San Francisco’s Union Square is one of the main focal points in the entire city. Union Square is loud, crowded and full of excitement. Surrounding the square itself are tall shopping centers, large palm trees, hotels, restaurants and views of steep hills that flow out of out the square’s north side where more hotels and high rise condos appear to perch perilously on the incline. It is Union Square that the cable cars depart for Fisherman’s Wharf and the characteristic ding dings are common sound wherever you travel. Union Square is San Francisco’s version of Times Square in New York or Piccadilly Circus in London. The one key difference though is that its not majority tourist. As some of the city’s best and high end shopping is in this area there is good mix of locals as well.
Although Union Square is an open, European plaza style setup, the streets surrounding the area are also considered to be in “Union Square”. This is an important note as many hotels that are not on the square itself are still advertised as being in Union Square. Anyone visiting San Francisco must stop at Union Square. It is a great place to gather your bearing and a general transportation hub to all parts of the city. It is Union Square that tour buses leave for both local tours of San Francisco as well as to destinations throughout the Bay Area. As previously mentioned the cable cars depart Union Square for Fisherman’s Wharf, the antique F street Car line stops at Union Square with services to the Castro and Fisherman’s Wharf and one can take a BART train from the Powell Street Station at Union Square to San Francisco International Airport or to Berkeley.
Shopping in Union Square
Union Square is best known for its shopping opportunities. Some of the biggest names in retail maintain decadent, multi level departments stores in this area of the city. These include Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and Barney’s New York to name a few. Many of these department stores offer penthouse dining opportunities that make for ideal lunches and a good way to get off the busy streets that surround Union Square. In addition, San Francisco’s popular Post Street passes through Union Square and is also lined with a variety of shops and upscale boutique stores.
The Dewey Memorial Statue is a focal point to Union Square. Consisting of a statue that sits at the top of a 20 foot while column, the memorial can be seen throughout the area of Union Square.
Christmas is one of the best times to see Union Square. A gigantic Christmas tree is erected in the center of the square and at night is lit up. Everyday during the Christmas season professional carolers can be seen in the square singing all of the season’s best tunes. The first Friday after Thanksgiving (like everywhere) is especially busy.
As mentioned, San Francisco’s cable car departs and arrives into Union Square from Fisherman’s Wharf. This is a must ride as once the cable car climbs the steep hill of Powell Street out of the hustle and bustle of Union Square it enters San Francisco’s quiet upscale neighborhoods (Nob Hill, Russian Hill ) where riders see how some of the residents really live while taking in views of San Francisco Bay.
Chinatown and North Beach are both less than a ten minute walk from Union Square and border the northern perimeter of the district.