Raising the Roof: a Bird's-Eye View of Things to Do in San Francisco

The triangular San Francisco Proper Hotel has views from every corner
The triangular San Francisco Proper Hotel has views from every corner | Courtesy of San Francisco Proper Hotel / Booking.com
Photo of Nick Dauk
13 September 2021

This cosmopolitan California city surprises, with rooftop Russian baths and cabana-cradling cocktail bars to rival those of Miami.

To truly appreciate the city of San Francisco, you need to see it from an angle that the trolley, the ferry and the sidewalk can’t offer: from above. Take a moment to explore Northern California’s most chilled-out city from up high and you’ll discover that the real San Francisco can be found over the Bay and away from the bridge. Head up to see the Golden City sparkle from these rooftop hangouts.

San Francisco Proper Hotel

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
4.4/5 (534 Reviews)
San Francisco Proper
Courtesy of San Francisco Proper / Booking.com
Price Drop
Now from $275 per night

Where better for a proper introduction to San Francisco than the San Francisco Proper Hotel? Every room in this triangle-shaped building has a sight to savor, though we’ll admit the panoramic views in the premier suites are especially lovely. If you don’t mind sharing the skyline, Charmaine’s rooftop deck is open for all-day dining. The bar list stretches further than the horizon, so take our word and default to a Proper Cup of gin, absinthe and ginger beer.

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343 Sansome Street Rooftop Deck

Park, Building
Map View
Bring your DIY spirit to the rooftop deck at 343 Sansome Street. This privately owned public space features a garden, great views, and tables for eating, working and chit-chatting. On your way to this skyline spot, just east of Chinatown, grab take-out from one of the many restaurants or cafes and enjoy free vistas of San Francisco on your own terms.

Spa Vitale at Hotel Vitale

Boutique Hotel
4.7/5 (632 Reviews)

Fancy a bubble bath on the roof? Take a break to relax, rejuvenate and revitalize at Hotel Vitale. This eighth-floor rooftop spa offers both sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay and a private bamboo garden, where you’ll be pampered with therapeutic back treatments and CBD massages. Of course, a long soak beneath the bubbles with a mimosa in hand and cucumber over your eyes is just what the doctor ordered – but make sure you don’t miss those views.

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Lizzie’s Starlight

Bar, Restaurant, American
Map View
Sir Francis Drake Hotel
Lizzie’s Starlight at Sir Francis Drake Hotel | Courtesy of Sir Francis Drake Hotel / hotels.com

At Lizzie’s Starlight – opened in 1928 and rising 21 stories above Union Square on the rooftop of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel – small plates and eclectic cocktails will loosen you up for whatever the night holds. Not ready to shed your inhibitions yet? Skip the nightly DJ sets and visit Lizzie’s during the more leisurely Sunday brunch.

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  • Hotel VIA

    Boutique Hotel
    4.5/5 (920 Reviews)
    Hotel Via
    Courtesy of Hotel Via / Booking.com
    Price Drop
    Now from $240 per night

    Move over, Miami: Hotel VIA is here to prove that San Francisco’s South Beach neighborhood is just as seductive. Their upscale guest rooms with custom designer furnishings and minimalist decor are beyond boutique – and that’s not even mentioning the guest-only rooftop bar. This chic space with private cabanas, fire pits and refreshing cocktails offers views of Oracle Park, the Bay, the harbor, the skyline, and so much more.

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    B Restaurant & Bar San Francisco

    Bar, Restaurant, American
    Map View
    Yerba Buena Gardens cultural heart public parks 3-4 Mission and Folsom Streets downtown San Francisco California USA
    Yerba Buena Gardens | © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo

    Step away from the bustle below to grab serene views of the Yerba Buena Gardens from atop B. This restaurant and bar, just a few blocks from Union Square, is an oasis that locals call a hidden gem. The views are stunning; the drinks, filling. But there’s one reason why B is the place to be for rooftop happy hour: $1 oysters.

    Archimedes Banya

    Health Spa
    Map View

    San Francisco is a great place to take it slow, so indulge in a little pampering with picturesque views at Archimedes Banya. This Russian bathhouse offers the long soak your body so desperately desires. Once you’ve shed your clothes, toxins and stresses, head to the rooftop Zteamer’s Cafe for soups, kombucha and globally-inspired eats, sure to nourish and replenish your essence. Though, no one will shoot you side-eye if you just want to kick back with a few brews.

    Dirty Habit at the Viceroy

    Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, American, $$$
    Map View
    Before departing the Golden City, indulge in one last drink at Dirty Habit. This unique rooftop bar and fifth-floor hideaway might seem like a counterintuitive choice, as the view is obscured by much taller buildings. But what it lacks in vistas, it makes up for in rare brown spirits, creative cocktails and a crowd that appreciates the city’s food, art and culture above all else. Better still, the terrace is heated, making for a toasty all-seasons stop.
    These recommendations were updated on September 13, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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