A Culture Lover's Guide to San Francisco

The Best Cultural Spots in San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most cultural cities in the United States. Not only will you find a diverse group of people living here, but you'll also find distinct neighborhoods with their own subcultures. Furthermore, you'll find a wide array of museums, shops, music venues, parks, and historical places to visit as well. If you're interested in exploring some of the best cultural spots in San Francisco, then this list will get you started.

Museums

San Francisco has some of the best museums in the country. From iconic museums like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Asian Art Museum, to unique museums like the Cartoon Art Museum, there's something for everyone.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art houses an impressive collection of contemporary art. There are over 33,000 works including paintings, sculptures, photography, architecture, and more.
151 3rd Street, South of Market, SF, California, 94103
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Cable Car Museum
This free museum is all about the history of the cable car system in San Francisco, and is also home to the actual machinery that powers the cable cars themselves! Visitors can see historical exhibits about how the cable cars were once used much more frequently in the city, what they looked like, and how they work. It's also possible to go down under the street level to see the gear machinery, and gaze upon the large engines and wheels that move the cables.
1201 Mason Street, Nob Hill, SF, California, 94133
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
The Asian Art Museum has one of the most comprehensive Asian art collections in the world. There are over 18,000 works of art, with some works over 6,000 years old.
200 Larkin Street, Civic Center, SF, California, 94102
The Marine Mammal Center
Created in 1975, the Marine Mammal Center, focuses on rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing injured marine mammals. It's also a research and educational center.
2000 Bunker Road, San Francisco, California, 94965
Cartoon Art Museum
This unique museum is the only museum in the Western US that is dedicated exclusively to cartoon art. There are about 7,000 pieces of work here.
650 Mission Street, Union Square, SF, California, 94105
Legion of Honor
From it's beautiful Beaux-Arts building to its impressive collection of ancient and European art, this museum is a must-see in San Francisco. The limestone, marble, and chevron wood building is a beautiful work of art and inside there is a collection of more than 800 European paintings (with 250 available to view).
Lincoln Park | 100 34th Avenue (at Clement Street), Lincoln Park, San Francisco, CA, 94121
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
This venue offers contemporary visual art, performances, films, and community programs that highlight and educate the public on local, national, and international artists that are creating works in modern times.
701 Mission St., SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94103
If you're looking for more information about San Francisco, read Quirky and Unique Neighborhoods in San Francisco and The Best Places to Enjoy the Water in San Francisco.
Musée Mécanique
This museum was created by local celebrity Edward Galland Zelinsky in 1933. It features his unique collection of antique mechanical creations including coin-operated musical instruments, antique arcade machines, and other unusual contraptions. If you bring your own coins, you can try out many of the machines as they still work.
Pier 45, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA, 94133
Randall Museum
This family-friendly museum offers a number of interesting exhibits including a STEM lab, science and ceramics studios, and several exhibit spaces. This museum is all about the kids, and there's plenty of space for the young ones to play. There's a toddler treehouse and a large electric model railroad that even has replicas of Bay Aria trains. Animal lovers will enjoy the animal exhibit which features live coyotes, foxes, reptiles and sea creatures.
199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA, 94114
California Historical Society
The California Historical Society offers a variety of interesting exhibits at their downtown location. They also provide exhibits to a number of exhibits to other museums in the area.
678 Mission St., San Francisco, CA, 94105
Museum of the African Diaspora
This contemporary art museum features work that highlights Black culture. The museum educates and informs visitors on the history of African culture, following through to modern times. The space is 20,000 square feet and it was created through the efforts of the former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown.
685 Mission St (at 3rd), San Francisco, CA, 94105
San Francisco Museum of Craft & Design
This museum features the work of painters, textile artists, and sculptors. It's a small museum with a number of rotating exhibits.
2569 Third Street, San Francisco, CA, 94107
Contemporary Jewish Museum
This three story museum is an impressive sight. It is made with more than 3,000 color-changing blue steel panels that form the Hebrew letters chet and yud, which come together to spell the Hebrew word for life. The museum hosts a series of rotating exhibits as well as cultural shows.
736 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, 94103
Planning a trip to San Francisco? You might also be interested in A Train Lover's Guide to San Francisco and An Art Lover's Guide to San Francisco.
de Young Museum
This art museum is located in Golden Gate Park and features work from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. This museum is more than 125 years old and it's popular for its unique fashion exhibits that include everything from costumes to contemporary Muslim fashions. There's also a beautiful observation tower on the 9th floor that looks out over Golden Gate Park, downtown San Francisco, the Bay, and the Marin headlands.
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA, 94118
Walt Disney Family Museum
This museum is dedicated to the life and work of Walt Disney. It was founded by the Walt Disney Family Foundation and is overseen by Diane Disney Miller. The museum features historic photographs and other paraphernalia from Walt Disney's life as well as rotating exhibits on various animators and stylists who have worked on the Disney movies.
104 Montgomery Street, Presidio, San Francisco, CA, 94129
Children's Creativity Museum
This kid's museum is all about using your imagination and creativity. There's a play space where kids can just be kids. There are also labs, workshops, and studios where kids can experiment, explore, and learn. The Animation Lab lets kids create their own characters who then come to life through stop-motion filming. The Tech Lab teaches kids to program robots, and the Music Studio lets kids dress up and create their own music videos.
221 Fourth St., San Francisco, CA, 94103
How much does it cost to visit the museums in San Francisco?

Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $25 to $90. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $47. A few of the best options are below.

Historic Sites

San Francisco is a city full of history and heritage. From its iconic cable cars to its historic architecture, San Francisco has a wealth of interesting sites to explore.
The Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is the last building remaining from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. It's a beautiful, classical style building that sits by a lagoon that serves as a reflecting pool. Inside the palace there are regular art exhibits and performances. The theater seats about 1,000 people.
3301 Lyon Street, Marina District, San Francisco, CA
Mission Delores
Also called Mission Dolores, Mission San Francisco de Asis is the oldest remaining structure in San Francisco. The mission was founded in 1776 by Lieutenant José Joaquin Moraga and Francisco Palóu. Regular Catholic services are offered in the larger basilica, and visitors can also see the Old Mission which contains gorgeous murals, as well as the historic cemetery on the grounds.
19 Chula Lane, Duboce Triangle, SF, California, 94114
San Francisco has plenty more to offer, so see also our other articles: Educational Places and Activities in San Francisco and How to Spend One Day in San Francisco.
Lotta's Fountain
This historical fountain is located on Market Street by Geary and Kearny Streets. It was built in 1875 and served as an important meeting point following the 1906 earthquake and fire.
Union Square, SF, California
San Francisco Railway Museum
Located by the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero, this fun and family-friendly railroad museum focuses on the history of railroading in San Francisco with a special focus on the historic street cars. After all, the city is not just home to the cable cars, but also street cars and a subway system. Visitors can get into the driver's seat of a replica street car and view a variety of exhibits about local history as it relates to transportation in the region.
77 Steuart Street, Embarcadero and Financial District, San Francisco, California
How much does it cost to visit the historic sites of San Francisco?

Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $5 to $149. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $47. A few of the best options are below.

Food & Cuisine

San Francisco is known for being a foodie's paradise. The city is home to some of the country's best restaurants, as well as gourmet food shops, farmers markets, and food trucks. With so much to choose from, it can be hard to choose where to go. Luckily, San Francisco's food scene is diverse, so no matter what you're in the mood for, you're sure to find something you love.
Ghirardelli Square
Ghirardelli Square
Named after the famous chocolate maker and constructed from a historic chocolate factory, this shopping center and public square has a number of boutique shops, ice cream, cafes, and nearby restaurants. Naturally, the most visited shop is the Ghirardelli Chocolate shop and ice cream cafe where you can get all sorts of yummy treats. Visitors can also find some fun activities such as mini-golf, a public fountain with outdoor seating, and great views looking out to the bay.
871 Beach Street, Marina District, San Francisco, California, 94109
Chinatown
Chinatown
Chinatown is a must-see neighborhood for anyone visiting San Francisco. It's one of the most visited neighborhoods in the city and it offers a unique cultural experience, that is surprisingly authentic, particularly if you wander down Stockton Street, which is lined with local seafood and vegetable markets. For the more touristy stretch with souvenir shops, head to Grant Street. San Francisco's Chinatown has a long history, and it is home to the largest Chinese population outside of China.

For anyone interested in trying local Chinese food, there are a number of good restaurants. There are also many small shops with souvenirs and trinkets.
San Francisco, CA
The Mission
The Mission District is an authentic neighborhood that is away from the well beaten tourist path of San Francisco. The neighborhood has a large Hispanic population and many great local restaurants where you can try some of the best tacos and burritos around. This neighborhood is also famous for its colorful street art and murals. To see these beautiful works, head to Balmy Alley (between 24th and 25th streets, and Treat and Harrison streets) and Clarion Alley (between 17th and 18th streets, and Mission and Valencia streets). There are also a number of other famous murals in the area.
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco has plenty more to offer, so see also our other articles: The Best Art Museums in San Francisco and The Best Children's Museums in San Francisco.
Japantown
Japantown in San Francisco is the oldest of the three remaining Japantowns in the United States. At the heart of the neighborhood is the Japan Center, which is a shopping area filled with restaurants, hotels, and a movie theater. Head here for some of the city's best sushi and ramen. The neighborhood also hosts a number of great festivals throughout the years including the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, Children's Day in May, and the August Nihonmachi Street Fair
San Francisco, CA

Religious Sites

Grace Cathedral
Grace Cathedral is an Episcopal cathedral on Nob Hill. The beautiful building is known for its mosaics, two labyrinths, and impressive stained glass windows.
1170 California Street, Nob Hill, SF, California, 94108
How much does it cost to visit the religious sites of San Francisco?

Music & Concerts

San Francisco is the birthplace of the hippie movement, and the city's musical legacy lives on today. With an abundance of live music venues, from bars to clubs to outdoor festivals, there's never a shortage of musical events happening in the city.

Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall
This concert hall is home to the San Francisco Symphony and has more than 2,500 seats. With regular events and concerts throughout the year, it's a fantastic venue for a date night or for any culture lover.
201 Van Ness Avenue, Hayes Valley, SF, California, 94102
War Memorial Opera House
On Van Ness Avenue near City Hall, the War Memorial Opera House has been the home of the San Francisco Opera since 1932! With events throughout the year, grab a ticket whether you're a local or a visitor, because you'll be blown away by the ambiance, atmosphere, and stunning performances hosted here.
401 Van Ness Avenue, Hayes Valley, San Francisco, California, 94102
Great American Music Hall
On O'Farrell Street, this music hall hosts a variety of concerts and musical events. The theater itself has historically decorative frescoes and columns. Over the years, this place has seen jazz, folk music, rock and roll, and burlesque dancing shows.
859 O'Farrell Street, Tenderloin, SF, California, 94109
SFJAZZ Center
This music venue is located in Hayes Valley and first opened in 2013.
201 Franklin Street, Hayes Valley, SF, California, 94102
The Fillmore
This historic music hall and theater has seen many new musicians and bands rise to popularity such as the Grateful Dead, Santana, and CCR. Plenty of amazing shows can be seen and experienced here on a regular basis, so grab a ticket.
1805 Geary Boulevard, Western Addition, SF, California, 94115

Theater

San Francisco has a reputation as one of the most theater-centric cities in America. Theaters line the city's streets, and nearly every corner has a performance of some kind. With dozens of theaters, a theater district, and a thriving theater community, it's no wonder that San Francisco is a mecca for theater lovers.

Where to Stay in San Francisco

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