Skip to main content
Arts & Entertainment

See Some of the Thousands of Stunning Murals Across the City’s Neighborhoods

Written by Jeremy ChenPublished Nov. 17, 2023 • 6:20am
Mural of Bruce Lee in action
A pedestrian strolls by a Bruce Lee mural, painted by artist Twick in 2020, on Clay and Grant Street in San Francisco | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

San Francisco’s illustrious history of adorning its buildings with murals dates all the way back to the 18th century.

The Mission Dolores mural was the city’s first, painted by Ohlone artists in 1791. However, it was covered up by the church altar, hidden for over 200 years. 

Historian and artist Ben Wood recovered and digitally recorded the mural in 2004 with the help of archaeologist Eric Blind. 

But even before Wood and Blind’s discovery, murals had become entrenched in San Francisco’s history and culture.

Twenty-five artists painted 27 murals on the first and second floors of Coit Tower in the 1930s during the Great Depression. These New Deal murals embodied the atmosphere of the time, depicting the laborers, modes of transportation and industries of that era. Famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera also painted his first murals in the United States in this period—all three of which are still housed in San Francisco.

Mural production in the city took a hiatus after that, resuming in the 1970s as a new style overtook the artistic expressions.

The muralists of the 1970s used their art as avenues for imagination, social change and celebration. Las Mujeres Muralistas, a group of Latina artists formed in the Mission District, stood at the forefront of this trend.

The Mission boasts over 500 murals alone, nearly half of the murals in the entire city, according to SF Mural Arts. It is also home to Balmy Alley, the site of the Las Mujeres Muralista’s first mural and a plethora of present-day murals. The art pieces line the entire alley, covering walls, garage doors and fences alike.

The Mission’s collaborative and community-based murals would be incomplete without the work of Precita Eyes Muralists Association, an organization founded in 1977 that creates, restores and celebrates murals throughout the city.

From the Mission to Haight-Ashbury, from Chinatown to the Tenderloin, San Francisco is filled to the brim with gorgeous murals. Check out some of them below.

Mural on a wall of a water buffalo
A man walks past a mural of a water buffalo, led by artist Lindsey Millikan in 2021, on Ellis and Larkin streets in San Francisco. The city has a storied history of murals in its neighborhoods and is the site of Diego Rivera’s first mural in the United States. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Two people are walking down Balmy Alley
Two people walk down Balmy Alley, home to a vast assortment of murals in the Mission in San Francisco. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Mural on the side of a building
A mural of an eye in the palm of a hand is pictured on Treat Avenue and 21st Street in San Francisco. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Murals inside the halls of Coit Tower
Visitors examine the murals on the first floor of San Francisco's Coit Tower, which were painted in 1934 to portray California during the Great Depression. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Mural of railroad workers
The “Railroad and Shipping” mural, which depicts the different modes of transportation during the Great Depression, is pictured on the first floor of Coit Tower in San Francisco. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Large painting of a baby cop on the side of a building
The “Baby Cop” mural, painted by the artist BiP, is pictured on Lily and Franklin streets in San Francisco. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Colorful painting of carnival scene on side of apartment building
A pedestrian looks at the Carnaval mural, which was led by artist Daniel Gálvez in 1983, on 24th Street and South Van Ness Avenue, in San Francisco. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Painting of butterflies and poppies on the side of a multi-story building
People walk down Hyde Street and cross O’Farrell Street, home to an 11-story tall butterfly mural, painted by Jane Kim and 10 other female artists, in the Tenderloin in San Francisco. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Portrait of a woman on the side of a building
A mural of Yolanda López, led by artist Jessica Sabogal in 2021, is pictured on Folsom and 16th streets in San Francisco. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Painting of a skeleton of a running wolf on the side of a building
“X-Ray of a Wolf,” painted by artist Nychos in 2014, is pictured on Ashbury and Haight streets in San Francisco. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Mural of flying red-headed cranes on a green background
The mural “Spiritual Journey,” painted by artists Iris Lin and Riley Li, is pictured on Fillmore and Haight streets in San Francisco. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Mural of a dozen people painted on a building exterior
A woman walks past the “Asian American Community Heroes” mural in Chinatown, painted by Anne Marie Lapitan in 2022, on Jackson Street and Grant Avenue in San Francisco. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Mural showing more than two dozen cats and dogs
A man walks his dog past a dog and cat painting on Waller and Fillmore streets, a mural led by artist Chuy Chow, in San Francisco. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

Questions, comments or concerns about this article may be sent to

A family stands in Ghiradelli square wearing matching Hanukkah sweaters.

Where To Celebrate Hanukkah in San Francisco in 2023

A white temple made of granite and topped with gold decorations sits in a tropical clearing.

How a Spectacular Hindu Temple in Hawaii Began as a Dream in San Francisco

A composite image of two posters that are featured in the “Art on Market Street” series that include comics of visual artist Ruth Asawa standing behind one of her wires structures, left, and fashion designer Kaisik Wong sitting behind his sewing machine, right.

Comics Highlight Asian American Artists on San Francisco’s Market Street

A costumed man and woman stand in front of a step-and-repeat.

‘Star Wars,’ ‘Lord of the Rings’ Fans Pack San Francisco Sci-Fi Convention: Photos

Couples dance while clad in Victorian era clothing at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair Returns to Cow Palace After Boycott