- Location: Bounded by Geary, Powell, Post & Stockton, center of a larger shopping area
- How Long: An hour or two to browse, all day for serious shopping
- Best Time to Visit: When stores are open, busiest on weekends. This area gets especially nicely decked out at Christmas
- See it Now: Photo Tour
Nevertheless, Union Square became San Francisco's shopping epi-center in the early 1900s and today, upscale stores and hotels surround Union Square, and shopping extends blocks from the central plaza.
Most stores here feature clothing, art works or items for the home. It's a nice place for browsing and window-shopping, but if you're going to buy anything, be prepared to open your wallet wide because prices are high.
Take a photo walking tour around Union Square, but print this page to take along.
Get OrientedPick up a map at the TIX booth. Stand in the middle of Union Square facing Macy's to get oriented. The Financial District and waterfront are on the left, in front of you (beyond Macy's) are SOMA (south of Market area) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Chinatown and North Beach are behind, and the theatre/art gallery district on the right.
Places of Note Around Union SquareWithin Union Square plaza, you'll find TIX, half-price ticket booth. Go here if you want to see a play or show without breaking your budget. For the best selection, get in line about 30 minutes before half-price tickets go on sale.
At the plaza's opposite end, you'll find Emporio Rulli, a good place for coffee and pastry or an afternoon aperitif. Sit at an outside table to enjoy people-watching.
Facing the plaza, Macy's Union Square, the biggest department store west of New York City, stretches from Powell to Stockton along Geary and spills over into several nearby buildings. Elegant St. Francis Hotel occupies the Powell Street-side of Union Square. Don't just stand outside looking at it, go in and take a look at the lobby, too.
Maiden Lane runs into Union Square at Stockton. I don't know how it got such a virginal-sounding name, but in Gold Rush times, it was home to prostitutes! For foot traffic only, it's lined with art galleries and restaurants. Xanadu Gallery at 140 Maiden Lane is San Francisco's only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, a precursor for the Guggenheim Museum.
At Stockton and Geary, Neiman Marcus preserves the old City of Paris department store's rotunda and magnificent stained-glass ceiling.
Places of Note in the Union Square AreaSome of the nicest shops are on side streets. A few highlights:
- Geary Street: Britex Fabrics has a mind-boggling assortment of fabrics.
- Post: San Franciscans have indulged themselves at Gump's Department Store since 1861.
- Market Street: Near Powell Street and Market is San Francisco Shopping Center and Nordstrom's. The spiral escalators here are a destination in themselves.
ReviewWe rate Union Square 4 stars out of 5. It's city's heart, and shopping here is great.
Others may disagree. You can see what other people just like you think about it, then bookmark this page and after you've been there, come back and tell us what you think.
How do you rate Union Square?
- 0 = Yuck! Just say no to this tourist trap
- 1 = So-So More fun than a night in jail, but you might enjoy a good nap more
- 2 = OK Some people find it interesting. I didn't
- 3 = Good Go if you have time, but it's not a big deal if you miss it
- 4 = Great I really liked it. I think you will, too
- 5 = Awesome! It's a must-see sight I recommend to everyone
PanhandlersSan Francisco is making progress in helping homeless people get off the street, but you may encounter them here. If you want to help, experts suggest donating to organizations instead of giving individuals money. To avoid hassles, don't engage in any way - don't reply, and don't make eye contact.
Where to "Go"You can find a restroom (toilet) in any department store or hotel.
Getting to Union SquareSigns lead to Union Square from most area freeways. If you're using a GPS, enter 335 Powell Street, the St. Francis Hotel.
The convenient parking garage beneath Union Square is no more expensive than other city-run garages downtown. Enter on Geary across from Macy's. If its 985 spaces are full, circle Union Square making right turns until you're on Powell Street. Turn right on Bush Street off Powell, and you'll find the Sutter-Stockton Garage.
On BART from the East Bay or southern San Francisco, get off at Powell Street station. San Francisco Muni bus lines 30 and 45 go there, as do the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde cable car lines, and historic trolley car "F" line stops nearby at Market and Powell.