Spiking the San Francisco skyline and perched on top of Telegraph Hill is an odd-looking concrete tower. The Coit Tower. Shaped like the nozzle of a fire hose, the column stands at 210 ft and can be seen from many parts of the city. Head up to the top of the tower in its Art Deco elevator and you’ll get to take in the 360 degree views. Famous San Francisco landmarks like Alcatraz, Lombard Street and the Golden Gate Bridge can be spotted from its windows. On the ground floor are a series of colourful 1930s murals depicting detailed aspects of San Francisco working life at the time.
From Lombard Street to Coit Tower
A trundling tram ride took me from Powell Street to the top of wiggly winding Lombard Street, one of the crookedest and steepest streets in San Francisco. I could see Coit Tower in the distance as I made my way down Lombard’s eight hairpin bends. It took around half an hour to walk to the tower up and down some pretty steep hills and passing some lovely town houses and gorgeously twisted trees. If you’re heading there from The Embarcadero and you fancy a workout you could take the Filbert Street route and climb its 400 butt-crunching steps to the base of the tower.
Lillian Hitchcock Coit
The quirky tower was built with funds bequeathed to the city by Lillian Hitchcock Coit. She left the money to be used ‘for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved’. ‘Firebelle Lil’ Coit was an eccentric woman who smoked cigars, gambled and wore trousers long before it was the norm for women to do so. She also had a fascination with fire fighters (don’t we all). Her bequest was also used to build a statue of three fire-fighters in Washington Square Park.
Coit Tower Murals
When you get to the tower you don’t have to climb any more steps as there’s an old-fashioned elevator to take you to the top for the views. But before you do this check out the murals on the ground floor. The paintings were completed in 1933 and are full of detail of the every-day working lives of San Franciscans of the time inspired by the style of Diego Rivera. The murals cover the walls of the tower cleverly incorporating doors, windows and alcoves.
360 Degree Views from the Coit Tower
From the top you can see right across the city to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, down town San Francisco and across its grid of streets. I was lucky as it was a clear day with a vibrant blue sky – the very top of the tower is open to the elements so you could get wet.
The windows at floor level around the top are covered in perspex with just one or two open but you can till get some good photos.
Coit Tower Hours and Admission Fees
When: 10am – 6pm (May – October), 10am – 5pm (November – April)
How Much: Entry to the ground floor of the tower is free but there are charges to use the elevator:
Adult – $5 residents, $7 non-residents
Senior (65+) – $3 residents, $5 non-residents
Youth (12-17) – $3 residents, $5 non-residents
Child (5-11) – $1.50 residents, $2 non-residents
Child (4 and under) – Free
Where: 1 Telegraph Hill Boulevard, San Francisco
Have you been to San Francisco? What’s your favourite view?