Visiting the City by the Bay and looking for some fun, interactive murals for your IG feed? Don’t miss Umbrella Alley in San Francisco — it’s where you’ll find the Greetings from San Francisco mural and lots more! Here’s everything you need to know about this colorful little alleyway in Fisherman’s Wharf!
The first time I visited Umbrella Alley, it was half completed. I recently returned for a second (and third!) visit, and there’s now lots more to see! I’ll definitely be taking friends and family to Umbrella Alley when they come to visit San Francisco. But what is it exactly?! It’s a colorful hub of (free) interactive murals nestled in a narrow alleyway in San Francisco!
Umbrella Alley is a seriously charming spot — yes it’s touristy, but I love it’s fresh, playful, and colorful vibe. And it’s always a work in progress — with new murals being painted on the regular and fun installations hung above (like rainbow balloons and umbrellas). It’s an explosion of color — every square inch is plastered with paint, even on the ground!
I’m sure you’ve seen photos of the ‘Greetings from San Francisco’ mural — it’s all over social media (particularly IG) and is especially colorful! That’s the main attraction in Umbrella Alley in SF!
Everytime I visit, I see people give the alley a quick glance and then move right on. Don’t be one of those people! Actually come in and take some pics! It’s easily one of the most colorful areas in the city and one of the best spots for instagram photos in San Francisco!
Umbrella Alley used to be one of the best hidden spots in the city, but it’s now pretty well known thanks to social media (and rightfully so — the artists deserve to get their work recognized)! It’s a must on any 3-day San Francisco itinerary, especially since it’s so close to where so many tourists visit (Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf).
The alleyway is full of photo spots in San Francisco — there’s the Fisherman’s Wharf crabby Fnnch honey bear, a psychedelic butterfly, a gorgeous decoupage of pink and red and white hearts, umbrellas and balloons hanging from the ceiling, a gorgeous Kate Tova heart, and a whole bunch more. All the murals are selected to reflect San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf, California, and travel in general (but mostly California). And I can’t get enough of it.
Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about Umbrella Alley in San Francisco!
Background of Umbrella Alley
It all started during the pandemic. Well, a few weeks before that actually. Brian (the creator of Umbrella Alley and owner of Electric Tour Company) started painting the pavement of his space at the Electric Tour Company when tourism businesses started to feel the effects of the pandemic. There were already a few plans in the making for murals, but they never stopped, and he employed local artists to continue beautifying the entire alleyway and the interior of his garage.
I’ve been able to kinda watch Umbrella Alley come to life. The first time I visited I couldn’t even get in because we didn’t realize the hours were so wonky, but the rainbow zigzag floor wasn’t even painted yet! The next time I came, a bunch of the murals were completed but the balloon and umbrella ceiling wasn’t installed yet. And last time I visited, the umbrellas were starting to get painted on the wall near Kate Tova’s heart. Like I said before, it’s always a work in progress, and you can expect to see new things from time to time!
Where to Find Umbrella Alley and How to Get There
Umbrella Alley is located in Fisherman’s Wharf, the super touristy area of San Francisco. Locals tend to stay away from here, but I can attest visiting every so often is actually kinda fun! Especially to see the ever-changing murals evolve at Umbrella Alley (and of course indulge in some cotton candy at Pier 39).
But you’ll definitely need to pop the address (or simply ‘Umbrella Alley’) into your GPS, as it’s not the easiest to find if you don’t know where you’re looking. Exact address: 757 Beach St, San Francisco
It’s in the west end of Fisherman’s Wharf, not far from Ghirardelli Square, the Aquatic Park, and Buena Vista Cafe (try a famous Irish Coffee afterwards — perfect on a chilly SF day!). If you see Wells Fargo Bank ATM, you know you’re in the right spot, but trust me, once you’re there, it’s REALLY hard to miss (so much color)!
- Public transport near Umbrella Alley: Thankfully, FIsherman’s Wharf is easily accessible from all points in SF via public transportation. The Powell/Hyde Cable Car ends right across the street, although the wait to board from downtown SF can be super long. Check the SFMTA — MUNI who operates the Cable Cars, F Line, and Bus System. You can also visit www.511.org for any transit questions you’ve got!
- Driving to Umbrella Alley and where to park: We tend to drive into the city since we live near Palo Alto (a bit south), and timing really depends on traffic that day. Hate to break it to ya, but parking’s definitely kinda difficult over here and there’s a 2 hour max limit. BUT if you do happen to be visiting on a Sunday, street parking is free (only on Sundays)! If parking in a paid garage is more your style, there’s the Anchorage Shopping Center Garage (two blocks away) and the Ghirardelli Square Garage (1 ½ blocks away).
Opening Hours of Umbrella Alley
The first time I attempted to visit Umbrella Alley, it was closed. Womp, womp… whoops! Just for the record, the alleyway is located behind a locked gate, and not open if volunteer staff are not on site. We didn’t know that and expected to be able to waltz right in! Don’t be us — double check ahead of time!
Opening days and hours seem to change every so often, so double check it’s open before heading there if you’re not already in the area! The latest opening hours are as follows:
- Spring and Summer: 10am to 6pm daily
- Winter: 11am to sunset most weekends
Although it does seem like the days open are often increasing (especially in the winter), so definitely check. And the hours tend to change depending on the season and sometimes even weather.
Psst — always check the official UmbrellaAlleySF instagram account — they’re really good about posting their current hours. Hours do seem to change pretty frequently, so watching their Instagram stories are definitely essential!
- Crowds: Looking to get the alley all to yourself? Yes, it does happen! Visit during the week when less out-of-towners are going on tours, although I’ve never actually seen Umbrella Alley especially busy. And if there are some large crowds, most people only stay for max 15 minutes or so, so just wait them out!
- Beware of Shadows: Ironically, I like to visit Umbrella Alley on overcast/foggy days, as this is when shadows will be at a minimum for photos! If there’s too much sun, you’ll unfortunately get tons of nasty balloon shadows and lots of glare.
- Tripods: There are provided photo stands around Umbrella Alley (which you can move around), but I prefer to take my own mini tripod since I can never seem to get my phone to stand up by itself on the ones provided. Maybe I’m just not very coordinated though, as I’ve seen others do it just fine, haha.
- Try different angles! Stand up! Sit down. Spread your wings! Take your dog! Get up close! Make it fun of course — the whole premise of Umbrella Alley is to take pictures, so don’t be shy! Everyone here is doing the same thing!
- What to wear: Colors that won’t blend in — I wore light jeans and a white tank and like how I stood out against the different murals. But really though, anything kinda goes.
The ‘Greetings from San Francisco’ Mural
I have a slight suspicion (ok, a major feeling) that you’re coming to Umbrella Alley to take pictures with the ‘Greetings from San Francisco’ mural! I’m right, right?! :p This is definitely the star of the show here at Umbrella Alley in San Francisco, and easily one of the best photo spots in SF (great for that IG feed!).
If you haven’t heard, SF recently got it’s own ‘Greetings from San Francisco’ vintage postcard mural, like so many other big cities do. Finally! It’s a beauty and well worth the wait — completed and painted by the talented Maxfield Bala (a local California resident) in 2019. And once you walk into Umbrella Alley, you can’t miss it! The mural measures a whopping 13’ tall by 18’ wide, basically taking over the entire wall! The mural has all those iconic SF spots you’d expect it to — like the Golden Gate Bridge (obviously), Palace of Fine Arts, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, the Painted Ladies, and even some golden California poppies.
Psst — not many people know this, but Maxfield Bala has painted other murals in San Francisco. My favorite, besides this one of course, is the iconic Jefferson Airplane large-scale mural of the “Volunteers” album in the Haight.
The Other Murals of Umbrella Alley
We’ve already established that the ‘Greetings from San Francisco’ mural is what draws the most visitors in, but there’s a whole bunch of others that are just as fun to photograph! I especially love Kate Tova’s heart and the Summer of Love Monarch!
And one of my favorite parts of Umbrella Alley? The fact that all of the murals are done by local artists — and they’re even looking for new muralists to help complete a new project! Here’s some other murals you’ll find in Umbrella Alley (although it seems like the space is constantly evolving, so expect to find others popping up from time to time)!
- Heart Mural by Kate Tova: Her colorful, textured hearts (and other powerful works of art) have been popping up all over San Francisco as of late, and I can’t get enough of them! So when I saw she painted one of her famous bleeding hearts at Umbrella Alley I was over the moon — it really helps brighten the space and the purple background is just perfect for it! You’ll also find one of her pieces on the ‘I Left My Heart in SF’ mural.
- Fisherman’s Wharf Honey Bear: I’m sure you’ve seen @fnnch’s work all around San Francisco. It’s everywhere! So how could Umbrella Alley be complete without a honey bear of its own! Just look at those little crabs — so stinkin’ cute!
- Towering GATS Mural: Ohhhh, Umbrella Alley is super proud to have a piece by GATS, a street artist based in Oakland and an international graffiti legend. What’s GATS you ask? An acronym for “Graffiti Against The System“ — that’s what! The mural towers over the whole alleyway, and his iconic mask with its flowing beard can be found all over the world.
- Summer of Love Monarch Wall: This huge piece by Maxfield Bala (the same artist who designed and painted the ‘Greetings from San Francisco’ piece) and Jeremy Novy just screams ‘photograph me’ — I mean look at just how colorful (and tall) it is. So spread your arms open wide and have fun with it! It’s got a psychedelic, Austin Powers-esque vibe, with wild patterns and neon colors. Probably because the mural is a nod to San Francisco’s history — being the Summer of Love in the late 1960’s and all!
- I Left My Heart in San Francisco: There’s just something about this piece that I just LOVE so much. I mean, just look at it — this heart balloon decoupage by artist Brian Huber is oh so fun! It used to be shown outside, but it’s recently been rearranged and now lives in the open garage under the umbrellas.
- See The World Mural: It’s got two huge eyes (with the Golden Gate Bridge depicted in both) and dozens of faraway places. My take on it? Out of all the places you can go, you’ll always end up back in San Francisco! This one’s not my favorite (I tend to gravitate towards the more colorful pieces), but it’s still a pretty impressive piece by 3Nolam Oakland Based Muralist & Brian Huber.
- California Blooming Wildflower: I love poppies, so I was thrilled when I saw this piece by Amelie de Cirfontaine, a French-American street artist, currently based in San Francisco! It features three beautiful California wildflowers, specifically the California Poppy, the official state flower! Isn’t it just gorgeous?!
- San Francisco Homies: Such an interesting piece. I had never heard of Yonmeister (or Yon) before, and now I’m hooked! So fascinating and such a distinctive style. He created a piece with his signature “homies” (his distinctive big eyed characters) made up of San Francisco characters. I mean just look at them — basically all of San Francisco is represented! And Yon’s been at this for a while; he used to create characters in his notebooks as a teenager and now there’s hundreds scattered throughout the city.
- Floating Umbrellas: Most recently, there’s been a flock of Luinova signature style umbrellas tumbling across the purple wall above and around the sparkling heart. They make the space feel so whimsical and fairy-like!
Other Things to Know:
- Price: Umbrella Alley is 100% completely free, and it always was! The alley is a free attraction, supported by generous contributions to keep local artists working. If you can, donate a bit to support the mural artists! Recommended donation is $5 per person, but give what you can! Venmo: alley-artists
- Tours departing from Umbrella Alley: Since the alley is primarily used for tours (and housing the tour vehicles), you can head out on sightseeing tours from here! There’s guided segway tours (if you’ve never ridden one, you’re in for a treat — they’re so fun!), private open-top Jeep tours, electric scooter tours to the Golden Gate Bridge, and luxury three-wheel tuk-tuk private tours.
- Bathrooms: There’s no public bathrooms right here at Umbrella Alley, but you’ll find clean ones close by at Ghirardelli Square.
Things to do near Umbrella Alley
If you’re already in the area, stay a little while and experience true touristy San Francisco! Like I mentioned earlier, you won’t find many locals hanging around here, but I find it fun every once in a while!
Some of my favorite things to do in Fisherman’s Wharf:
- Play tourist at Pier 39; watch the sea lions flopping around and sunning themselves on the docks, go on the merry-go-round, have a bucket of mini donuts (Trish’s Mini Donuts is one of my favorite desserts in SF when I’m in that area), slurp up some famous clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl from Boudin, and take some fun photos with the California mural (another one of the best photo spots in San Francisco)
- Indulge in an over-the-top ice cream sundae from Ghirardelli, and be sure to grab a free piece of chocolate!
- Play some vintage arcade games at Musee Mecanique
- Sip a signature Irish coffee at Buena Vista — it’s kinda an institution over here and right down the street from Umbrella Alley
- Walk up the hill to Lombard Street (it’s a great leg workout on those hills!) then walk down the staircase next to the windy road (be sure to check out the blue house with all the bouganvilla — it’s my fave!)
Hope this gives you all the info you could ever want about Umbrella Alley in San Francisco! Which murals are your favorites?!
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