Throughout the last century, the San Francisco skyline has undergone enormous changes, which is not a bad thing, at least in terms of cities.
The tallest buildings in San Francisco were constructed over this time period, transforming a large California city into a towering megalopolis.
It's not New York City or anything, but San Francisco followed the modern aesthetic putting a lot of glass into their buildings, with the concrete and steel present but taking more of a background stance.
However, it's not so much the buildings themselves we want to dig into today, but the vantage points they afford residents, office workers, or visitors to the area.
Like any big city, San Francisco has its drawbacks, but you can still find breathtaking scenery from the tops of these towers.
Let's explore the top 15 tallest buildings in San Francisco, offering awe-inspiring city views.
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As skyscrapers go, this is one of the more unique and tallest buildings in San Francisco. It's large at the base and center, tapering off as it peaks. Most of the local residents in San Fran are torn on whether it's a beautiful building or just an odd landmark.
Whether the aesthetic appeals to you or not, the tower is 62 stories and affords a breathtaking view of the city and beyond.
It's not a commercial building either, and it was designed to accommodate 1.4 million square feet of residential space, with the first 30 floors reserved for business.
The view from above takes in the entire city and the San Francisco Bay beyond. When you stand atop the Salesforce Tower (which also includes a smaller, 6-story tower atop it), there’s nothing you can’t see. As San Francisco’s largest tower, it's one of the best places to view the entire city.
Height of this skyscraper: 1,070'
Address: 415 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105
There is an ongoing argument within architectural circles about whether the Salesforce Tower or the Transamerica Pyramid is the single, oddest building in the entire city. That’s not to say that either building is ugly, far from it. The very top of the tower is constructed with 32-pane, cathedral-style glass, and the look is incredible.
The view from the top is more central. While you can see the water, there’s definitely more concrete and asphalt between the viewer and the water. The 48th floor is considered to be the “panoramic” floor, and, as it turns out, that’s for the best.
You can go higher if you want, though you’ll have to jump through some hoops to get there; there’s nothing wrong with the view from here.
Height of this skyscraper: 853'
Address: 600 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Another of the highest buildings in San Francisco occupies space on 181 Fremont and stands roughly 803’ high. It looks like someone designed several glass boxcars and stacked them end over end to the top.
The roof section was installed recently—in 2017, and it affords quite the view for those who choose to make the trip up to the top. The tower is considered one of the more impressive buildings in San Fran, and the residences don’t even begin until you’re 500’ up in the sky.
The windows are designed in a reverse chevron with angled glass, improving the view of the city from any living or working within. Of course, the design is twofold—for the viewing pleasure of those within and for wind safety.
Height of this skyscraper: 803'
Address: 181 Fremont St, San Francisco, CA 94105
555 California Street seemingly stands alone in its gigantic splendor. A look out from the top paints a pretty picture of hundreds of tiny rooftops, well below, packed into tiny, tight, geometric patterns.
Off in the distance, there is another tight cluster of skyscrapers and, beyond them, the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. The windows feature a unique pyramid design, with two panels coming together at 45° angles.
According to the global height rank, 555 California Street is the 808th tallest building in the world. That may not sound like much until you consider the number of downtown buildings all over the world.
Height of this skyscraper: 779'
Address: 555 California St, San Francisco, CA 94104
Primarily an office building, 345 California Center has a terrific view of the bay area, especially if you’re near the 48th story. The building looks like it was originally planned to be two matching towers with a tenuous connection in the middle.
It was also planned to be a condo before it became a hotel (the top stories are a Four Seasons) and a business building. Whether you are working there or just staying the night in the Four Seasons, the view, in and of itself, is a major part of the luxury.
While observation decks in San Francisco are fairly common, you’ll have to enjoy the view from within or climb to the top, where you can look out from the lone observation tower. The building at 345 California Center is listed as the 1,463rd tallest in the world.
Height of this skyscraper: 721'
Address: 345 California St, San Francisco, CA 94104
While Millenium Tower is one of the tallest buildings in San Francisco, it's currently in the news for a far darker reason. It happens to be sinking at a rate of 3” per year.
While that may sound laughable, that’s not supposed to happen, and city officials are working on strengthening the underlying structure.
Despite that sullen fact, it's still plenty safe to head to the top. As the 6th largest tower in San Francisco (despite the fact that it's sinking), the Millenium Tower offers stunning views of the sprawling metropolis.
It's also the first building on the list that’s surrounded by other, sizeable buildings, affording lucky viewers expansive overviews of the city and close-ups of the surrounding architecture and all of the reflective glass that San Francisco has to offer.
Height of this skyscraper: 645'
Address: 301 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Stylish-wise, The Harrison (Tower Two) is the 23rd tallest of the many San Francisco skyscrapers, and it includes the high-rise tower itself, along with a low-rise and residential tower in one large square of real estate.
One side of the building looks as if it is holding a large, slightly concave shield full of tall, tinted glass. This is the bay side, offering a stunning, completely unobstructed view of the San Francisco Bay. Tower Two is on the residential side, so it's a little easier to gain access and check out the elevated view.
Tower Two separates itself from tower one because of the unobstructed view and is the favorite of the two because of that sole factor. The best part is, at least for residents, all of the main bedrooms in the multiple dwellings on that side of the building were built on the bay side.
Height of this skyscraper: 641'
Address: Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94105
The Avery is a stunning 56-story, reflective glass building with over 30,000 square feet of amenities, not including the immense amount of residential space. In terms of shape, not much sets the Avery apart. It's essentially a glass rectangle stretching to the sky.
However, despite its mundane shape, the glass is designed to be incredibly reflective while allowing those within to basically have a high-definition view of the entire city, along with the Bay off in the distance.
The living rooms feature floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall glass views of the San Francisco skyline and the Bay at the foot of San Fran’s many skyscrapers and downtown buildings. Every dwelling within is designed to maximize the view so visitors and residents can see everything.
Height of this skyscraper: 618'
Address: 488 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Park Tower is a unique-looking skyscraper. If you can imagine a rectangle that twists as it ascends upward, with massive, all-glass balconies and platforms along the way, you’ll have an idea of what the Park Tower looks like. Seeing is a lot better than imagining in this case.
This 45-story tower contains nearly a million square feet of space writhing and affords exceptional views of the San Fran skyline, especially as the sun sets on the city in the evenings. Since it's only three blocks from the Bay, the view of the water is incredibly expansive.
Thanks to the unique glass balcony designs, many tenants and visitors can catch these wonderful views by standing outside, something you can’t do too often in other skyscrapers unless you ascend to the very top and exit on the roof.
Height of this skyscraper: 605'
Address: 250 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Two Salesforce buildings make our list of the tallest San Francisco high-rise buildings. Known as a Class A tower, Salesforce West sits directly in the heart of San Francisco, the financial district of the city.
Unfortunately, it's mostly office spaces, so unless you’re pulling a night shift or long working hours for Salesforce, you’ll miss out on the fantastic night views from the upper floors of the building.
It's the 13th tallest skyscraper in the city of San Francisco stretching 600 feet into the sky.
It's also located within a large group that includes most of the towers on this list. In other words, it's in excellent company when it comes to the visually impressive views the upper floors offer.
Height of this skyscraper: 600'
Address: 50 Fremont St, San Francisco, CA 94105
A rounded glass skyscraper, 101 California is the third largest tower in the city of San Francisco. Standing up close, however, you wouldn’t know it's not San Francisco’s tallest building. That’s because 101 California is huge as well as high, wrapped in layers of dark glass.
The 101 California Tower is tied directly to Salesforce West, so office workers and visitors within either building can access the other building without having to return to the lobby level and head out onto the street.
Phillip Johnson is the architectural mind behind 101 California, and, like his Glass House in Connecticut, a ton of glass also went into this one.
In the afternoon, the entire upper half of the building catches the dun directly, turning into a blazing orange torch in the middle of the city.
Height of this skyscraper: 600'
Address: 101 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111
The Market Center building is one of two, and though it's not San Francisco’s tallest building (only 22 stories tall), it offers a fantastic, panoramic view of the surrounding area. These two buildings were once owned by Standard Oil of Rockefeller fame and are now the Chevron Towers.
Located on the popular Market Street, a lot is going on around the building, day and night. The interior office and tenant spaces are large and spacey, with windows to match and provide viewers with plenty to look at.
Depending on where you are inside the building, some larger spaces feature wall-to-wall windows broken by slim barriers in between each one. It's hard to find a better view, despite the smallish size of the two towers.
Height of this skyscraper: 573'
Address: 575 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94105
The Embarcadero buildings are within the social and shopping center of San Francisco, just outside of Chinatown. Regardless of which building you’re in, the views are impressive, encompassing the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, most of Chinatown, and a big chunk of San Fran’s most popular shopping and strolling areas.
It's also located close to the Ferry Building, so you can watch, from on high, as ferry goers depart and return throughout the day. The Farmer’s Market, Pier 14 (Fisherman’s Warf), large cruise liners, and the Exploratorium are all within sight.
The best part is that all four buildings are full of shopping opportunities, dining facilities, gyms, and entertainment centers.
Height of this skyscraper: 571'
Address: 4 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA 94111
The 44 Montgomery building sits on the corner of Market Street and Montgomery Street, a place considered to be the nucleus of the financial district in San Francisco. The building affords viewers, tenants, and office workers a breathtaking view of the city.
The sights from above include the Golden Gate Bridge, the entire San Francisco Bay area, the whole of the financial district, to the horizon well beyond the Bay. You can see all of this while fine dining on one of the many dining platforms in the building.
As an interesting side note, you can head to the bottom of 44 Montgomery for direct access to the BART/Muni Metro station and take a train ride to any location in the city.
Height of this skyscraper: 565'
Address: 44 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94104
Last but not least, we arrive at the Spear Tower on our list of the tallest buildings in San Fran with impressive views. It's not the tallest building in the world, ranked 3,742nd, but it's impressive in its own right, especially the views it has to offer.
Spear Tower is almost directly adjacent to the Bay. It’ll be harder to find a better view of the sunset than the one you’ll find in Spear Tower. This is especially true considering the fact that there is nothing between the viewer and the water.
The Spear Tower is one of two towers located in the One Market Plaza area. The second tower is merely a small, 11-story Landmark building. However, both of the towers connect for easy access back and forth.
Height of this skyscraper: 564'
Address: One Market Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94105
If you’re into city life, the San Fransisco skyline is simply one of the best skylines in the world for viewing, especially when the sun sets in the evening. When you have access to elevation and an enormous bay, it's hard to argue with the kind of views you’re going to witness.