Palace of Fine Arts 

Iconic architecture constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo. Hosting art exhibitions and weddings, the theater has become a major tourist attraction just for the view of the building itself.

The Palace of Fine Arts was one of ten palaces at the heart of the Panama-Pacific Exhibition, which also included the exhibit palaces of Education, Liberal Arts, Manufactures, Varied Industries, Agriculture, Food Products, Transportation, Mines and Metallurgy and the Palace of Machinery. 

statues on top of san francisco palace of fine arts
statues on top of san francisco palace of fine arts

The Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Bernard Maybeck, who took his inspiration from Roman and Ancient Greek architecture in designing what was essentially a fictional ruin from another time.

While most of the exposition was demolished when the exposition ended, the Palace was so beloved that a Palace Preservation League, founded by Phoebe Apperson Hearst, was founded while the fair was still in progress.

palace of fine arts at night
palace of fine arts at night

While the Palace had been saved from demolition, its structure was not stable. Originally intended to only stand for the duration of the Exhibition, the colonnade and rotunda were not built of durable materials, and thus framed in wood and then covered with staff, a mixture of plaster and burlap-type fiber. As a result of the construction and vandalism, by the 1950s the simulated ruin was in fact a crumbling ruin.

In 1964, the original Palace was completely demolished, with only the steel structure of the exhibit hall left standing. The buildings were then reconstructed in permanent, light-weight, poured-in-place concrete, and steel I-beams were hoisted into place for the dome of the rotunda. All the decorations and sculpture were constructed anew

Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco Midwinter Fair
Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco Midwinter Fair
Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco Midwinter Fair

Nearby Points of Interest

Marina GreenA 74-acre grassy field on northern SF Bay coast. Views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, and Alcatraz. Great space for windy picnics and friendly gatherings.

Fort Mason: Once a United States Army post, this 1,200 acre is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Center. The remaining historic buildings are still in use with the military and also rented for civilian uses such as art galleries, dining, music instruction and the Fort Mason Arts and Culture Center.

Off The Grid at Fort Mason: Largest gathering of food trucks in the city. Every Friday night from March through October. Enjoy live music while trying a variety of ethnic cookery.

Golden Gate Bridge: You’ve seen it in movies, television, books, and postcards – now go ahead and take a walk on it! And don’t forget your camera.

Union Street Shopping: Amidst chic shops and restaurants, enjoy the brightly painted Victorians and secret courtyards. As much fun at night as it is in the daytime.

Fisherman’s Wharf:  Shops, shops, and a plethora of great seafood restaurants line the Wharf, where you still see vestiges of the old fishing crafts used by the Italian immigrants who brought the Wharf to life after the Gold Rush.

Palace of Fine Arts is featured on:

  • Public Tour
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    7:30 pm

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  • Private Charter
    Holiday Lights & Sites Lucky Tuk Tuk Private Charter in San Francisco

    Available Nov 29 until Dec 30th - Nightly

    7:30 pm

    How long?
    Approx. 2 hours
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    Nov 29 until Dec 30th - Nightly
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    Celebrate the season in your own Tuk Tuk charter! Our 2 or 2.5 hour San Francisco Holiday Lights charters include yummy hot chocolate, candy canes, fuzzy Santa hats and plenty of sing-along holiday karaoke tunes.

  • Public Tour
    Lucky Tuk Tuk at Night - San Francisco Lights Tour

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    Seats 6 (Ages 5+)
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    On Sale

    Explore San Francisco at night in a cozy, electric Tuk Tuk! Get up close to the glittering lights and go where buses don’t dare in this modern-day rickshaw. Live commentary included!

  • Public Tour
    Alcatraz Combo - Ultimate SF City Tour and Alcatraz Ferry

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