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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Along with classic drinks like mimosas and boozy slushies, the Ramp also slings house cocktails created to refresh on warm, waterfront days.
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.