Alamo Square

Home to the historic Painted Ladies, you've probably seen this square on television.

TravelCurious Tip

Enjoy the houses and take a picture but avoid stepping onto the properties as some tourists do — people do actually live in those houses!

Alamo Square is a neighbourhood found in Western Addition in San Francisco. It centres on Alamo Square Park, four city blocks at the top of a hill that overlooks a great deal of downtown San Francisco. Alamo Hill was named after the lone cottonwood tree - ‘alamo' in Spanish - which marked a watering hole on the horseback trail that passed this way in the 1800s.

The Park includes a playground and a tennis court and is usually pleasantly brimming with a mix of neighbours, tourists, and excitable dogs. One thing the tourists come to admire is the view: on a clear day, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge from the park’s centre. When the weather has been good, the whole skyline of San Francisco can cut a marvellous silhouette against a dusky sky.

Renaissance of the Painted Ladies

Of course the other thing the tourists are here for is the Painted Ladies. These houses were built in Victorian and Edwardian styles in the second half of the 19th century and given brightly coloured façades that left the critics of the time flummoxed, but have since earned their place in San Francisco folklore.

During the Second World War, surplus battleship grey Navy paint was actually used to paint them a more sober colour, as the bright pastel hues were probably a little out of keeping with the mood of the time. However, from the 60s onwards the Painted Ladies have enjoyed a renaissance, and the neighbourhoods look much livelier for it. The best known Painted Ladies are the row of houses at 710-720 Steiner Street just by the park — they are known by many as “Postcard Row”, and rightly so.

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