Looking for the best hidden gems in San Francisco? You’ve come to the right place! I’m sharing all my favorite secret spots in San Francisco right over here, so you can be sure you’ll see way more than the typical tourist attractions on your next trip to the Bay!
San Francisco is weird, wacky, and downright wonderful. We’ve got literally everything right here — from world class sunset views and foodie restaurants to hidden nature trails and flowery houses. And it’s super easy to get off the beaten path in San Francisco — as long as you know where to look!
The city is filled with tons of secret spots, from beach swings with Golden Gate Bridges views and hidden concrete slides, to secret alleyways and 100 foot tall sculptures in the middle of the forest.
But everyone just visits the tourist hot spots when they visit — and I get it! There’s just so much to explore here in the Bay! There’s Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge (obviously!), Alcatraz, Chinatown, the Painted Ladies in Alamo Square (the famous “Full House” Victorians), etc. Among 100 other things (check out my full SF bucket list here)!
But if you wanna get away from those typical touristy places (hey, I still love them!), check out a few San Francisco hidden gems! And you’ve got lots to choose from in this post!
So if you’re visiting SF for the first time or you’ve been here more times than you can count, make sure to add a few of these secret spots in San Francisco to your SF itinerary!
Secret Views in San Francisco
1. Hamon Observation Deck at de Young Museum
Entrance into one of the best hidden gems in San Francisco for FREE? Don’t mind if I do! If you’re hanging out at Golden Gate Park, don’t miss the FREE panoramic 360° views of downtown San Francisco from the Hamon Observation Tower!
Open to everyone, even if you don’t have a ticket to the art museum (just follow the signs upstairs from the entrance). You can see Golden Gate Park, the Richmond District, the ocean, and more for miles and miles. Best to come on a sunny day so you can actually see the views (although watching the fog roll in is super SF haha).
2. Hawk Hill and Battery Spencer
Looking for the best views of the famed Golden Gate Bridge? Head on over the bridge to Marin! Here you’ll find two of my favorite San Francisco hidden gems — Hawk Hill and Battery Spencer!
As I mentioned, you’ll need to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to get to these two secret spots in San Francisco, but trust me — they’re well worth it! I wouldn’t have you heading out of the city if they weren’t absolutely spectacular (promise).
Head to Battery Spencer for a super-close view, or a bit further (but just as beautiful view) from Hawk Hill. I LOVE coming here for sunset; the views are just insane, just bring a warm jacket — it’s usually super windy and chilly over here!
3. Kirby Cove
If you’re looking for another one of the best San Francisco hidden gems over the bridge, make the short 1.5 mile trek down to Kirby Cove. Not officially in the city itself, BUT the views of the bridge from the beach are just too good to pass up, so we’re counting it!
There’s sometimes a swing over here with coveted views of the bridge and SF skyline, but it gets cut down so often I wouldn’t expect to find it. I’m dying to go camping over here — it’s highly sought after for a reason! The views!!!! Absolutely gorgeous on a clear day!
4. Treasure Island
We finally made it to Treasure Island a few months back, and I have no clue why it took us so long to get over there! The drive’s only a few miles from downtown, and even better — it’s free (despite needing to go on the Bay Bridge for a few!).
Don’t miss an alfresco lunch on the outdoor patio at Mersea, and a walk along the paved path overlooking the water. Such a great view of the SF skyline and Bay Bridge! There’s also wine tasting, kayaking, and stand-up paddling over here too! Such a fun mini “day trip” from the city for a few hours — you really don’t even feel like you’re in San Francisco anymore!
5. Tank Hill
Hidden behind the famous (and overly popular) Twin Peaks, Tank Hill remains a local jewel, well, until now that is! I’ll never not share my secret spots in San Francisco with you guys, don’t you worry.
And from up here — expect to find one of the best views and sunsets in San Francisco (without the hordes of tourists). You’ll see the ocean and Golden Gate Park to your left, the Golden Gate Bridge staring right at you, as well as the Saint Ignatius church not too far away! Most locals don’t even know about this park, making it one of the best hidden gems in SF!
6. California Street View
Here’s something a bit different than our usual SF views — an actual cityscape! And why’s it got that spectacular view? Because it’s one of the hilliest parts of the city (gotta put in that leg work!).
From here you’ll see Chinatown pagodas, downtown skyscrapers, and even a photogenic red Muni stripe! And the Bay Bridge actually peeks out right between the buildings — look closely! Walk up the street to get to a higher vantage point (the section between Grant and Stockton — right near The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco — is extra photogenic, and where I took that photo).
If you wanna ride an iconic SF cable car, I highly suggest you choose the California Street Line Cable Car over the more popular Powell Line — I love the views even more!
7. Bernal Heights Park
Yes, this is where that coveted swing in San Francisco is (well, one of them)! If it’s there (it sometimes gets taken down), you’ll undoubtedly need to wait in line. The park stretches above the Mission and gives you a unique view of downtown San Francisco and the entire Mission District. Definitely climb the stairs to get a tad higher.
Pro tip → you can drive almost to the top and park in the neighborhood to avoid most of the hike! One of the best spots for sunset in San Francisco!
8. Ina Coolbrith Park
A park that seems like an oasis in a big city? That’s Ina Coolbrith Park for ya! And trust me, you can easily overlook it (which many visitors, and even locals do!). But don’t → it gives one of the most spectacular views of downtown San Francisco (making for a wonderful sunset in SF)!
The buildings are so close it almost seems as if the city is standing right in front of you! AND if you visit during spring, there’ll be tons of California poppies growing here.
9. Fort Point National Historic Site
Most people who come to Fort Point come for the views — I mean, you can essentially get right underneath the Golden Gate Bridge to take the coolest photos! How sweet is that to be standing under the bridge?
But what most people don’t actually realize, is that Fort Point is one of the most important historic sites in SF with over two centuries of history, built in the Civil War era. There’s a whole series of exhibits about the military history of SF, as well as guided tours, Civil War reenactments, and cannon drills (with limited hours).
Head to Level 1 of the Fort to check out the many old cannons on display, and Level 2 for panoramic views of the Bay and an up-close view of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Super Quirky Hidden Gems in San Francisco
10. Yoda Fountain and Statue
Calling all Star Wars lovers! Have I found one of the best hidden gems in San Francisco for you or what?! Don’t miss the Yoda Fountain outside the Lucasfilm HQ, an iconic stop for any Star Wars fan. And it’s located in the Presidio, next to a whole bunch of other secret spots in San Francisco, so definitely worth the quick stop!
You can even go inside the lobby headquarters for free to check out R2D2 and other iconic Star Wars props and memorabilia. Don’t miss the nearby Letterman Digital Arts Center Recycled Water Pond — it’s gorgeous on a sunny day!
11. Golden Gate Park Bison
Yup, there’s real-life bison living here in Golden Gate Park. I told you we’ve got our fair share of unique secret spots in San Francisco! And no, they weren’t randomly placed here, haha. They were brought to San Francisco (GGP in particular) in the 1890’s when the species was close to extinction.
And guess what they did? Repopulated! Over 100 calves were born in the captive breeding program over here. Woo!
12. Seward Street Slides
Concrete slides hidden within a mini neighborhood park (Seward Mini Park)? Yes, please! Unleash your inner child; even my dad had an absolute blast on these during his last visit to San Francisco. Just be careful – they’re super steep.
FYI: Bring a piece of cardboard to slide down on so you don’t rip your pants — it’s happened before! There may or may not be some extra cardboard at the bottom, but you won’t know until you get there — best to just bring your own! And if you wanna go extra fast, throw some sand down the slide first!
13. Vermont Street
Super crooked and super fun (depending on who you ask)! Everyone thinks Lombard Street is the curviest street in San Francisco, but it’s actually Vermont Street over in Potrero Hill. It’s not a place we go often, and definitely not as scenic as popular Lombard, but fun to drive down and say you’ve been to the windiest spot!
Those sharp hairpin turns really are something (thank god they’re one way)! The windy part of the street goes right through McKinley Square, a huge hilly green space with a fun playground for kids (basically another hidden gem in San Francisco to add to the list!).
14. Dangling Legs at Piedmont Boutique
Okay, so it’s not really one of the most secret spots in San Francisco as it’s literally on a super popular street in a popular neighborhood. BUT you’d probably walk right past it and not give it any thought had I not mentioned it here! Look up above the Piedmont Boutique and you’ll see the hot and sexy mannequin legs — in red high heels and fishnet stockings dangling from the window of the Victorian building.
Located on Haight Street within the Haight-Ashbury, expect to find lots of outlandish fashion like sequins, faux fur, and feathers. The whole area is super unique and just so fun to walk around, but don’t miss these giant legs (by far one of my favorite neighborhoods in SF for exploring!).
15. Camera Obscura
Yes, there’s a whole slew of hidden gems in San Francisco near Lands End! And the Camera Obscura is another one! You just need to go! This one is located right behind the popular Cliff House (now sadly closed).
What’s the Camera Obscura you ask? Essentially, a giant pinhole camera (and it actually works – go inside to see the projections and holograms!). It has weird hours so if you can’t go inside, no sweat, the views alone are worth the short trek from Lands End.
16. Sutro Baths
History lovers will love this hidden gem in San Francisco! The Sutro Baths were originally built in 1896, and were a privately-owned, salt-water swimming pool complex with 7 pools! But the entire structure was ruined in a fire, so now it’s “open” for visitors to explore the remnants.
You can even see a small glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge if you walk up the concrete outlook far enough and look over the coast. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, head down to explore the huge sea cave with the waves crashing below. Crazy to imagine what it used to look like!
17. Three Gems Skyspace by James Turrel
You caught me — I haven’t actually made it here just yet (it’s part of the deYoung Museum and I didn’t even know about this secret spot in San Francisco before writing this list of hidden gems). BUT I will definitely be visiting next time I’m at the deYoung!
What is it exactly? A permanent piece in the deYoung’s Osher Sculpture Garden and a hidden spot to view the sky (or stars!) through the oculus hole at the top. There’s LED lighting which changes based on the weather — sounds pretty cool to me!
Super Off the Beaten Path in San Francisco
18. The Wave Organ
An instrument that is actually played by the San Francisco Bay itself? Whoa! Found perched on the shores of the SF Bay, the metal pipes of the Wave Organ generate liquid music as waves roll in, creating low notes that match the restless movement of the tide (how cool is this?!). Some say it kinda sounds like a flushing toilet or a gurgle, but still cool nonetheless.
You need to get lucky to hear the noises, as the most I’ve ever heard is a bit of gurgling. It’s a hit or miss situation, as the noises highly depend on the tide! If you’re hoping to hear the musical sounds, definitely come during high tide. But regardless of when you visit, you’ll get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and San Francisco skyline!
19. Albion Castle
Did you know there’s a real-life 6-story stone castle located within SF proper?! Kinda crazy, right?! It has a long winded history (a total time capsule!), but has since been sold and is now private property. You can’t even see the castle from the street.
Because of this, I wasn’t even sure if I should include Albion Castle on this list of San Francisco hidden gems, but here we are! It’s kinda cool to know there’s a 140-year-old castle with underground caves right here in the city, despite not being able to visit (haha). I mean, most residents of SF don’t even know this place exists!
And better yet, it’s right next to the Flights of Fancy mosaic steps, one of the most colorful hidden gems in San Francisco.
20. Jungle House
You’re walking on Church Street in Noe Valley and BAM — there’s a house decked out with wild animals and even metal leaves sprouting from the rooftop! The entire house is painted with a jungle theme in mind (with tons of jungle animals), and it’s downright gorgeous!
The detail is just amazing — so intricate and colorful. The garbage bins are even painted to perfectly fit into the scene! Where to find it? On Church Street between 22nd and 23rd!
21. Mt. Davidson
A Eucalyptus forest! A memorial cross! Unique perspectives of the city! A visit to Mt. Davidson is like checking off a whole bunch of secret places in San Francisco in one! Looking for the highest point to watch the sunset in San Francisco? You’ll find that over here at Mt. Davidson!
The best views are actually during sunrise, but if you’re allergic to early mornings (like I am), you’ll find sunset to be just as spectacular! And from up here, be on the lookout for the fog rolling in over the city → it’s honestly so remarkable to see! Okay, fine, Karl the fog, you win — just sometimes!
22. Macondray Lane
Probably one of the prettiest spots on this list of secret places in San Francisco! You’ll love strolling along cobblestoned Macondray Lane, a small pedestrian street with flower gardens, fruit trees, and even a little zen fountain.
Those in the know love it so much that it’s even been added to the National Register of Historic Places back in 1988! The street can be found on the southeastern side of Russian Hill not terribly far from Lombard Street, the super-famous crooked street in SF.
23. Frame in Hunters Point
Wanna truly get off the beaten path in San Francisco? Head to the “frame” in Hunters Point! And it’s exactly what it sounds like → a massive and ornate walk-through picture frame! It’s an enlarged version of an antique Rococo style frame, literally framing the multiple views and perspectives of the shipyard’s landscape.
Mildred Howard, an African-American artist, created this 20 foot tall bronze sculpture, making it by far one of the most unique hidden gems in San Francisco. Plus, there’s a whole pathway with additional pieces of art, so definitely add this whole area to your must-visit secret spots in San Francisco
24. Musee Mecanique
Any gamers in the house?! You need to visit Musee Mecanique, an old fashioned museum with unique coin-operated instruments and vintage arcade games! I mean, some of the games are over 100 years old; think Mrs. Pac Man and Pirates of the Caribbean pinball!!
If you don’t have coins, don’t fret — there’s a few change machines inside the museum. You can walk through for free, or play a whole bunch of games! Learn about the history of entertainment and games over the decade, including the technological advancements of those times. One of the most unique museums in SF for sure (a true San Francisco hidden gem), located on Pier 45 in Fisherman’s Wharf.
25. Spire by Andy Goldsworthy
If you’re already in the Presidio, make your way to Spire, a tall outdoor sculpture by acclaimed artist Andy Goldsworthy. The piece symbolizes forest rejuvenation, and is made completely of material found in nature (exactly 38 Monterey cypress trees whose time had come).
It’s amazing how many people have no clue it’s over here in the Presidio! Definitely one of San Francisco’s most secret spots and literally in the middle of the woods. Find it near the southern entrance of the Presidio on Arguello Blvd near the golf course.
Secret Stairways and Steps
26. 16th Avenue Steps and Grand View Park
There’s lots of mosaic stairways in San Francisco, but the 16th Avenue Steps are by far my favorite! Along the entire pathway you’ll find vivid tiles, stained glass, and even pieces of shattered mirror! And the fact that the entire design is based on the sea and sky makes me love it even more! We ALWAYS take visitors here, no matter what!
Walk allllll the way up the tiled steps and on a few more switchbacks (and a few more stairs), and you’ll reach Grand View Park with all of SF below you. Plus, the sunsets in Grand View Park are outta this world. Makes sense because there’s breathtaking, sweeping vistas of the bay, and it’s hardly ever crowded!
27. Lincoln Park Steps
If you’re spending the day hiking in Lands End (suuuuch pretty views here!), swing by the Lincoln Park Steps! I have a thing for mosaic steps, and these are some of the widest ones in the entire city! The community raised money to replace the old, broken steps that were covered in debris and graffiti. And what do we have now? An intricate pattern design and benches to relax on!
28. Hidden Garden Steps
My second favorite of the tiled steps in SF, so I just had to include it on this list of hidden gems in San Francisco. It’s hardly visited, despite being super close to the more popular 16th Avenue Steps in the Outer Sunset! The mosaics are just as spectacular — there’s blooming flowers, cute butterflies, and even a salamander that slithers up the steps.
And once you’re done admiring all the tiles, walk your butt over for some fresh focaccia at Arizmendi Bakery — you’ve earned it!
29. Miraloma Stairs
The newest set of mosaic steps in SF, and boy are they beautiful! You’ll find this staircase at an elementary school in Miraloma Park. The main feature is the tiled dragon, which is the mascot of Miraloma Elementary — how fitting!
Go take a look; the secret steps are kinda like a floating textbook — think of a tiled curriculum of alphabets, words, numbers, math problems, and more! There’s even inspirational quotes from Michelle Obama, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde. The entire staircase kinda gives off a whimsical feeling, and I can’t get enough of it.
30. Lyon Street Steps
Locals certainly know about these steps (and actually use them for exercise), but I never see visitors over here! With over 300 steps, this hefty climb is a strenuous workout that’ll leave your legs aching and heart racing. And plenty of people use them to workout — so be courteous and let them pass you!
Once you’ve reached the top (from Green Street), you’ll be rewarded with the most marvelous city views. You can see the Palace of Fine Arts, blue water, and even Marin and Tiburon on a clear day. And psst – it’s really not toooo hard, and you’ll earn your snack break!
Or you can just park at the top and get the views without doing all the hard work (just start on Broadway instead). Don’t say I never shared my secrets. :p Don’t miss the golden SF heart on the way up or down — it’s such a beauty! One of my favorite San Francisco hidden gems by far!
Psst → there’s actually a whole slew of secret stairways, and they’re all pretty much hidden gems in San Francisco! You really gotta know where to look! Check out this post of all my favorites (including a whole bunch most locals don’t even know about!)
Nature-y Hidden Gems in San Francisco
31. Huntington Falls
I’m sorry, but this just wouldn’t be a complete list of hidden gems in San Francisco without mentioning this secret waterfall in Golden Gate Park! Most people have zero clue there’s a waterfall over here in the middle of the city, let alone the busiest lake in the park.
Admire the falls from either the rocky lower footpath or above it from the bridge for a completely different angle! It’s close to the Golden Gate Pavilion (a Chinese temple-like structure given to SF as a gift from Taipei!) so make sure you walk over there as well (another of the secret spots in San Francisco!).
32. Lands End Labyrinth
Follow the winding pathway, and you’ll find the Land Ends Labyrinth hiding away on a cosy cliff corner. The Golden Gate Bridge is even far off in the distance — look closely and you’ll see it!
Thank you to artist Eduardo Aguilera for creating this beautiful labyrinth (in 2004!) for us all to enjoy! You can’t not take a picture here! I’m not sure if this is truly one of the secret spots in San Francisco anymore, as it’s typically pretty crowded! But you really need to know what you’re looking for in order to find it! It’s really tucked away!
33. The Parrots of Telegraph Hill and The Filbert Stairs
If you’re headed to Coit Tower, don’t take the easy way up by driving! The Filbert Street Steps are some of the most picturesque in all of the Bay (kinda feels like you’re in a fairy garden), and offer ah-maz-ing views of the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. One of those secret places in San Francisco you just can’t miss!
And one of the hardest to find (I’ve attempted climbing the stairs a few times in the past but couldn’t find the entrance without looking up specific directions, haha!). If you don’t know where to find the steps, the starting point can be kinda confusing. Head to the corner of Sansome and Filbert and you’ll find them right away (kinda hard to miss).
On your way up the wooden steps (all 200 or so of them), don’t miss Napier Lane — a sidewalk lined with pre-1900, cottage-like homes! Seriously, too cute. And always be on the lookout for wild parrots of Telegraph Hill! Yes, parrots! Although you may hear them before you see them!
34. Marshall’s Beach
If you’re on the lookout for a wondrous view of the Golden Gate bridge, you’re in luck at this at this secluded shorefront spot. Just note there’s always a bunch of nudes over here, so keep an open mind and remember — you’re in SF.
You’ll need to put in some effort if you wanna get off the beaten path in San Francisco, but I promise you it’s more than worth it! You can access the beach along the rugged Batteries to Bluffs trail, with tons and tons and tons of stairs. If you’re not looking to do the entire trail, start near the Golden Gate Overlook (there’ll be significantly less stairs, although still lots). And yes, regardless of the route you pick, that means you earned your dessert for the day (my favorite desserts in SF right over here)!
35. Transamerica Redwood Park
Did you know you can see actual redwoods in San Francisco? Yeah — without even leaving the city to go up to Muir Woods. SF’s got its own little redwood park (and yes it’s tiny, but it’s better than nothing!) Bring a book and relax on one of the benches underneath the green oasis → you won’t even realize you’re surrounded by glass and steel skyscrapers!
36. Fort Funston
Get off the beaten path in San Francisco and head on over to Fort Funston. If you usually head to Ocean Beach and Baker Beach, try something different. This spot is steep (we’re talking about 200-foot-high bluffs!) and is awesome for hang gliding (watch them take off and land — so fun!), hiking, and even horseback riding!
Check out Battery Davis, spot whales off in the distance, and admire the views of Funston Beach all the way to Ocean Beach from the cliffs. It’s also one of the best hidden gems in SF for dog lovers! Dogs are allowed to run off leash here, so you’re bound to see lots of cute pups. Any dog’s happy paradise!
37. Stern Grove
More secret redwood groves right here in SF itself! But Stern Grove is more than just trees — there’s a theatre, trails to Pine Lake, and a popular dog park (with TONS of off-leash pups, swoon!). Most locals know the area for the yearly Stern Grove Music Concerts on Summer Sundays (the acoustics are just amazing, but make sure to get there early ~10am to secure a good spot!). Pick up some desserts in San Francisco (and of course some wine) and have a picnic in the redwoods – during the concert or any other time!
38. Spreckels Lake
Hardly anyone comes to Spreckels Lake for some reason, making it one of the best hidden gems in San Francisco! It’s typically pretty quiet, so take a long walk around the lake and watch the ducks swim around (and turtles if you’re lucky). Since the SFMYC Boathouse is right here, you’ll sometimes see remote-controlled model boats sailing around. It’s always fun to watch a race!
Seasonal Secret Spots in San Francisco
39. Dutch Windmill and Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden
Visiting San Francisco in early Spring? You NEED to make your way to the Dutch Windmill! I mean, you can visit any time of year, but I love it most when the tulips are in full bloom. Hundreds, if not thousands of delicate tulips take over the surrounding area and fill it with vivid color – it’s a sight that will leave you searching for tickets to Amsterdam’s Tulip Festival!
40. Bougainvillea House
Over in the Marina (okay, technically Cow Hollow), you’ll find one of my favorite hidden gems in San Francisco — the bougainvillea house! Lush purpley-pink flowers are practically engulfing the entire house!
Psst — for the full effect, you’ll wanna go when the bougainvillea is actually in bloom! Come in summer for the prettiest blooms (they usually start blooming in May/June and last until September or so)! It’s literally covered from top to bottom in the prettiest pink flowers — any floral lovers dream! Find it on Baker and Lyon in Cow Hollow.
41. Shakespeare Garden
Looking for one of the most romantic things to do in Golden Gate Park? Look no further than Shakespeare’s Garden, one of my favorite hidden gems in SF! It’s even a popular place to get married in San Francisco!
What’s so special about Shakespeare Garden anyways? The flowers and plants are all mentioned in his plays and poems! There’s more than 200 flowers and plants over here, including poppies, mandrakes, daisies, violets, roses, and lilies. I recommend visiting in the spring and summer to see the plants in bloom, with trees and flowers lining the walkway.
42. Purple Wisteria House
Imagine a delicate fence literally dripping in whimsical purple wisteria. You’ll feel like you’re in a romantic English garden, not San Francisco! All the IGers keep this spot super hush hush — for what reason, I have NO idea. Shouldn’t everyone be enjoying these blooms?!
BUT now you know this gorgeous purple house is located at the cross section of Mariposa Street and Connecticut Street (in Potrero Hill). Wisteria typically blooms in April/May, so you’ll need to time your visit to coincide with the flowers! I haven’t made it there just yet, but it’s on my list for next spring!
43. Tom and Jerry’s House
Visiting SF during the Christmas holiday season? You NEED to go check out Tom and Jerry’s house for yourself. Located in The Castro at 3650 21st Street, it’s like Father Christmas threw up all over the house! There’s no fancy decorations and you won’t find a theme here — it’s chaotic and tacky and all kinds of amazing. Kinda like that ugly sweater you bought last year. 😉
You’ll find tons of stuffed animals, a huge decked out 65-foot tree, mini theme park rides made out of K’nex, and even a toy train running on tracks. Pure magic any time of day with an obscene amount of holiday spirit! Christmas overflows from every window, door, and face of the house! Absolutely insane! Tom unfortunately passed away in October 2020 after battling cancer, but the tradition continues.
Art and Culture
44. Goldsworthy Line & Lover’s Lane
Promise me you won’t miss the one-of-a-kind Andy Goldsworthy art installation “Wood Line” hidden away within a lush eucalyptus forest (yes, we have those in San Francisco!). The unique zig-zags of the fallen tree trunks make for great photo ops, so bring along your camera.
If you’re a nature lover, or just a lover of love, make sure to check this off your SF hidden gems bucket list! Grab your bf/gf/significant other/bff, and go for a romantic wander. I love doing this with my husband and little Kona!
45. Murals at Coit Tower
Sure, everyone knows about the spectacular views from atop the Coit Tower, but did you know there’s Diego Rivera murals at the base? To check out for FREE?! You’ll find these murals depicting California life during the Great Depression all around the inner and outer lobby walls surrounding the elevator, the steep inner staircase, and the second floor.
There’s expansive scenes of the SF Bay and hills, agriculture and farming, street scenes, sports, camping, and home life. You’ll even see frescoes depicting historic cable cars. One of those hidden gems in San Francisco that’s just not to be missed! And did I say it’s free?!
46 + 47. Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley
Here’s a two-for-one for ya! Two alleyways with the most colorful murals around! You just cannot visit the Mission District without stumbling upon its colorful, mural-filled alleyways. Every single surface is painted (sides of houses, fences, garage doors, etc).
The murals here are not just intricate works of art – the pieces have meaning, teaching about gentrification, modern politics, and the immigrant experience in SF. They’re thought-provoking, heart-breaking, and downright touching.
Don’t miss the Women’s Building nearby, completely covered by the MaestraPeace mural, and the Santana Mural on 19th. And once you get hungry, go grab a burrito from either El Farolito or La Taqueria – two local favorites down the block from each other.
48. Welcome to San Francisco mural
SF finally got its own welcome mural like other cities have! FINALLY! It used to be one of my favorite hidden gems in San Francisco, but it’s recently gotten more popular! As it should — because it’s absolutely beautiful! You can find the mural in Umbrella Alley, a new art alleyway/installation, recently created only a few years ago. There’s a whole slew of other paintings/murals here, including a gorgeous piece by Kate Tova and a super fun Fnnch honey bear! Don’t miss it! One of my favorite secret places in San Francisco, for now at least!
49. Jack Kerouac Alley
An alleyway on this list of secret spots in San Francisco? You betcha. What used to be a dark, dingy, and downright seedy back street, has recently been revitalized into a colorful showpiece! Now you’ll find decorative streetlights, plaques with both Chinese poetry and Western literature, and lots of color!
This one-way pedestrian alleyway connects Grant Avenue in Chinatown to Columbus Avenue in North Beach (symbolic of the connection between the two neighborhoods). It was named after Jack Kerouac, a Beat Generation writer who used to hang out at the pub and nearby bookstore a lot.
And better yet, it’s sandwiched between Vesuvio Cafe and City Lights Booksellers (one of the best bookstores in the whole city). Walk down the alleyway into Chinatown and check out the Zodiac Wall, one of the raddest hidden gems in San Francisco!
50. Grace Cathedral Labyrinth
If you quickly walked by this soaring church, you’d have no clue there were two walking labyrinths on its grounds. There’s an indoor and outdoor labyrinth, both just as spectacular! It would make for such a fun photo spot! Admire the stained glass windows — they’re absolutely spectacular! But again, the entire massive cathedral is a true masterpiece, so that’s no surprise there.
You can go inside for free without a guide, but there are spots to give a donation if you’d like. And if you happen to be there at the right time (Tuesdays at 6:15pm), you can even do some Yoga on the Labyrinth! Imagine practicing your poses underneath Gothic arches and stained glass windows, while listening to soothing and enchanting live music. Still on my SF bucket list.
So there ya have it — all my favorite hidden gems in San Francisco! Which of these secret spots in San Francisco are you adding to your next visit?!