The Top 10 Best Places to Visit in San Francisco

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

San Francisco is the ultimate venue to enjoy incredible times spent on the beach, at a wedding, or hustling in the city’s downtown. But did you know that San Francisco has always maintained a rather bohemian spirit? That’s in spite its connection with high tech and silicon valley, where the biggest tech companies in the world compete against each other to take the lead.

This article isn’t about tech though, it’s about the lifestyle that this beautiful city has to offer. As a wedding photographer residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am always looking for the next best spot to photograph my couples in. There are many beautiful landscapes, structures and backgrounds that make for awesome pictures. Throughout San Francisco, it’s very common to see people getting married, spending a vacation with the family or just enjoying the lifestyle of the city. Places like Twins Peak, Lands End or the very popular Golden Gate Bridge allow for some beautiful scenery, great sunsets and color rich photographs. The beautiful gardens, high rise buildings and unique way of life make San Fran one of the most open, scenic urban areas in the world.

Let’s take a closer look at the liberal, bohemian side of San Francisco, and see which non-touristic places are best suited for a seriously awesome vacation or day trip. These are the top 10 non-touristy places to visit in San Francisco and surroundings. Enjoy the read!

1. Twin Peaks Summit

Twins Peak San Francisco
Source: Armin Avila

While admittedly a bit touristy, the twin peaks summit isn’t visited by every single person that has ever set foot in San Francisco. That’s because it’s a bit far away from the city, and it can detract people from going. However, you can’t miss this amazing scenery. It’s not only great for looking at San Francisco from above, it can also act as a great background for any picture.

2. City Hall

SF City hall wedding
Source: Adobe Stock

Ah, City Hall. The wedding hotspot of the Bay Area. This marvelous structure sits in the middle of San francisco. It serves as the cities seat of government and attracts visitors year after year. When going inside you will feel amazed by its complicated architectural structure and high ceilings. When I first stepped foot inside, it felt like I was entering the palace of a king. As a wedding photographer, this has to be one of my favorite spots in San Francisco to shoot a couple getting married.

3. Lands End

San Francisco wedding beaches
Source: Unsplash

This amazing park overlooking the pacific ocean is a fantastic getaway that was built hundreds of years ago for the wealthy entrepreneurs of San Francisco. Today, it is an open park where everybody can enjoy their time and walk alongside the beach, taking in the calm and relaxed vibes that San Francisco is known for.

4. Stow Lake

Stow Lake. Best place to visit in SF
Source: Adobe Stock

Stow Lake is found inside Golden Gate Park, and it has a rich history dating back to 1983. The lake provides the people of San Francisco with a place to rest and relax after a long day of work. Floating or paddling about Stow Lake is a must for those who like the calming sensation of the water beneath them. It’s a beautiful place to consider getting married too!

5. Downtown

SF cable cars
Source: Unsplash

Yes, downtown. Even if it won’t be the most relaxed and peaceful experience ever, downtown San Francisco has its perks, namely the fact that it’s a bustling area full of activities where even the hardest working entrepreneur cannot keep up with daily pace and changes. Perfect for exploring the streets of the city while riding on one of its famous cable cars. It’s an experience that has to be lived at least once in your lifetime.

6. Ferry Building Marketplace

Best places to visit in san francisco. Ferry building
Source: Clyde Valdez, Unsplash

Located by Pier 39, the Ferry Building is a lovely, big marketplace under a metal roof. Here you can find anything from traditional farmers to incredible artisans and a lot of places to eat, drink—have fun basically! Surely, it’s one of those places that truly make you happy because of its amazing structure and bustling hub full of activities. If you come here, you’ll want to stay for a long time.

7. Alamo Square

Alamo Square. SF Houses. Tourist guide
Source: Juan Salamanca, Pexels

Ok, this place is touristy, but it’s totally worth it. Alamo square is San Francisco, there’s no doubt about that. The colorful houses with a ridiculously gorgeous backdrop on downtown San Fran—nothing can beat that! It’s the typical Hollywood scenery that you can spot in many romance movies, and it’s also the ideal place for a wedding photographer to work.

8. Palace of Fine Arts

SF wedding spots. Palace of fine arts
Source: Adobe Stock

The palace of fine arts will probably be the highest on the list when it comes to tourists. But can you blame them, this place is beautiful. Although it does get pretty crowded around the summertime, traffic starts slowing down passing the month of August. This place makes for great scenery and it's definitely one of the top spots to visit in San Francisco. And did I mention it’s beautiful?

9. Conservatory of Flowers

Golden gate park, Alamo Square. SF wedding venues
Source: Armin Avila

Located at the Golden Gate Park, this area will blow you away with its beauty. The conservatory of flowers is an amazing venue for botanicals and brews. Basically, if you love flowers and plants, you’re in the right place. This amazing venue organizes weddings on a regular basis, and there’s nothing more dramatic than getting to work as a wedding photographer here.

10. Legion of Honor

Legion of Honor. San Fran tourist places
Source: Adobe Stock

Epic, monumental, big. The Legion of Honor has it in its name. The building itself is very geometric, giving off powerful vibes, but the surrounding area benefits from a beautiful scenery that you should definitely take advantage of. The legion of honor is a museum; it features a grand collection of art dating back 6000 years. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Overall, if you want to visit San Francisco, you should definitely consider visiting these 10 amazing places. They might not be the most famous, but they’re still very well-known, and they’re worth a try. If you’re a couple and you’re considering getting married in San Francisco, seeing all those wedding photographers around might pique your curiosity. What if you hired one yourself?

My name is Armin Avila, and I’m a San Francisco wedding photographer. I’ve written this article because I wanted to share my deepest love for this amazing city and the surrounding areas. I absolutely love the wedding scene in San Francisco, and I always strive to find new locations where I can take beautiful pictures of people who just said “yes” to their loved one.

If you’re considering hiring a wedding photographer anywhere in the Bay Area, or if you simply want to have a chat, feel free to contact me via my contact page. There, you can fill in all the necessary details and questions you might have to get in contact and have a chat. Until then, enjoy this beautiful city!

If you would like to know of other places to visit in San Francisco, here is a video showing some more awesome attractions that this amazing city has to offer:

The Best Attractions to Visit in San Francisco : Photographers POV