Best View, Sans Tourists

San Francisco Art Institute

On a quiet stretch of Chestnut, where North Beach's brio accedes to Russian Hill's bankbook, you'll find the San Francisco Art Institute. Step through the portal, stop to admire the goldfish pond, then veer left and continue past the art-laden walls to the open-air piazza at the rear of the building. Procure a refreshment at Pete's Cafe and head skyward, up the nearby steps. The climb is mild, especially given the reward: a serene bay panorama stretching from the Marin Headlands past Alcatraz to Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. The unexpected paucity of neon signs and billboards releases you from urban cares, and the unfettered breeze rises to awaken your wanderlust. As a bonus, most of the time you'll have the spot to yourself.

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