While plenty of city skylines feature a bridge, very few have a presence quite like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.
Over the past 80 years, this iconic structure on the Golden Gate Strait has attracted travelers from around the world, who come for the chance to take postcard-perfect pictures and the opportunity to cross it themselves. The Golden Gate Bridge is considered to be one of the seven civil engineering wonders of the United States by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Now entering its eighth decade, the bridge has stood the test of time as a must-see attraction for visitors and a symbol of home for locals.
Construction began on the bridge in January 1933 to connect San Francisco to its neighbors in Marin County just across the Golden Gate Strait, which lies between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
There were many opinions about the bridge’s color — in fact, the U.S. Navy originally wanted it painted black with yellow stripes to make it stand out. Ultimately, the bridge was painted its own shade of “international orange,” both to complement the surrounding landscape and be bright enough to increase its visibility in fog.
The bridge officially opened for Pedestrian Day on May 27, 1937 and it’s estimated some 200,000 people crossed that day. The next day, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt pressed the golden telegraph button to ceremoniously open bridge to the traffic at exactly noon. Opening celebrations lasted through the week.
The Golden Gate Bridge became an instant icon for the city of San Francisco and is featured in Superman, Godzilla, Star Trek and many other movies and television shows. The bridge has been a California Historical Landmark since 1987.
Golden Gate Bridge
Experience a Golden Moment
There are plenty of ways to experience the Golden Gate Bridge up close. Drive across on U.S. Route 101/California State Route 1, but keep in mind that you will have to pay a toll. Talk to your car rental company about options beforehand. If you’d like to take your time crossing, pedestrians and bicyclists are welcome to cross the bridge on the walkways located on either side of the traffic lanes. People looking to walk across should use the east sidewalk (the side facing San Francisco) and are only permitted access from 5 a.m. to 6:30 or 9:30 p.m. local time, depending on the season. It’s recommended to look up hours prior to walking the bridge for the latest information. Cyclists are permitted to use either sidewalk 24 hours a day toll free.
Free bi-weekly guided tours are also offered where you can learn more about the history surrounding the bridge while taking in the city view. Afterward, be sure to check out the Welcome Center for both outdoor and indoor interactive exhibits about the history, science and engineering of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Both ends of the bridge are a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, perfect for hiking and vista views. Some of the best photo ops of the bridge lie just across the Golden Gate Straight from San Francisco: Take the bridge across to access Hawk Hill for sweeping views, Kirby Cove for an Instagram-worthy swinging spot or Battery Spencer for sights from above. If you’d prefer to stay near the city, see the bridge from below at Fort Point, near the Marina District, or from Crissy Field, which offers sweeping views — the perfect backdrop for a lunchtime picnic.
Don’t miss the other famous San Francisco icons, like the Painted Ladies, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Island and Lombard Street during your visit.
See the Golden Gate Bridge from Kirby Island