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San Francisco and a bridge at sunset.

San Francisco Quotes: Capturing the City by the Bay’s Charm

San Francisco is a city of fog-laden streets, a one-of-a-kind culture, and breathtaking beauty that has inspired countless souls. These San Francisco quotes capture the essence of this enchanting city.

Growing up in a military family, my childhood was a mosaic of new places and experiences. While being regularly uprooted had its challenges, the lifestyle also came with the unique privilege of calling some of the world’s most amazing places home. Among these, San Francisco holds a special place in my heart.

With a rugged coastline embraced by the Pacific Ocean and iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Transamerica Pyramid, and Coit Tower, San Francisco is a city that effortlessly blends rugged natural beauty with a vibrant urban environment.

Each corner of San Francisco tells a story, from the rich flavors of dim sum in the bustling streets of Chinatown to the tight curves of Lombard Street.

This collection of San Francisco quotes spotlights the experiences, emotions, and unique personality of one of the world’s greatest cities. Whether you’re seeking inspiration for your travels or the perfect caption to accompany your photos, these San Francisco quotes capture the spirit of the City by the Bay.

A phone with a picture of a trolley on the street.

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The skyline of san francisco with the words "I left my heart in San Francisco."

Famous Quotes About San Francisco

From Mark Twain’s chilly summers to Tony Bennett’s heart, these quotes unwrap the city’s charm, one layer of fog at a time. They offer witty and heartfelt musings, as diverse and colorful as the city’s famed hills.

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
— Mark Twain, American writer and humorist

“San Francisco has only one drawback – ’tis hard to leave.”
— Rudyard Kipling, English journalist and novelist

“I left my heart in San Francisco.”
— Tony Bennett, American singer

“One day, if I go to heaven… I’ll look around and say, ‘It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.’”
— Herb Caen, American journalist

“San Francisco is the only city I can think of that can survive all the things you people are doing to it and still look beautiful.”
— Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect

A quote from John Lennon about Los Angeles vs San Francisco.

“You are fortunate to live here. If I were your President, I would levy a tax on you for living in San Francisco!” 
— Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet Union leader

“It is an odd thing, but everyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attraction of the next world.”
— Oscar Wilde, Irish poet and playwright

“America only has three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everything else is Cleveland.”
— Tennessee Williams, American playwright

“I’m just mad for San Francisco. It is like London and Paris stacked on top of each other.”
— Twiggy, English model, actress, and singer

“Los Angeles? That’s just a big parking lot where you buy a hamburger for the trip to San Francisco.”
— John Lennon, British musician and member of The Beatles

“Suddenly [we] reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.”
— Jack Kerouac, American novelist

Quote about San Franciscans being proud of their city.

“I love San Francisco. I have a lot of memories there.”
— Rosalynn Carter, former first lady of the United States

“San Francisco is perhaps the most European of all American cities.”
— Cecil Beaton, English fashion and portrait photographer

“It’s simply a very romantic place. Just one look at any of those streets, and you couldn’t be anywhere else — it’s so beautiful, and there’s that location and the sense of the free spirit. Who couldn’t become ravenous in such a place?
— Julia Child, American chef and author

“I’m proud to have been a Yankee. But I have found more happiness and contentment since I came back home to San Francisco than any man has a right to deserve. This is the friendliest city in the world.”
Joe DiMaggio, American baseball player

“Chicago is the great American city, New York is one of the capitals of the world, and Los Angeles is a constellation of plastic; San Francisco is a lady.”
— Norman Mailer, American novelist

“San Franciscans are very proud of their city, and they should be. It’s the most beautiful place in the world.”
— Robert Redford, American actor and director

Quote about leaving San Francisco.

“San Francisco is poetry. Even the hills rhyme.”
— Pat Montandon, American author and socialite

“Every man should be allowed to love two cities – his own and San Francisco.”
— Gene Fowler, American journalist and author

“San Francisco is a golden handcuff with the key thrown away.”
— John Steinbeck, American author

“Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart. You want to linger as long as possible.”
— Walter Cronkite, American broadcast journalist

“I am a Bay Area guy, no question.”
— Huey Lewis, American singer and songwriter

“East is East, and West is San Francisco.”
— O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), American short story writer

Quote about San Francisco's weather being as unpredictable as the city itself.

Quotes About San Francisco Weather

San Francisco’s weather is as unique as the city itself. Even the sun has to queue up for its turn to shine through the legendary fog, creating a whimsical balance of light and mist.

“The morning, like all San Francisco mornings, promised spring. In California, the seasons come daily.”
— Elizabeth Stark, author

“San Francisco, with its steep hills and crisp, invigorating climate, is a city of views and vistas, a city where the weather itself plays a part in the drama.”
— Herbert Gold, novelist

“In San Francisco, the weather is a theatrical event.”
— James Dalessandro, author

“San Francisco’s weather must be experienced to be believed.”
— Amy Tan, author

“San Francisco’s weather is as unpredictable as the city itself.”
— Danielle Steel, novelist

“The fog in San Francisco is not just a weather pattern; it’s a living, breathing entity.”
— Rebecca Solnit, writer

A bridge with a quote that says "I prefer a wet San Francisco to a dry Manhattan."

“San Francisco’s climate is nature’s way of saying ‘let’s keep things interesting.'”
— Armistead Maupin, writer

“In San Francisco, the weather is a symphony, and the fog its most mysterious movement.”
— Eric Maisel, author

“The cool, grey city of love.”
— George Sterling, American poet, referring to San Francisco

“I never dreamed I’d like any city as well as London. San Francisco is exciting, moody, exhilarating. I even love the muted fogs.”
—  Julie Christie, British actress

“This city is a point upon a map of fog.”
— Ambrose Bierce, American short story writer and journalist

“I prefer a wet San Francisco to a dry Manhattan.”
— Larry Geraldi, American coach

Quote about San Francisco being a city of startling events.

Quotes About San Francisco’s Culture and History

San Francisco’s rich culture and history are as diverse as its landscape. These quotes take you on a journey, revealing its soul one story at a time.

“San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.”
— Paul Kantner, American musician and member of Jefferson Airplane

“San Francisco is a city where people are never more abroad than when they are at home.”
— Benjamin F. Taylor, poet

“I was appalled that the San Francisco ethic [of the 1960s] didn’t mushroom and envelop the whole world into this loving community of acid freaks. I was very naive.”
— Grace Slick, American musician

“In San Francisco, Halloween is redundant.”
— Will Durst, American comedian and writer

“I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on earth. Then I ask myself the same question about people in San Francisco.”
— Harun Yahya, Turkish author

“In San Francisco, you can’t throw a stick without hitting a museum or hitting someone who’s trying to start a museum.”
— Paul Kantner, musician

“San Francisco is a mad city, inhabited for the most part by perfectly insane people.”
— Rudyard Kipling, English journalist and novelist

“San Francisco has always been a haven for misfits and weirdos. I’m both of those, which is why I came here.”
— Margaret Cho, American comedian and actress

“San Francisco is a city of startling events, political, musical, literary, and social.”
— Herb Caen, American journalist

Quote saying that San Francisco itself is art.

“San Francisco itself is art… every block is a short story, every hill a novel, every home a poem.”
— William Saroyan, Armenian-American novelist

“If free speech and individuality are American characteristics, there is no place more American than San Francisco.”
— Desi Del Valle, actor and performer

“A city is where you can sign a petition, boo the chief justice, fish off a pier, gape at a hippopotamus, buy a flower at the corner, or get a good hamburger or a bad girl at 4 a.m. A city is where sirens make white streaks of sound in the sky and foghorns speak dark grays San Francisco is such a city.” 
— Herb Caen, American journalist

“You can go one block to the next in San Francisco and get a completely different opinion of what the issue is.”
— Don Johnson, American actor

“I always see about six scuffles a night when I come to San Francisco. That’s one of the town’s charms.”
— Errol Flynn, Australian-American actor

“In all my travels I have never seen the hospitality of San Francisco equalled anywhere in the world.” 
— Conrad Hilton, American hotelier

“For those who come to San Francisco. Summertime will be a love-in there. In the streets of San Francisco. Gentle people with flowers in their hair.”
— Scott McKenzie, American singer and songwriter

Quote about the Golden Gate Bridge offering a better view than the Statue of Liberty.

Quotes About the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge: more photographed than a celebrity on the red carpet and just as stunning. These quotes celebrate this architectural marvel’s grandeur, capturing its essence as San Francisco’s beloved icon.

“San Francisco put on a show for me. I saw her across the bay, from the great road that bypasses Sausalito and enters the Golden Gate Bridge. The afternoon sun painted her white and gold – rising on her hills like a noble city in a happy dream.”
— John Steinbeck, American author

“The Golden Gate Bridge’s daily strip tease from enveloping stoles of mist to full frontal glory is still the most provocative show in town.”
— Mary Moore Mason, editor and writer

“The Golden Gate Bridge is a testament to modern ingenuity and a symbol for the city of San Francisco.”
— Kevin Starr, American historian

“The view of the Golden Gate Bridge… is more captivating than, I’m sorry, the Statue of Liberty.”
— Janet Napolitano, American politician

“The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most beautiful monuments to all the dreams of the 20th century.”
— Vincent Scully, American art historian

“To this gate I give my hand, to this bridge I give my name.”
— Joseph Strauss, chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge

“I just wanted you to know that this bridge was built by the people of the world, for the people of the world.”
— Irving Morrow, American architect

“The Golden Gate Bridge’s daily greeting: a blink of the light.”
— Pico Iyer, British novelist

Maya Angelou quote about cable cars.

Quotes About Cable Cars

San Francisco’s cable cars offer riders a journey through time, echoing the city’s rich history. As they clatter along the streets, these iconic cars bring to life the vibrant story of San Francisco.

“The San Francisco cable car system is the world’s last manually operated cable car system.”
— San Francisco Municipal Railway

“You can’t control a cable car, and you can’t really control life.”
— Maya Angelou, American poet and civil rights activist

“The cable cars are a symbol of life in San Francisco. They require effort and attention, but they reward you with a beautiful ride.”
— Armistead Maupin, American writer 

“I can assure you that there is no more thrilling experience than riding on the outside of a San Francisco cable car on a clear day.”
— Herb Caen, American journalist

“The cable car is as much a part of San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge or a foggy summer.”
— Gavin Newsom, American politician and Governor of California

A quote about the clang of the cable car bell marking the rhythm of San Francisco's streets.

“Riding the cable car is a thrilling experience, not just because of the views but because you’re riding a piece of history.”
— Willie Brown, former Mayor of San Francisco

“The clang of the cable car bell marks the rhythm of San Francisco’s streets.”
— Danielle Steel, American novelist, on the iconic sound of cable cars

“San Francisco’s cable cars are not just transportation, they are a moving celebration of the city’s history.”
— Nancy Pelosi, American politician and Speaker of the House of Representatives

“To understand San Francisco, you must ride its cable car. It’s not just a ride but a journey through the city’s heart.”
— Don Herron, American author

“The cable cars represent the spirit of San Francisco – a blend of innovation, tradition, and a touch of whimsy.”
— Gary Kamiya, American author and journalist

City view of San Francisco at dusk.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Other Quotes About San Francisco

Beyond the landmarks and weather, San Francisco is a city of amazing experiences. These quotes delve deeper into what makes the city truly one-of-a-kind.

“The waterfront is a wild, exciting place. The air is filled with the smell of the sea and the sound of foghorns.”
— Herb Caen, American journalist

“San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf can be a feast for the senses. The salty air, the cries of the gulls, the hustle and bustle – it’s invigorating.”
— Armistead Maupin, American writer

“I love coming to the Bay Area. San Francisco is one of my favorite places… the ocean, the fresh air, the beautiful architecture.”
— Cecilia Bartoli, Italian opera singer

“San Francisco is a city where the sea and the sky meet in a perfect union. It’s a maritime city with a rich history.”
— Gary Kamiya, American author and journalist

“The bay looks serene and beautiful from the hills of San Francisco. It’s a view that never gets old.”
— Danielle Steel, American novelist

San Francisco quote about people who prefer Los Angeles.

“San Francisco’s piers and wharves are where you feel the city’s heartbeat strongest. It’s a connection to the past and present.”
— Willie Brown, former Mayor of San Francisco

“There’s something about the water in San Francisco. The bay is a part of the city’s soul.”
— Gavin Newsom, American politician and Governor of California

“Fisherman’s Wharf and the waterfront are the essence of San Francisco. They are what makes the city unique.”
— Nancy Pelosi, American politician and Speaker of the House of Representatives

“It is a good thing the early settlers landed on the east coast… if they’d landed in San Francisco, the rest of the country would still be uninhabited.”
— Herbert Mye, historical commentator

“You wouldn’t think such a place as San Francisco could exist. The wonderful sunlight here, the hills, the great bridges, the Pacific at your shoes. Beautiful Chinatown. Every race in the world. The sardine fleets sailing out. The little cable-cars whizzing down The City hills… And all the people are open and friendly.” 
— Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet and writer

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“There may not be a heaven, but there is a San Francisco.”
— Ashleigh Brilliant, English-born American author and cartoonist

“Money lives in New York. Power sits in Washington. Freedom sips cappuccino in a sidewalk café in San Francisco.”
— Joe Flower, author

“Anyone who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much gone to me. You go there as a snarky New Yorker thinking it’s politically correct, it’s crunchy granola, it’s vegetarian, and it surprises you every time. It’s a two-fisted drinking town, a carnivorous meat-eating town, it’s dirty and nasty and wonderful.”
— Anthony Bourdain, American chef and author

“Isn’t it nice that people who prefer Los Angeles to San Francisco live there?”
— Herb Caen, American journalist

“I am in love with San Francisco. Sometimes I think it was created just for the evening.”
— Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American poet and painter

Quote about everything in San Francisco looking like a postcard.

“In San Francisco, everything looks like a postcard.”
— A. J. Jacobs, American journalist and author

“I don’t think San Francisco needs defending. I never meet anyone who doesn’t love the place, Americans or others.”
— Doris Lessing, British novelist

“San Francisco is a complex town that lets you be yourself, that accepts you even if your family doesn’t.”
— Jack Boulware, journalist

“A bend reveals a sudden vision of San Francisco in shades of blue, a city in a dream, and I was filled with a tremendous yearning to live in that place of blue hills and blue buildings, though I do live there, I had just left there after breakfast.” 
— Rebecca Solnit, American writer

“Every morning in San Francisco was a bit like waking up on the edge of the earth: beautiful and damp and wild, full of the strange music people make, open-armed, into the wind.” 
— Elizabeth Percer, author

“San Francisco, city of dreaming spires.” 
— Eddie Izzard, British comedian and actor

“The light of San Francisco 
is a sea light
an island light
And the light of fog
blanketing the hills
drifting in at night
through the Golden Gate
to lie on the city at dawn…”
— Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American poet and painter

A seagull flying past San Francisco.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

San Francisco Captions for Instagram

Need the perfect Instagram caption? Here’s a little San Francisco magic for your feed, capturing the city’s essence in a few catchy words, perfect for your next post.

  • A blend of fog and fun
  • A city of fog and fabulousness
  • Already counting the minutes until I’m back in San Francisco
  • An un-fog-ettable day!
  • And the sun shines on the bay
  • Bay Area beauty
  • Being “pier” pressured into loving San Francisco
  • Bridging the gap at the Golden Gate
  • Cable cars, seals, and a big golden bridge — what more could a girl ask for?
  • Catch me in a cable car
  • Chasing sunsets in the City by the Bay
  • Chillin’ on the best coast
  • City lights on a summer night
  • Crusin’ through Cali
  • Dear San Francisco, I will never get over you
  • Down by the Bay
  • Even the seagulls are foodies in San Francisco
  • Every street a new heartbeat
  • Every time I visit San Francisco, I fall in love a little more
  • Everyone has a favorite hill in San Francisco
  • Everyone needs a little San Francisco in their life
  • Falling for San Francisco like Lombard Street, steep and twisty
  • Falling in love with San Francisco, one cable car at at time
  • Filling the gap between work and play, one Bay Bridge at a time
  • Fog city
  • Foggy mornings and cable car warnings
  • Follow your heart, especially if it takes you to San Francisco
  • From Alcatraz to Alamo Square
  • Golden hues for the Golden Gate
  • Greetings from San Francisco
  • Happiness is….holding tickets that say “San Francisco”
  • Happy as a clam at Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Hey bay bay!
San Francisco Caption: Every street is a new heartbeat.
  • I fell in love. His name is San Francisco.
  • I “Haight” it when I have to leave San Francisco
  • I left my heart in San Francisco
  • If you’re here long enough, you won’t even notice the fog.
  • In a Golden Gate state of mind
  • In a relationship…with San Francisco
  • In a San Francisco state of mind
  • In my San Francisco era
  • Is this trip golden, or what?
  • I’ve never met anyone who hates San Francisco
  • Let me introduce you to the Painted Ladies
  • Lost my heart in San Francisco, but found a burrito
  • My kind of city
  • No complaints about this view
  • No one does drag better than San Francisco
  • No one does sunsets better than San Francisco
  • Nothing comes close to the Golden Coast
  • Nothing is sweeter than a Ghirardelli chocolate in San Francisco
  • Oh, how I’ve mist you, Golden Gate Bridge
  • On a roll in San Francisco
  • On cloud wine
  • Once upon a time in San Francisco
  • Paradise by the Bay
A row of San Francisco's most famous Victorian homes known as the Painted Ladies.
  • San Francisco: Effortlessly gorgeous
  • San Francisco: Everyone’s favorite city
  • San Francisco is my happy place
  • San Francisco never disappoints
  • San Francisco nights just feel different
  • San Francisco: The city of a thousand views
  • San Francisco, the city of golden dreams
  • San Francisco: The Golden Gate City
  • San Francisco: Where the hills are alive with the sound of music
  • San Francisco: Where the Pacific meets the sky
  • San Francisco: Where the sun paints the city gold
  • Sealing the deal with San Francisco’s sea lions
  • Somewhere between living and dreaming, there’s San Francisco
  • Stay golden, San Francisco!
  • Takin’ a ride (on a cable car)
  • Taking a bite out of life, and sourdough, in San Francisco
  • The cool, gray city of love
  • The fantastically foggy city
  • There’s no time to be bored in a city as beautiful as San Francisco
  • This city is San Fran-tastic!
  • This trip is golden, baby!
  • Visiting the Bay with my bae
  • West Coast, best coast
  • What I like best about San Francisco is everything
  • Who needs the gym when you have San Francisco hills?
  • With each cable car ride, my love for San Francisco accelerates
  • You can leave San Francisco, but it will never leave you

Have You Visited San Francisco?

What mesmerized you the most in this city of fog and fabulousness? Did you find a quote that resonates with your experience or have one of your own? Share your thoughts and favorite San Francisco quotes in the comments below.

Thank you for sharing!

Purple horizontal line with a gold crown logo.

5 thoughts on “San Francisco Quotes: Capturing the City by the Bay’s Charm”

  1. I love San Francisco and while I’d heard some of these quotes and sayings before, many of them were new to me! Thanks for a walk down memory lane!

  2. All these quotes make me miss San Francisco! Such a great city to explore in Northern California. Thanks for the great list.

  3. I visit the city monthly and still love it. Mark Twain is right, it is cold in the summer. Your quotes were fun to read, and many of them are so true. FYI – it is cold there in the summer.

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