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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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    Coit Tower

    by richiecdisc Updated Nov 14, 2005

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    Set high atop Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower offers great views of both the city proper and the San Francisco Bay. But that is only the beginning of the story. Even if the day does not warrant paying for the elevator fare to the top, there are murals by local artists inspired by Diego Rivera of the early pioneering days though reflecting strong social themes that caused great fervor at the time of their inception. Built in 1933 in the Art Deco style and funded by Lillie Hitchcock Coit in part to commemorate the city’s firefighters, the 210 foot structure crowns Pioneer Park and is readily seen from most anywhere in town or across the Bay.

    the view of Coit Tower from Russian Hill
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    Coit Tower

    by smschley Written Mar 11, 2005

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    In a city known for its great views and vantage points, Coit Tower is one of the best. Located atop Telegraph Hill, just east of North Beach, the round, stone tower offers panoramic views of the city and the bay and is visible from many parts of the city. This 210-foot-tall Tower resembles a giant fire hose nozzle, and stands as a monument to the city's volunteer firefighters. During the early days of the gold rush, Lillie Hitchcock Coit (known as Miss Lil) was said to have deserted a wedding party and chased down the street after her favorite engine, Knickerbocker No. 5, while clad in her bridesmaid finery. She stopped to help firemen fight a blaze and was soon made an honorary member of the Knickerbocker Company. After that she always signed her name "Lillie Coit 5" in honor of her favorite fire engine.

    Lillie died in 1929 at the age of 86, leaving the city $125,000 to "expend in an appropriate manner…to the beauty of San Francisco. Coit Tower stands atop Telegraph Hill. In 1846 Captain John Montgomery, Commander of the District of San Francisco, claimed the hilltop for the US government. During the Gold Rush era, settlers used the hilltop Marine Telegraph to relay news of arriving ships -- thus the name Telegraph Hill.

    Completed in 1933, 19 depression-era murals depict economic and political life in California. The government used the Depression-era WPA project to commission the murals, and the 25 artists who painted them were each paid $38 a week. Some were fresh from art school; others had found no market for art in the early 1930s. The radical Mexican painter Diego Rivera inspired the murals' socialist-realist style, with its biting cultural commentary, particularly about the exploitation of workers. At the time the murals were painted, clashes between management and labor along the waterfront and elsewhere in San Francisco were widespread.

    Take the elevator to the top of the tower, remember that it gets a little chilly as the top has no ceiling and is open to the air.

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  • Waalewiener's Profile Photo

    Great view of the Coit Tower from Sausalito Ferry

    by Waalewiener Written Sep 22, 2004

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    You can 't miss this '' Landmark '' of San Francisco .the '' Coit Tower ''
    I took this picture from the Ferry coming back from Sausalito ,zoomed in as much as I could .
    I have other pictures of this Tower ,but this one shows wher ii is located ,on top of
    '' TELEGRAPH HILL ''
    On top of this Hill it has a fantastic panoramic view.
    The location is ,top of Telegraph Hill ,and there is a lobby with Murals of the Depression era. Also an elevator in the Tower ,we did not go up ,I don't know the cost of the elevator.
    Ok a tip for you guys when we drove up this Hill by car it was very very slow going due to very limited Parking at the top and that's why Wanch suggested to Hansi if you can handle these steps up the Hill Hansi you can be there way before us and you can do your filming ,and we all know how much filming
    waalewiener does.
    So Wanch thank you for this great idea I got fantastic film from both Bridges and the Bay.
    It is worth the wait ,and I did see some cars turn around the wait was too long for them.

    Coit Tower top of Telegraph Hill

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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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  • Karnubawax's Profile Photo

    Coit Tower - a hike but worth it

    by Karnubawax Updated Feb 5, 2007

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    Coit Tower is a beautiful SF landmark, and should be on your list of must sees - at least for an hour or two.

    You can drive to Coit Tower, but I do NOT recommend it! Parking is extremely limited, and you could wait a VERY LONG time for a spot to open up (an hour is not uncommon). The 39 MUNI bus goes to it, but the best way to get to Coit Tower - if you're in OK shape - is to walk. There are several staircases that take you from the lowlands at Levi Plaza (which used to be the shoreline) up Telegraph Hill. The Filbert Street steps are the most well known, but the Greenwich Street steps are nice as well.

    The views from the parking lot are great, but you'll have to stand on the walls to peer over the junipers, which need a good trimming. There is an elevator that goes up to the top; for $4.50 - the price of 2/3 of a scoop of ice cream at Pier 39 - you can get some of the best views of the city.

    Also inside, for no charge, are the famous fresco murals. Occasionally vandalized by people objecting to their socialist messages, and, more recently, by dumb people who just want to carve their initials in something, they were done in 1934, at the height of the American Socialist movement. The longshoreman's strike was in the same year. They are great works of art in themselves, and you can spend hours (well, maybe one hour) looking at all of the details.

    Detail of Fresco Murals Queen Mary 2 at Pier 27

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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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  • Waalewiener's Profile Photo

    The top of the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill.

    by Waalewiener Written Sep 23, 2004

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    Well I figure I might as well show the top of this tall building ,Coit Tower .
    We did not go up there but I bet the view from there must be stunning .
    Iam very glad Wanch & Annapet brought us up here ,it was soooo beautiful from up here.

    Top part of the '' Coit Tower '' structure

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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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  • Carmela71's Profile Photo

    Coit Tower

    by Carmela71 Updated Sep 4, 2004

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    This tower can be seen in many places of San Francisco, this view is from Pier 39, from the same place you can see the Sea Lions.

    We did not go up so we did not pay for the entrance.

    I had heard there is a museum inside and you can have great views from there

    Coit Tower

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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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  • 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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  • spgood301's Profile Photo

    Coit Tower

    by spgood301 Updated Aug 30, 2005

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    This is Coit Tower. You can see it from many parts of San Francisco, and you can see most of San Francisco from it's top.

    When you go inside, check out the murals on the walls. Take the elevator to the top-it's closed in by glass, but the city views are worth it. It's a bit closed in, and frankly smells like a damp basement (yuck!). My advice: get your pics, and get out of there!

    Still, something you gotta do when in SF

    Coit Tower
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  • karenincalifornia's Profile Photo

    Good destination for exercise

    by karenincalifornia Updated Apr 8, 2004

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    Coit Tower is a popular tourist spot, but I like it mainly because it is a destination where I can go during lunch time to unwind and get some exercise. Coit Tower was dedicated to San Francisco's volunteer firefighters in 1933. Interesting exhibit inside. Good views of the city. The walk to the tower is healthier than eating a huge lunch.

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  • coolpanda87's Profile Photo

    Coit Tower

    by coolpanda87 Written Jan 16, 2004

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    This monument stands proudly atop Telegraph hill. It provides phenomenal views of San Francisco, & the Bay Area.

    It is surely worthwhile to visit, & is easily accessible by every mode of transportation. I would suggest walking as the best way to explore this area, because from there, you could take a very SCENIC walk down the hill towards Union Square & the Financial district. From the nearest Cable Car Station, it takes only around 10-15min to walk to Coit Tower.

    Coit Tower
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  • Andraf's Profile Photo

    The story of the Coit Tower murals

    by Andraf Updated Mar 16, 2005

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    The murals in the lobby of Coit Tower have an interesting story of their own. They were commisioned in 1934 by the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), a government funded program designed to keep artists employed during the Great Depression. The murals depict life in modern California and they were painted by 25 local artists, students of the famouse Mexican communist artist, Diego Rivera. Scenes range from the busy streets of the Financial District (with a robbery in progress) to factories and the Central Valley wheat fields. Seeing the murals you can sense the social commentary. The work criticizes the economic inequities of life during the Great Depression, and that made the murals highly controversial when the project was finished. Many where upset with the work's political content, seeing the murals as Communist inspired. Responding to pressure the San Francisco Art Commision delayed the opening of the Coit Tower and considered destroying the murals. After numerous debates Coit Tower was finally opened to the public in October 1934. What amazed me is that the murals are remarkable close in style despite the fact that so many different artists created them.

    City Life, Coit Tower mural
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