Guide To Downtown San Francisco – The Vibrant Heart Of The City

Downtown San Francisco, an eclectic and vibrant neighborhood, lies right at the heart of the city, as you might expect. The neighborhood is a crossroads for both cable cars and culture, and you'll be able to find everything here from high-end shopping to exotic museums to gritty gay bars. Really there's nothing downtown San Francisco doesn't offer the intrepid visitor.

A short cable car ride from Chinatown and the Embarcadero, downtown San Francisco is the perfect place to go window shopping and enjoy the fast-pace of urban city life. But shopping isn't all that this neighborhood offers. There are plenty of off-beat locales for tourists of every stripe.

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Union Square

Union Square

Hopefully you've been pinching your pennies because Union Square luxe shopping is sure to leave you doling out the dollars on high-end goods. Famous designer boutiques and luxury department stores dot downtown San Francisco's iconic shopping district. With everything from Hermes scarfs to Tiffany's jewelry, Union Square is fan essential SF activity, whether it's window-shopping or splurges.

The fast-pace of life in Union Square may well get you caught up in the fervor and frenzy of this busy city. If the thrill of an urbane city is your vibe, Union Square in downtown San Francisco is the great place to spend an afternoon of browsing for goodies!

Ferry Building Marketplace

Ferry Building Marketplace

Grab your tote bags and your grocery list and head down to the scrumptious and delightful Ferry Building Marketplace for one of the best farmer's market in California, if not in the whole world. Once the docking point for the bay ferries, it's now one of downtown San Francisco's most iconic landmarks.

At its height, as many as 50,000 people per day traversed the bay by ferry. After the building of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, the building wasn't needed anymore and it fell into disuse. n the 1990s, the community worked to revitalize the Ferry Building and convert it into an artisan food community which gathers together local farmers, artisan producers, and independently-owned and operated food businesses. You can find everything here from bee pollen to handmade biscuits. Come hungry and leave satisfied.

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

San Francisco has a rich history of being the main point of contact for the country's interactions with Asia. With vibrant Chinese, Japanese, and Korean communities, it's no wonder that downtown San Francisco also hosts a fantastic Asian Art Museum. Formerly the Main Library, the Asian Art Museum is now the country's largest showcase for Asian art.

Gae Aulenti, the architect who designed the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, also designed this museum. Here you can find 6,000 years of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian, and Southeast Asian art with such interesting objects as Indonesian shadow puppets, rare porcelain from the Ming Dynasty, and Japanese buddhas. Stop by the cafe to enjoy Asian-inspired food, and the gift shop is the perfect place to find souvenirs.

  • 115 Sansome Street

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Lush Lounge

Lush Lounge

The Lush Lounge has decided that happy hour is "crucial to healthy everyday living", which is why they offer it every day of the week. This cozy dive bar is a community staple in downtown San Francisco and is an alluring mix of gritty and hip. You can grab a table by the steel-front fireplace and admire a typically San Francisco mix of LGBT-friendly locals.

McTeague's Saloon

McTeague's Saloon

This sports-bar-cum-saloon gives patrons a taste of Wild Wild West era San Francisco. The bar is named after Frank Norris' novel McTeague and channels the comfort of a local bar with the energy of a busy weekend night spot. If you're dying to watch your favorite sports team play, this is the place to kick back with a cold beer and savor the game on one of the bar's several televisions.

  • 1237 Polk Street

Strand Theatre

Strand Theatre

For a slice of downtown San Francisco's performing arts culture, the Strand Theatre offers the perfect mix of history and innovation for every theatre aficionado. The Strand Theatre has been around since the turn of the 20th century but its undergone several transformations.

In the 1970s it was known for its late night showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but in the nineties it converted to a sleazy porn theatre. Luckily for all of us, the Strand was bought and renovated and now serves as a place for education and performing arts. It's also one of the homes of the American Conservatory Theater. Pick up a playbill and enjoy the show.

Maiden Lane

Maiden Lane

Like the Strand Theatre, Maiden Lane also had a seedy history — as the center of downtown San Francisco's red light district. After a significant earthquake, the area was levelled and a lovely pedestrian shopping street appeared in its wake. Now you can saunter down the promenade and enjoy a wide mix of shops hawking curios, clothes, and everything in between.

  • Just off Union Square

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Hotel Westin Saint Francis

Westin Saint Francis

The only hotel directly located on Union Square, the Westin St Francis is the grande dame of downtown San Francisco hotels. Cable cars stop right outside its doors making this location both exciting and iconic.

Even if you don't decide to stay here, stop by the Westin St. Francis for a taste of sophistication at its several dining options. If you're thirsty, stop by the wine tasting at the Chateau Montelena Tasting Room. Chateau Montelena put California wine on the map, so come have a swig of California wine history.

  • 335 Powell St

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