HI San Francisco City Center Hostel

685 Ellis Street
San Francisco, California 94109
Call 1 (415) 474-5721

Walkabout: Art and Architecture in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District

Underneath the Tenderloin District’s edgy surface, the neighborhood, which HI San Francisco City Center Hostel calls home, is full of underrated beauty and not-so-hidden wonders. As any intrepid traveler knows, the best way to discover a new place is usually on your own two feet. When you do so in the Tenderloin, you’ll find beautiful surprises in the architecture and the larger-than-life murals that turn the city into a public gallery. The area also has some of San Francisco’s best Vietnamese, Indian, and Thai restaurants, dive bars, and quirky retailers perfect for travelers on a budget, so gather a gang of friends at the hostel and get to exploring those sweet streets!

Murals in the Tenderloin

Many of the murals in the Tenderloin are done by underground artists, usually from all over the world, which adds to the international melting pot that is San Francisco. HI SF City Center is one of the canvases of the neighborhood with its seven-story piece called Self Consuming-Dave by anonymous artist BiP (Believe in People).

Half a block up on Olive Street, the mural changes every few months with everything from colorful collages to homages to the movie Office Space and the BART system bringing the alley to life. On the other side, at Polk Street on the corner of Eddy Street, you’ll find the kaleidoscope-like Girl with Apples by Spain-based Aryz, one of the world’s top street artists.

More iconic work can be found on Turk Street near Market Street where a whimsical piece titled On the Shoulders of a Wizard by Brazilian artist Os Gemeos looks down at the crowds. And there’s an excellent quintessential San Francisco photo opportunity on McAllister Street near the Civic Center BART station with a giant, colorful peace sign by Australian James Reka.

Architecture in the Tenderloin

The Single Room Occupancy Hotels that are a signature of the Tenderloin were constructed after the 1906 earthquake destroyed the wooden family homes that were prevalent in the neighborhood before. Today you can find a range of architectural styles, from Roman and Greek, to Art Deco and Byzantine, amid historic buildings that many call home.

Geary Street is a good place to start your architecture stroll: there’s the Alcazar Theatre, a stunning designated city landmark designed in the Exotic Revival style to look like an Islamic temple, and the Curran Theater, which are both reminders of the Tenderloin’s cultured past.

The apartment buildings on this street are filled with so many interesting and wonderful details – an adorned window here, a cherub-guarded doorway there – and decorated in a range of colors and decorations all the way down to Mason Street. If you come at the right time of day, the lighting makes for picture-perfect Instagram posts.

Taking a walk along O’Farrell, Turk, and Taylor Streets close to HI SF City Center hostel will also reveal hidden artworks and interesting architecture. If anything, the Tenderloin is a poster child for the old saying to never judge a book by its cover. All it takes is open eyes and an open mind to find beauty in unexpected places. After all, that is why we travel – to discover something new and gain an appreciation and better understanding of the world around us. —-

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