Palace of Fine Arts

This Roman-inspired palace built in 1915 remains a modern-day renaissance center of fine arts and science. 

The Romanesque Palace of Fine Arts was created as a star attraction at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The expo celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal and San Francisco’s recovery from the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires. Designer Bernard Maybeck themed the construction around Roman ruins, drawing inspiration from both Roman and Greek architecture. His intention was to show “the mortality of grandeur and the vanity of human wishes.”

This is one of the few surviving structures from the expo. It has housed tennis courts and served as a store of military trucks and jeeps. A major restoration program in the ’60s restored the palace to its former glory, stripping it back to its basics and then rebuilding with new concrete, paving and landscaping.

Today it's the home to the Exploratorium, an exciting journey into the wonders and mysteries of science, with interactive displays and hands-on activities aimed at children.

The palace is in a peaceful space to walk, or enjoy a picnic. Surrounded by gardens and a swan-filled lagoon, sits the palace, a grand rotunda and 1,100-foot (335-meter) pergola. It’s a popular destination because of the serenity of its environment and the majesty of its architecture.

The Palace of Fine Arts is to the west of Fisherman's Wharf in the Marina District. On foot, it’s less than two miles (three kilometers) from Fisherman's Wharf past Ghirardelli Square. It is also easily accessible by public transport. Several Muni buses will take you there. There is a parking lot on the west side accessible from Lyon Street.


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