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A Hitchcock Tour of San Francisco: Five Dizzying Stops Featured in Vertigo

This blog post was updated on October 4, 2018.

Many films don’t just involve the characters and the plot. Most would be next to nothing without their settings. San Francisco is one of those cities that loves the camera. While many famous movies have been filmed in the city, perhaps no other is more acclaimed that Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. San Francisco played a key role in the late 1950s movie, with its dizzying vistas, streets and historic sites. The plot revolves around a retired detective with acrophobia, hired to follow a friend’s wife around the city. For fans of the film or even those with just an appreciation of San Francisco cinematography, you can tour the city by stopping at a number of sites featured in Vertigo.

The Legion of Honor: Set up in Lincoln Park, the Legion of Honor was the setting for a museum visit by Kim Novak’s character in the film. The impressive collection boasts around 4,000 years of ancient and European art. The world-class art collection resides in a dramatic French neoclassical building. Even though the attraction to the Legion of Honor is its art collection, the setting certainly appeals with its views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mission Dolores
: The film shines the spotlight on two San Francisco area missions. Right in the city, Mission Dolores played a role in Vertigo, especially its chapel and cemetery. Founded in 1776, Mission Dolores is a survivor. Not only has it survived two major earthquakes, but also it proudly stands as the oldest continuously occupied building in San Francisco. Its cemetery serves as the final resting place to some of the first notable Californians.

Fort Point: One of the most dramatic scenes of Vertigo took place at Fort Point in San Francisco. The main character Madeleine jumps into the San Francisco Bay here with the Golden Gate Bridge looking on. You can find this point under the southern approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. Today, it has taken on a more peaceful note as many come to take a walk here. The spot lends a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge if the fog has rolled out. Fort Point originally served as a protector from Confederate and foreign attack during and after the U.S. Civil War.

Hotel Vertigo: Even if you can’t stay at Hotel Vertigo, it is worth making a stop. Originally called the Empire, the hotel appeared in the film. It was renovated in 2008 and renamed Hotel Vertigo. The hotel acts as the ultimate place to stay for fans of Vertigo. In fact, the lobby plays Vertigo all day and night. Hotel Vertigo lies in the Nob Hill neighborhood of the city, just a few blocks from Union Square.

Mission San Juan Bautista
: Another mission featured in Vertigo is Mission San Juan Bautista, less than 100 miles from the city. Founded in 1797, the mission was the setting for Vertigo’s final vertiginous scene. If you can’t find the bell-tower seen in the film, you aren’t alone. Hitchcock added the tower to the mission.

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