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    Golden Gate Bridge: San Francisco's best view, toll and bridge history

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    Martí Micolau

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    The Golden Gate Bridge with its grandeur is certainly one of the images that we immediately associate with the idea of ​​the United States and together with Alcatraz it is the attraction par excellence of the city of San Francisco.

    This makes it a practically obligatory stop if you are planning a tour of California and for this we will take you to discover its history, the best ways to reach it and the privileged observation points from which to photograph it.


    • Story
    • How to reach it and useful information
      • Getting to the Golden Gate by car
      • How to reach it by bus or public transport
      • Access rules for pedestrians and bicycles
      • Best way to visit it
    • Best view of the bridge: where to photograph it
      • Crissy Field
      • Fort Point
      • Moore Rd Pier
      • Battery Spencer
      • Marin Headlands vista point/Hawk Hill
      • Baker beach
    • Excursions
    • Accommodations near the Golden Gate


    Construction of the bridge began in 1933 and went on for the next four years also providing some respite for the Californian occupation in the years of the Great Depression. The construction project conceived by the engineer Joseph Strauss however, it did not have an easy life, not only for the economic effort it would have required (in the end the construction costs will amount to 35 million dollars) but also because it had to overcome the political opposition of the Southern Pacific Railroad, given that the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge would retire the ferry service linking San Francisco with Marine County.

    Once completed in 1937 it became the longest suspension bridge in the world, a record it held until 1963 when its "cousin" Verrazzano Narrows Bridge joined the shores of Brooklyn with those of Staten Island. Built to withstand not only the daily passage of thousands of cars but also all types of bad weather such as the wind that blows very strongly on the San Francisco bay almost daily, the waves of the sea and the earthquakes that have always characterized the Californian region. Consider in this regard that the central span was designed to withstand more than eight meters of oscillation.

    We have to give thanks to the architect Irving Morrow furthermore for the happy choice of color which, with his intuition, avoided it being made entirely of gray or even gray with yellow bands as the American Navy would have liked to make it more visible in the fog (if it seems to you a recent merit give look at this photo). Unfortunately, fog is a constant in San Francisco, and we have to deal with it: here is an article that sheds some light on the temperatures of San Francisco.

    How to reach it and useful information

    The Golden Gate Bridge is apparently part of US Highway 101 and when we talk about how to reach it we refer to the two best-known observation points which are respectively the Vista Point to the north and the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center to the south.

    Getting to the Golden Gate by car

    If you are going to use the rental car you first need to make a recommendation. As we have already had occasion to say in our article on how to get around San Francisco, the city is among the least suitable of all the United States to be explored by car, considering both the traffic and the chronic difficulty of parking.

    These two problems also affect the two points of access that we have mentioned since the a few dozen parking spaces available (some also for a fee) sell out quite early especially in high season. However, there is a good alternative (of which I speak a little below) so, if you are in a car, it is not certain that the company is as difficult as it seems.

    Coming from the south (i.e. you are leaving San Francisco)

    Just before the toll gate you will find an exit on the right indicated as Last SF exit; take it and you will arrive at the parking area of ​​the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. From there you can walk towards the Battery Lancaster where, through numerous explanatory panels and some models, you can learn more about the history of the construction of the bridge and enjoy a beautiful overview of the Golden Gate area.

    The aforementioned parking is paid and quite crowded. However, there is also free parking and little known, we talked about it in our guide on where to park in San Francisco, in the paragraph on the Golden Gate.

    Also reach the Vista Point on the north side it will be quite simple; in fact, once you have crossed the bridge you will have to take the first exit on the right which will show the word Vista Point. Parking is free although for a time limit of 4 hours.

    Coming from the North (i.e. you are going to San Francisco)

    Before you reach the Golden Gate Bridge using Exit 442 towards Alexander Avenue you will have two options to enjoy the beautiful views. You can get to the North Tower Golden Gate Parking and then, using the pedestrian underpass, reach Vista Point or continue on Conzelman Rd towards the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point e Marin Headlands which we will talk about in more detail in the rest of the article.

    To reach the south side of the bridge, on the other hand, once you have passed the toll barrier, you must take the first exit on the right towards Merchant Road. For this reason, the suggestion is to move to the right lane in time and use tollbooth number one if possible. If you can find a place, you can also use the pedestrian path to get to the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center.

    Payment of the toll

    You need to pay a toll to cross the Golden Gate Bridge only if we go south, that is, if we are entering San Francisco. However, there is no need to stop because the process takes place completely electronically via a license plate recognition system.

    If you are using a rental car some recommendations are therefore needed. Most companies offer a tolling program upon payment of an additional daily fee. In any case, this service must be checked when picking up the machine.

    If you are still certain to pass by the Golden Gate Bridge but the rental car company does not offer assistance of this type, or you are not sure you want to subscribe to their program because it is not very convenient, you will have to register the license plate of your car and proceed with the payment of the toll up to 30 days before your transit through the channels indicated by the official website.

    Il price for a car or motorcycle, at the time of writing, it's $ 8.35 per pass. For all other types of vehicles, we refer you to a summary table of all rates.

    How to reach it by bus or public transport

    If you want to rely on By public transport the stop to consider is the Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza which can be easily accessed from many areas of San Francisco including Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf. Find all the information on the numerous lines that make this route on the official website.

    Access rules for pedestrians and bicycles

    Both pedestrians and bicycles can take advantage of a dedicated common access ramp. In addition to using common sense, there are some rules that you should keep in mind. Pedestrians must only use the east-facing walkway (i.e. the side facing San Francisco) and pets are not allowed on the deck unless they are supportive for the disabled.

    If you have an electric bicycle you can use it to cross the bridge after turning it off using only the strength of your legs! Also on weekends, due to the high number of entrances, cyclists can only access from the west sidewalk (i.e. the side of the bridge that faces the ocean).

    Best way to visit it

    After doing this quick rundown on the main indications to take into account, you may be wondering what is the best way to visit the Golden Gate Bridge. Giving a single answer is always complicated, especially when there are many factors to take into account, so I will start from what was my personal experience.

    From my point of view the bicycle it is the most convenient way to visit both the bridge and the attractions of the area, because it allows you to reach practically all the places that deserve to be seen without having to worry about traffic and above all to find parking.

    On the other hand, the two aspects to be taken into account are certainly the effort that this vehicle can entail (at least if you don't rent it electric!) And the weather variable because it is certainly not pleasant to ride in the rain or very strong gusts of wind.

    However, if the weather assists you, cycling is really the best way, among other things there are also bike tours that allow you to cross the bridge and then reach Sausalito, a pleasant coastal destination renamed the "Portofino of America".

    If you are interested in renting a bike (electric or otherwise) or taking a guided bike tour, I refer you to our guide dedicated to the topic:

    Our tips for renting a bike in San Francisco

    Best view of the bridge: where to photograph it

    Here are some prime spots from which to take great photos of the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Crissy Field

    Crissy Field is a huge park located along the bay beach, and if you are coming from San Francisco, it is probably the first point from which you will begin to take a closer look at the Golden Gate Bridge. If you are using the bicycle it is the perfect place to catch your breath in view of the climb that will wait for you later and or to refresh yourself a bit on the way back, as there are many spaces equipped as a picnic area.

    Fort Point

    One of the most popular views of the Golden Gate Bridge is the one that can be seen from the Fort Point located under the bridge on the south side. Built between 1853 and 1861, signifying the great strategic importance of the bay, it is now managed by the National Park Service and the entrance is totally free. A visit is certainly worthwhile because once you climb the walls you can enjoy a very particular view of both the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge that will literally tower over you.

    The opening hours vary a lot depending on the time of year you visit it. So take a look at the official website to avoid any nasty surprises. Although it has a parking space, it is not very large, so the same recommendations we made previously apply: better to use the bike or public transport.

    Moore Rd Pier

    Observation point recommended especially for those who have crossed the bridge by bike and perhaps want to continue towards Sausalito. Once you have crossed the bridge and arrived at the North Tower Golden Gate Parking, take Conzelman Rd which descends towards the bay. After passing under the bridge and finishing the descent you will find the Moore Rd Pier on your right, go and take a souvenir photo as a testimony of your enterprise!

    Battery Spencer

    Personally, it is the view of the Golden Gate that I appreciated the most despite the fact that the day was not the best. In fact, you will find yourself on one of the highest points from which you can admire the bridge and the bay as a whole.

    If you are using the car and have found a place at Vista Point or North Tower Golden Gate Parking, you should walk the short uphill stretch of Conzelman Rd which will take you to a tiny parking lot from which a dirt path starts that will lead you up to the Battery Spencer.

    If you want to use public transport you can use the 76X-Marin Headlands Express line which, starting from Post Street in Union Square, also stops at the Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza, but is only active on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

    Marin Headlands vista point/Hawk Hill

    Continuing after Battery Spencer for just over two kilometers along Conzelman Rd you will arrive at Marin Headlands vista point and, walking a few meters, you can climb the Hawk Hill, from which you can admire the Golden Gate Bridge from a decidedly fascinating point of view. .

    Baker beach

    Baker beach

    Very popular beach in San Francisco, where locals love to go to watch the sunset or to enjoy the Golden Gate from afar (fog permitting). It can be reached by public transport; we have already given all the details to get to the beach in the dedicated paragraph in our article on the Presidio of San Francisco.


    If you are not just passing through but are planning to stay in the area for several days, the Golden Gate Bridge, given its nature, cannot be considered only as a point of arrival but rather as a means to reach some of the most fascinating attractions around San Francisco. In addition to the aforementioned Sausalito we are talking for example of Muir Woods with its spectacular giant sequoias, or the endless vineyards of Napa and Sonoma.

    Accommodations near the Golden Gate

    As the bridge is adjacent to San Francisco's Presidio park, there aren't many accommodations available in the immediate area, however you can find many in the Fisherman's Wharf area, the city area closest to the Golden Gate. For further advice on this, I remind you of our article dedicated to the best areas to look for accommodation in the city.

    Advice on where to sleep in San Francisco

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