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City Hall and Civic Center

Exploring the Civic Center and City Hall of San Francisco

A Cultural and Architectural Marvel

Civic Center History

Following the devastating 1906 earthquake, San Francisco embarked on a mission to rebuild and beautify the city, leading to the creation of the neoclassical Civic Center. Architect Daniel Burnham’s vision was realized with the completion of City Hall and the Exposition Auditorium in 1915, marking the beginning of a new era. Over the years, additions such as the Victory Gardens and Davies Symphony Hall have enhanced the area, making it a focal point for political and cultural gatherings.

Did you know? The Civic Center’s broad plazas have been the backdrop for significant political events, including speeches by Harvey Milk and numerous anti-war rallies.


San Francisco City Hall in the Civic Center
San Francisco City Hall in the Civic Center


Civic Center is a bustling hub for various occasions, from the weekly farmer’s market to the annual San Francisco Pride Parade. The area celebrates the city’s achievements, such as the Giants’ World Series win, with grand festivities that draw crowds from across the nation. Cultural enthusiasts can enjoy performances at the Davies Symphony Hall or explore ancient and contemporary art at the Asian Art Museum.

Not to be Missed

  • San Francisco City Hall: A masterpiece of Beaux-Arts architecture, City Hall’s grandeur and elegance are unmatched. It’s not only a center of governance but also a popular venue for weddings and events.

    San Francisco City Hall, affectionately known as the People’s Palace, stands not just as the heart of municipal operations for the City and County of San Francisco but also as a beacon of architectural beauty and historical significance. This landmark attracts tourists and photography enthusiasts alike, drawn to its majestic presence and the nightly spectacle of themed colored LEDs illuminating its grand facade.

    Constructed over a period of two years, the current City Hall replaced its predecessor that fell during the catastrophic Great Earthquake and Fire of April 18, 1906. This disaster prompted civic leaders to commission a structure that would symbolize San Francisco’s resilience and ambition. Thus, the City Hall we see today, crafted from steel, granite, and adorned with four floors of white marble interiors, emerged as a testament to the city’s phoenix-like resurgence from the ashes of calamity.

    Arthur Brown, Jr., the visionary architect behind this neoclassical marvel, embarked on the project in 1913, aiming to showcase the city’s rebirth in time for the World’s Fair of 1915. The building’s exterior, detailed with gilt, the expansive grand staircase within, and notably, its massive dome, standing 307 feet high—surpassing the dome of the nation’s capital by 42 feet—left both locals and visitors from around the globe in awe.

    Over the past century, City Hall has been at the epicenter of significant political and social transformations, witnessing dramatic events that have shaped the city’s history. It was the scene of profound tragedy in 1979 with the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, and of monumental progress in 2004 when it hosted the first same-sex marriages in the city. The halls of City Hall have resonated with debates and decisions on crucial issues such as labor, land use, and public policy, reflecting the dynamic and evolving spirit of San Francisco.

    City Hall’s allure extends beyond its civic and historical roles; it has also captivated the imagination of filmmakers, serving as a dramatic backdrop for movies ranging from “Dirty Harry” to “Indiana Jones” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” However, its structural integrity was once again tested by the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989, which caused the dome to shift four inches. The subsequent restoration and seismic retrofitting completed in 1999, featuring an innovative base isolator system, not only repaired the damage but also fortified City Hall against future earthquakes, ensuring its preservation for generations to come.

    In 2016, City Hall embraced modernity with the installation of a computer-controlled LED lighting system, replacing the old method of manually changing colored gels to tint the exterior lights. This technological advancement not only enhanced the building’s nightly display but also contributed to energy conservation efforts.

    Today, City Hall remains a favored venue for weddings, with its rotunda often filled with the echoes of celebration. It stands as a proud symbol of San Francisco’s enduring strength, its commitment to inclusivity and progress, and its unwavering spirit of renewal. The People’s Palace continues to inspire and welcome all who pass through its doors, embodying the rich tapestry of the city’s past, present, and future.


  • Location: 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl, San Francisco, CA 94102

    Website: San Francisco City Hall

    Hours: Open to the public during weekdays.

Asian Art Museum
Asian Art Museum
  • Asian Art Museum: Home to an extensive collection of Asian art, the museum offers insights into the rich cultural heritage of Asia through its diverse exhibits.

    Location: 200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

    Website: Asian Art Museum

    Hours: Tues–Sun 10AM – 5PM; Closed Mondays and major holidays.

Prominent Landmarks

War Memorial Opera House
War Memorial Opera House
  • War Memorial Opera House: An architectural gem hosting top-tier opera and ballet performances in a magnificent Beaux-Arts building.

    Location: 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102

    Website: War Memorial Opera House

    Hours: Vary by event.

Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall
Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall
  • Davies Symphony Hall: A state-of-the-art concert hall with exceptional acoustics, serving as the home of the San Francisco Symphony.

    Location: 201 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102

    Website: Davies Symphony Hall

    Hours: Box office hours vary; check the website for details.

Nature and Recreation

While the Civic Center is renowned for its architectural and cultural significance, the area also provides green spaces for relaxation and community engagement, including the Civic Center Plaza and United Nations Plaza.

In Popular Culture

The Civic Center and City Hall have been featured in numerous films and TV shows, symbolizing San Francisco’s governmental heart and architectural splendor. Its dramatic backdrop contributes to the city’s iconic imagery in popular culture.

Fun Fact: City Hall’s dome is the fifth largest in the world, taller than that of the United States Capitol by 42 feet.

Why You Should Visit

Visiting the Civic Center and City Hall is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the essence of San Francisco. It’s a place where history, architecture, and culture converge, offering something for everyone. Whether you’re drawn to the historical significance of City Hall, the artistic treasures of the Asian Art Museum, or the grand performances at the Opera House and Symphony Hall, the Civic Center is a microcosm of the city’s diverse and vibrant spirit.

As you wander through the Civic Center, you’re walking through chapters of San Francisco’s history, engaging with its present, and anticipating its future. The area’s combination of beauty, history, and cultural offerings makes it an essential part of any visit to San Francisco. Beyond the stunning architecture and historical landmarks, the Civic Center is a testament to the city’s ongoing commitment to community, culture, and civic engagement. So, take a moment to explore, reflect, and enjoy the myriad experiences that this unique part of San Francisco has to offer.


Nearby Points of Interest

Cable Cars: open to the public since 1873, this fascinating mode of transportation conveys visitors from Market Street to Beach Street, where Fisherman’s Wharf is less than a ten-minute walk away. Be sure to watch operators move the cable car on a turntable to point it in the right direction for the return trip to Market Street!
 this island prison is now a famous tourist attraction, but in its heyday, it housed the era’s most infamous prisoners. Inmates could hear laughter carried across the water from the city, and many attempted the one-mile swim to land. Visit today for a tour!
Famous for its sunbathing sea lions, shopping, and seafood, PIER 39 houses a delightful collection of specialty shops and tourist attractions that will delight the entire family. Eat at the Hard Rock Café, ride the vintage hand-painted carousel, or watch a live magic show with the kids. Don’t forget to visit the Welcome Center for your free coupon booklet!
Aquarium of the Bay: Located at Pier 39, the aquarium is home to sharks, bat rays, sea anemones, and more! Its interactive exhibits allow visitors a rare chance to feel and interact with creatures difficult to access in the wild, such as sea anemones and starfish.
don’t miss the panorama from the 210-foot high tower, which offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco skyline.
:  Little Italy offers a variety of bars, comedy clubs, and authentic Italian restaurants. Try some focaccia bread, or take a walk in the relaxing green space of Washington Square.
– Mural-filled alley with perfect backdrops for Instagram and Tik Tok. Free and Family friendly. Located at 757 Beach Street near Hyde St.

can be featured on these tours :

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Lucky Tuk Tuk City Tour

Explore beautiful San Francisco in your own private, electric Tuk Tuk! Perfect for families and groups. A personal guide for your party commandeers this modern-day rickshaw at a pace that’s right for you!
Evening Tour
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Night Private Charter San Francisco Lights Tour

Explore San Francisco at night in a cozy, electric Tuk Tuk! Get up close to the glittering lights and go where buses don’t dare in this modern-day rickshaw. Live commentary included!

Jump Aboard these Other Fun Tours and Rentals to Explore San Francisco

Buckle in and explore the city with an entertaining driving tour of or a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge to walk among the .
San Francisco Jeep Tours will drive you and up to 6 guests in a convertible Jeep. You’ll see all the iconic sites and attractions on exclusive routes with a fun and experienced tour guide.

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