Palace of Fine Arts (credit: Thinkstock)

While always popular with walkers during the daytime, San Francisco at nighttime offers a special appeal for those looking to stroll. With a diverse landscape and unique neighborhoods, many areas of the city are wonderful for walking at night. Although it can sometimes be challenging to know which neighborhoods to avoid at night, there are some great areas perfect for strolling after the sun goes down. Here are five of the best areas for a nighttime stroll through San Francisco nighttime strolls ranging from quiet walks along the water, to lively jaunts through vibrant neighborhoods.

Palace Of Fine Arts
3301 Lyon St.
San Francisco, CA 94123

Originally one of ten exhibition structures built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition, the Marina District’s Palace of Fine Arts showcased works of art until World War II when it was repurposed for military use. Almost entirely rebuilt in the 60s, today the Palace’s galley surrounds a lagoon and provides a romantic backdrop for a nighttime walk. Take a leisurely stroll around the lake, or continue just past for breathtaking views of the Golden Gate. Make sure to bring a camera because while the Palace of Fine Arts is beautiful in the daytime, its architectural details truly shine in the illumination of carefully placed nighttime uplighting.

Alta Plaza Park
Jackson & Steiner
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 292-2012

Located at the top of a hill at the end of a wide staircase, Pacific Height’s Alta Plaza Park offers one of the best views of San Francisco’s skyline. Find the bottom of the stairs where Pierce St. meets Clay on the southern edge of the park, and then climb up to the peak for almost 360-degree views of the city. The park is open until midnight and offers plenty of summit bench seating, as well as an off-leash dog area for those looking to bring Fido out on a nighttime stroll. Less frequented than during the day, nighttime at Alta Plaza Park offers walkers a serene respite from the hustle and bustle of the city below.

Crissy Field
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 561-4700

Always popular with San Franciscans any time of day, the water lined Crissy Field is located on the Presidio and once served as an army airfield. Today, Crissy Field draws crowds during the day that flock there for everything from picnics and biking to fishing and windsurfing. Head on out after the sun goes down for some fantastic views of the Golden Gate bridge when the weather is clear, and for a bracing surreal experience when the wind picks up and the fog is rolling in. Nighttime crowds are much sparser, perfect for those looking for a quiet walk, but the area can get dark, so a headlight or flashlight can come in handy.

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Columbus Ave.
North Beach

For those looking for a more lively nighttime stroll, North Beach’s Columbus Avenue cannot be beat. This thriving neighborhood is a hubbub of activity even after the sun goes down, and is packed with cafes and restaurants. Passersby will enjoy the sights and sounds of this bustling Italian neighborhood which offers plenty of places to stop for a bit of refreshment should one’s feet grow weary of walking. Always worth a stop is the City Lights bookshop, founded by beatnik poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Union Square
33 Post St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 559-9579

Another neighborhood providing for a more active backdrop for a nighttime stroll, is the Union Square area. Located between Geary and Post, Union Square’s high-end retail stores are often open long after the sun goes down. Nighttime strollers could do a bit of window shopping with everything from Louis Vuitton to Neiman Marcus, or stop for a spell in the square to do a bit of people watching. The area is also home to a number of cafes and eateries for walkers looking for a bit of refreshment.

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Joanna Metheny is a freelance writer covering all things South Bay. Her work can be found on