2004

spectacular views

There is a long line of cars on the winding approach to this aerie, but the glorious views are worth the wait.The view of the golden gate is superb, but I love the cityscape looking towards Russian hill. I recommend a walk here, especially visiting the Eastern slope with it's Barbary coast ambiance and "tales of the city" hidden gardens.I live in S.F. and I enjoy this spot.

By Judy

  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Apr 5, 2003

Coit Tower Parking Problem; view can be found elsewhere

Although the Coit Tower is one of San Francisco's landmarks, the view from the tower can be found other places, such as the Bank of America Building (free) and the Glass Elevators at the Drake Hotel. The admission is inexpensive, but the top of the tower has panels which obstruct the view and photo ops. There is a panoramic 360 view from the top. Warming the elevator is rickety. Parking area is small and you may have to wait a minimum of 20-30

minutes for a parking spot (first come, first serve) For those who can climb, there is a stairway from the street below, but good luck finding or getting to it. Telegraph Hill is quite a ride in itself. You can also see Lombard Street from the Tower.

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