San Francisco loves to tout its reputation as one of the most romantic cities, a place where everyone leaves their heart, finds new love or rekindles an old flame.
If you're planning a romantic getaway in San Francisco, here are some great ideas for romantic things to do in San Francisco.
Places to Watch the Sunset
San Francisco sunsets are best in the winter when the sky sometimes gets beautiful colors as the sun goes down. In summer, you're less likely to be able to see a sunset at all, as the evening fog rolls in before Ol' Sol makes it to the horizon.
- Best sunset walk: The walking path at Crissy Field provides a west-facing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. To time it just right, starting about half an hour before "official" sunset time and you can watch the city lights come up on your way back.
- Skyline view: On a clear day, the view of the San Francisco skyline from Treasure Island is unparalleled. Drive toward Oakland on the Bay Bridge, get in the left lane and exit halfway across. What appears to be a manned entrance booth is no longer in operation, so for more privacy, avoid the crowds that gather just outside it, drive further in and find a place to park.
- City view: Although it can often be windy and very busy, the viewpoint at Twin Peaks offers expansive city views. Take Market Street away from the water to Twin Peaks Blvd. and turn right, driving to the top of the hill.
- Sunset cocktails: The Top of the Mark, the bar on the top floor of the Mark Hopkins Hotel (California at Mason) offers 360-degree views and is fun in any weather.
- Sunset bay cruise: A sunset bay cruise is a romantic trip if the weather is right, but not so much fun in the cold or fog, so we'd suggest booking just a few days in advance so you can check the forecast.
Places for a Romantic Walk
If you're feeling adventurous, there are several nude beaches in the area. If you'd prefer to keep your clothes on, try Baker Beach below the Presidio for a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge (albeit from the west), or Ocean Beach near the Cliff House, which has a west-facing view.
- Crissy Field: We mentioned it under places to watch the sunset, but the walking path at Crissy Field is a great romantic spot for a hand-in-hand stroll any time of day.
- Ocean Beach and Lands End: Many people find the ruins of the old Sutro Baths just below Cliff House very romantic, or if you go the other direction, you can walk for miles along the sand. For a different experience, park in the lot just uphill from Cliff House, go through the parking lot and take the hiking path for a pretty walk and a fabulous view.
- San Francisco Arboretum: One of the several spots in Golden Gate Park for a nice walk in pretty surroundings.
- Telegraph Hill Walk: Start at Coit Tower, near where the road enters the parking lot and look for stairs going down. If your legs are up to it, you'll pass through a cozy neighborhood along a tree-lined path. This walk ends near the waterfront.
Spots to Pop the Question
If you're looking for a special spot to ask the love of your life to become your life partner, these are some of the best ones we can find. They're also beautiful, romantic spots, even if you aren't asking any important questions.
- Marin Headlands: For an unforgettable view to go with a memorable moment, drive to the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, exit at Alexander Ave and go up the hill. The first two spots are often chock-full of people, but a little further up, you'll have more privacy.
- Swankiest spot in town: If you’re looking for an elegant setting, try the JCB Tasting Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton. Order a glass of (love potion) No. 9 sparkling wine to start. Enlist their helpful staff to stage the event. Finally, celebrate the acceptance with a glass of No. 22 pinot noir, a twice-lucky number that commemorates owner Jean-Charles Boisset’s first kiss.
- Starlight Room: Located in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel overlooking Union Square, this is one of the most popular romantic spots in the city, a 1930's-style, glamorous, dress-up nightclub with high-backed booths and crystal chandeliers.
- Palace of Fine Arts: One of the most popular places for wedding photos, with beautiful, classical-style columns and a pretty rotunda next to a small lake that's home to a colony of swans. Some sources suggest the rotunda as the best spot here, but we disagree because it's often busy and the gravel surface underfoot distracts from the ambiance. Instead, try for one of the benches across the pond, where you have a prettier view. To get there, drive toward the Golden Gate Bridge on Marina Blvd and turn left onto Lyon St just before you reach the bridge entrance ramp.
- Botanical Garden: Located in Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden has beautiful blooming flowers, and a fragrance garden perfect for the romantic day. You can scout the garden ahead of time to find a secluded spot among the plants and flowers to pop the big question.
- Dinner on the Bay: Reserve a space on a San Francisco Bay dinner dance cruise and take your honey out on the deck for a private moment or two.
- Lots of privacy: Just off El Camino del Mar on the edge of the Lincoln Park Golf Course, you'll find a path that leads down to a small overlook. It's usually empty and has a nice view. Jack Early Park near Grant and Chestnut on Telegraph Hill is often mentioned as a good proposal spot that's more in town.
- Even more privacy with fantastic views: You won't find a more romantic spot that than the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where each hotel room has a literal bird's-eye view of the city. With a little advance planning, you can have room service deliver champagne and chocolates at the perfect moment.