Romantic things to do in San Francisco
This craggy perch sparks instant romance; you just have to get up there first. Skip the paved staircase in favor of the less populated trail off 15th Street. (It starts at the tennis courts, then winds steeply uphill among the trees.) Clamber up to the top of the hill’s distinctive red rock and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views stretching from downtown to Twin Peaks. It’s an ideal spot for watching sunrises and sunsets wash over the city. BYOB, but be discreet.
Bourbon & Branch is the quintessential San Francisco speakeasy—an unmarked door in the Tenderloin where a password is whispered into an intercom to gain entry. But Wilson & Wilson, an intimate, reservation-only bar tucked away from the main room, takes the intrigue to the next level. There, you’ll find cozy two-tops, candlelight, pressed tin ceilings, and an extensive drink menu. Cocktails are served in teapots—a nod to Prohibition—alongside a sprawling selection of scotch and bourbon.
This spa atop the Vitale Hotel isn’t huge with just three massage rooms, but its intimacy is part of its appeal. Book a bathing ritual for two on the open-air roof, where a pair of deep-soaking infinity tubs are lit by lanterns and strewn with rose petals. The treatment is entirely self-driven—you control everything from the temperature to the bath salts to the tea. When the sun goes down, scope out the glittering Bay Lights views from the patio.
This 3.5-mile beach spans the far west side of the city, from the Outer Richmond to the Outer Sunset. The sandy strip has a community feel like no other, where local surfers, artists, and old-timers know each other (and their dogs) by name. The southern side is home to hardcore surfers who brave the frigid waves, while farther north, you’ll find tourists and regulars who make the beautiful trek from Sutro Baths and Lands End. Bonfires are permitted in 16 designated fire pits, March through October. Get there early to snag one, as it’s first-come, first served—then watch the sun sink behind the horizon.
Though it’s been a Mission standby for nearly two decades, Foreign Cinema remains one of the most stunning restaurants in town. The seasonal California fare is sourced from farms in Bolinas, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, and Olema, complemented by an impressive 2,000-bottle wine list. Inside, you’ll find an elegant expanse of marble, stone, and exposed beams under 18-foot ceilings. But the real draw is the outdoor patio, warmed by heat lamps and twinkling with string lights. The “cinema” comes in the form of the huge projector screen, where classic and contemporary movies play nightly.
Nightbird chef Kim Alter created this 8-seat bar with the same attention to craft and ingredients as her restaurant next door. The spot has a refined living room feel, with Yves Klein blue walls, studded leather chairs, and a well-appointed shelf filled with records beside the backlit liquor. The craft cocktails are spirit-forward and seasonal, with an emphasis on fresh fruits and herb infusions, and the bartenders are akin to chemists, drawing from a supply of tinctures and liqueurs. Inventive drinks are served in vintage glassware, like the Kilt Dropper, a sweetly buzz-inducing concoction of scotch, aquavit, elderflower, and Peychauds bitters.
There’s a reason this sandy stretch is a sought-after spot for engagement and wedding photos. The Golden Gate Bridge is visible in the distance, while gray-green serpentine cliffs rise behind you, dotted by the mansions of the Seacliff district. Several trails lead down to the beach from the Presidio, including Bluff Trail, Bay Ridge Trail, and Park Trail. Take the sand ladder stairway for a birds-eye view of the beach and, if you’re lucky, a glimpse of dolphins playing in the surf.
Originally opened in 1939, the Top of the Mark is a stately, storied old bar. It was once a tradition for U.S. Navy officers to belly up for a send-off drink before shipping out during World War II. (The northwest corner, dubbed the “Weepers’ Corner,” is where their girlfriends would watch the ships depart the bay.) The vibe has changed significantly since then, but the rich history and stirring view remain, encompassing the Financial District, Bay Bridge, Chinatown, North Beach, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
This hotspot uncommonly cozy: All the cooking revolves around an open wood fire and fireplace. Chef Joshua Skenes grew up hunting, fishing, and cooking over campfires in rural Florida, and that sensibility carries over into his restaurants. Angler’s cuisine focuses on seafood with a high-end twist. It starts with private-batch caviar and progresses to an eclectic raw bar menu (think antelope tartare, purple sea urchin, and more). The main dishes are all roasted over the embers of an open fire. On any given night, that might include giant octopus, California king crab, 28-ounce porterhouse steaks, or grilled rabbit. It’s all hyper-seasonal and locally sourced from Bay Area fishermen, hunters, gatherers, ranchers, and farmers. The decor is as rustic as it is beautiful: bunches of dried herbs and flowers hang overhead and taxidermy adorns the walls.
This ritzy, New Orleans-inspired bar by the team behind the Slanted Door is known for its rare whiskies. Spirits-lovers can sample liberally with the bar’s wide range of whiskey flights, led by a knowledgeable bartenders. Flights start at around $30 for themed or distillery-focused tastings (say, craft distilleries or single malts) and run upwards of $300 for special aged samples like 23-year Van Winkle and 25-year Rittenhouse Rye.