San Francisco’s Mission District Murals: Explorer’s Guide & Map

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The Mission District murals offer a visual history lesson on the immigrant experience, gentrification and modern politics. While there is street art all over San Francisco, the Mission has a highly concentrated brew of images and messages that are very particular to the neighborhood.

This San Francisco mission murals guide will give you background on the urban art movement in the neighborhood, tell you where to find the murals (including a map) and suggests some guided tours. Oh yea, it also includes eye candy…lots and lots of eye candy.

SF Mission Murals: Born in the Mission

History of the Mission

The origins of the Mission are older than San Francisco itself and its history is a revolving door of settlers and immigrants.

The Mission’s original residents were the Yelamu people who settled what is now San Francisco 4500 years ago. The neighborhood is called “The Mission” because of the establishment of Mission Dolores by Francisco Palou in 1776, settling the area with Spanish-Mexican families. During the Gold Rush the neighborhood became housing for working-class German, Irish and Italian immigrants. The population shifted yet again during the ’40-’60s with the influx of Mexican and Central American Immigrants. The current wave of settlement includes dot-com workers and gentrification.

All of this history is relevant to the Mission District because so many of the murals illustrate SF’s immigrant history and political landscape.

SF Mission: Superhero DC Comics mural. Batman, robin, bat girl

Development of the Mission District Murals

In the ’70’s an arts scene developed in the Mission and art spaces, galleries, film festivals and street performances came to life. This creative environment proved fertile ground for the street art movement and murals began springing up.

Precita Eyes, a nonprofit devoted to the development and restoration of community art, rode the wave of interest in street art. They have cataloged hundreds of street art pieces, credited to specific artists, scattered throughout the 143 square blocks of the mission. Other cities have also seen this sort of community driven murals. For instance, San Diego’s Chicano park murals were developed as part of a Chicano protest movement and Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood also has Latino themed street art. But the Mission District murals are a mindfully curated movement that is very specific to San Francisco.

Read More: If you are mad for murals, check out this guide for the best places to find street art in California.

Where to Find the San Francisco Mission Murals

There is street art all over the Mission but three primary locations are absolutely thick with it. The greatest profusion of murals and graffiti are located along the 24th street corridor between Mission and York streets. This area includes side streets like Lilac Street Alley, Cypress Street Alley, Lucky Street and Balmy Alley.

Clarion Alley is also a hot location for street art and it’s also worth checking out the nearby Women’s Building. These streets and some other specific mural locations are noted on the Mission mural map below.

Use this map to find all of the Mission mural locations:

Read More: Go beyond San Francisco and find more great street art cities around the globe.

Murals Along the 24th Street Corridor

If you get off the 24th Mission Bart station, simply head east.

Lilac & Cypress Street Mural Alleys

These two San Francisco mural alleys are notable for their edgier work. There is a lot of tagging, stylized graffiti in the alleyways. There is a lot of turnover on these two streets and the works don’t stay up forever.

SF Mission Lilac Alley graffiti
Graffiti and a bit of @Soulstiz in the alleyway.
San Francisco Mission Murals: Pineapple Dream Team Nite Owl Ham and Sidy mural with cartoon characters.
One of several collaborations between Sidy, Nite Owl and Ham.
Santana Mural in the Mission by Alexander Tadlock. Hat and yellow background.
Alexander Tadlock (who also goes by Crayone) has done quite of few murals in the Mission. This one is an homage to Santana.

Balmy and Lucky Street Mural Alleys

On Balmy and Lucky streets, you begin to see some of the commissioned works that were coordinated by Precita Eyes. They pride themselves on engaging the community in the mural design and execution. You’ll find a mix of professional artists and regular community members collaborating on the works.

This sort of inclusive ethic is very unusual for street art cities. For instance, Honolulu’s POW!WOW! street art festival does provide some smaller spaces for local artists to participate, but the large art pieces tend to be from world class global artists. In the Mission, Precita Eyes is very intentional about sourcing local residents, which I believe contributes to the long lasting nature of so many of the murals along the 24th street corridor.

Mission District street artl: El Salvador 3-D mural in Balmy
This 3-D mural represents myths and history from El Salvador.
Mission District Mural titled Women of Resistence
This collaboration of nine artists talks about how women are empowering themselves globally and fighting political battles.
Balmy Alley street art: Wild Things
This delightful mural illustrates one of my favorite children’s books: Where the Wild Things Are.
Balmy Alley mural Mi Amor Love Letter
This heartbreaking mural is embedded with memories of the war and separation in El Salvador. “…I’ve missed you a lot and hope that we can be together soon…”
SF Mural Campesinos
These campesinos in Nicaragua are demonstrating signs of resistance.

Other Murals in the 24th Street Corridor

While you’re wandering around the Mission, don’t forget to keep an eye out for some of San Francisco’s best independent bookshops. FIX. Alley Cat books is located right on the 24th street mural corridor and Dog Eared Books and Borderlands aren’t far from Clarion Alley.

SF St Peters Church Mural
The wrap around affair at St Peter’s Church tells the epic story of 500 years of resistance.
SF mural at House of Brakes
This mural above the House of Brakes celebrates the annual Mission Carnavale.
Carnavale mural in the Mission District by Crayone. A woman in costume with a rainbow background.
Here’s another Carnavale themed mural by Crayone.
San Francisco Mission bus stop mural on Folsom
This meta-mural represents the city in the city at this bus stop on 24th and Folsom.
Quetzalcoatl mosiac sculpture in the Mission
Writhing through the center of the York mini-park is a huge beautiful tile mosaic sculpture representing the serpent Quetzalcoatl.

FYI- if you are into mosaics, then be sure to check out our guide to 4 lovely mosaic staircases in the city.

San Francisco Mural: Cesar Chavez Elementary. Man with banner and children doing sign language.
Here at Cesar Chavez Elementary, they celebrate their program for the deaf with sign language imagery on the front and back of the building.
Once Upon a Time in the Mission: SF mural
Here’s your selfie shot- “Once Upon a Time in the Mission”.

Street Art in Clarion Alley

The murals in Clarion Alley veer away from Latino history and mythology and careen into overtly political territory. There is a fair amount of turnover in the alley. An artist will “own their patch” and when they no longer wish to update it, they will cede it to a new artist. The Clarion Alley murals are some of the best Instagrammable spots in San Francisco. FIX.

SF Clarion Alley mural -Not For Sale
An anti-gentrification message in a gentrifying neighborhood.
San Francisco Street Art Clarion Alley
This artist had just “inherited” a spot and was creating a new mural.
Clarion Alley Mural: No One is Illegal. black and white lettering
There is no ambiguity about the message of this mural.

But Wait, There are Still More Murals

There are plenty more murals dotted around the area south of Clarion Alley. Check out the Women’s Building and stroll Mission and Valencia streets.

San Francisco Women's Building
The Women’s Building is completely covered. (photo courtesy of Jumilla).
Santana Mural in the Mission San Francisco
While trying to shoot the Santana mural on 19th, I was hijacked by a drunken bachelorette party.
Precita Eyes Mission postcard

Guided Mission Mural Tours

Using the map above, you can easily do this as a self-guided mural tour. Wear comfortable shoes and come prepared to spend several hours wandering the neighborhood as there is a LOT to see. For the self-guided tour, start at the 24th street BART stop. Be sure to stop into Precita Eyes (24th & Harrison). They are very passionate about the Mission murals so plan to spend some time there having them regale you with stories regarding the more ambitious art pieces. While there, you can also pick up some street art swag.

Precita Eyes also hosts a very informative 2-hour tour on Saturdays and Sundays. It costs $20. They are extremely informed about the murals along the 24th street corridor, but they don’t cover Clarion Alley. San Francisco City Guides also offers a free mural tour twice a month. You can find their schedule here. Wild SF Tours has just added a new (free) walking tour that covers Clarion Alley and thereabouts.

Take the murals home with you by purchasing their Mission Muralismo coffee table book.

Clarion Alley graffiti with man and dog

(This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you choose to purchase, I’ll make a small commission.)

Explore more offbeat stuff in the Mission using this guide for unusual things to do in San Francisco. In addition to the street art, it includes creepy cemeteries, tiled staircases, museums for adults-only and local’s only spots to hang out. And if it’s your first time in town, be sure to check out our first timer’s guide to SF.

Plan Your Trip to SF

Save time planning your trip to SF with these insanely useful links:

Check out our Mission District Murals web story.

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6 thoughts on “San Francisco’s Mission District Murals: Explorer’s Guide & Map”

  1. I love street art but I may never have known how much amazing art there was in San Francisco. Some of these are just stunning.
    Thank you for sharing these and the history.

  2. Nice post. Visited Precita Eyes a few months ago and loved the alley art, all of it too around the Mission. SF is percolating with creativity!

  3. What about the ones on 24th behind Mcdonalds!? Don’t see those in here… I’m an sf native and those are some of the most iconic and important murals in the mission. Talks about the evolution of the district and more.

    • I do call out Lilac Alley, which is behind the McDonalds and indeed there are some fun, edgey murals in the alley.

  4. Thanks for this great guide. I love taking pictures of my French bulldog, Maddie, in front of street art when we travel. I’m saving this post for the next time we’re in SF.


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