Union Square, San Francisco

Union Square, San Francisco (must see)

While there are lots of tourist sights in San Francisco to behold, there is none more representative of the city's spirit than the iconic Union Square. With so many layers of history, cuisine, commerce, and culture gathered in one spot, it is no wonder that this place has appeared in film and television scores of times over the years! One could teach a master class on the goings on at Union Square through the decades.

Starting from the pro-US rallies during the Civil War (hence the "Union" name) to the red-light district on (ironically) Maiden Lane, the Dewey Monument, and Alma Spreckels, the St Francis Hotel and its famous guests, the 1960s protests, the Theater District, the Powell cable car line, the Flood Building, and the Woolworth's counter – the list is long. Add to this the rooftop amusement park, the concerts, the window displays, and key appearances in famous movies – and you get the place that is quintessentially San Francisco in much of the same way as Times Square is for New York City.

Nowadays, the square is known as a sanctuary for the shopaholic at heart, ringed by premium boutiques, high-end department stores, and mega-brands – but also as one of maybe two places in the city where you can go ice-skating outdoors during the winter.

If you're looking for the best cheap eats, consider Sear's Fine Food or the Pinecrest Diner. For mid-range – there's Cheesecake Factory with a spectacular view of the square and the unforgettable Rotunda at Neiman Marcus. And if you want to go posh, there are too many choices, but Scala's Bistro at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel is ideal; also, The Oak Room, if you have the means.

Finally, no tour of Union Square is complete without visiting the venerable Hotel St. Francis, where kings, presidents, movie stars, and other historical figures from every field have stayed. In its grand lobby stands an antique clock, and the phrase "Meet me at the clock" is known to most San Franciscans. During holidays, the hotel is decked out in festive décor, with a giant chocolate castle diorama to salivate over. It feels like stepping into a bygone era of luxury and superb service.

Given the range of delights available at Union Square (stores, restaurants, theaters, as well as the famous cable cars), it is safe to say it is at the heart of it all and makes a logical starting point for the exploration of San Francisco.

Tip:
Take the Powell/Hyde cable car ride (which starts and ends at Union Square) for the best views of the city. And don't mind the line if there is one – it can move quickly.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in San Francisco. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Union Square on Map

Sight Name: Union Square
Sight Location: San Francisco, USA (See walking tours in San Francisco)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in San Francisco, California

Create Your Own Walk in San Francisco

Create Your Own Walk in San Francisco

Creating your own self-guided walk in San Francisco is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Union Square Walking Tour

Union Square Walking Tour

Union Square is known as San Francisco's most popular shopping destination and the third largest shopping area in the United States. In addition to that, Union Square features many amazing restaurants, theaters and a wonderful concentration of fine art galleries. Take this walking tour to explore Union Square's main tourist attractions.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
San Francisco Introduction Walking Tour

San Francisco Introduction Walking Tour

A commercial and cultural hub of northern California, San Francisco is a popular tourist destination known for its steep rolling hills and eclectic mix of world-famous landmarks. The iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the teeth-rattling cable cars carrying riders up and down Nob Hill, Alcatraz Island, and the oldest Chinatown in North America are just some of the city's prominent attractions, each...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.3 Km or 3.3 Miles
Chinatown Walking Tour

Chinatown Walking Tour

The San Francisco Chinatown is home to one of the largest Chinese communities outside Asia. It is also renowned as a major tourist attraction in the city, drawing annually more visitors than the Golden Gate Bridge. Since its establishment, in 1848, this enclave has been instrumental in the preservation of the history, culture, language, religion, and identity of the ethnic Chinese in the United...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles
Famous Architecture Walking Tour

Famous Architecture Walking Tour

San Francisco is one of the world's top travel destinations, being famous for spectacular tourist attractions like Alcatraz Island, Fisherman's Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge. But besides that, this city also features a large variety of world-known architecture, like Transamerica Pyramid, Grace Cathedral and others. Take this walking tour to explore the most famous architectural...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Fisherman's Wharf Walking Tour

Fisherman's Wharf Walking Tour

Regardless of whether it's a hot, sunny day, or one filled with San Francisco's iconic fog, a walk through Fisherman's Wharf can feel quite special. Sure, you'll be surrounded by tourists, but they're *happy* tourists, because they're enjoying the smells of good foods, the sounds of barking sea lions, and the sights of a legendary sea port, one where a few lovingly...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
North Beach Walking Tour

North Beach Walking Tour

North Beach is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, known as San Francisco's Little Italy. This fun area features a great mix of architecture, museums, restaurants and old shops. Take this tour to explore the beauties that North Beach has to offer.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles

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