Union Square is the city’s main dining, entertainment, and shopping district. Visitors can shop at department stores and designer boutiques; stop into various art galleries; grab a bite to eat at any of a number of restaurants; and see a live performance at a nearby theater.
Many San Francisco sightseeing tours, including hop-on hop-off bus tours, walking tours, and biking tours, make stops at Union Square for either guided visits or independent shopping time. Stop at Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Gucci, or Louis Vuitton; head into the square’s center for cafes and grassy areas; or venture out of the square toward the nearby Chinatown and theater district. A number of day trips to Muir Woods or Napa Valley depart from Union Square, making it a convenient meeting point and place to stay.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The square’s inner area is wheelchair accessible via ramp access.
- Wear comfortable shoes, as Union Square is a walkable area and many popular attractions are within walking distance.
- The square is relatively flat, but the surrounding blocks feature some hills.
How to Get There
Union Square is centrally located in San Francisco, making it easiest to visit by public transportation. If arriving from BART or Muni, get off at the Powell Street stop. The Powell–Hyde and Powell–Mason cable car lines both stop in the square, and the main cable-car turnaround is located just two blocks away at Powell and Market. Several paid parking garages are available for drivers. The Ferry Building, Pier 39, and Chinatown are easily accessible by public transit.
When to Get There
Union Square is open daily, drawing big crowds on a regular basis. In summer, cafes are busy and cable car lines can extend a few blocks. During the holiday season, Union Square hosts one of San Francisco’s biggest holiday displays, with a huge Christmas tree and ice skating rink open in the middle of the square. Temperatures stay relatively mild year-round, but it’s always best to dress in layers.
Things to Do Near Union Square
Union Square is an ideal starting point for sightseeing. The gates to Chinatown sit on the outskirts of the square, and are a quick and easy walk up Grant Avenue. The Embarcadero and the Ferry Building are two stops away on BART, or take a scenic cable car ride to Fisherman's Wharf. San Francisco's Financial District is located a few blocks outside of the square and is a nice walk on flat terrain.