One of the prominent features of the San Francisco skyline is Coit Tower, which is perched on top of Telegraph Hill. The cylindrical concrete tower, which is kind of unattractive, was erected in 1933 and is 64 metres tall.
The steep climb up to the top of the hill, to the base of the tower is worth it, and once there is will cost you $2.50 (Sep 2008) to catch a lift to the top of the tower. The views from the top are spectacular - you can see both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, the downtown skyscrapers and get a good overview of crooked Lombard Street.
In some parts of the tower (including the lobby area) you will see some large, colourful murals which were created mainly by students of the Californian School of Fine Arts. They depict scenes of life in and around the city.
Coit Tower was built in 1933 on Telegraph Hill by Lillie Hitchcock Coit a local volunteer firefighter. Today, visitors walk or drive to the top of Telegraph Hill for some of the best views in the city. Despite a popular rumor, the tower was not built to resemble a fire hose (but the actual source of the design is unknown).
I strongly suggest not driving up the hill. The walk is not bad but the traffic is awful. The parking lot at the top of the hill is very small and cars sit on the driveway circling the hill and wait for hours trying to get a spot. We walked up and wandered around the base of the tower. Elevators run up the tower and you can go to the top and see the entire city. From the base, you can see much of the area and get some great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
On the walk down, we cut through the trees and caught sight of a couple “wild parrots” that live in the trees. Though not native to the area, the parrots are believed to be the descendants of someone’s released pets.
Coit Tower is one of my favorite stops in SF. I've been here over a dozen times and never fail to see something new. In my perspective, there are three attractions of Coit Tower, and all make it a great experience.
1 - getting there. Although you can drive, I wouldn't recommend it unless you can't walk far yourself (or don't like taking the bus - #39 goes right up there. ) I usually park around Sansome St. to the east, anywhere I can find a parking spot, and walk up the Filbert or Greenwich steps. It isn't the easiest climb, but there are good views all the way up, and you can walk past all the houses and apartments and think about what good physical shape the residents must be in. For the way down, walk down the west side facing Russian Hill, down to Grant Street and North Beach.
2 - Views from the top of the hill. From here you can see both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, as well as Alcatraz, Angel Island, Treasure Island and Marin County to the north and Oakland and the East Bay. You can pay to go to the top of the tower, but I wouldn't bother if there is a line to get in the elevator.
3 - The murals. This is my favorite part of the whole trip. Inside are 19 murals created during the depression of the 1930s that show life and politics of the time. The artists were commissioned by the US government, and the left leaning politics depicted were controversial. Along with historical scenes like panning for gold, you will see the socialist-realist style evident in the images of workers on the farms, industry and services. In one corner there is a man pulling out Marx's "Das Capital" from a bookshelf. There's also cops, pickpockets, and timely events shown. Note the sign for the Oakland Ferry that is shown - evidence that the bridges weren't build yet. Each scene has wonderful details that you will discover on subsequent visits.
(Note - if you like the murals as much as I do, try to get to the Beach Chalet at the far end of Golden Gate park. Look at the walls on the first floor. Free.)
Something a little unusual is to spend some time visiting Coit Tower (this isn't the unusual part), then to walk down the meandering path of Filbert Street, enjoying the gardens and maybe getting a glimpse of the ferral parrots in the area. The problem, of course, is that you'll have to walk back up to get your car :-( ~ but that might kill the 3 hours or so that you have.
Another idea is to visit the Ferry Building Marketplace on the Embarcadero. Lots of great shops and eating at the MarketBar is always a pleasure!
If you want a really historic restaurant for lunch (with great seafood!), try Tadich Grill on California Street is the oldest restaurant in the West and a San Francisco insider icon.
Hope this helps!
This 210 ft reinforced concrete tower was built in 1933 at the top of Telegraph Hill.
An elevator takes you up to the viewing platform & from there you get spectacular views of the North Bay Area.
At night the tower is floodlit and can be seen from most parts of the city.
Coit Tower offers incredible views from both the top of the tower and from the grounds around the tower. So if you don't feel like paying $3.50 to take the elevator to the top you can get some great views from just walking around Coit Tower. The following pictures are from both vantage points, though I recommend taking in both views personally!
Coit Tower has long been a symbol of San Francisco, and why not, it rises magestically above the city offering unobstructed views of the entire bay. With one long sweeping view you can take in the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Embarcadero, Bay Bridge, and the down town area. Additionally the hill that Coit Tower resides on is immersed with pine trees with houses built into the hill separated by tight winding foot paths which adds to the whole experience. There is a elevator that will take you to the top of Coit Tower, the cost is $3.50 per ride, but its well worth the cost as the views of the city are incredible. The tower was built in 1933 on top of Telegraph Hill, and contrary to popular belief it was not designed to look like the nozzle of a fire hose, rather just a wonderful coincidence.
There are two ways to access stairs that lead to Coit Tower, from the end of Lombard St and from the end of Filbert Ave just west of Washington Square. The stairs are picturesque way to see the city and the hillside around Coit Tower. Additionally parking is just about impossible around Coit Tower so its better to walk there then drive. There aren't very many stairs so its actually a very easy climb.
While you can't access the tower after dark the grounds around Coit Tower are still open and offer wonderful views of San Francisco at night. Generally there aren't many people around so in most cases you will have it to yourself. The best views are on the side of Coit Tower that faces the downtown area. There is a spot where you can sit down and take in the Bay Bridge and the Skyscrapers all lit up, it is breathtaking and romantic all at once. The city of blinding lights!
This 210-foot tower was built in 1933 and stands atop Telegraph Hill in downtown's Pioneer Park. The Coit Tower is probably best known for its fantastic views of the city in all directions from the Golden Gate Bridge, piers, Alcatraz and the Oakland Bay Bridge to Russian Hill, Lombard Street, North Beach and the Financial District. And that's just from the overlook at the base of tower...you can also pay $3.75 to take the elevator to the top of the tower. What, too spoiled to take the stairs?
There is a small traffic circle at the top of the hill with about 20 parking spaces, but don't be lazy--the walk really isn't that bad. Maybe if more people actually walked up this hill we wouldn't have that obesity problem in this country.
At night one side of the tower is lit with white lights while the other is lit blood red.
Coit Tower is shown in several scenes from Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 movie Vertigo. At one point Madeleine says "I remembered Coit Tower. It led me straight to you." Scottie dryly but humorously replies "that's the first time I've been grateful for Coit Tower."
One of the San Francisco landmarks, Coit Tower has been standing atop of Telegraph Hill since 1933. Its name is actually the last name of a wealthy SF resident who wanted to beautify the city and donated 1/3 of her estate to do so - Lily Hitchcock Coit.
260 feet tall (61 meters), it is made of unpainted concrete. The lack of color is however substituted by fresco murals located inside the tower on the ground floor. 50 known artists were called and 33 of them (including 3 female painters) were chosen to paint the inside walls of the Coit.
The artists were paid very generous amount of $1 an hour. There also was a guard who kept vigil to make sure they all work as they were supposed to. Sure enough, the painters disliked the guy and depicted him in their paintings as an angry man. He can be seen in my pic#4 (sitting with the gun).
LOCATION: Pioneer Park.
HOURS: 10am - 5pm, daily.
PRICE: FREE, but to go to the top of the tower, adults must pay $4.50 (free for kids under 6), seniors - $3.50, $2 for kids 6-12.
TO GET THERE: Bus #39-COIT will bring you right there.
ADVICE: I strongly recommend taking the bus, cause the hill is hellacious!
Upon leaving the Coit Tower, you can walk down the eastern steps which are covered in lush vegetation.
NOTE: SF City Guides has been offering free walking tours of the Coit Tower murals for awhile now. The tours are offered every Saturday at 11am in front of the main entrance of the Tower. I took that tour and had a great time. Not only did I learn a lot about the history of murals and their creators, but also who was depicted on them and why.. Plus, the guide brought us to the ''closed-for-general-public'' stairway and showed the only room made in egg tempera (made by a wife of painter). Everything else (with the exception of a few oil paintings in the elevator foyer) is fresco.
Some cash donation is appreciated at the end of the tour (it goes to support the City Guides website).
Coit tower on Telegraph Hill gives you a fantastic view of the entire city. To go to the top, it costs $4.50, you can get a good view without going to the top, but it really is worth the cash to go to the top. You can see alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge and great views of the city below.
Atop Telegraph Hill is a 210 foot straight as an arrow tower. There is a nice view of it from Fisherman's Wharf. You can go to the top for a 360 degree view of the city.The Coit Tower was built in 1933 with funds from Lillie Hitchcock Coit. She was huge supporter of the local firemen and some think this tower was meant to symbolizethe end of a firehose.
" ... the city dances on its hills and unashamedly enjoys its own beauty, which has survived many a long night of excesses, both joyous and tragic." © Herb Caen, the `voice and conscience' of the City
When we stood at the base of Lombard Street, looking across the heights where Coit Tower rested, the distance seemed interminable. Thankfully, some of our walk was downhill!
Coit Tower was constructed from a bequest of Lillie Hitchcocks Coit, who had a lifelong attraction to firemen.
As a child, she was rescued from a fire by these gallant saviors. As she matured, she spent as much time as possible in the company of San Francisco's Engine Company Number 5.
Coit Tower, which some say ressembles the tip of a firehose, was designed by Arthur Brown and completed in 1933.
It is open to the public and you can ride the elevator to the top for a great view of the city for a fee (pictures 2 &3).
Coit Tower is open daily from 10am-6pm and has extended hours in the summer.
FYI: It's an easy walk to the Filbert steps, which lead from Telegraph Hill to the wild parrots congregating in tree tops at the bottom.