Coit Tower, San Francisco

4 out of 5 stars 135 Reviews

1 Telegraph Hill Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94133 (415) 249-0995

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Best Free Thing #2: Lillie's Landmark

    by goodfish Updated Jan 9, 2014

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    Assuming you survived the Filbert Stairs...

    OK, so you have to fork over some $ to go to the top of this thing but it's free for fine views of the city from the ground or a look at the murals inside: save your cash for the pub.

    Coit Tower was built in 1933 with money left by one Lillie Hitchcock Coit (1842 – 1929): a legendary character with a fondness for drinking, gambling, smoking, wearing men's clothes, and firemen. Urban myth claims that, at her request, the tower resembles the nozzle of a fire hose but not so: she only asked that the bequest be used to somehow beautify the city she adored.

    The interior walls of the tower are covered in murals created in 1934 and financed by the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP): a government sponsored part of the New Deal economic program that aided the unemployed during the great depression. The paintings were the work of over a dozen artists and and are largely sympathetic reflections of the hardships of the working classes during that difficult era.

    There's also a small exhibit honoring Ms. Lillie and a tiny giftshop. See the website below for hours, most current fees, and directions getting here via public transport or your own wheels.

    http://sfrecpark.org/destination/telegraph-hill-pioneer-park/coit-tower/

    It does sort of look nozzle-ish Bay from Telegraph Hill One of the murals Another of the murals Ms. Lillie: one tough cookie
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  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo

    Coit Tower/ Telegraph Hill

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Jun 30, 2013

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    This landmark is the highest hill in San Francisco close to Downtown and Fisherman's Wharf. It's also made famous by a flock of escaped parrots that live here made famous by the documentary, "Parrots of Telegraph Hill".

    Telegraph Hill Telegraph Hill Telegraph Hill Telegraph Hill
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    A great view of the entire city but----

    by tvdandy Written May 26, 2012

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    Colt Tower rises above the North Beach neighborhood tempting people with wonderful views if you pay the fee of $8.00 to take the elevator up top. Be warned though, once you get up there everyting is enclosed by windows. I am sure this is done for safety and wind purposes, but it is hell trying to get a great camera shot shooting through windows. I will give the staff props though for keeping the windows clean enough to at least attempt a shot. To be honest though, for 8 smackers I don't think I would have gone up if I known the view would be through windows.

    Colt Tower
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  • Gypsystravels's Profile Photo

    Climb Coit Tower for excellent views

    by Gypsystravels Updated Apr 23, 2012

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    Climb up Coit's Tower and you will be rewarded with some amazing views of San Franciso. From here you get a bird's eye view of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, Pier 39, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and a few other sites.

    We walked to the top of Coit tower from North Beach. At the top of the hill before taking the elevator up to the tower you can get a wonderful view of North Beach and beyond. If yo choose to go to the top, there will be a minimal charge (about $5)

    At the lobby of the tower you'll find some really excellent murals many depicting the working class. There is no charge to view the murals at the lobby. The tower is designated a National Historic site.

    The Tower from Telegraph Hill Approching the tower from North Beach Views from the top of the hill Just stopping for a photo op Iside the top of the tower
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  • machomikemd's Profile Photo

    Historic, from the Love of Firemen!

    by machomikemd Updated Mar 17, 2012

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    The Historic Coit Tower was built in 1934, the tower features fresco murals from several artists, funded by the depression-era Works Progress Administration. This 210 foot tower was built by philantrophist Lillie Hitchcock Coit (As any tour guide will tell you with a sly wink, Lilly Hitchcock Coit, the woman whose money made the tower possible, really had a thing for the firemen who were often found at her mansion. As a tribute to the men who tried to save San Francisco in 1906, Lilly designated that her legacy be used for the beautification of her beloved city by tht bay). Coit Tower offers one of the best views in San Francisco, due to it's location on Telegraph Hill, near the bay.

    The first floor is free, but there is an admission to go to the top, about $ 5.00 to ride the elevator to the top. The view from atop the east side of the tower spans 360 degrees. Inside, you'll find a history museum and murals that depict working life in 1930s California. You can see both the Golden Gate Bridge and the (San Francisco-Oakland) Bay Bridge, the TransAmerica Pyramid, Alcatraz, Fort Mason, the Marin Headlands, Sausalito, Twin Peaks, AT & T Park, etc.)

    Open Hours: Daily 10am-7pm, tours: Tue, Thu 10:15am

    Your Hand is Blocking the View! coit tower at left, transamerica bldg at right a tribute at night no hand blocking this time
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  • vichatherly's Profile Photo

    Climb Up Filbert Street Steps

    by vichatherly Updated Oct 12, 2010

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    Filbert Street Steps are a great way to either climb up to or descend from, Coit Tower. We walked up from down below in the Fisherman’s Wharf area.

    The stairs are quite steep, but if you take your time, they give you a unique look into the gardens and lifestyles of the people who live on the hills of San Francisco.

    The alternative steps are up and down from Greenwich Street.

    Filbert Street Steps Filbert Street Steps Filbert Street Steps Greenwich Street Steps
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  • Rixie's Profile Photo

    Lillie's Tower

    by Rixie Updated Sep 19, 2010

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    Coit Tower has been a major landmark in San Francisco for over 70 years. Set atop Telegraph Hill, it's visible from downtown San Francisco and the Bay.

    Elizabeth "Lillie" Hitchcock, a doctor's daughter, was fascinated with the SF Fire Department and used to follow the members of Knickerbocker Engine Company #5 to fires . The firemen considered her a mascot and made her an honorary member of the company -- there's a famous photo of her as a young woman, wearing the helmet they gave her. Even after her marriage to Howard Coit, she remained a special supporter of the fire department.

    When she died in 1929, Lillie left a small fortune to the city, asking that the money be used to add “to the beauty of the city which I have always loved.” The city built Coit Tower as a memorial to her. Many people say that the tower was designed to resemble a firehose nozzle, but the architects always denied this.

    The beautiful Depression-era murals inside the ground floor of the tower were closed to the public for years because some officials felt the paintings were "too Communistic." I don't see that, myself. They do show Californians at work, but I don't feel that they're political.

    There are wonderful city views from the grounds. A fee is charged to go up into the Tower, but I'm told the view is basically the same from up there.

    Coit Tower against a blue sky Mural - Flower growers Cannery workers These visitors almost seem part of the painting A real window has been built into the painting.
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  • Gillybob's Profile Photo

    Wonderful views

    by Gillybob Written Jul 29, 2010

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    Sitting atop Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower offers some really impressive views of San Francisco. It also helps serve as a direction marker for people lost in the city streets.

    The San Francisco bus system serves Coit Tower via the number 39 bus from Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf.

    To enter the tower itself, there is an admission fee.

    Opening hours:
    10:00 - 17:00 Daily
    Admission (to tower) :
    Adults US$4.50
    Concessions US$3.50
    Children (6 to 12 years) US$2.00 (Children under 6 are free)

    Coit Tower View of the city from Coit Tower View of Alcatraz from Coit Tower
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  • Sayjo's Profile Photo

    A steep thrill

    by Sayjo Written Jul 23, 2010

    The Coit Tower is one of the few things in San Francisco that has become a must! Other than testing your fitness level it pulls you to more sights and observations than any other landmark. The walk to up and from Coit Tower is filled with beautiful houses, landscaping, panoramic views of the city, and relaxing breezes. I will admit, I have never been up the tower but getting to and from is all I need. If you want to see this tower and enjoy walking this city, it is the perfect place to go between China Town and Pier 39.

    It's the pretty tower on the left ^_^ Good bay view from the hill near the top The entrance = perfect view of Alcatraz
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  • vichatherly's Profile Photo

    Don't Miss the Murals inside Coit Tower

    by vichatherly Written Jul 5, 2010

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    We reached the foot of Coit Tower via walking up past the beautiful and eccentric houses you see whilst climbing up the steep Filbert Street steps.

    We arrived about 10:45 on a Saturday morning and chanced upon a tour guide from San Francisco City Guides who was preparing for her 11:00 am tour of the murals. I signed us both up for the free hour long tour, as it would give us chance to get our breath back and prepare for the downward Greenwich steps.

    As we learnt in our tour, Coit Tower is a 210-foot art deco tower located in the Telegraph Hill neighbourhood of San Francisco, and was built in 1933 at the bequest of Lillie Hitchcock Coit to beautify the City.

    The Coit Tower murals were carried out as part of the Public Works of Art Project.

    The murals, some of which we learned were controversial for their times because of their inclusion of Communist images, were created by 25 of California's leading artists of the 1930s reflect scenes of the Great Depression, landscapes, farm workers, industries, a stylish soiree, and vibrant city life. This excellent tour also includes some murals not usually open to the public.

    As it turned out, we were the only two people on the tour for the most part and so was nice to have that personal experience with the images.

    We didn’t take the lift up to the top of the tower as we didn’t feel it necessary to cram into a lift with a pack of people and preferred to relax and enjoy the murals.

    Highly recommended.

    Coit Tower Coit Tower Coit Tower Murals Coit Tower Murals Coit Tower
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  • amandajayne81's Profile Photo

    Climbing the awesome steps

    by amandajayne81 Updated Jun 4, 2010

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    My poor fiance doesn't really like my-I can see it in the distance don't worry about a map- attitude to finding the attractions. We set off towards Telegraph hill to climb to the top of the Coit Tower. A small part of me hoped we would see some of the Golden Gate Bridge that maybe the fog was clearer when viewing from higher (silly thought.)
    Anyway as luck would have it we approached more from the side closest to the F line street car side and climbed up these gorgeous stairs that seemed to lead through people's back gardens and nearly into their houses. It was so charming and I am glad we took that way although I did nearly have a heart attack and I am pretty fit. The Tower itself had a lift (I think we paid 5 dollars each to use it mind you) and the view from the top was only slightly better than the view from the bottom (of the tower not the hill). I suppose you do have to go right to the top but my favourite part was the lovely steps and looking around the bottom of the tower and learning about how it came into being.

    By the way the return journey was more on the Golden Gate Bridge side of the tower and it was a relatively easy walk in comparison. I wish we had taken some photos of the stair side mind you...next visit maybe.

    Interesting local landmark

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  • mindcrime's Profile Photo

    Coit Tower at Telegraph Hill

    by mindcrime Written Jan 20, 2010

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    We got tired walking up Gilbert Street but it’s really worth it to go up the Telegraph Hill. The view from the Coit Tower is amazing and you can have a panoramic view of the city(pics 3-4 showing Alcatraz and the city). The tower (pic 1) was built in with funds of Lillie Hitchcok Coit and it’s one of the landmarks in SF. Its height is 64 meters and although it is simple it dominates the skyline of SF because of its location atop Telegraph Hill.

    Before going up we spent some time at the lobby and watched some beautiful murals (in social realism style, like Diego Rivera’s) on the walls showing scenes from daily life in 1930 (pic 2), they are considered as some of California’s best exables of depression era public art. The authorities didn’t want to open the tower to the public at first because they were afraid of the communist themes :)

    First we payed the entrance fee ($5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $1,5 for small children 5-11) at the small gift shop and then we took the elevator to the top of the tower. The problem is that the glass on the windows wont allow you to have the best quality on your photos but try to admire the view anyway. The windows are very small but you can shoot some nice pics from up here but no tripod use allowed. Have in mind that you can also take nice pics from the parking lot of the tower so you can save some money. You can see the murals at the lobby without paying anyway.

    The Tower is open daily and because of some steps, before and after the elevator it’s not wheelchair accessible.

    Coit Tower at Telegraph Hill murals at Coit Tower view from Coit Tower view from Coit Tower

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  • Jefie's Profile Photo

    For yet another great view of the city

    by Jefie Written Oct 3, 2009

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    Coit Tower was built in 1933 at the top of Telegraph Hill thanks to money donated to the city of San Francisco by Lillie Hitchcock Coit. Lillie Coit was known to be a bit of an eccentric figure in North Beach - among other things, she was often caught wearing pants and gambling with men at a time when both were most decidedly frowned upon! The tower bearing her name is 210 feet tall and stands at roughly 500 feet above sea level, thus providing a wonderful 360° view of the city.

    The walk up to Coit Tower is quite a workout but the view at the top of Telegraph Hill is worth it - I would even suggest to those not interested in going up the tower to at least make it to the top of Telegraph Hill and enjoy the view from there. Another thing one should know about is that to go up to the observatory platform, visitors need to ride a small, old-fashioned elevator that can only take so many people at a time. Of course it's possible to tell how long it's going to take to go up by looking at the line-up, but there's no way of knowing how many people are waiting to go down - in that sense, Coit Tower can literally become a tourist trap!! So just make sure you allow enough time for your visit.

    Coit Tower is open daily from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Admission: $4.50.

    View towards Bay Bridge & the Ferry Building View of the Financial District Looking towards Nob Hill Coit Tower, on Telegraph Hill Standing at the top of Telegraph Hill

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  • davequ's Profile Photo

    Telegraph Hill

    by davequ Updated Jul 8, 2009

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    Walk up to the top of Telegraph for a great city vista and bay view. You can pay $3 and ride the elevator to the observation deck of Coit Tower if you like to get a high, eye-popping 360deg view of the city.

    There are some terrific murals painted on the wall inside.

    My favorite way to get there is hiking the Green St. steps from the n/e side.
    I don't recommend driving your car up as the parking is very limited & you end up idling in your car, wasting gas and time, waiting in line for a space to open up.

    If health is an issue and you can't climb / walk up the hill, take a cab, as they can drop you so you don't have to wait to drive in and park.

    This is a closeup I took of the Columbus statue and Coit Tower that everybody shoots at one time or another

    Chris Columbus and the Coit Tower
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  • TexasDave's Profile Photo

    Historical Vantage Point

    by TexasDave Written Jul 2, 2009

    The art deco tower, 210 feet (64 m) of unpainted reinforced concrete, was designed by architects Arthur Brown, Jr. and Henry Howard, was built in 1933. Inside there are murals by 26 different artists and numerous assistants, done as the first of the New Deal federal employment programs for artists. Currently it is free to enter the first floor rotunda, but there is a charge to use the elevator up to the observation deck.
    The parking at the top of the hill is very limited, less than 2 dozen spaces. It is much more convenient to use the #39 bus which you can catch near Washington Square off of Columbus Avenue.

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