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How To Visit Coit Tower In San Francisco, California

How To Visit Coit Tower In San Francisco, California

The Coit Tower in San Francisco dominates the skyline of the Golden City. The tower also features a fun history as to why it was originally built.

Both visitors and locals alike will enjoy visiting Coit Tower because it offers stunning views of the city and bay. This is a top attraction in San Francisco anyone will love.

So why can you trust us when it comes to the Coit Tower?

Because we visited Coit Tower ourselves in October 2022. This guide is written from first hand experience and with our own photos.

Our goal is to tell you everything you need to know so you know exactly what to expect when you visit this iconic structure.

In our guide, we will show you:

  • What is Coit Tower
  • History of Coit Tower
  • How to get there
  • 6 things to do at Coit Tower
  • Best time to visit
  • Is Coit Tower worth it

Now, let’s climb Coit Tower in San Francisco!

What Is Coit Tower?

If you look at a skyline photo of San Francisco, you will notice a slender white fluted 210 foot column rising from the top of Telegraph Hill.

That white column is an observation deck known as Coit Tower.

Visitors can opt to climb the steps or take the elevator up to the top of the tower. When you reach the top, you will be rewarded with gorgeous 360-degree views of the city and bay.

From the top of Coit Tower, you can see the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge as well as the Bay Bridge.

However, Coit Tower isn’t just about the views, it’s a public works art project. Coit Tower is home to vibrant frescoes depicting life in California from the 1930’s.

These murals were the first major relief work commissioned by the U.S. Government Public Works of Art Project (PWAP). The goal was to provide a legacy for 25 local artists and give the public a look into social realism.

Coit Tower is open from:

  • 10:00am – 6:00pm daily April to October
  • 10:00am – 5:00pm day November to March

The tower is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Coit Tower dedication plaque to Lillie Hitchcock Coit
Coit Tower dedication plaque

History Of The San Francisco Coit Tower

The Coit Tower was built as a monument to Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a passionate firefighter who pushed boundaries and lived her life to the fullest.

After her death, Coit left $125,000 to the city of San Francisco “for the purpose of adding beauty to the city which I have always loved.” However, there were no further instructions.

So the city of San Francisco decided a tower would be an appropriate and thoughtful gesture to honor Lillie.

Coit Tower was designed by the firm of Arthur Brown Jr., an architect of San Francisco’s City Hall. It was once rumored the tower was designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle, but this is incorrect.

Throughout her life, Lillie was well ahead of the times, often dressing up as a man to gamble in North Beach saloons and smoking cigars. She also pushed the limits by ice-skating in short skirts which was frowned upon back in those days.

But she is best known for her lifelong dedication to firefighting. In 1863, Coit became the unofficial mascot of the Knickerbocker Hose Company #5 and showed her dedication by rarely missing a fire.

Coit Tower was erected to represent her love and serve as a memorial to her beloved firefighters in the city of San Francisco.

View of Coit Tower from Lombard Street in San Francisco
View of Coit Tower from Lombard Street in San Francisco

Where Is Coit Tower In San Francisco?

Coit Tower is located in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California in Pioneer Park.

Address: 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94133

Coit Tower Google Maps Location.

There are several ways you get to Coit Tower because it such a visible landmark, you don’t really need a set of directions. Just follow your line of sight to the tower!

How To Get To The San Francisco Coit Tower

We would recommend you walk or take public transportation when visiting Coit Tower. Personally, we walked and highly recommend this scenic route.

When looking at a map, take the south side via the Filbert Steps and then descend via the east side via the Greenwich Steps. You could also do this route in reverse depending on your San Francisco itinerary.

From Washington Square Park, follow Filbert Street about two blocks to climb up telegraph Hill via the Filbert Street stairs. You will see signs for Coit Tower along the way.

This was the route we took to visit the tower after eating breakfast at Mama’s on Washington Square.

You can also take the MUNI bus line #39 which travels between Coit Tower and Fisherman’s Wharf. Or if you are in North Beach, you can catch this same bus at Washington Square Park.

At the time of writing, the #39 bus costs $2.25 / person and runs from 9:00am to 7:00pm daily every 20 minutes. See the #39 schedule here.

Another option would be to book a taxi, Uber or Lyft.

View of the parking lot with a few cars
Small parking lot at Coit Tower

Coit Tower Parking

There are a few different places you can park when visiting Coit Tower.

Parking directly at Coit Tower is extremely limited. There is a small lot on the top of Telegraph Hill with about 25 spots and this lot will give you 30 minutes of free parking during posted hours.

These parking spots near Coit Tower are also limited to residents with SFMTA issued “A” permits on weekends. If you plan to visit during peak time, you may experience a long line of cars waiting to reach the parking lot.

Your next best option for parking would be to find one of the many paid parking garages located near the Tower or search for a metered parking spot nearby.

Keep in mind you will have to walk up telegraph Hill after parking your vehicle.

Travel Tip: Be sure to take all personal belongings from your vehicle as break-ins are common in heavy tourist areas such as Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf and Golden Gate Park.

Elevator not working sign with 250 steps to the top
Tickets for the Coit Tower

Coit Tower San Francisco Tickets

Good news if you are a San Francisco resident because your ticket to the Coit Tower will be slightly discounted compared to a SF non-resident ticket.

The best place to buy a ticket to Coit Tower is onsite at the gift shop. Both cash and card are accepted.

A ticket to the Coit Tower for SF residents costs $7.00 for adults, $4.00 for youth (12-17) and seniors (62+) and $2.00 for children (5-11).

A ticket to the Coit Tower for non SF residents costs $10.00 for adults, $7.00 for youth (12-17) and seniors (62+) and $3.00 for children (5-11).

All children 4 and under will receive free entry to Coit Tower.

Additionally, entrance to the Coit Tower ground floor murals, gift shop and vista points do not require a ticket and are free to visit.

If you don’t want to visit Coit Tower on your own, you should check out this San Francisco walking tour which will include a stop at Coit Tower.

Travel Tip: If you are on a tight budget or visit when Coit Tower is closed, you can still have a great view of the bay at the vista points located near the base of the tower. However, you will miss the murals.

6 Things To Do At The Coit Tower In San Francisco

The Coit Tower in San Francisco is one of the top attractions in the Golden City. This is what you can expect when visiting the tower:

Woman looking at the murals on the second floor of Coit Tower
Kristen walking down the stairs at Coit Tower

1). Climb The Stairs Or Take The Elevator

In order to get to the top of the Coit Tower, you can climb the stairs inside the tower or take the elevator. When we visited in Oct 2022, the elevator was unavailable and every visitor had to climb the stairs.

The stairs are divided into various sections with murals painted along the first and second floor sections. If you are wearing a backpack, you will have to place it on your front as you walk through the sections with murals.

There are 250 steps inside the Coit Tower. Even if the elevator is working, there is a small section at the top where you will need to climb a few stairs.

Murals depicting life in San Francisco from the 1930's
Ground floor murals in the Coit Tower

2). Enjoy The Murals

The murals in the Coit Tower were implemented by Dr. Walter Heil, the Director of the Legion of Honor Museum. Heil selected 25 of the best Bay artists to cover the bare walls of the tower.

While you can view the murals on the first floor for free, the stairway and the second floor murals are only available to the general public through a docent-led guided tour (unless you visit the tower).

Mural tours are available and last about 30 to 40 minutes, but are limited to groups of 6 people. City Guides also offers two free tours a week, one on Wednesdays and one on Saturdays.

A $10 fee per person will be charged for a full tour of the murals, while a $5 fee per person will be charged for a tour of just the second floor murals.

To see a full description of the 19 murals, click here.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay
View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the top of Coit Tower

3). Snap Some Photos Of The Bay

The top of the Coit Tower observation deck will grant visitors stunning 360-degree views of the entire area.

There are several small windows you can look out from so you can experience many different vantage points of San Francisco.

We loved looking out onto the bay from this high vantage point because you can see all the piers located along the Embarcadero and Alcatraz Island.

As you watch the ships come in an and out of the San Francisco bay, it’s easy to imagine how busy this port must have been during its prime.

Exterior view of the front of Coit Tower
Exterior view from the front of Coit Tower

4). Coit Tower Café

Outside the Coit Tower near the small parking lot, you will find the Coit Tower Café. Stop here for a hot or cold drink, pastries, paninis, pizza and frozen yogurt.

Please just note that no food or drinks are allowed in Coit Tower.

Gift shop selling many small trinkets
Coit Tower gift shop

5). Stop By The Coit Tower Gift Shop

After your climb to the top of Coit Tower, you will pass through a small gift shop on the way out. In this gift shop, you can find items related to both Coit Tower and San Francisco.

Take a moment to browse the gift shop items because there are some cool trinkets you probably won’t find anywhere else.

Coit Tower view from a distance
View of Coit Tower from a distance

6). Find The Wild Parrots In Pioneer Park

Coit Tower is located at the summit of Telegraph Hill in Pioneer Park.

The commanding views at the top of hill once housed a marine telegraph station to help relay messages when ships entered the Bay. This is how Telegraph Hill received its name.

In the 1880’s, San Francisco functioned solely by ship and all arrivals into the Bay were considered important events. Pioneer Park during that time period had an observatory and elegant restaurant.

But due to the location on top of the hill, the business failed as it was too costly and dangerous. While you can no longer find a restaurant, Pioneer Park offers stunning views of the surrounding Bay.

As you wander through the trails, keep you ears open for some of San Francisco’s noisy residents, the famous flock of parrots. This flock even featured in the 2005 film, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.

Best Time To Visit

Coit Tower is opened almost every day year-round.

The best time to visit Coit Tower is opening time at 10:00am between the non-peak season months of October to February on weekdays.

Because this museum is popular with tourists, we would recommend arriving early as well as visiting midweek to help avoid the crowds.

Woman looking out the windows at Coit Tower
Kristen looking out from the top of Coit Tower

Is Coit Tower In San Francisco Worth it?

Yes, Coit Tower in San Francisco is worth it. For a small fee, you can see beautiful murals and experience beautiful views of the San Francisco bay all with one visit.

However, if you don’t want to climb the tower, you can still visit the summit of Telegraph Hill to see beautiful vistas of San Francisco.

If you are into photography, just be aware there is no place at the top of the tower where you can take a photo without a glass panel. Many of your photos will have glare, but we do think it’s still worth the trip.

View of Alcatraz Island from the top of Coit Tower
Alcatraz Island from Coit Tower (with small bits of glare)

Pros To Visiting Coit Tower

This is what we liked about the Coit Tower and why you should visit:

  • Beautiful views of San Francisco Bay
  • Tickets are quite cheap for the area
  • Ability to see beautiful murals

Cons To Visiting Coit Tower

This is what we didn’t like about Coit Tower:

  • Tower can be crowded
  • Elevator may be out of service
  • Glass panels at top can make photography difficult

Coit Tower Photos

We took many photos during our time at Coit Tower. Here is what you can expect for your visit:

Woman climbing the 250 stairs to the top of Coit Tower
Kristen climbing to the top of Coit Tower
Vibrants murals painted on the stairwell walls
Murals on the second floor of Coit Tower
Visitors looking out the top of Coit Tower
Visitors enjoying the views from the top
Aerial view of San Francisco streets
Aerial street view of San Francisco’s famous streets
Elevator in Coit Tower San Francisco
Elevator in the Coit Tower
View of the Bay Bridge in California
View of the Embarcadero and the Bay Bridge
Views from the top of Coit Tower in San Francisco
Perspective shot from the top of Coit Tower
View of the transamerica Pyramid from Coit Tower
Transamerica Pyramid view from Coit Tower
Floor 7 inside the Coit Tower
Stairwell inside the Coit Tower
Vibrant murals in San Francisco California
Coit Tower ground floor murals
View of Coit Tower from Alcatraz Island
Coit Tower from Alcatraz Island
Backpack sign in the front of Coit Tower
Please respect the painted murals when visiting the Coit Tower

San Francisco Coit Tower FAQ’s

Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about the famous Coit Tower in San Francisco.

Can You Go Up The Coit Tower?

Yes, you can go up Coit Tower in San Francisco because it is an observation deck.

Is Coit Tower Free?

No, Coit Tower is not free, but if you are a San Francisco resident, you will receive a discount.

How Many Steps Is The Coit Tower?

There are 250 steps in the Coit Tower.

How Much Does It Cost To Go Into Coit Tower?

Ticket prices for the Coit Tower depend on age and San Francisco residency, but cost anywhere from $2-$20 / person.

More California Guides

Want more California content? Head to our California Travel Guides to explore National Parks, popular road trips and things to do in major cities of the sunshine state.

We hope this Coit Tower helps with planning your visit to San Francisco!

Please let us know if you have any questions about visiting Coit Tower or San Francisco in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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