If you intend on visiting some of the most popular landmarks in San Francisco, there’s no better way to see these beautiful places than by knowing some interesting fun facts. San Francisco is a great city to explore and our all-time favourite U.S. city since it most resembles our beloved Europe. Take the time to read this article as it will enhance your travel experience if planning to visit San Francisco’s most popular attractions.
Golden Gate Bridge
- As the symbol of San Francisco, it is the most photographed bridge on the planet and one of the Wonders of the Modern World
- Construction began in 1933 and lasted four years in the midst of the Great Depression
- It was the longest suspension bridge until 1964. It is now in 9th place.
- The bridge remained undamaged during the Loma Prieta Earthquake on October 7, 1989 which measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. Unfortunately, the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge didn’t have the same fate as a part of the bridge collapsed and killed several people.
- It’s famous “international orange” color was originally selected as a primer to protect it from corrosive elements. It provided visibility for passing ships in the fog and complimented the bridge’s natural surroundings as well. The U.S. Navy wanted the Bridge to be painted with black and yellow stripes.
- It was built in 1859 as a U.S. military defense base
- Became an official prison in 1907 and was also nicknamed “the Rock”
- The maximum-security facility officially opened on July 1, 1934 for the most dangerous and difficult-to-handle criminals in the country
- Al Capone was transferred from an Atlanta penitentiary to Alcatraz. The government wanted to make an example out of him during his 11-year tax evasion sentence. The prison couldn’t get any special treatment since he couldn’t bribe any guards. He eventually contacted syphilis and dementia thereafter.
- 36 men tried to escape the impenetrable fortress. Twenty-three of those men were caught, six were shot while trying to escape, and two drowned. The other five were never found and were presumed dead.
- Most famous street in San Francisco for its 8 tight turns down a steep hill
- The curvy street makes it very difficult to navigate
- There are stairs for pedestrians to climb on either side or attempt to drive down at the caution speed of 5 miles per hour!
- Once was a two-way street when horse-drawn carriages were still around
- Known as the world’s crookedest street
- Nice scenic view from above, but the best place to take photos is from below
- A cable car passes above a portion of the crooked street
- Many famous landmarks exist on the street. The haunted Montandon House also sits on the curves of Lombard.
- Contrary to popular belief, Vermont street between 22nd and 23rd street in San Francisco actually owns the honor of crookedest street. It doesn’t have the hydrangea flowers decorating the street or the popularity of Lombard unfortunately.
- There are 7 original hills, but more than 50 unofficial exist
- La Paz, Bolivia has the most hills in the world and San Fran comes in second place
- The 1906 and 1989 earthquakes have shaped the hills, the valleys and the bay itself
- The most well known hills that define San Francisco are Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill (recognized by the popular Coit Tower), and Twin Peaks.
- The largest and oldest Chinatown outside of Asia
- The most densely populated neighbourhood in the city and covers 24 blocks
- Resides mainly on Grant Avenue and the Dragon Gate is the entry point which was given by the Republic of China
- The 1906 earthquake leveled the entire area and was eventually rebuilt
- Waverly Place: Alley with painted balconies and the location of the first U.S. post office was built
- Food like Dim Sum and Chop Suey was first introduced here
- Actor Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco and resided in Chinatown
- Believe it or not, Chinatown attracts more tourists annually than the Golden Gate Bridge, popular for its many shops, restaurants and temples.
Ruins of the Sutro Baths
- Built in 1896 by successful businessman and former mayor of San Francisco Adolph Sutro
- At the time was considered the largest indoor pool in the world
- It’s popularity declined after the Great Depression and burned to the ground right after its doors closed in 1966
- It was purchased by developers preparing for demolition and to build high rise apartments. After the fire, developers claimed the insurance money and abandoned the project
- A glass roof structure containing 7 swimming pools (including 6 in saltwater)
- Entertainment included a museum, restaurants and a concert hall
- A railroad track was available to visitors
- It also included an ice skating rink
- Tourists walk and hike to the remains and the trek can be a bit treacherous. Grab a bite to eat at Cliff House located right beside the ruins and capture a spectacular view.
- One of the most photographed locations in San Francisco
- Includes a residential neighbourhood and hilltop park with great views of the city
- The famous Painted Ladies, also know as “Postcard Row”, are Victorian mansions spanning from 710-720 Steiner Street. Located across the park, the buildings painted in three or more colors to enhance their architecture.
One big misconception is that the house featured on the television show “Full House” is not one of the 7 Painted Ladies. The actual house is located a dozen blocks away at 1709 Broderick street.
- The San Francisco cable car system is the world’s last manually operated trolley
- The cable car speeds away at a frightening 9 mph…yes nine!
- 7 million annual commuters ride the train, the majority being tourists
- Only 44 cars remain in operation and it takes several skilled carpenters 18-24 months to complete its construction
- San Francisco’s cable cars take two people to operate: a conductor and a gripman
- “Gripping” a cable car is a demanding physical task that requires upper body strength, balance, and great hand-eye coordination.
Japanese Tea Garden
- Popular tourist attraction of Golden Gate Park
- Built in 1894 for the California Midwinter International Exposition
- The garden covers 5 acres of land today
- The oldest Japanese garden in the United States
- Peaceful place to wander with winding paths, dwarf trees, a drum bridge, ponds, sculptures and a five–story pagoda (Buddhist shrine for worship)
- End your visit at the Jack Hirose Teahouse
A landscape architect named Makoto Hagiwara from Japan was selected by creator George Turner Marsh to design and maintain the garden. He was a caretaker for the next 30 years. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Hagiwara Family were taken to camps like all Japanese-Americans.
Did you know Hagiwara is often credited as the inventor of the fortune cookie?
- Italian chocolatier Domenica Ghirardelli moved from South America to California during the Gold Rush
- In 1950, he opened his first store in the city
- A year later, a fire destroyed his business
- The company was sold many times. It’s currently owned by Swiss company Lindt & Sprungli which was purchased in 1998.
- The Ghirardelli company controls the entire chocolate manufacturing process and rejects 40% of cocoa beans as the highest quality seeds are only selected
- It’s a short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf
- There’s no factory tour, but the store at Ghirardelli Square is often flooded with chocolate lovers from all over the world