Due to an awesome law, all the large, privately owned buildings in Downtown San Francisco have to provide a certain amount of space to the public. Most of them are pedestrian walkways with benches or some courtyards. Some of this Publicly Open Privately Owned Spaces (POPOS) are Rooftop Gardens. I love high vantage points with a great view, that’s why I love Rooftop Gardens so much. With my last visit to San Francisco I scouted for the best rooftop gardens and here are the seven I found. If there are any missing, please let me know and I am happy to extend the list.
515 Mission Terrace
Where: 515 Mission St
I wouldn’t really consider this as a rooftop garden even tho it is on the roof of a parking garage. It’s located next to the Transbay Transit Center. You actually can see some of the construction right from this place. The views are not too great, but gives you a nice place to relax.
I loved how the huge glass front of one building acted like a gigantic mirror.
555 California Street / A.P. Giannini Plaza
Where: 555 California Street
If you walk up California Street, you are right there. Officially called the A.P. Giannini Plaza. The easiest entrance to the plaza is at California Street and Kearny Street. Though not exactly a rooftop, the mezzanine still overlooks the rest of the Financial District. It’s very tranquil and it has a fountain with a little bamboo tree forest.
St Mary’s Square
Where: At the corner of Pine St and Quincy St.
This is a small park on top of a parking garage, which gives you an overview of the Financial District. To get there you can walk up either California St or Pine St and enter at the Quincy St intersection. There are also elevators on the Kearny St side, but you will have to walk in to see them. It is like the previous location not really a rooftop garden, but I like the view. Unfortunately, the view will vanish soon. There is another building erected right in front of it. I don’t know how high it will be, but probably high enough to block some of the views.
One Montgomery Terrace
Where: One Montgomery St / 50 Post St
Opening Hours: Weekdays, 9 am to 5 pm
There are two ways to get here. You can go inside the Crocker Galleria (50 Post St) and take the escalator up to the third floor. From there look for a hallway with the sign “Roof Garden”. The other way to get there is via the elevator inside the Wells Fargo Building (1 Montgomery St. not the bank, see photo below). If you stand on the corner of Montgomery and Post St, walk up a few steps at the One Montgomery Building. There are two doors. The right door is the entrance to the Wells Fargo Bank. Take the door on your left to get to the elevators up to the Rooftop Garden Terrace. The big advantage of this terrace is that you can pick up food from any of the stores inside the Crocker Galleria and bring it up to the terrace to enjoy it. Unfortunately, this place is very well-known and crowded during lunch hour.
This place is only open during the week and I assume from 9 am to 5 pm. Definitely closed on Sundays. I can speak from experience ;-).
Crocker Galleria Roof Terrace
Where: 50 Post Street
Opening Hours: Weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This one is a small secluded roof terrace at the Crocker Galleria. Most people prefer the One Montgomery Terrace (see above), probably because it’s bigger and has great views of Market Street. When I came here, nobody was here except the landscaping guys watering the plants and taking care of the green. You have a nice view of the highrises around the terrace here and good for a quiet lunch. Open during business hours of the Crocker Galleria.
Westfield Sky Terrace
Where: 835 Market St
Floor: 9th floor
Opening Hours: Weekdays, 9 am to 5 pm
This rooftop garden is located on top of the Westfield Shopping Center in Downtown San Francisco right on the busy Market St. Easiest way to get here is to use the entrance on Market St. Don’t use the entrance to the shopping center! Look for the entrance which has written “835 Market Street” above the doors (see Picture). Follow the hallway past the security guard, like you know what you are doing.
Only one elevator goes to the Sky Terrace.
Either you are lucky and the right elevator (with the label on it) opens its door or you can take any of the other elevators to the 8th floor and from there call the one which goes to the Sky Terrace.
Since the reopening of the Sky Terrace here, they changed the rules of entry. Now you have to walk up to the security guard on duty and show your ID. They will note your Name, Date of Birth and ID number and probably expiration date. I had no problem getting in with my German driver’s license, my only license on hand during my visit.
There is an alternative way, which is hard to describe, but you can enter also from the food court level of the Westfield Shopping Center and head up to the Ground Level. From there you have to talk to the guard on duty as well to get up to the Sky Terrace. If you are not familiar with this place, I recommend you to use the first option.
Unfortunately, the Sky Terrace is closed for remodeling right now and I couldn’t get an answer when it will re-open. The Sky Terrace is open again as of my visit in February 2016.
343 Sansome Rooftop Deck
Where: 343 Sansome St
Floor: 15th floor
Opening Hours: Weekdays, 10 am to 5 pm
Enter the building and walk past the security guard. Take one of the elevators to the 15th floor and you are there. You will have a great view from up here, especially of the Transamerica Pyramid.
One Kearny Building
Where: 23 Geary St
Floor: 11th floor
Opening Hours: Weekdays, 10 am to 5 pm
This is my favorite rooftop so far. It’s very secluded and quaint. Not too many people know about this place. Even tho it’s located on top of the One Kearny Building you will enter through 23 Geary St. Right after the entrance, you are supposed to sign in to visit the terrace and show your ID. When I visited the guard was distracted by talking to another person and I didn’t see the sign and walked straight to the elevator. Take the elevator up to the 11th floor and you are there.
This is also the smallest one of all the places in this list and there is no real shade there. If you visit on a sunny day, it can get hot. There is plenty of seating available, however, no tables are available. You have a great view of Market St and Third St.
They have a lot of rules and the funniest one is “Don’t eat or cook any of the plants”. There is even a restroom up here, but you have to get the keys downstairs where you checked in. I checked, yes the restroom was locked.
Cheesecake Factory at Union Square
Where: 251 Geary Street
Floor: 8th floor
Opening Hours Restaurant: Mon – Thu 11 am to 11 pm, Fri and Sat 11 am to 00:30 am; Sun 10 am to 11 pm
Well, this is not a rooftop garden at all, but I just want to add it to the list because you have amazing views of Union Square here. Dine here and sit outside on the patio. Enjoy a view which is hard to beat for a restaurant. The Cheesecake Factory is located inside Macy’s. Even so, Macy’s is closed you are able to enter the Cheesecake Factory through the elevators at the entrance. If you are planning to eat here, make sure you have a reservation. This location is famous under locals and even tourists. You can go up here and take some pictures, even tho you don’t eat here. Be polite and don’t block the exits to the patio for waiters. For hours of operation and menu visit the Cheesecake Factory homepage.
If you are into rooftop gardens, check out my post about two secret gardens in Seattle.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
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