It’s hard to believe that this dramatic San Francisco performance venue, with its ultra-modern-looking white-and-glass façade, opened all the way back in 1980. Somehow its bold, curving lines and standout placement in the city’s Civic Center area make it appear fresh and new, even after decades of use. The still-eye-catching looks were created by Italian-American architect Pietro Belluschi, who crafted a massive do-over of the structure, the city’s original symphony hall. His design included a brilliant building-within-a-building design, allowing for an exterior shell to insulate against city noise and vibration. Come for a performance of the world-renowned San Francisco Symphony, or a performer such as Emmanuel Ax or Patti Lupone, and you’ll appreciate every note, regardless of where your seats are. During intermission, step into the lobby to take in views of San Francisco’s ornately embellished City Hall and sleek new high rises beyond.
While you’re in the area, grab a bite at one of the many within-strolling-distance hot spots for dining, before or after a show. Vegan standout Baia serves up Italian comfort food, the ever-popular (and James Beard Foundation Award–winning) Italian-French Zuni Café offers their not-to-be-missed classic roast chicken, and Nakama Sushi easily clears the City by the Bay’s high bar when it comes to Japanese cuisine. Find more cafes and hip boutiques in the nearby Hayes Valley neighborhood, and more arts and culture institutions in the Civic Center area.
Insider tip: Take a tour (offered Mondays; nominal fee charged) to learn about the hall’s unique features, including the individually tunable, computer-operated acrylic sound reflectors suspended above the orchestra pit. You can also take a virtual tour of the hall (and the adjacent War Memorial Opera House and the Herbst Theater as well) here.