San Francisco is well-known for its diverse blend of Victorian and contemporary architecture, rather than for defining a single architectural style, due to the city’s intriguing and hard geographical and topographical variances and turbulent history.
Any mention of buildings or landmarks in San Fran will almost always result in a mention of it’s iconic Golden Gate bridge, but there is so much more to discover in and around the city itself.
Here are some of the most famous buildings in San Francisco that should be on every visitors list.
Famous Buildings in San Francisco
1. Transamerica Pyramid
The Transamerica Pyramid is the second-tallest structure in the city of San Francisco, reaching 48 stories. You may find the formerly tallest structure in San Francisco’s economic hub at 600 Montgomery Street, between Washington and Clay Streets.
The 853-foot structure, which William Pereira designed, was constructed by Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company. You can view it from miles away.
The building is shaped like a large pyramid with four sides; on the east side, you’ll see a stairwell and an elevator shaft, while on the west side there’s a smoke tower. The spire extends for a total of 212 feet from the roof.
At the peak of this tower is the Transamerica Virtual Observation Deck, which consists of four cameras facing four directions.
A few years later, the digital observation platform took its place. The Transamerica Pyramid has aluminum plates covering its top.
2. San Francisco City Hall
San Francisco City Hall, also known as the People’s Palace, is the administrative center for San Francisco and San Mateo County.
Also, it’s a famous landmark that plenty of photographers and tourists flock to. At night, the building is illuminated by LEDs of various colors that correspond to various themes.
It had taken two years to construct the current City Hall. The stalwart icon of San Francisco is made of granite and steel, with a white marble interior spanning four stories. Base isolator systems are a form of earthquake protection that has been installed.
The architect, Arthur Brown, Jr. was responsible for the building’s design and construction began in 1913. The grand staircase, massive dome, and gilded exterior detailing left locals and visitors alike in awe.
The height of the dome is 307 feet, which is 42 feet higher than the height of the dome at the nation’s capital. Numerous films, including Indiana Jones, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Dirty Harry, were filmed on-site in City Hall.
3. Coit Tower
The 210-foot-tall (64-meter-tall) Coit Tower in San Francisco, California, provides breathtaking vistas of the city and bay.
Constructed between 1932 and 1933 with funds left to the city by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, the tower stands in San Francisco’s Pioneer Park and contributes to the city’s overall aesthetic. On January 29, 2008, it was included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Developed by architects Henry Howard and Arthur Brown, Jr., the art deco building is a tower made of exposed reinforced concrete.
Twenty-five painters and dozens of assistants worked on-site to create the American fresco murals that decorate the inside, while two other works were created elsewhere and sent in for installation.
Also Read: Landmarks in San Francisco
Coit Tower was built to honor the lives lost by volunteer firefighters in the city’s five catastrophic blazes and is also known by that name.
The tower’s supposed resemblance to a fire hose nozzle stems from a myth about Coit’s love for the firemen of his native San Francisco.
4. Palace of Fine Arts
Created in the San Francisco, California, Marina District, the Palace of Fine Arts was initially designed to house artifacts from the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Since it was the only building from the exhibition to be completely restored between 1964 and 1974, it is now the only original structure still standing on the site.
The complex’s crown jewel is an open rotunda that stands 162 feet tall and is flanked by a lagoon and a massive, curved exhibition hall.
Colonnades separate them from the lagoon. One of the largest single-story structures in San Francisco, the exposition center now hosts events like weddings and trade shows in 2019.
5. Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
The Episcopal Grace Cathedral may be found on Nob Hill in San Francisco, California. Bishop Marc Andrus has been in charge of the Episcopal Diocese of California’s cathedral church since 2006, while Dean Malcolm Clemens Young has been in charge of the cathedral’s local parish since 2015.
The 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed the first church building for the parish, which had been established in 1849.
The parish first established a temporary building in 1907, and then in 1927, after raising enough money, they began building the current cathedral, which they began using in 1934 and finished in 1964.
The cathedral’s choir, three organs, 44 bell carillon, contemporary and medieval, altarpiece by Keith Haring for the AIDS Chapel, diverse stained glass windows, two labyrinths, and its reproduction of Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, have all contributed to its widespread renown.
6. Mark Hopkins Hotel
Located atop Nob Hill in San Francisco, California is the five-star InterContinental Mark Hopkins, San Francisco. The hotel, the oldest InterContinental in the United States, is operated by the InterContinental Hotels Group.
The Mark Hopkins mansion was one of the few buildings in San Francisco to survive the devastating 1906 earthquake.
It was destroyed in the subsequent three-day fire, however. In 1939, the penthouse suite on the 19th story became the Top of the Mark restaurant’s glass-walled cocktail bar.
The Hotel is affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s recognized Historic Hotels of America initiative.
Mark Hopkins, a Central Pacific Railroad pioneer, built his and Mary’s ideal home on the hill’s southeast peak. Upon his passing in 1878, the construction of the mansion finally ended.
After Mary’s second marriage, her widower gave the home to the San Francisco Art Institute so that it might be used as a museum and classroom.
7. Palace Hotel, San Francisco
Situated at the Montgomery and Market Streets’ southwest corner, the Palace Hotel is a historic property in beautiful San Francisco.
Due to the original Palace Hotel, built in 1875, being destroyed by fire following a 1906 earthquake in the city, the hotel is sometimes called the “new” Palace Hotel.
Almost at the year-end of 1909, construction began on a new building that would replace the old one. The hotel was shuttered for two years, beginning in January 1989, so it could be renovated and made seismically safe.
The hotel’s main edifice, which is more than a century old and consists of nine stories, occupies most of a city block and is located next to the Monadnock Building and the BART Montgomery Street Station.
It also faces Market Street, across from Lotta’s Fountain. It’s also approved as part of the Historic Hotels of America program.
8. Conservatory of Flowers
Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California is home to the Conservatory of Flowers, a greenhouse and botanical garden that is home to a variety of rare and exotic species.
It is the oldest structure in the park, with construction finishing in 1879. It’s the country’s oldest municipal wooden conservatory, and it was one of the first built in the United States.
Due to its uniqueness and the historical, architectural, and engineering significance it represents, the facility is included in both the California Register of Historical Places the National Register of Historic Places.
Both the state of California and the city of San Francisco have appointed it a historical landmark.
Also Read: Buildings in Los Angeles
The Conservatory sits on a raised masonry base and features a wooden skeleton with glass walls. This building is laid out in a shallow E shape that runs east-west.
To the central pavilion’s southern end, a one-story glassed-in entryway with a gable roof provides access to the building, which is 60 feet tall.
9. Salesforce Tower
Previously called the Transbay Tower, this 2018-built Salesforce Tower is a 1,070 ft. office building in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood.
It is just close to the Transbay Transit Center at 415 Mission Street, which is between First and Fremont streets.
The Salesforce Tower is the focal point of the San Francisco Transbay regeneration project. Planned land uses range from commercial to industrial to residential. This structure was César Pelli’s final one to be finished during his lifetime.
After its commissioning in 2018, it surpassed the Transamerica Pyramid as the tallest building in San Francisco, with a roof elevation of 970 feet as well as a total height of 1,070 feet.
Located west of the Mississippi River, it is the second-tallest structure in the region.
10. Ferry Building
In addition to serving as a hub for ferries across the bay, the San Francisco Ferry Building also houses a food hall and several businesses.
Located on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, the terminal is accessible through the Golden Gate Ferry and the San Francisco Bay Ferry.
From Market Street, the building’s clock tower, which stands at 245 feet, and its four clock dials, each measuring 22 feet in diameter, can be easily seen.
The ferry building, designed in the Beaux-Arts style by the American architect A. Page Brown in 1892, was finished in 1898.
When it first opened, it was the largest building project the city has ever seen. The clock tower was modeled after Spain’s Giralda bell tower, which dates back to the 12th century, and the full length of the building on both facades is built on an arcade.
The entire structure was redesigned in 2002 after undergoing extensive restoration and remodeling.