The Golden Gate Bridge is the most iconic landmark in San Francisco. It is featured in numerous photos, posters and postcards of the city. Walking or biking across the bridge is part of the San Francisco experience. And even if you don’t get the chance to cross the bridge, you’ll certainly see it during your other activities in the city.
Where to See the Best Views of the Bridge
Not every traveler will get the chance to go over the Golden Gate Bridge but you’ll still be able to see this landmark while you’re in the city. Here are some of the best spots to keep your eye out for a terrific view of the bridge.
Hyde Street Pier. Hyde Street Pier, located at the Northern end of Hyde Street, is a great spot for seeing the Golden Gate Bridge from within the city. This pier, located close to Ghirardelli Square, is home to historic ships that you can tour while you’re there. Look west from the end of this pier to see the bridge.
Pier 39. On clear days when there isn’t a lot of fog in the water you can see the Golden Gate Bridge from a distance while visiting Pier 39.
Coit Tower. This Telegraph Hill attraction is a great place to see views of almost every part of the city. Take the affordable elevator ride to the top of the tower and look to the west to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Again, this option only works if it’s not a foggy day.
Marin Headlands. For a really unique view of the Golden Gate Bridge, drive across the bridge and turn left into the Marin Headlands. This is a popular hiking area. From the parking lot, you can walk to a lookout where you can get a really terrific close-up view of the bridge itself. You can also see the city skyline behind the bridge. If you’re a hiker you’ll find that several of the trails here also provide nice views of the bridge from different viewpoints.
Either side of the bridge. You can obviously see the bridge from any spot on the bridge or from either side of the bridge. One neat thing to enjoy is crossing the bridge in a car or bus on a very foggy day. You’ll only be able to see the part of the bridge closest to you and the rest wil be hidden under that mysterious shroud of fog that covers the city.
From a ferry. Another way to view the bridge is via a ferry or group boat charter. With the ferries, you can bike one way, and ferry back from Sausalito or Tiburon (Marin County cities).
How to Get to the Golden Gate Bridge
By car. The Golden Gate Bridge is part of U.S. Highway 101 and is accessible by car. You can drive across the bridge. Note that there is a toll to pay to get back into the city from the other side. There are parking lots on either side of the bridge (free on the northern side, small fee on the southern side). To reach the parking lot in the city on the south side of the bridge, take U.S. Highway 101 and look for the exit sign that reads "Golden Gate National Recreation Area View Area."
By bike. Many, many visitors choose to rent a bike and take it to the Golden Gate Bridge. Bike rental is located all throughout the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Your bike rental service will provide you with a map to reach the bridge from their exact location.
By public transportation. The San Francisco MUNI bus will take you to and from the Golden Gate Bridge. The MUNI route that takes you there is #28. If you wish to take public transportation across to the other side of the bridge, you will need to use the Golden Gate Transit system. Routes 10, 20, 80 and 101 on that system cross the bridge.
By tour bus. The majority of city tour buses, such as the double decker buses, take you to the golden gate bridge. These tours can be booked online or found in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of the city.
Walk across the bridge. Many people want to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Indeed, this is a wonderful experience. You can see the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Francisco Bay on the other. As long as it’s not foggy out, you can see a great view of the city skyline from the bridge and you can also see Sausalito, Angel Island and Alcatraz. It’s a great place for taking classic San Francisco pictures. Make sure that you bring a jacket because it’s usually cold in this area of the city. Also, wear good walking shoes because the walk across the bridge is over one mile each way.
Bicycle across the bridge. One of the most popular ways for travelers to get to the other side of the bridge is to rent a bike and ride it across to the other side. Bike rentals are available throughout Fisherman's Wharf for around $8/hour or $32 per day. Be aware that it is usually cold and windy on the bridge so a jacket is a good idea.
Enjoy views of the city skyline. On either side of the bridge are small parking lots where you can view the Bay, ocean, and Marin Headlands. Take lots of photos while you’re here!
Look out for the suicide phones. At either end of the Golden Gate Bridge you will see emergency phones with signage letting people know that they have options other than to end their lives. Although this is a bit morbid, it is an important part of the history of the Golden Gate Bridge because each year there are people who commit suicide by jumping off of the bridge. There is even a documentary, called The Bridge, about this issue. It’s a highly controversial topic because some people in the city want to erect nets to prevent this from happening and others don’t want the bridge to have these nets.
Buy souvenirs. There’s a gift shop located at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge in a cool-looking building called the Roundhouse. This historic building was originally a restaurant but is now a great spot for you to pick up those cheesy San Francisco souvenirs that you want to take home at the end of your trip.
Check out the Lone Sailor Memorial. This is a Navy statue that was made in bronze and copied multiple times to be placed in different important spots in the United States. One of these is at the Southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sausalito. One of the most popular things to do is to bike across the bridge to the little town of Sausalito. Here you can enjoy shopping, dining, antiquing and walking along the water. Many people take the ferry back to San Francisco (bikes are allowed on the ferry) although of course you can bicycle back as well.
Fort Point. This historic fort was an important protector of the city during the U.S. Civil War. It is located at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is open Friday through Sunday from 10-5. Occasionally there are Civil War re-enactments held as special events at this location.
Fort Baker. This is another historic fort located opposite of Fort Point. It is home to the Bay Area Discovery Museum where you can learn more about the military history of the area.
Walk along the water to Crissy Field. This is a wonderful walk along a dog-friendly beach where lots of people enjoy bike riding, rollerblading and simply taking a stroll. It takes approximately one hour to walk from the bridge to the heart of Crissy Field in the popular Marina neighborhood. Here you’ll find shopping and dining opportunities.
Go windsurfing. The water in the bay right near Crissy Field is one of the most popular places in the area to safely go windsurfing. Watch the people in the water here or be daring and go out and try it yourself.
Check out the nude beach. If you walk from the Golden Gate Bridge in the opposite direction of Crissy Field then you’ll be headed out towards the ocean. The first beach that you hit will be Baker Beach, the City’s main clothing-optional beach. If you continue to walk along the coast you’ll eventually reach the Cliff House, Sutro Baths and Ocean Beach and you’ll find yourself very close to Golden Gate Park.
Visit the Presidio. This is a former army base now converted to a beautiful park. The Presidio bounds the Southern (San Francisco) end of the bridge and connects the Marina District to the Richmond District. It features beautiful bay shore, sandy beaches, and great walks and bike rides. There are also several great museums in this area including the Exploratorium and the Walt Disney Museum.
When the Golden Gate Bridge was first built in 1937 it was the longest suspension bridge ever built in the world. It immediately became internationally recognized and still remains a globally known symbol of San Francisco to this day. It is currently the second longest suspension bridge in the United States and the ninth longest in the world. Many people say that even though it’s not the longest anymore, it’s still the most beautiful!
Golden Gate Bridge Photo by Charles Davis
Construction of the bridge was clearly a big deal. Many people said that there was no way that the bridge could be created. Not only would it have to be longer than any other suspension bridge of that time but it was in an area with strong wind currents and water tides. The Department of War worried that the bridge would interfere with ship traffic in the area. There were a lot of design issues to deal with and a lot of red tape to get through. Eventually, construction did start in 1933 and took over four years to complete at a cost of slightly more than $30 million.
San Francisco has always loved to celebrate everything. When the bridge finally opened, there was a week-long celebration. 200,000 people crossed the bridge together on foot and rollerskates before cars were allowed to cross. Celebrations continued in the city for several weeks following this event.
The bridge was built because it was necessary to create a transportation link between then North Bay and the city. At the time, the only way to get between the two areas was by ferry. Although it’s still possible to ferry between the areas today, most people find it more practical to travel across the bridge. Before the bridge was built, San Francisco’s national growth rate was smaller than average because it was just too inconvenient to get in and out of the city. The bridge succeeded in helping to grow the city. It also became a symbol that defines the city.
Many people want to know why the bridge is red. Well technically it’s not red, it’s a color of orange vermillion called International Orange. This color was selected because one of the original architects felt like it was the color that best enhanced the visibility of the bridge in the fog and yet still complemented the natural surroundings of the area.