San Francisco - Union Square
Union Square-Financial District is an area of Downtown San Francisco, bounded by Market Street to the southeast, the San Francisco Bay to the east, Mason Street to the west, and Sutter Street (between Mason and Kearny) and Washington Street (between Kearny and the bay) to the north.
Surrounded by upscale hotels, Union Square is one of the largest shopping areas in the U.S. and is home to some of the nation's finest department stores, malls and specialty stores. As if that wasn't enough, it also boasts many fine art galleries, some of the best restaurants in the city, and it also serves as San Francisco's main theater district, featuring many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. The city earmarked the area as park in 1850, and its name was derived from the many lively, pro-Union Civil War demonstrations that were held there. The square itself, a public plaza, which is bordered by Post, Stockton, Geary, and Powell streets, got a major refurbishment in 2002 when most of its grass was paved over with granite stone. Built in 1903, the monument dedicated to the Goddess Victory still remains at the heat of the square. Today, people use the square mostly as a space to relax and soak up a bit of sun, and to wallow in the atmosphere created by the surrounding cable-cars, hotels and shoppers.
The Financial District is rated among the top four financial centers in the United States and its many skyscrapers add a very impressive skyline to the city. It is home to the headquarters of the 12th District of the United States Federal Reserve, as well as the iconic Transamerica Pyramid Building. It also houses the corporate headquarters of many financial giants such as Visa, Wells Fargo Bank, Mckeeson Corporation and Charles Schwab Corporation. Despite the fact that the area was almost completely destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, many of its original skyscrapers have survived. Today the architecture reflects a mix of both contemporary, as well as more historic buildings such as the Merchant and Exchange building, the Bank of America Building and the Russ building. There are also plenty of shopping opportunities in the area with centers such as the Embarcadero Center, the Ferry Building, and the Rincon Center. It begins at Montgomery, which was once known as the "Wall Street of the West", and ends at the Embarcadero.
On-street parking is all but non-existent. Parking garages, while plentiful, can be expensive. Major parking garages for the Union Square area can be found at the NE corner of Sutter and Stockton, between Ellis and O'Farrell between Stockton and Powell, on Sutter between Kearny and Grant, and under Union Square.
Several ferry companies operate service from around the bay to the Ferry Building on the waterfront.
- Golden Gate Ferry, ☎ +1 415 923-2000, . Service to and from Larkspur and Sausalito.$7.10 one-way adults, $3.55 one-way seniors/youth.
- Blue & Gold Fleet, ☎ +1 415 705-5555, . Offering services between the Ferry Building and Angel Island, Oakland/Alameda, Tiburon and Vallejo.One-way fares range from $14.50 adults, $8.50 children to $6 adults, $3.25 children, depending on destination.
- BayLink Ferry, ☎ +1 707 648-4349, . Service to and from Vallejo.$12.50 one-way adults, $6.25 one-way seniors/children.
- Alameda Oakland Ferry, ☎ +1 415 705-5555, . Service to and from Alameda and Oakland.$6 one-way adults, $3.50 one-way seniors, $3.25 one-way children.
- Harbor Bay Ferry, ☎ +1 510 769-5500, . Service to and from Bay Farm Island in Alameda.$6 one-way adults, $3.50 one-way seniors, $3.25 one-way children.
By public transit
Extensive public transit is offered through the neighborhood, provided either by the regional BART  system or the city-wide MUNI  system, which encompasses the MUNI Metro, buses, cable cars, and the F-Line streetcar.
BART and all of the MUNI Metro lines (J, K, L, M, N and T) run under Market Street with three stations serving this part of downtown: the Embarcadero, Montgomery Street and Powell Street. The Powell Street stop is just a few blocks down Powell from Union Square. The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason cable car lines runs from Powell and Market past Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf. From the Embarcadero station you can catch the California cable car line.
The F Streetcar Line runs along Market Street and up the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf. There are several streetcar stops along Market Street. Numerous MUNI bus lines run through the area as well, such as the 38-Geary which runs past Union Square and the 1-California which runs through the Financial District past the Embarcadero Center. The #9X, #10, #30 and #45 lines run north-south through the district, connecting to Chinatown, North Beach, and Fisherman's Wharf to the north.
From Fisherman's Wharf, take a 25 minute walk down the Emabarcadero, which will take you all the way down to the Ferry Building, at the edge of the Financial District.
From west of the area, it is also easily accessible by getting first to Market Street and then walking eastbound.
- Union Square. The most important site is the square itself, which was revamped in 2002 to provide more space for outdoor events and less space for napping homeless people (an earlier version of the square appeared in the film The Conversation). The square now includes a theater ticket outlet, gift shop, and Emporio Rulli cafe , along with an underground parking garage. For blogging people-watchers, there is free wi fi provided by the city. Look under the leaves of the greenery in the planters, and you'll find a few power outlets for your laptop. **Architecture. Union Square is the bustling name-brand shopping area for the city, where high-end chains put their West Coast flagship stores, or at least a major retail outlet. The neighborhood's visual extravaganzas tend to be stores, including the beautifully restored glass dome and rotunda salvaged from the former City of Paris department store (at the Neiman Marcus store that replaced it 1981, at Geary and Stockton), the interior lavishness of the flagship Williams Sonoma, and Niketown on Post. This area of downtown is also a hotbed of Art Deco and Beaux Arts architecture.
- Pacific Heritage Museum, 608 Commercial Street(at Montgomery), ☎ +1 415 399-1124, . T-Sa 10AM-4PM. Exhibits on the art and culture of the peoples of the Pacific Rim.Free.
- Transamerica Pyramid, Montgomery and Washington, . San Francisco's tallest and most famous skyscraper, controversial when it opened, but now accepted. There used to be an unusual observation deck on the ground floor with 4 big TV monitors, showing live views of the city transmitted from cameras at the top of the building. They now have a happy worker at the bottom that tells you anything and everything you want to know about San Francisco and has some great stories. Then he tells you that they no longer have the 4 big TVs and are building a restaurant where you can view the city from inside. (7/5/2008)
- Ferry Building, One Ferry Building(at the end of Market Street on the bay), ☎ +1 415 693-0996, . A historic ferry terminal which survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, and had 100,000 people pass through it every day before the big bridges were built. Ferries across the bay still depart from here, and there are also several restaurants and shops in the building. A large farmers market takes place year-round on Tuesdays and Saturdays and on Thursday evenings in the summer. Together with its surroundings, the Ferry Building is very beautiful by night.
- Wells Fargo History Museum, 420 Montgomery Street, ☎ +1 415 396-2619, . M-F 9AM-5PM. This interesting museum has many artifacts associated with the bank company, such as old stagecoaches.Free.
- San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street(at Steuart and Don Chee Way, near the foot of Market), ☎ +1 415 974-1948, . W-Su 10AM-6PM. Exhibits on the history of transportation in San Francisco, with an emphasis on rail systems.
- Embarcadero Center. Consists of many buildings between Sacramento and Clay Streets running from the Embarcadero to Battery Street housing a shopping center, offices, and the Hyatt Regency hotel, which has a wonderful 17 story atrium used in the film, the Towering Inferno.
- Water Fountains. A quick overview of San Francisco geography is provided by the San Francisco Fountain on the steps of the Grand Hyatt on Stockton just north of Post. This massive wall of sculpture was created by Ruth Asawa, using schoolchildren's bread dough models as a basis for the casting. Another famous water feature is Lotta's Fountain , at the intersection of Geary, Kearney, and Market. Donated by singer Lotta Crabtree in 1875, it is the city's oldest piece of public art. You can also see the controversial Vaillancourt Fountain at Justin Herman Plaza at the foot of Market Street, believed by many to be a parody of the former (and much loathed) Embarcadero Freeway.
- Ferry Building Reborn Geogad Mobile Tour, . Explore the area surrounding the Ferry Building and learn of the history of these buildings at your own pace. This free MP3 walking tour can be downloaded directly from the Geogad website. Then you can upload the tour to any MP3 device, but you will get the most from the tour if your MP3 player can display the included photos and maps.
The purpose of Union Square is shopping. Most upscale national chains can be found in the neighborhood, including Macy's western flagship store on the south side of the square, Neiman Marcus on the southeast corner, Saks on the north side, and Nordstrom two blocks south, on Market opposite the cable car turnaround. Other chains include Victoria's Secret, Borders, Harry & David, Sur La Table, a four-level Ross, a four-level Loehmann's, one of the rare H&M stores in the U.S., Forever 21 in a restored bank, Armani, Crate and Barrel, and numerous upscale stores at San Francisco Shopping Centre. More interesting are the stores that can't be found in every suburban mall. There are numerous art galleries and a fascinating selection of local or unusual businesses. The Financial District also has some decent shopping centers to choose from.
- Gump's, 135 Post Street(between Kearny and Grant), ☎ +1 415 766-7628, . M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su Noon-5PM. San Francisco's source of luxury housewares, from couches to crystal. Though famous names like Waterford appear on the shelves, the selection emphasizes home furnishings as art, often with an elegant Asian feel. The dominant style is not quite modernist but hardly middle-American traditional. It's difficult to do justice to a native's feelings toward Gump's without sounding like a bad marketing piece. This is the "look" that says one's parents and grandparents went to the right private schools. If your home looks like Gump's, you've not only "arrived" -- you've been here longer than just about anyone else. As well as housewares, Gump's sells jewelry, holiday decor, and the odd bit of upscale soap.
- Britex, 146 Geary Street(between Grant and Stockton), ☎ +1 415 392-2910, . M-Sa 10AM-6PM. Arguably the largest fabric store on the left coast, filling four floors of a narrow building. Don't look for calicos for your quilting project: this is the land of luxury fabrics for faking couture at home. If you've ever wanted to make a cheap sweater look expensive by adding deluxe buttons, head straight for the third floor, where 30,000 styles await your approval (don't even think of touching a button. The clerks do that.) Britex is also notable for selling remnants that are big enough for a real project.
- Williams Sonoma, 340 Post Street(between Stockton and Powell), ☎ +1 415 362-9450, . While it is technically a national chain, the Union Square store is the flagship store, and it's a cathedral to the gracious kitchen. Acres of housewares gleam beneath twin spiral stairs that lead to the land of crystal and tablecloths. This isn't your mother's mall-store Williams Sonoma. There are usually pretty good free samples being passed out, too.
- Thomas Pink, 255 Post Street(between Grant and Stockton), ☎ +1 415 421-2022, . M-F 10AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 11AM-6PM. This place might seem obsessed with its eponymous color, if you judge by the store displays, but the upscale clothier also knows about white, beige, blue, and yellow.
- Wilkes Bashford, 375 Sutter Street(between Grant and Stockton), ☎ +1 415 986-4380, . M-W and F-Sa 10AM-6PM, Th 10AM-8PM. This is just the place to pop in for a $1,000 jacket, a $500 cashmere sweater, or those delicious Jimmy Choo shoes. Every now and again, there is a major sale on the top floor. You don't need to watch for the sales banners -- just notice when the crowds mobbing into the store look suspiciously like the same people who bussed your table the night before.
- Embarcadero Center, between Sacramento and Clay Streets running from the Embarcadero to Battery Street, ☎ +1 415 772-0700, . M-F 10AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 12PM-5PM. Spanning 5 city blocks, this center is one of the largest mixed-use centers in the Western United States. It has over 100 stores and a 5-screen movie complex.
- Rincon Center, 101 Spear Street(between Mission and Howard near the Embarcadero), ☎ +1 415 777-4100. This is mostly for dining but there are also many shops here as well.
Though Union Square appears to be awash in cafes, it's one of the more difficult neighborhoods for good eating. Dining selections are crowded and geared toward the tourist market, though there are a few iconic restaurants that have must-see status just from their fame and age. It's also a center of high-end hotel dining. However, a short side trip west on O'Farrell or Geary to the Tenderloin for bargain Indian or Vietnamese food, a quick walk up Grant to Chinatown or (further) to North Beach may be worthwhile alternatives to fast food, long waits, or $200 a plate meals. In the Financial District there are various restaurants catering to those who work in the surrounding buildings.
- Aqua, 252 California Street(between Front and Battery), ☎ +1 415 956-9662, . Simply prepared fresh seafood. Also landed a spot on reputed restaurant-critic Michael Bauer’s list of “One Hundred Best Restaurants”, of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Boxed Foods Co, 245 Kearny St(between Hardie Pl & Sutter St), ☎ +1 415 981-9376. Healthy and delicious option for the working crowd. The line goes out the door around lunchtime so phone in or order early in order to beat the lunch time rush. The ingredients are fresh and wholesome. The Boxed Chicken Salad comes highly recommended.
- John's Grill, 63 Ellis Street(between Powell and Stockton), ☎ +1 415 986-0069, . M-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 5PM-10PM.
- Krivaar Cafe, 475 Pine Street(between Montgomery and Kearny), ☎ +1 415 781-0894. A great local deli that serves an assortment of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Armenian and American dishes at good prices. Their hummus is considered the best in San Francisco.
- Kuleto's Restaurant, 221 Powell Street(at O'Farrell), ☎ +1 415 397-7720, . Breakfast M-F 7AM-10:30AM, Sa-Su 8AM-10:30AM, Lunch/Dinner Su-Th 11:30AM-10:30PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. $10-$25.
- Little Delhi, 83 Eddy Street(at Mason), ☎ +1 415 398-3173. Daily 11AM-11PM. This restaurant is a very good Indian restaurant at very reasonable prices. Decor and ambience is average, but high on taste and cleanliness.
- One Market Restaurant, 1 Market Street(between Steuart and Spear, near the Embarcadero), ☎ +1 415 777-5577, .
- Puccini & Pinetti, 129 Ellis Street(between Powell and Cyril Magnin), ☎ +1 415 392-5500, .
- Tadich Grill, 240 California Street(between Battery and Front Streets), ☎ +1 415 391-1849. M-F 11AM-9:30PM, Sa 11:30AM-9:30PM. The longest operating restaurant in California that dates back to the Gold Rush. You'll find delicious seafood and a classic atmosphere where groups can sit in their own wood-paneled quarters.
- Yank Sing, 101 Spear Street(in the Rincon Center near the Embarcadero), ☎ +1 415 781-1111, . M-F 11AM-3PM, Sa-Su 10AM-4PM. This is the best place for dim sum, and thus you might need to wait 30 minutes (at most) to have a table. You do not need a menu to order your food; The staff lets you choose what you want to eat from carts pushed around from the dining room. The shrimp, dumplings, and duck here are delicious. The setting of the restaurant is also wonderful.
- Cantina, 580 Sutter St(between Mason St & Powell St), ☎ +1 415 398-0195. One of the best places to get a cocktail in the city, the bartenders here know their stuff and are friendly as well. Kinda snug, but the attention to detail in the decor, and the drinks is well worth it.
- EO Trading, 312 Sutter St(at Grant), ☎ +1 415 693-0303. Decked out in an upscale without trying decor, EO Trading has the kind of cocktail list that impresses but doesn't overwhelm. The menu of small plates and appetizers of Asian fusion cuisine, read satay platters and a selection of naan bread is the perfect partner for their lychee martinis and Anchor Steam beers. Happy hour is from 3 to 6PM.
This is the hotel district, with a broad range of choices, from chain to boutique.
- Hostelling International-Downtown, 312 Mason Street(at O'Farrell), ☎ +1 415 788-5604, . Clean, cheap, safe and fun.$23 dorms.
- Pacific Tradewinds Backpackers, 680 Sacramento Street(between Kearny and Spring), ☎ +1 415 433-7970, . The highest rated and smallest hostel in San Francisco. On the edge of Chinatown and Financial District. Friendly, clean, modern and safe. Free internet.$22-24/night.
- The Donatello, 501 Post Street(at Mason), ☎ +1 415 441-7100, . 94 deluxe rooms, the most spacious accommodations in San Francisco. Elegantly decorated with original Italian art, Travertine marble, Venetian glass and European antiques.
- Hotel Bijou, 111 Mason Street(at Eddy), ☎ +1 415 771-1200(fax: +1 415 346-3196), . Hotel Bijou is inspired by San Francisco's rich cinematic history, adorned with movie palace stylings and Hollywood portraits, and features a mini movie theater in the lobby.
- Handlery Union Square Hotel, 351 Geary Street(between Powell and Mason), ☎ +1 415 781-7800(fax: +1 415 781-0269), . A family hotel with a European flair, and the feel of upscale boutique accommodations providing warm, personal attention. The cable car is located at the corner and attractions are within walking distance.
- Chancellor Hotel, 433 Powell Street(between Sutter and Post just north of Union Square), ☎ +1 800 428-4748, . This classic hotel overlooks Powell Street, home to one of the famous cable car lines. It is a short walk from Union Square and is surrounded by many shopping centers.
- Galleria Park Hotel, 191 Sutter Street(at Kearny), ☎ +1 415 781-3060(fax: +1 415 433-4409), . A stylish boutique hotel at the crossroads of the Financial District and Union Square. Completely renovated in early 2007. Includes half-acre private urban park with city views, luxury linens, flat-screen TVs and complimentary wine hour.
- Hotel 480, 480 Sutter Street, ☎ 415-398-8900, . A trendy San Francisco boutique hotel.Splurge.
- Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason Street(between O'Farrell and Ellis), ☎ +1 415 394-1111, . Located close to Union Square. Swanky large hotel with a boutique feel and very large bathrooms. Fun travel tip is to ask for the few rooms with Japanese style amenities. Hotel dining includes restaurant ANZU . ANZU serves fresh sushi and excellent steak. Also located inside the hotel's lobby is the Rrazz Room Theater, with nightly cabaret and R&B .
- Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter Street(between Powell and Mason), ☎ +1 415 433-4434(fax: +1 415 433-3695), . The Hotel Rex was inspired by the San Francisco art and literary salons of the 1920's and 30's. The clubby lobby surrounds guests with distinctive period furnishings, walls of antiquarian books, and a collection of exotic objects, original portraits and murals. The hotel's Café is a blend of Northern California cafe and authentic French bistro. One block from Union Square.
- Hotel Vitale, 8 Mission Street(at the Embarcadero), ☎ +1 415 278-3700(fax: +1 415 278-3750), . Great luxury boutique hotel, right on the waterfront, across from the historic Ferry Building Marketplace. Rooms with city or spectacular bay views, rooftop day-spa, and very popular Cafe Americano Restaurant and Bar with outside terrace seating.$250-$500.
- Hyatt Regency San Francisco, 5 Embarcadero Center(at the Embarcadero Center, next to the California and Market cable car turnaround), ☎ +1 415 788-1234(fax: +1 415 398-2567), .
- JW Marriott(former Pan Pacific), 500 Post Street(at Mason, one block west of Union Square), ☎ +1 415 771-8600, . This AAA four diamond hotel has 338 rooms.
- Le Méridien(formerly the Park Hyatt), 333 Battery Street(between Commercial and Sacramento, next to the Embarcadero Center), ☎ +1 415 296-2900, . The Le Meridien at Embarcadero Center is a luxury hotel that mostly caters to business travelers. It is part of Embarcadero Center, which includes retail shops and restaurants on the street and lobby levels, 4 office towers, and a second hotel, the Hyatt Regency, which borders Justin Herman Plaza. The Le Meridien has large rooms and very nice furnishings and art work. If you stay at this hotel, make a point not to eat breakfast here, as it is expensive and there are other good options nearby.
- Mandarin Oriental, 222 Sansome Street(at Pine), ☎ +1 415 885-0999(fax: +1 415 433-0289), . A 150 room hotel located on top eleven floors of the First Interstate Center, the third tallest building in the city of San Francisco. The view from the rooms are exceptional, with floor to ceiling windows and great views.
- Omni San Francisco Hotel, 500 California Street(at Montgomery), ☎ +1 888 444-6664, . The Omni San Francisco Hotel provides luxury accommodations in the heart of downtown San Francisco. Located on the cable car line at the base of Nob Hill, the hotel is only a short walk to Union Square, the San Francisco neighborhood that has become a mecca for high end shopping and art galleries.
- The Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery Street(at Market), ☎ +1 415 512-1111, . Located in the Financial District, one block from Market Street. Established in 1875, The Palace has 552 guest rooms. In 1945, the official banquet honoring the opening session of the United Nations was held in The Garden Court at The Palace.
- Parc 55 Hotel, 55 Cyril Magnin Street(between Ellis and Eddy), ☎ +1 800 595-0507, . Two blocks from Union Square in downtown San Francisco.
- Westin-St Francis Hotel, 335 Powell Street(west side of Union Square, between Post and Geary), ☎ +1 415 397-7000, . Now a member of the Westin chain, this is the iconic San Francisco hotel. The lavish lobby and cafe area are used as a meeting place by quite a lot of people who aren't guests there, despite the pricey lattes and ritzy atmosphere. In a peculiar bit of design, the lobby has a side entrance to the Harry & David store, should you need to pop over for a few chocolate-covered cranberries. Although the St. Francis has a reputation for priciness, it runs off-season specials.
- Golden Gate Perk Internet Cafe, 401 Bush Street(at Kearny), ☎ +1 415 362-3929. M-F 8:30AM-8PM, Sa 11:30AM-5PM. Free wifi, computer terminals for rent.
This page was last edited at 00:10, on 8 December 2008 by Peter Fitzgerald. Based on work by Wikitravel user(s) PerryPlanet, Eco84, Asterix and MarinaK and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.