San Francisco is a melting pot of cultures, and that can best be seen through all of the amazing street art in San Francisco.
Some of our favorite street art in San Francisco can be seen by tour bus or at famous SF landmarks, but for others, we’d recommend taking one of our GoCar tours to navigate through the city yourself to see these one of a kind art pieces.
Here’s our list of the best street art in San Francisco:
1. Mission Murals: Balmy and Clarion Alley
Some of the most well known Street Art in San Francisco is located in some of the least likely places – tiny, one block alleys in the Mission District. Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley have both become home to some of the most visited Street Art in San Francisco.
The Balmy Alley Murals began in 1972 when a small mural was painted on the street by a group of children from a nearby school. Inspired, Patricia Rodriquez and Graciela Carillo, two artists from the San Francisco Art Institute who were renting an apartment on the street painted their own mural: a jungle and underwater scene.
They expanded their group, becoming known as Las Mujeres Muralistas, or the Muralist Women. Like much of the Street art in the Mission District, their work focused on Chicano culture, pride, and socio-political change. Murals by the collective are visible throughout the Mission, as a reminder of the neighborhood’s enduring Latin Community.
Visitors can pick up a taco or an agua fresca and take a walk down the street to experience the vibrant murals. If you’re lucky, you may even see new ones being created – the murals are constantly being updated and redone – so you can go back a year later and see completely new pieces!
2. Lincoln Park Steps
Across town, at the western end of California Street are the Lincoln Street Steps, a magnificent tiled mural that leads guests up from 32nd Avenue to the entrance of Lincoln Park. The steps had suffered from years of neglect, resulting in dangerous cracks and an accumulation of abandoned garbage.
In 2007, the Friends of Lincoln Park decided to clean up the steps by enlisting local artist Aileen Barr, who created a mural by affixing tiles on the front of each step. Viewed together from below, the tiles create a vibrant Beaux-Arts inspired mural. And from above, on the tiled benches that sit at the top of the steps and entrance to the park, visitors can treat themselves to a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Skyline of San Francisco.
The Lincoln Park Steps are a short detour off of the Golden Gate Bridge and Back Loop tour in a GoCar.
3. Mitchell Brothers’ Theatre on Polk Street
The fantastical vision of flying whales, turtles, and fish on the west-facing wall of the Mitchell Brothers’ theater has brightened up the corner of Polk and O’Farrell in the Tenderloin since 1977.
The mural, which is half a block long and two stories high, was painted by Lou Silva and has been touched up and redone over the years by several artists, including students at the nearby Academy of Art University.
As visitors drive by in a GoCar, (the mural is along the Polk Street Crosstown Cutback) you would never guess that the mural decorates one of the largest Adult Entertainment Complexes in the city, complete with theatres, peep shows, and a continuous burlesque show!
4. Market Street Railway Mural
Located on the corner of Church and 15th Streets, The Market Street Railway Mural was painted in 2004 by local artist Mona Caron. The 38’x 12’ mural is a panoramic view of Market Street, San Francisco’s main thoroughfare.
Individual panels span a timeframe from the 1920s to sometime in the future, and gradually change from sepia-toned to bright color. Specific scenes from San Francisco history include a 1930’s Labor Day Parade and a 1980’s Gay Pride parade. Eagle-eyed viewers might catch popular graffiti art and local celebrities, including the ubiquitous “ribity” frog tag and Harvey Milk.
5. FNNCH’s lips
FNNCH is one of the most popular local street artists in San Francisco. His origami corgis and Koons-inspired balloon dogs started popping up several years ago, and his masked and BLM inspired honey bears are visible in almost all parts of the city.
(Seriously, see how many you can count in a GoCar Tour!) One of his most instagrammable images is the huge red lips painted on the corner of Fillmore and Chestnut Street. Visitors pass this iconic street art in San Francisco on every GoCar Tour, and it’s a great backdrop for a kiss.
6. Mr. Foggy’s Neighborhood
One of the best parts of a GoCar Golden Gate Bridge and Back Tour is the drive along Clement Street. A hidden gem in the otherwise rather quiet Richmond District, Clement Street is a bustling second Chinatown, with dim sum shops, Asian grocery stores, and almost every kind of cuisine imaginable.
Along the side of Ace Hardware on Clement and 3rd Avenue is Mr. Foggys Neighborhood – a colorful mural painted by San Francisco artist Jason Jagel in tribute to the busy street that seems almost always partially hidden in San Francisco’s famous fog.