San Francisco’s Historical Hotspots

With 182 registered historical sights, San Francisco can feel nearly impossible to visit in its entirety. Whittling down the list and selecting a manageable few to go see is a hard task—but one that I have attempted so that you don’t have to. Here is a list of the six places you must see that represent a wide variety of the culture and history that only San Francisco can offer.


A maximum-security prison from 1934 until 1963, Alcatraz is famous for a number of reasons.


For starters, it is located in the San Francisco Bay as an island. In spite of this, it has housed a number of now-escaped convicts that have inspired much lore and a Clint Eastwood film (Escape from Alcatraz). Throughout its history, it has been a military fortification, a military prison, a federal prison, and a home to a number of protesting aboriginal peoples before becoming the national recreation area it is today. While there, you can learn about nefarious prisoners and see various items either made by prisoners during their sentences or used to restrain them while imagining the flight of Frank Morris.

Golden Gate Bridge:

This is one of the seven wonders of the modern world, so it’s a must-see. It is also the most photographed bridge in the world and the most recognizable feature of the city. It’s especially beautiful at night—so checking it out at different points in the day might be worth a trip.

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

Golden Gate Park:

The fifth most-visited park in the US, and 20% larger than Central Park, Golden Gate Park is a giant expanse of land that is home to a music bandshell, the California Academy of the Sciences, Conservatory of Flowers, the De Young Museum, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, AIDS Memorial Grove, five natural lakes, windmills, bison, and a number of homeless folks.

You’ll still have to narrow down the park attractions you want to see unless you think ahead and buy a discount pass ahead of time that gives you cheap access to the museums.

Golden Gate Park

Japanese Tea Garden:

This tea garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the states. Originally constructed as an exhibit for 1894 World Fair, it became a public park as soon as the Fair ended, and has been carefully maintained since.

Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco

The garden is beautiful, offering many Chinese and Japanese native plants and trees—many originally imported from their native soil. The garden also boasts as the home of the first fortune cookie in the U.S. Particularly if you can’t make it to San Francisco’s booming Chinatown for a taste of Asian culture, this garden offers a great, tranquil alternative to the hustle and bustle with just as much impact.

Of course, the city has many, many more cultural and historical sights to see, but these four ought to get you started.

About the author: Ed Kim is a freelance writer for He lives in Boston with his wife and two young daughters. He can’t wait to show them the world.


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