These San Francisco landmarks showcase the rich history of the city, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg to check out either!

mission delores in san francisco

A History Buff’s Guide to San Francisco

History buffs have so much to discover in San Francisco’s walls. With sights dating from the founding of California all the way up to modern times, history abounds. Tours and museums are often absolutely free or for a nominal fee. Just be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, bring a camera and an abiding appreciation for the past.

Mission Dolores

San Francisco was originally referred to as “Yerba Buena” and founded by Spanish missionaries in June of 1776, only days before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Mission Dolores is considered the oldest still-standing building in San Francisco and features its own historical cemetery. It is located in a section of the city which now features a lively Latino community. So while paying a visit to the Mission, make a point of visiting its colorful murals and neighborhood restaurants. Admission is free.

Fort Point

Fort Point is located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, and was established to protect San Francisco Bay from attacks by the enemy. Built in the architectural style known as “Third System” the Fort was designed so cannons could take direct aim at seafaring ships. While never utilized in an actual battle, the Fort is a fascinating relic of San Francisco’s naval history. Admission is free.

fort point lighthouse

Cable Car Museum

San Francisco’s iconic cable car system was born in 1869, as an alternative to the often dangerous horse driven carriages of the era. This museum covers the history of San Francisco cable car transportation, as well as how these cable cars actually function. You’ll never take a trip around town in a cable car for granted again. Admission is free.

The Fairmont Hotel

No study of San Francisco is complete without learning about the devastating 1906 Earthquake. The entire city was reduced to rubble, and residents were left dead, injured and homeless. Fires raged through the city, leaving a new San Francisco to be built from the ashes of the old. However, the Fairmont Hotel continued to stand tall and reopened in 1907. Since that time, this classic hotel has hosted every American President and been featured in countless movies and television shows. Admission is free.

Alcatraz with Angel Island in background

Angel Island Museum

From 1910-1940, immigrants from China were detained at Angel Island. Known as the Ellis Island of San Francisco, it was built in response to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This detention center can now be toured as a testament to the people who were housed there, often for many years. In addition to the museum, you can take a tour of the island and enjoy its beaches. Admission is $7 for adults.

Did you visit a museum or tour a historical part of San Francisco that we didn’t mention? Please don’t hesitate to share your experiences with us.

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