If you’re visiting San Francisco Union Square is probably where you’ll end up at some point. The 2.6 acre public space is considered the center of the city, and the surrounding streets are home to some of San Francisco’s best restaurant Union Square offers, hotels and shops. And within easy reach of here are several other top attractions, including Chinatown, the Theater District and Lombard Street. If Union Square looks familiar, it’s been featured in plenty of movies set in the city, including two of Hitchcock’s masterpieces, Vertigo and The Birds, as well as The Apartment.
Union Square was laid out in the mid 19th century, and was named because of the Union meetings held there when the Civil war started. It’s still a popular place to host events, rallies and meetings, and around Christmas various seasonal events take place here. At Christmas, there’s a large Christmas tree in the square, and an ice skating rink. Normally, the square’s most striking feature is the 26 meter tall Dewey Monument, on top of which is a statue of the Greek goddess of Victory. Not far from here is one of the city’s most unusual tourist attractions, the cable car turntable, still operated manually.
If you’re shopping in San Francisco Union Square is still the place to go, as it’s home to some of the city’s leading department stores. The surrounding streets are also home to plenty of designer clothing shops, and one of a kind stores selling home decor, luggage, jewelry and accessories. And it’s a convenient place to stay too, with several of San Francisco’s top hotels located in the neighborhood. Although there’s plenty to see within walking distance, several streetcar lines and trolleybus lines also pass through here.
Just off Union Square is Maiden Lane, a narrow street that was once a red light area, and is now home to galleries, boutiques and several cafes with tables and chairs spilling out on to the pavement. White gates close the street to vehicle traffic during the day, and it’s a more peaceful alternative to the crowds of tourists typically thronging Union Square. The only building in the city designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright is also located here; today, the distinctive building is a gift shop. Future plans are in the works to make Maiden Lane a pedestrians only street, and for outdoor entertainment to take place here.
One neighborhood in San Francisco not to be missed is Chinatown, the country’s largest. It’s just a few blocks from Union Square to the decorative Dragon’s Gate, which marks the entrance to this fascinating and colorful neighborhood. Chinatown has dozens of authentic places to eat and shop, many of them found along Grant Street, although much of the fun to be had exploring here is to venture off the main streets down some of the alleyways and side streets. There are several peaceful squares and parks here, and one of the biggest attractions is the fortune cookie factory which has been producing them for over 50 years.