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10 Most Famous Buildings In California

With nearly 40 million inhabitants, the most populous state in the United States is located on the West Coast of the country.

California is world-famous for being the home of the film industry and a booming economy. 4 of the 10 largest companies in the world are headquartered here.

The state has such a huge economy that it would have the fifth-largest economy in the world if it were a country.

The sheer size of the state, covering an area of 423,970 square kilometers (163,696 square miles), also means it’s home to a diverse range of architectural wonders.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most famous buildings in California, structures you simply have to put on your bucket list when you plan to visit the state.

1. California State Capitol

The California State Capitol is located in Sacramento, the capital of the U.S. state of California, and has been the seat of the Government of California since the 1870s.

The Neoclassical building looks very similar to the US Capitol Building and that’s because its design was modeled on this famous building in Washington D.C.

It’s located at the western end of Capitol Park and was completed between 1861 and 1874. It features a Neoclassical portico and an amazing dome that was inspired by the Tempietto in Rome.

This famous building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and also houses the California State Capitol Museum.

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Official website: Capitol Museum

Famous buildings in California State Capitol
California State Capitol / Asilvero / Wiki Commons

2. Golden Gate Bridge

If we need to pick one bridge in California that has become a symbol of the state, then it’s the Golden Gate Bridge.

This enormous suspension bridge spans the Golden Gate, a strait just north of San Francisco that connects San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, and is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and iconic bridges in the world.

The bridge was initially designed in the year 1917 but was only completed in 1937.

It has a total length of 2,737.1 meters (8,980 feet), a total height of 227.4 meters (746 feet), and the longest span has a length of 1,280.2 meters (4,200 feet).

This made it both the longest and the tallest suspension bridge in the world upon completion.

Today, it’s one of the most popular buildings in San Francisco and one of the most photographed bridges in the world.

Official website: Golden Gate

Golden Gate Bridge / Frank Schulenburg / CC BY-SA 4.0

3. Griffith Observatory

If you want to combine an education trip with one of the most amazing spots to get amazing views of the city of Los Angeles, then you have to head to the Griffith Observatory.

The facility is located in Griffith Park, one of the most famous public parks in the city, and was built on the southern-facing slope of Mount Hollywood.

This means that you can get clear views of Downtown Los Angeles and its surroundings from this amazing location.

To make things even better, the numerous exhibitions inside the complex are free to access and have been since its opening in the 1930s.

Millions of people have visited this observatory and looked through the popular 12-inch Zeiss refractor.

This in combination with daily Planetarium shows makes the Griffith Observatory a must-visit attraction when you make it to the West Coast of the United States.

Official website: Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory and the Los Angeles skyline / Pixabay

4. The Getty Center

The Getty Center is one of the most incredible buildings in California. It’s an art museum that houses some of the most famous paintings of the Getty Museum and features multiple buildings used by the Getty Trust.

The entire complex cost an astounding $1.3 billion to build and it replaced the original location of the museum in 1997. This venue was located in the Pacific Palisades, the residence of British petroleum industrialist J. Paul Getty.

The complex was designed by American abstract artist and architect Richard Meier and features a wide variety of architectural marvels.

Official website: J. Paul Getty Museum

famous paintings at the Getty Museum
Aerial View of the Getty Center / Wiki Commons

5. Coit Tower

Even though the Coit Tower only stands 64 meters (210 feet) tall, it provides one of the most amazing views of San Francisco and the entire San Francisco Bay area you can get.

That’s because it’s located on Telegraph Hill, an elevated position situated within San Francisco’s Pioneer Park in the utmost northeastern part of the city.

This remarkable tower was built between 1932 and 1933 using Lillie Hitchcock Coit’s bequest, a patroness of the San Francisco’s volunteer firefighters.

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 as well and lights up in different colors during special events.

The interior of the tower is painted with fascinating murals and the tower’s observation deck is something you simply have to visit once in your life!

Official website: Coit Tower

Amazing view of the Coit Tower / Tony Webster /

6. Transamerica Pyramid

The Transamerica Pyramid is the most distinctive skyscraper in San Francisco, and that’s because of its pyramidal design. It features 48 floors and stands 260 meters (853 feet) tall.

This height made it the tallest building in San Francisco from its completion in 1972 until the completion of the Salesforce Tower in 2018.

The building was commissioned by the Transamerica Corporation, a popular life insurance company in the United States. This company moved its headquarters to Baltimore which makes it a regular office building today.

Transamerica Pyramid famous skyscrapers in San Francisco
Transamerica Pyramid from street level / Wiki Commons

7. Catalina Casino

The Catalina Casino is located on Santa Catalina Island, a rocky island off the coast of Southern California. This island has a length of 35 kilometers (22 miles) and a width of 13 kilometers (8 miles).

The structure is the largest building on the island and is located near the town of Avalon in the southeastern part of Santa Catalina Island. Its location makes it one of the most remarkable landmarks in the Avalon Bay of the island as well.

It has a circular design and has the equivalent height of a 12-storey structure. It features a movie theater, a ballroom, and can therefore be used to host a wide variety of events.

The ballroom is a unique feature of this famous building in California because it has a diameter of 55 meters (10 feet). This makes it the biggest circular ballroom in the world.

Official website: Catalina Casino

Catalina Casino

8. Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle can be described as one of the most opulent buildings in California. It was commissioned by media tycoon William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) and was built in various phases between 1919 and 1947.

The building was designed by Hearst’s architect Julia Morgan (1872-1957), a woman who designed well over 700 buildings in California.

The mansion is located in San Simeon on the Central Coast of California. All buildings cover a total area of over 8,400 square meters (90,000 square feet).

Most of the buildings were constructed in a combination of the Spanish Colonial Revival and Mediterranean Revival architectural styles, although other elements were included as well.

Today, Hearst Castle is a museum that is part of the California State Parks. The castle has also been designated as a National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark in 1972 and 195 respectively.

Official website: Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle California Architecture
Hearst Castle / Proimos / Wiki Commons

9. Mission San Diego de Alcalá

Mission San Diego de Alcalá or “Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá” was the first of the 21 Franciscan missions that were established in California between 1769 and 1833.

The Californias was a province of New Spain when it was established in 1769 and the mission is located in the modern-day city of San Diego, in the southern part of California.

The mission was established by a Spanish friar named Junípero Serra (1713-1784) and he named it for Catholic saint Didacus of Alcalá, a 15th-century missionary who was one of the first to travel to the newly conquered Canary Islands.

The current church was constructed in the early 19th century and was the fifth structure to be built in this location. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

Official website: Mission San Diego

Mission San Diego de Alcala
Mission San Diego de Alcalá / Marelbu / Wiki Commons

10. Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts is one of the most amazing buildings in California and is located in the Marina district in the utmost northern part of San Francisco.

It was initially built as one of the venues of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition to exhibit fine arts. The structure was built with cheap materials because it wasn’t intended to last forever.

The amazing structure was so popular that it was completely rebuilt between 1964 and 1974. Especially the rotunda is one of the absolute architectural highlights in a city full of amazing landmarks.

Today, the complex of buildings is used for exhibitions and special events, including weddings and trade fairs.

Official website: Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts / Wiki Commons