Pity the collectors silently nibbling endive in austere Chelsea galleries – at 49 Geary, First Thursday art openings mean unexpected art, popcorn and outspoken crowds. Four floors of two dozen galleries feature standout international and local works, including photography at Fraenkel Gallery and Scott Nichols Gallery, Ai Weiwei installations at Haines Gallery, and Christian Maychack's architectural excess at Gregory Lind. For quieter contemplation, visit on a weekday.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Downtown, Civic Center & SoMa attractions

1. Lotta's Fountain

0.04 MILES

Lotta Crabtree made fortunes as San Francisco's diminutive opera diva, and she never forgot the city that paid for her trademark cigars. In 1875 she…

2. Frank Lloyd Wright Building

0.11 MILES

Shrink the Guggenheim, plop it inside a yellow-brick box with a round Romanesque entryway and put it where you'd least expect it: on a shady SF alley that…

3. Palace Hotel

0.11 MILES

A true SF survivor, the Palace opened in 1875 but was gutted during the 1906 earthquake. Opera star Enrico Caruso was jolted from his Palace bed by the…

4. Contemporary Jewish Museum

0.12 MILES

That upended blue-steel box miraculously balancing on one corner atop the Contemporary Jewish Museum is appropriate for an institution that upends…

5. One Montgomery Terrace

0.12 MILES

For great Market St views of old and new SF, enter through Crocker Galleria, take the elevator to the top and then ascend the stairs, or enter Wells Fargo…

6. I Magnin Building

0.15 MILES

When Timothy Pflueger’s radical design was revealed on Union Sq in 1948, SF society was shocked: San Francisco’s flagship clothing store appeared…

7. California Historical Society

0.16 MILES

Enter a Golden State of enlightenment at this Californiana treasure trove, featuring themed exhibitions drawn from the museum's million-plus California…

8. Museum of the African Diaspora

0.16 MILES

MoAD assembles an international cast of characters to tell the epic story of diaspora, including a moving video of slave narratives told by Maya Angelou…