Telegraph Hill Area Walking Tour (Self Guided), San Francisco

Telegraph Hill offers an unexpected and delightful getaway in the heart of San Francisco. The name Telegraph Hill came from a structure built on the top of the hill in the mid-1800s, which would visually signal the city with regard to the type of vessels passing through the Golden Gate. It is famous for the spectacular stairways that traverse some of the city's most charming terrain, and for the popular Coit Tower. Take this tour to explore the area's highlights.
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Telegraph Hill Area Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Telegraph Hill Area Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » San Francisco (See other walking tours in San Francisco)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Transamerica Pyramid
  • City Lights Bookstore
  • National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi
  • Washington Square
  • Sts. Peter and Paul Church
  • Coit Tower
  • Filbert Street Steps
1
Transamerica Pyramid

1) Transamerica Pyramid (must see)

The Transamerica Pyramid stands as a monument of modern architecture and design in the almost Victorian landscape of San Francisco. Today, the building stands as a unique symbol of the city with its sharp and well-defined lines and ultra-modern architecture while demonstrating the merger of the old with the new.

Although the Transamerica Pyramid does seem to blend in with the city’s landscape, initially it did not go very well with many of its denizens. The architect of the building William L. Pereira faced a lot of opposition, regarding the radical structure of the building which would clash with the Victorian style of surrounding architecture. However, Pereira believed that the structure would be a statement of architectural brilliance, and very much so, the Transamerica Pyramid today is one of the modern day symbols of San Francisco.

The Transamerica Pyramid was constructed in 1972 and for years held a position among the top 5 tallest buildings in the world. Measuring up to 260m, the Transamerica Pyramid is still the tallest building in the city of San Francisco. This structure was built as the headquarters of Transamerica Corporation, but no longer houses the company. Despite that, the building is still strongly linked to Transamerica since it is incorporated in the company’s logo.

Why You Should Visit:
While the views from further away (e.g. Coit Tower) are probably more interesting, up close you can easily see the curves as the building rises.

Tip:
Neat the base, you can find a really cool, but small, adjacent city park hosting Redwood trees.
2
City Lights Bookstore

2) City Lights Bookstore

Peter D. Martin and Lawrence Ferlinghetti were the co-founders of the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. It began operations in 1953 as a small paperback bookstore. Ferlinghetti became the sole owner of the store in 1955 and launched a publishing company in order to help upcoming Beat poets who had to struggle to get their work published.

City Lights was a small San Francisco store located in the Artigues Building at 261 Columbus Avenue, near the Broadway intersection at North Beach. Initially, City Lights shared this building with many other shops. However, it gained more store space when it occupied the adjacent shops which closed down over time. The Artigues Building, with its beautiful clerestory windows and a small balcony, was a popular city landmark in the earlier days. It was built on the ruins of a previous building that was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.

City Lights is considered to be a literary monument that reminds of the city’s Beatnik past. However, the charm of this store lies in the poetry room located upstairs. City Lights Bookstore contains a wide collection of poetry books featuring almost all the American poets till date. It even boasts of having poems, features and write-ups that were never published.
3
National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi

3) National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi

San Francisco, earlier known as Yerba Buena, was a sparsely populated place in California. With less than 500 residents, the area was far from any importance or popularity until the year 1849. That year saw the beginning of the Gold Rush and the news spread like wild fire attracting people from far and wide.

People started pouring into the city to grab a bite of gold and within no time the population of San Francisco quadrupled. However, with the growing population there was no place of worship in the newly habited areas. The Catholics had to walk over three miles to the docks just to attend their daily mass at church.

A new committee was then formed to tackle the issue and the first church that was erected was built in the honour of Saint Francis of Assisi after whom the city was christened San Francisco. Built on the North Beach adjoining San Francisco, it was commissioned on the 12th of June 1849. The first mass took place here five days later on 17th of June. The Church was later officially declared the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi. It now contains the relics of Saint Francis, Saint Clare and Saint Anthony of Padua and is no longer under the parish.
4
Washington Square

4) Washington Square

Filled with the chitter chatter in Italian, children playing about, people basking lazily in the sun and families enjoying a sunny morning, the Washington Square is a typical town square. Being one of the most accessible places in the city, the Washington Square is a popular place for community gatherings, festivals and picnics.

Having been laid out half a century ago, the Washington Square is located in the midst of a North Beach neighbourhood, which is predominantly Italian. Overlooking the Washington Square is the church of Saints Peter and Paul, which is known as the Italian Cathedral of the West.

In the centre of the park is a small bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin which was donated in 1879 by the first millionaire of San Francisco, Henry Cogswell to honour the fire fighters of the city of San Francisco. An interesting fact is that when the statue was erected at the site, a time capsule with Henry Cogswell’s belongings was also buried. It was excavated a century later in 1979 and was replaced by a new time capsule will be opened in 2079.

The park is a favourite spot for the locals who come here to do tai-chi, walk their dog or just relax.
5
Sts. Peter and Paul Church

5) Sts. Peter and Paul Church

The Sts. Peter and Paul Church is one of the many structures in San Francisco that has a rich history to blend in with its brilliant architecture. Located opposite the Washington Square Park in the city, the Church has a dedicated following of many pocket communities in San Francisco like the Chinese, Italian, Hispanic, Japanese and Indian. The St. Peter and Paul Church is a Roman Catholic Church and administered by the Salesians of Don Bosco.

The original foundation of the Church was laid in 1884 at the corner of Filbert Street and Grand Avenue. However, the structure couldn’t survive the earthquake and fire in 1906 and was razed to the ground. The present structure was built in 1924 and unlike the previous one, was built with two high raised spires measuring about 191 feet. These spires have made the Church a landmark structure in the city of San Francisco.

Not only is the Church a beautiful sight from the outside, its interiors are equally breath taking as well. The high altar, made up of different kinds of marble and stone is quite a spectacle and is adorned with beautiful fresco in the background. The Sts. Peter and Paul Church is a place you cannot afford to miss when visiting San Francisco.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Coit Tower

6) Coit Tower (must see)

Standing tall in the neighborhood of the Telegraph Hill, in San Francisco is The Coit Memorial Tower. This 64 m tall tower was built in honor of the firefighters of San Francisco Bay area. Built with respect to the art-deco style in architecture, The Coit Tower is quite noticeable and instantly attracts one's attention in the serene landscape of the San Francisco sky. The Coit Memorial Tower receives a lot of visitors around the year and mainly due to the breathtaking view of the city the Tower offers.

Not only does it stand for a noble cause, the reason for the erection of the Tower is also worth notice. The Coit Tower was built in 1933 upon request from a devoted patron of the firefighters of San Francisco- Lillie Hitchcock Coit (1842-1929). So much was her love for her city and its inhabitants that she donated one-third of her wealth to San Francisco city. She shared a special bond with the firefighters and on many occasions had volunteered to shoulder the responsibility of putting off a fire. She was also reported to chase fires around the city and it was this eccentric and brave nature that made her the mascot of the Engine Co. and now is the Matron Saint of the San Francisco firefighters.

Tip:
The views are just as good from the base as they are from the tower itself so if the elevator queue is too long then you can skip it and enjoy the free views and walks around the neighborhood.
Also note the tower closes at 5pm and is cash only.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat: 9am-6pm
7
Filbert Street Steps

7) Filbert Street Steps (must see)

Filbert Street Steps is a stairway extension of Filbert Street which starts at Lyon Street and goes all the way to Telegraph Hill at Kearny Street. With a gradient of 17.5o, Filbert Street is one of the steepest streets in the western hemisphere. The acclivity of the Telegraph Hill would have rendered the street non-motor-able, which is why the Filbert Street Steps were made.

The Steps rise in three sections and are seemingly never-ending if you take a small trek. However, as you climb you can see sculpted gardens which flower all around the year, some neatly tucked away hidden cottages and a breathtaking view of the Bay Bridge. Art deco buildings adorn the view of these steps and the immaculate parking of cars on this steep hillside is sure to amaze you. A picture perfect hideaway in a city like San Francisco, most homes here can only be accessed via the steps. The wild parrots of the hill, which featured in the 2005 documentary, are good company as you walk along these steps towards Coit Tower.

A steep but brief climb, you must take the Filbert Street Steps at least once when you are in San Francisco and leave the concrete jungle for a while. Even if you hate walking up the stairs, you can surely walk them down!

Why You Should Visit:
Pretty garden views and an exhilarating hike off the beaten path!
If you're still on your feet at the top, all of SF lies at your feet: North Beach (with another climb to Coit Tower), Russian Hill with its charming bistros, and Polk Street Gulch/Aquatic Park beyond.

Tip:
Bring water for sure.

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