10 Amazing Places In SF That Will Transport You Around The World

Jamie Ferrell Jamie Ferrell

10 Amazing Places In SF That Will Transport You Around The World

Ok, some of these might be kiiind of a stretch… but bear with us!

We’re all catching the travel bug, and with vaccine distribution ramping up in California and beyond, it doesn’t seem so unrealistic to start looking at flights! However, the rest of the world is in different stages of pandemic management and vaccine development, so we’re not necessarily going to make it out of the country in the very near future.

Lucky for us, San Francisco is one of the most diverse and vibrant cities in the world. There are hundreds of museums, buildings, gardens, and more that will transport us to another place, if we can just use our imaginations!


1. Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden reminds us of…

Photo by @1111.ren on Instagram

… Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Netherlands!

Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans on Unsplash

Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden is a quaint spot in the northwest corner of Golden Gate Park, next to an authentic Dutch windmill. According to the Golden Gate Park website, the garden is named after the late queen of the Netherlands who ruled for nearly 60 years, from 1890 to 1948. In Dutch culture, tulips are a symbol of peace and reconciliation, and they’re in bloom now!

Queen Wilhelmina herself donated the famous Dutch windmill to the City in 1902. It originally served as an irrigation system that reached to the Strawberry Hill area, although it is no longer in use today. This beautiful, authentic windmill is charmingly accompanied by hundreds of tulips and other colorful blossoms.

Location:  1690 John F. Kennedy Drive 


2. The Legion of Honor reminds us of…

Photo by Daniel Chicchon on Unsplash

… the Louvre Museum in Paris, France!

Photo by Irina Lediaeva on Unsplash

The Legion of Honor is one of the largest public art installations in the city, housing over 6,000 years of ancient and European art including Rodin’s The Thinker, Monet’s Water Lilies, and much more. The Legion of Honor is still temporarily closed, but you can still visit the beautiful courtyard and admire the pyramid skylight, which takes after the Louvre’s significantly larger glass pyramids. If you want to see some fine art in person, the de Young Museum is open and ready to host you with new Covid-safe precautions.

The Louvre, being one of the most extensive art collections in the world, is hard to measure up to! But we’re lucky to have our own mini-Louvre right here in Golden Gate Park.


3. The Palace of Fine Arts reminds us of…

Photo by Emmanuél Appiah on Unsplash

… the Pantheon in Rome, Italy!

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

The Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Bernard Maybeck for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition. He wanted to create a fictional ruin, taking inspiration from Rome’s Temple of Minerva Medica. The old Roman temple is no longer standing, but we think that the Palace’s characteristic dome kind of resembles that of the Pantheon, which is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.


4. The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park reminds us of…

Photo by Jared Lisack on Unsplash

…Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto, Japan!

Pacific1688 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Japanese Tea Garden was originally created in 1894 as a “Japanese Village” exhibit for the California Midwinter International Exposition, making it the oldest public Japanese garden in the US. The tea house, or ochaya, dates back to 1894. Japanese landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara  maintained the space until 1942, when he and about 120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly evacuated to internment camps during World War II. The Hagiwara family was not allowed to return after the war ended. Many of their treasures were removed and new additions were made to the garden in subsequent years.

Kyoto’s Katsura Imperial Villa is one of Japan’s most beautiful treasures, and it shares many characteristics of San Francisco’s garden, on a much larger scale. It was created in the 17th century and belonged to the prince of the Hachijō-no-miya (八条宮) family.


5. Grace Cathedral reminds us of…

Supercarwaar, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

…Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France!

Photo by Priscilla Fraire on Unsplash

Yep, we’re sure you saw that coming! Grace Cathedral is a pretty spot-on match for Paris’s famous Notre-Dame. The cathedral actually started out as “Little Grace Chapel” in 1849, and went through several changes and additions until it was destroyed in the earthquake and fires of 1906. The entire structure was rebuilt starting in 1927, inspired by medieval cathedrals in the Gothic Revival style.

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris began construction in 1136. That makes it 791 years older than SF’s Grace Cathedral, but you can’t deny their similarities! We’re glad that Notre-Dame is still standing after the 2019 fire that consumed a large part of the structure. It’s currently still undergoing renovations.



6. The Ferry Building reminds us of…

Photo by C.Valdez on Unsplash

…Giralda Bell Tower in Seville, Spain!

Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

Okay, okay, bear with us! The tower on San Francisco’s Ferry Building was actually inspired by the beautiful Giralda bell tower on Seville Cathedral. Architect A. Page Brown designed the building in 1892 and construction was completed in 1898. It’s one of the few structures to survive the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, so it’s still seen as an enduring symbol of San Francisco.

Seville’s tower was built as the minaret for the Great Mosque in 1198, before the structure was turned into a cathedral in 1433 after the Christians recovered the city. It has inspired countless other towers around the world.


7. The Conservatory of Flowers reminds us of…

Photo by @aimeerancer on Instagram

…the Taj Mahal in Agra, India!

Photo by Jovyn Chamb on Unsplash

We see a pretty solid resemblance here, although the Conservatory of Flowers’ architecture is distinctly Victorian while the Taj Mahal follows Indo-Islamic architecture. It’s the oldest wood and glass conservatory in the US, dating back to 1879. The central dome is almost 60 feet tall, and the building has survived both the 1906 earthquake and the 1995 windstorms. The Conservatory is also open right now, for those who want to see its vast collection of plants and flowers.

The Taj Mahal was constructed in 1632 as a mausoleum for Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It’s considered to be one of the world’s most treasured landmarks, standing 240 feet tall and surrounded by an enormous garden.


8. The Golden Gate Bridge reminds us of…

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

…the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge in Lisbon, Portugal!

Photo by Glauco Zuccaccia on Unsplash

Lisbon’s impressive Ponte 25 de Abril bridge was inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge… and yep, we definitely see it!  It’s similar in color to the Golden Gate, but similar in design to the Bay Bridge, so you can decide which one it more closely resembles!

The Ponte 25 de Abril was built by the American Bridge Company (also responsible for the Bay Bridge) starting in 1962. It stretches across the Tagus River and connects Lisbon to the municipality of Almada.


9. San Francisco City Hall reminds us of…

Photo by David Vives on Unsplash

… the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain!

Photo by Tomas Martinez on Unsplash

San Francisco’s City Hall was designed in the Beaux-Arts style, but you can’t deny that both of these iconic structures share similar colors and baroque elements including the repeating columns and ornamental pieces.

The current City Hall was constructed in 1915, having been demolished in the 1906 earthquake and fire. It’s dome is inspired by Baroque domes in Paris, such as the Val-de-Grâce church and Les Invalides. The dome rises 19 feet higher than that of the United States Capitol. The building has a large open space occupying 2 city blocks, similar to the enormous courtyards found at Madrid’s Royal Palace.

The Royal Palace of Madrid is the largest functioning royal palace in Europe, and it’s still the official residence of the royal family. It’s nearly twice the size of Buckingham Palace and certainly worth a visit when travel restrictions lift!


10. Chinatown’s Dragon Gate reminds us of…

Photo by Kae Ng on Unsplash

…the Great Mosque paifang in Xi’an, China!

G41rn8, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Dragon Gate is a famous structure marking the entrance to San Francisco’s Chinatown. It was gifted to the city by Taiwan (Republic of China) in 1969 and is created in the style of most Chinese ceremonial gates, or paifang. Dragon Gate features 3 portals flanked by Chinese foo dogs, or guardian lions.

One of the most famous paifang in China is that of the Great Mosque in Xi’an. The mosque was first built in 742 AD, and is still a place of worship for Xi’an’s Muslim community. The gate itself features the same 3 characteristic portals, although it does not have guardian lions.


[Featured Image: Photo by David Vives on Unsplash]

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