It’s the jewel of the Embarcadero. San Franciscans flock to the street-level gourmet Market Hall, stocking up on supplies from local favorites such as Acme Bread, Scharffen Berger Chocolate, and Cowgirl Creamery; lucky diners claim a coveted table at Slanted Door, the city’s beloved high-end Vietnamese restaurant. Extending from the piers on the north side of the building south to the Bay Bridge, the waterfront promenade is a favorite among joggers and walkers. Embarcadero at foot of Market St.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Swiss architect Mario Botta designed the striking building that houses SFMOMA. Completed in 1995, the design consists of a sienna brick facade and a central tower of alternating bands of black and white stone. Inside, natural light from the tower floods the central atrium and some of the museum’s galleries. Works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol form the heart of the diverse permanent collection. The photography holdings are unusually strong. 151 3rd St.
The most distinctive structure on the skyline. Inside the tower, 19 Depression-era murals depict economic and political life in California. The government commissioned the murals, and the 25 artists who painted them were each paid $38 a week. You can ride the elevator to the top of the tower to enjoy the view of the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. The views from the base of the tower are also expansive—and free. Telegraph Hill Blvd. at Greenwich St. or Lombard St, North Beach.
The block-long “Crookedest Street in the World” makes eight switchbacks down the east face of Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth streets. You take in super views of North Beach and Coit Tower whether you walk or drive—though if you’re the one behind the wheel, you’d better keep your eye on the road lest you become yet another of the many folks who ram the garden barriers. Go slowly. Lombard St. between Hyde and Leavenworth Sts., Russian Hill.
Palace of Fine Arts
At first glance this stunning, rosy rococo palace seems to be from another world, and indeed, it’s the sole survivor of the many tinted-plaster structures built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The expo lasted for 288 days, and the buildings extended about a mile along the shore. Bernard Maybeck designed this faux Roman Classic beauty, which was reconstructed in concrete and reopened in 1967. The massive columns, great rotunda (dedicated to the glory of Greek culture), and swan-filled lagoon have been used in countless fashion layouts and films. Baker and Beach Streets.
Conservatory of Flowers
Many first-time visitors gasp in awe when they see this gorgeous, white-framed glass structure, and locals will tell you that its effect isn’t much dimmed over time. Built in the late 1870s, the oldest building in the park is the last remaining wood-frame Victorian conservatory in the country. It’s also a copy of the conservatory in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, England. John F. Kennedy Dr. at Conservatory Dr., Golden Gate Park.