San Francisco has countless spots perfect for the ’gram. From architectural gems in the Financial District to water towers in the Excelsior, the city was made for the soothing social media platform. But the most frequently Instagrammed spots (i.e., AT&T Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge) are also tourist meccas. Where do you go for a good shot that isn’t saturated with people?
We’re curated a list of our favorite places to put images on Instagram—spots that will freshen up your listless feed. Some of them rarely-frequented, some of them spots within tourist traps.
Have a place in San Francisco that surprise you by garnering heaps of like on your Instagram? Let us know in the comments.
While Clarion Alley draws a large, more tourist-filled crowd—the small stretch of street between Valencia and Mission is also a stop on several walking tours—the lesser known Lilac Alley boasts some the greatest street art in the city.
Chinatown alleyways tend to fall victim to seedy tales from the past—whatever grabs the attention of tourists seeking a lurid look at the bygone days. But there’s more to these small stretches of street than sensational lore. Created as a way to help ease the density of the neighborhood, these alleys show off the real Chinatown that goes beyond the restaurants and souvenir shops.
One Bush Plaza
Completed in 1959 by SOM, this sleek midcentury tower, with a glass-enclosed lobby that seems to float, is ideal for the ’gram. Don’t forget to snap a few shots of the small circular building facing Market Street, now an E-Trade office, which is a stunning specimen of the era’s architecture.
Fairmont Hotel Roof Garden
Skip the hustle of the busy (though gorgeous) lobby and walk all the way to the back of the hotel for one of San Francisco’s best kept secrets. The roof garden is a delight and has epic views of the entire Financial District.
La Grande Tank
For some, even Sutro Tower is too played out. Enter the Excelsior water tower, the real landmark of locals. Officially called La Grande Tank, this Tiffany-blue water tower can be found atop McLaren Park and is one of the first things folks see as they enter the city on Interstate 280.
The sea lions Fisherman’s Wharf’s Pier 39
Not so shocking, Fisherman’s Wharf is one of San Francisco’s most ’grammed spots. But among the many tourist traps in the neighborhood, our favorite Instagram moment are the sea lions who gather on Pier 39 to soak up some sun and mingle with their fellow otariidae.
The simplicity of Red’s Java House
Ramshackle. Nondescript. Weathered. Competing with towering giants across the street and the Bay Bridge directly to its left, the unassuming nature of Red’s Java House along the Embarcadero proves to be a blast of fresh air for Insta.
The underbelly of the Diamond Heights
The midcentury homes in Diamond Heights, care of noted developer Joseph Eichler, are a wonder to behold at street level. Want a better, adrenaline-inducing look? Head down the hiking trail that borders Glen Park Canyon. Here you will find homes perched on concrete pillars. Not for the faint of heart.
450 Sutter Medical/Dental Building
Impending root canals and cavity fillings are made a touch easier with a trip to this Timothy Pflueger-designed building just off Union Square. Known for its “neo-Mayan” Art Deco design, it was completed in 1929. Of special note is the lobby interior, which stands as one of the city’s finest.
V.C. Morris Gift Shop
Frank Lloyd Wright’s V.C. Morris Gift Shop at 140 Maiden Lane, whose circular ramp was the prototype design for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, is now an Italian men’s clothing store. The clear exterior with repeating brick arches is a highlight tucked away on Maiden Lane.