The Mission District Murals Of San Francisco

Mission District mural, San Francisco

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San Francisco is famous for its colourful and provocative street art. You can find it everywhere, with a thousand or more murals across the city. But the greatest concentration is in the Mission District, with whole streets full of vibrant murals and mosaics.

Mission District mural, San Francisco
One of the Mission District’s many colourful murals

Balmy Alley And The Mission District Murals

The Mission District is based around the Mission Dolores, established in 1776 and the oldest building in San Francisco. This was one of 21 Catholic missions in California, set up by Spanish colonists from Mexico. Today the area is home to a vibrant Mexican and Latin American community.

Nicaragua before and after
Pinnable image of “Nicaragua before and after” (detail)

The first murals appeared in 1973. Two artists painted an extravagant jungle scene on the back of their apartment in Balmy Alley (between 24th and 25th Streets). It wasn’t long before other residents followed their example. Eventually almost every house and garage in Balmy Alley had its own artwork.

Balmy Alley, San Francisco
Balmy Alley is where the murals started

The Precita Eyes Muralist Association

By the 1980s the idea had spread, and today you will see murals all around the Mission District. Apart from Balmy Alley and 24th Street, look out for Clarion Alley, and the neighbouring Sycamore Street (between Mission and Valencia Streets). And don’t miss the Women’s Building on 18th Street – the gigantic MaestraPeace, covering the exterior and interior walls, features more than 600 influential women.

Mission District murals, San Francisco
Some murals are three dimensional

The murals are not entirely random. Since 1977 the Precita Eyes Muralist Association has acted as co-ordinator, bringing together artists with property owners. As well as private houses, they often receive requests for murals on shops, businesses and public buildings.  The overall effect is to add colour and vibrancy to an already lively area. However, the pictures are not just decorative: look closely and you’ll see that many of them carry political or social messages, with subjects such as drugs, civil rights or police brutality. At one end of Clarion Alley I spotted a cartoon representation of Donald Trump: the Mission District murals are very much a living tradition.

Clarion Alley, San Francisco
A political mural in Clarion Alley


3 thoughts on “The Mission District Murals Of San Francisco”

  1. Linda Fairbairn

    I love street art – Art is our culture so to have it on display while going about one’s daily business is terrific 😀

  2. Street art makes an area so interesting, colorful and vibrant and, in places where there are lots of murals, I often have the feeling of being on a quest to find “the best” in the streets we walk. I’d love to revisit San Francisco (it’s been decades) and see these murals for myself. Another thing to add to the “Bucket List!” Anita

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…


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