Soaking up the views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the cities and rolling mountains surrounding the bay is one of the best parts of visiting San Francisco.
Known for its hilly terrain, diverse population, and attractions, the city is one of the most densely populated major cities in the United States, making it no surprise that they have a unique and eclectic bar scene with buzzy outdoor patios to hip and themed watering holes and dimly lit speakeasies, there is something for everyone.
Pair those amazing views with delicious drinks, and you have yourself a recipe for an excellent afternoon or evening. These are the best places to grab a cocktail with an epic water view, some even from the water aboard a dining or cocktail cruise.
The best bars with a view in San Francisco
From top-of-the-world patios slinging craft concoctions to laid-back bars right on the water, these are the best spots to sip a cocktail—and take in the scenery—in San Francisco.
1. Dining and sightseeing cruises
Most San Francisco cocktail bars give you a view of San Francisco Bay, but how about a view of the downtown skyline from the water itself?
For brunch, lunch, or dinner, you can go on a City Experience’s sightseeing and dining cruise around the bay. Sip on bottomless mimosas on the Premier Brunch Cruise, or enjoy specialty cocktails, wine, or beer on the Premier Dinner Cruise, while you admire the San Francisco skyline. Don’t forget your dancing shoes to sway along to the music with live DJ entertainment. Get out on the deck for some fresh air and toast to the beautiful scenery and unbeatable views like the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz Island.
This is an experience that you do not want to miss.
Cap off your weekend with a Sunday fun day like no other! Hop aboard a Sights & Sips Cruise for the ultimate floating bar adventure! Sail past iconic San Francisco sights with a drink in hand and celebrate all the good things in life with your favorite crew. Vibe to DJ music spinning the latest tunes, kick back, and relax the day away with unbeatable views. Don’t forget to snap some pics with the amazing backdrop. Long week at work? We have a happy hour cruise for you! Leave your workday behind and get onboard City Cruises Alive After Five Cruise for a fun night out on the water where the city skyline will be a refreshing change from the office walls and cubicles. Relax with delicious cocktails from our fully stocked bar while you cut loose to the latest tunes with live DJ entertainment. Grab your work besties, family, or friends, and head over to the Embarcerdo to board your new favorite happy hour.
You cannot find a better way to unwind after a long and hectic week.
Housed in a stately red-brick space right by the Bay Bridge, Waterbar is equal parts upscale seafood restaurant and chic cocktail bar.
Sidle up to the iconic horseshoe-shaped bar for classic and signature house-made cocktails, or head to the outdoor seating area to enjoy your cocktail with some fresh air and views of the Bay Bridge.
Here you will have a front-row seat to The Bay of Lights which is a shimmering, mesmerizing, nighttime LED light sculpture that is 1.8 miles wide and 500 feet high and illuminates the San Francisco Bay creating a magical effect that you do not want to miss.
3. The View Lounge
Located on the top floor of the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, the art deco–esque View Lounge hotel bar instantly makes a statement with its eye-catching semi-circle window overlooking the city.
The cocktail menu here features unique creations and riffs on classic drinks, like the Moscow Mule, and some cocktails even feature locally distilled spirits. Sit back and sip on a handcrafted specialty drink while soaking up the stunning city views.
Although it is on the pricey side, the views are unmatched from the 39th floor. Munch on bar bites while taking in the extraordinary views of downtown in the Art Deco-inspired rooftop restaurant.
4. Top of the Mark
Serving classic cocktails, bar snacks, and arguably the best martini in the city, the classic hotel bar Top of the Mark can be found near Chinatown, on the 19th floor of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins. With windows spanning every wall, drinkers can enjoy 360-degree views of the city, bridges, and bay no matter where they sit.
It’s also an iconic San Francisco institution. During World War II, when servicemen came here for drinks, it became customary for the visiting troops to buy a bottle so the next soldier in their squadron could enjoy a drink from it upon their next visit. They would leave it in the care of the bartender until that moment, and whoever finished the bottle had to buy the next one for the next round of servicemen—a tradition that’s still carried on today.
With a dual indoor-outdoor dining situation, you can head to the San Francisco Proper Hotel and its rooftop bar, Charmaine’s, for a drink in any weather at any time of the year.
Located on Market Street near the Theater District, this stylish rooftop bar is worth visiting for the views and design as much as for the craft cocktails. The outdoor seating area features fire pits to keep you warm on cool, foggy days, and the interior dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows to fill the space with light.
Drinks-wise, the signature cocktails are the way to go, running the gamut from European-inspired spritzes to refreshing, fruity options for warm afternoons and evenings.
6. El Techo
In addition to serving Latin American street food, El Techo in the Mission has one of the best rooftop bars in San Francisco. The sunny, open-air rooftop bar area is the perfect place to enjoy margaritas, Palomas, and other Mexican-inspired libations.
Exuding a tropical theme with its lush greenery, emerald green tiles, and open-air tiki-bar vibes, the Hyatt Place Hotel’s rooftop spot Kaiyō looks across the bay toward Oakland.
In addition to craft cocktails made with spirits like pisco, mezcal, whiskey, and tequila, the food menu consists of Nikkei small bites, a cuisine that blends Peruvian ingredients with Japanese cooking methods.
8. The Ramp
Located right on the water on Mission Bay, this one-time bait shop and boat ramp—now a casual bar and eatery—is a great spot to grab a drink and bite to eat before or after an Alcatraz sailing.
The Ramp Restaurant is a well-kept local secret, situated on the water’s edge in the city’s thriving and historic sunbelt. Along with classic drinks like mimosas and boozy slushies, the Ramp also slings house cocktails created to refresh on warm, waterfront days. This is the number one spot to be for live music, comfort food, and stunning views.
Kick back and take in the views in the City by the Bay
After exploring San Francisco on foot with a guided walk or heading out to Alcatraz to tour the island prison, there’s nothing better than kicking back with a good drink and appreciating the views at the city’s best rooftop bars and waterfront watering holes.
FAQs – San Francisco Bars with a View
What are some of the best bars with water views in San Francisco in 2024?
Some popular options include Waterbar, The Interval at Long Now, The Slanted Door, Epic Steak, Pier 23 Cafe, Hi Dive Bar, La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, and City Cruises San Francisco, which offers brunch, dinner, lunch, or cocktail cruises on the water. Did you know that City Cruises also serves as a bar ON the water!!
What types of drinks can I expect at these bars?
These bars offer a diverse selection of drinks, including craft cocktails, local and international beers, wines, and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as unique offerings that cater to each establishment’s specialty. City Cruises San Francisco also features a wide range of beverages to enjoy while sailing.
Do these bars also serve food?
Yes, many of these bars serve a variety of food options, from small plates and appetizers to full-course meals. City Cruises San Francisco offers brunch, lunch, and dinner cruises with delicious meals to enjoy while taking in the stunning water views. Check the bar’s website or contact them directly for more information about their menu.
Is there outdoor seating available at these bars?
Many of these bars offer outdoor seating with water views, often during the warmer months. City Cruises San Francisco takes it a step further by providing a unique experience aboard a cruise, allowing you to enjoy your food and drinks while sailing on the water. Be sure to check with the specific bar or City Cruises for the availability of outdoor seating or cruise options.
Are these bars suitable for private events or group gatherings?
Some of these bars may offer private event spaces or be able to accommodate larger groups. City Cruises San Francisco also provides the option to host private events, corporate gatherings, or parties aboard their vessels. Contact the specific bar or City Cruises directly to inquire about their ability to host private events or group gatherings.
What’s the dress code for waterfront bars in San Francisco?
Dress codes can vary, from casual at places like Hi Dive Bar to more upscale at establishments like Epic Steak. It’s advisable to check the bar’s website or contact them directly for specific dress code details.
Can I make reservations at these bars with water views?
Many waterfront bars recommend or require reservations, especially for dining during peak hours or for special events. It’s best to plan ahead and book your spot, particularly for popular spots like The Slanted Door or Waterbar.
Are pets allowed in any of these waterfront bars?
Pet policies differ from bar to bar. Some places with outdoor seating, like Pier 23 Cafe, may be more pet-friendly. However, always confirm the pet policy directly with the bar before planning your visit.
What’s the best season to enjoy outdoor seating at these San Francisco cocktail bars on the water?
San Francisco’s climate allows for outdoor dining much of the year, but the best months are typically from late spring to early fall when the weather is warmer and less foggy.
Original post date: December 27, 2022