Downtown, San Francisco

Who I am
Lluis Enric Mayans

Author and references


  • History
  • To see
  • Shopping
  • Show
  • Where to Eat
  • How to reach us

What is commonly referred to as Downtown San Francisco is not a real neighborhood, but rather an area that encompasses several neighborhoods in northwest San Francisco.
Usually, Downtown indicates the area around Union Square, Financial District e Tenderloins.


Union Square e Downtown.
The history of Union Square, which in the past was nothing more than a sand dune, begins around 1850, when Colonel John Geary donated it to the city on a permanent basis. The name Union Square was given to it during the years of the Civil War, because Union soldiers camped here.

But the history of Downtown San Francisco is not just that of Union Square. Between the 40s and 60s the whole area was affected by enormous changes; to make it more modern and efficient, numerous infrastructures were built, including bridges, the BART, and the motorway network, which went as far as the waterfront and reached the Civic Center.

In San Francisco, as in many other American cities, a Redevelopment Agency was born, which had the function of coordinating the renovation activities.
Between the 60s and 80s, Downtown took on its present appearance, being invaded by skyscrapers, modern buildings and luxury hotels. The citizens who inhabited the neighborhoods affected by the changes fought hard to limit the destruction brought about by this savage reconstruction.

These fights took the name of preservation movement, resulting in the birth of the City Landmarks Commission and San Francisco Architectural Heritage. The long battle, fought on several fronts, managed to counteract, in part, this frenzy, which definitively died with the economic crisis of the 80s.

To see

Mid Market Street it is home to several offices and excellent restaurants, while Tenderloins it is the right place to have fun, with trendy bars, discos and ethnic cuisine restaurants.
In Financial District instead you can find very high skyscrapers and curious rooftop gradens.
If you want to do some Shopping you have to go in Union Square, with its characteristic palm trees and the boutiques of the most important brands, and in Maiden Lane: the former red-light street hosts several boutiques of famous brands.

Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum, on Larkin Street, contains the largest exhibition of Asian art in the country. Entirely redesigned by the famous architect Gae Aulenti, this beautiful building, which was once home to the Main Library, now contains one of the most comprehensive collections of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian, and Southeast Asian art, with around 15.000 objects. covering a time span of 6.000 years.
The museum also houses a café, reserved for visitors, which also serves oriental-inspired dishes, and a well-stocked souvenir shop.

Yerba Buena Gardens

Yerba Buena Gardens is the green heart of Downtown San Francisco, and it's also a major cultural hub. This large space includes: the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a center structured on the model of the European Kunsthalle, dedicated to contemporary visual arts; the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, an imposing fountain structured in the form of a waterfall, about six meters high and 15 wide, made up of 12 panels set in granite slabs, which allow you to pass under the jet of water; the Children's Creativity Museum; the Contemporary Jewish Museum; the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center and many more.

Art gallery

John Bergrruen Gallery. Founded in the mid-70s, this gallery has hosted some of the biggest names in contemporary art, including Robert Rauschenberg and Henri Matisse.

Fraenkel Gallery. Gallery specialized in the art of photography, founded in 1979, among the names it exhibits can boast professionals of the caliber of Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander.

Robert Koch Gallery. Another gallery specializing in photography, which can boast, in its list of exhibitors, names such as David Parker and Bill Owens.


Ferry Building Market

Visiting the Ferry Building Market is an unmissable experience for anyone who decides to visit Downtown San Francisco. The imposing facade, which draws the attention of those who pass in front of it, is not its only interesting feature. Famous especially for the Cuesa farmer's market, this market contains a variety of interesting shops, starting with Heath Ceramic, located at the entrance.

Union Square

Union Square is home to numerous boutiques of the most important brands in the fashion world, including: Barneys New York, Neyman Marcus and The Archive.


The Warfield

Opened in 1922 as a theater specializing in performances by comedy and satire, today the Warfield hosts a wide variety of musical genres: from the old glories of rock presenting their revisited classics, to the more modern emerging rappers.

War Memorial Opera House

Opened in 1923, this building in stile Beaux Arts it was baptized with the name of War Memorial Opera House in honor of the soldiers who fought in the Great War. The San Francisco Opera has a rich fall and spring program, and hosts performances of the San Francisco Ballet, concerts, lectures and special presentations.

Great American Music Hall

The Great American Music Hall, which was originally a brothel called Blanco's, and later became a night club (the Music Box), still features huge mirrors, Rococo-style inlays, and gilded stucco. In the 70s, when it was called Great American, the venue hosted performances by the likes of Van Morrison and Sarah Vaughn, while today it is a reference point for both local and itinerant artists belonging to the Indie rock genre.

Where to Eat

In Downtown San Francisco there are many clubs and restaurants where to stop and eat: from traditional cuisine to Spanish and French cuisine, to ethnic and fusion cuisine… You just have to choose what you prefer.

Tadich Grill.
This traditional cuisine restaurant, located in the Financial District, is one of the oldest in the whole city. Here they come to eat both prominent politicians and ordinary tourists, to enjoy classic dishes such as crab Louis, shrimp a la Newburg, Hangtown fry and many other delicacies.

Michael Mina
Despite the famous chef's unpredictable choice to close his Union Square venue and return to the Financial District, his cuisine, which has turned to a mix of French cuisine with a touch of Japanese, is always highly regarded by customers.

How to reach us

One of the fastest ways to get to Downtown San Francisco is by train Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which serve the Civic Center, Powell Street, Montgomery Street and Embarcadero stops.

With the Bus from Trolleybus: also serve areas where Cable Cars or other means of transport do not arrive. There are local, fast, express lines that generally serve direct commuters into the Financial District.

Cable Cars: the three lines served by the Cable Cars all cross Downtown. The Powell - Hyde line runs to Fisherman's Wharf, the Powell - Mason line runs through Chinatown, and the California Line runs to the Financial District.

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