Hey friends! So today I dive into a topic I’m both passionate about and constantly learning about! Which San Francisco portrait locations work well for City Hall couples?
You know how it is – you want to keep coverage time to a minimum, but still get awesome pictures.
Whether it comes down to saving money or time, I got you! Don’t want to spend 3 – 4 hours on your big day just doing City Hall and pictures somewhere afterward?
No problem! Whether you’re eloping or a Bay Area local, you probably know about the epic spots like the Golden Gate Bridge, Legion of Honor, Palace of Fine Arts and the windswept beach locations!
However, some of those locations can take 30+ minutes to get to depending on traffic and parking. So without further ado, my 10 quick ideas for a wedding photo session when you’ve just got married at City Hall!*
They’re either places I’ve photographed at or bucket list spots. If you’re interested in figuring out which one makes sense for your unique wedding day, please reach out!
These photo locations are less than 3 miles from City Hall!
View all on map:
1. Painted Ladies & Alamo Square Park
Distance from City Hall: 1 mile, about 7 mins drive time
What does this location offer? One of the most photographed locations in San Francisco, Alamo Square’s famous “postcard row” at Hayes and Steiner Streets is a visual treat. A tight, escalating formation of Victorian houses is back-dropped by downtown skyscrapers, providing a stunning contrast.
What to put into Google Maps (click link to open in Maps): The Painted Ladies, Steiner St &, Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94117
2. Corona Heights Park
Distance from City Hall: 1.9 miles, about 12 mins drive time
What does this location offer? Corona Heights Park is a craggy outcropping featuring beautiful red rocks, like something from Arizona or Utah! It affords beautiful views over the City and is, as you’d expect, very windy up there. The hike is mild considering the elevation.
What to put into Google Maps (click link to open in Maps): Roosevelt Way & Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114
3. Mission Dolores Park
Distance from City Hall: 1.8 miles, around 12 mins drive time
What does this location offer? Here you’ll find lush green lawns shaded by tall palm trees, winding paths all flanked by Victorian houses and the Muni stop at the far end. It affords beautiful views of the City and takes about 5-7 minutes of walking to reach the highest point in the park.
What to put into Google Maps (click link to open in Maps): Mission Dolores Park Dolores St &, 19th St
4. Mission District Street Art
Distance from City Hall: 1.3 miles, around 10 mins drive time
What does this location offer? A pedestrian-friendly street that is a virtual outdoor art gallery full of vibrant murals, featuring themes ranging from cultural heritage to social-political statements. A chill vibe great for colorful pictures, that sometimes takes a bit of waiting for tour groups to clear.
What to put into Google Maps (click link to open in Maps): Clarion Alley Street Art, 90 Clarion Alley, San Francisco, CA 94110
Or try (above):
Balmy Alley, 50 Balmy St, San Francisco, CA 94110 – 2.2 miles, around 13 mins drive time
5. Pier 7
Distance from City Hall: 2.6 miles, around 18 mins drive time
What does this location offer? A simple wooden pier frequented by fishermen and photographers alike, it offers respite from the busy Embarcadero and opportunities for capturing the Transamerica Pyramid right above you, antique lampposts, and lots of pleasing symmetry!
What to put into Google Maps (click link to open in Maps): Pier 7, San Francisco, CA 94105
6. Downtown – Cable Car Turnaround
Distance from City Hall: 2 miles, around 12 mins drive time or take BART
What does this location offer? A busy and bustling area in the heart of San Francisco’s shopping district, this is where the historic cable cars are turned around by hand. As this is the holding spot for the cable cars, a friendly guard may well allow you to hop on your own cable car for some pics.
What to put into Google Maps (click link to open in Maps): Cable Car Turnaround Powell St., Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94102
7. Ferry Building
Distance from City Hall: 3.1 miles, around 16 mins drive time – or take BART or the cute little Muni streetcar
What does this location offer? This building is both a thriving artisanal marketplace and a terminal for ferries that travel across the San Francisco Bay. It’s a vibrant area with cars and the Muni cards from all over the world speeding down the Embarcadero. The building itself has a beautiful Beaux Arts style.
What to put into Google Maps (click link to open in Maps): Ferry Building, 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111
8. Haight Ashbury
Distance from City Hall: 2 miles, about 12 mins drive time
What does this location offer? This neighborhood is known for having been the birthplace of the hippie counterculture of the 1960s and is synonymous with the Summer of Love. Today it boasts unusual boutiques, many of a spiritual bent. Expect local color, street art, murals and quirky window displays.
What to put into Google Maps (click link to open in Maps): 1439 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117
Distance from City Hall: 1.8 miles, about 9 mins drive time
What does this location offer? San Francisco Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America. Expect to see Chinese produce galore, shops, restaurants, beautiful street decorations and lots of color, fun and life all with a Chinese flavor.
What to put into Google Maps (click link to open in Maps): Dragon’s Gate, Bush St, Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108
10. Lyon Street Steps
Distance from City Hall: 2.7 miles, about 14 mins drive time
What does this location offer? This is a pretty 288-step, two-block long, hidden staircase with amazing views over the Palace of Fine Arts Dome and the blue San Francisco Bay. We, of course, want to be at the top! It has an elegant, old-world feel with its manicured hedges. Expect to pause for runners now and then.
What to put into Google Maps (click link to open in Maps): Lyon Street Steps, 2990-2996 Lyon St & Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94115
11. Bonus location: Potrero Hill
Distance from City Hall: 2 miles, about 12 mins drive time
What does this location offer? This spot has views over the San Francisco skyline and due to being on the crest of the hill looks like you’re floating! It takes about 5 minutes to get pictures here. We are standing in the middle of a busy traffic intersection at Wisconsin & 20th so it isn’t a place to linger!
What to put into Google Maps (click link to open in Maps): Wisconsin St & 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94107
Be sure to pin this to your wedding planning board!
How to get around on your City Hall wedding day
Uber / Lyft ridesharing apps
I recommend Uber/ Lyft for getting from A to B. It cuts down on the amount of time we’d spend finding parking and walking if driving.
I myself don’t drive to City Hall. If you have a kind friend-turned-chauffeur that always works amazingly in my experience!
Muni streetcars or BART
Some locations that I’ve noted above also work well with the super cute little Muni streetcars that are gathered from all over the world.
Others are great by BART for maximum efficiency and of course a few pics along the way! We might even make the news!
There is one more option that presents itself! Enter the becak! Be-who?!
My fellow City Hall lover, Kai of KaiTours, offers an amazingly unique way of getting around San Francisco!
A becak is an Indonesian rickshaw. Riding in one is such a novel experience, and makes for great wedding pictures.
I’ve ridden with Kai a couple of times and I usually can’t stop smiling. It’s exhilarating, memorable, and is a unique way of seeing the city!
Locations 3-7 work best for the becak, as there are no hills.
*I’ve included a worst-case scenario estimate for travel time, but it’s still worth checking before you go. Distances are approximate, as Google Maps always routes depending on traffic.
If taking BART, Muni or your own car, travel time may vary considerably.
Photography is literally about light (‘drawing with light’) and the photos you’ll see online are ones where the light from the sun was at a specific angle with perfect weather conditions. When I’m considering a location, light is my top concern.
If you’d like to get specific suggestions for what works at the specific time of day you’ll do your wedding portraits, please get in touch.
I’ve limited this list of portrait locations to those very near City Hall but I also have a San Francisco-wide photo locations list coming soon!
Be sure to check out my ultimate guide to getting married at San Francisco City Hall! Always up to date, my guide takes you through it step by step and is the planning resource you’ve been looking for.
In the meantime, pin the graphic below to your Pinterest so you can return to this post!