Visit Pier 39: the most bizarre shops in San Francisco

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Lluis Enric Mayans

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If you have decided to visit the United States, it is probably because in some way you feel fascinated by their culture and by the sometimes curious customs that characterize the way of being of the inhabitants of the New world.

If it's eccentricity you're after, you've probably already considered visiting San Francisco, a city where extravagance is the order of the day.

Today we are talking about a place that at first glance might have little bizarre: I'm talking about Pier 39 in San Francisco, by far the most famous attraction in Fisherman's Wharf. What is it about? Very simple: a reconstruction of a typical San Francisco fishing village. Nothing strange, apparently! Yet in this place of unusual and out of the ordinary things there are indeed. Let's go and discover them together.


  • Pier 39: where is it?
  • Pier 39: what to see and what to do?
    • Aquarium of the Bay
    • Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze
    • San Francisco Carousel
    • Musical Stairs
    • 7D Experience
    • Sea lion at Pier 39
  • Shopping at Pier 39: the strangest shops
  • Where to eat?
  • And now? What else to do and where to sleep ...

Pier 39: where is it?

Pier 39 is a reconstructed pier in the area of Fisherman's Wharf  (Fisherman's Wharf) and presents itself as one of the most commercial and crowded areas in all of San Francisco. To get there, I suggest you take a nice walk along the bay (perhaps starting from the Ferry Building, about 25 minutes, or following the itinerary proposed here): you will pass various piers, Pier 39 is yours and you will recognize it immediately. Alternatively, you can always take public transport, which we told you about in our article on how to get around San Francisco.

Pier 39: what to see and what to do?

There is literally something to get lost in this small fishing village transformed into a kind of funfair! You will see each, you will be able to listen to the melodies of street musicians or sit for a few minutes in front of the small outdoor stage where they are held at various times of the day performances, magic shows, juggling and entertainment.

Here is our selection of attractions, in case you want to know what to expect:

Aquarium of the Bay

In 'Pier 39 aquarium live as many as 20.000 marine creatures typical of the San Francisco Bay. The project was created to introduce tourists to the marine (and non-marine) fauna of the place and, at the same time, works hard to preserve and defend it. You can walk into an underwater tunnel while sharks and rays swim over your head, but I'm sure you won't easily forget the moment when you see the ghostly body of Aurelia jellyfish circling in the water right in front of you.

To find out more, take a look at our guide on how to visit the Aquarium of the Bay.

Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze

Go into this by yourself mirror maze it's not as fun as taking family or friends! You get lost in a maze of optical illusions, between psychedelic lights, dead ends and deceptive mirrors that undermine the perception of reality - at least for a while!

San Francisco Carousel

The carousel located in the central square of Pier 39, just behind the stage, is a somewhat romantic memory to take forever with you. Made in Italy, the San Francisco Carousel is a small artistic jewel decorated with drawings depicting the most important attractions and monuments of the city.

Musical Stairs

It is not difficult to explain how this simple attraction works, clearly visible on the main promenade of the Pier. Get on and off the musical scales to perform more or less catchy melodies, but be careful to make the composer feverish by making too long intervals that you then get hurt ...

7D Experience

Do not you make any of the adventures in 3 dimensions? Do 4D videos seem a little unrealistic to you? On Pier 39 in San Francisco you can do the 7D Experience (don't ask us to list the dimensions!). There are three different virtual adventures to choose from: Dark Ride, Laser Maze Challenge e Beam Buster.

Sea lion at Pier 39

Sea lion at Pier 39

It's not over! There is another reason not to miss Pier 39: this pier is in fact the best observation point to admire the famous ones sea ​​lion, who gather here in large numbers when the weather is favorable. To get an idea of ​​the close-up view and the amount of Sea lions (they are not seals, as many think!) that you can observe take a look at the photo at the top of the gallery.

Do you like the atmosphere of Pier 39? Well, then continue exploring the fishing district! Here's what to see at Fisherman's Dwarf.

Shopping at Pier 39: the strangest shops

In my opinion, the peculiarity of pier 39 also lies in the type of shops that you can find there, ideal for buying a souvenir of your holiday, or simply to have a laugh ...

For more tips on shopping in the city, read our guide on what to buy in San Francisco
The resale of magnets at Pier 39
The sock shop at Pier 39
The assortment of Sock Market in San Francisco, Pier 39
Enlightenment, the lighting shop at Pier 39
The Pier 39 "Antiques" shop
The cashier at the Pier 39 antique shop in San Francisco

Here are some examples of the most extravagant shops in the Pier 39:

  • Lefty’s San Francisco. The Left Hand Store: a shop where you can only find items for left-handed people: watches that turn backwards, made-to-measure cups (they have holes on one side so that, if you use them with your right hand, they will irretrievably spill all the drink on you) and much more .
  • Sock’s Market: an entire store dedicated to one of the greatest inventions in human history: the sock! You will find them in all colors, shapes and sizes.
  • Alcatraz: the Alcatraz souvenir shop, perhaps a little sad, but indicative of the ability of Americans to do business on just about anything!
  • Magnets: an entire store dedicated to magnets. In America they go a lot!
  • Enlightenment: the workshop of inner illumination, with Buddhist artifacts and objects that will help you not to lose the right path!
  • Antiquities: what will an antiques shop in the US sell? Well of course, paintings and posters of music and movie stars, electric guitars, candy machines and other "antiquities from the distant past".
  • Houdini’s Magic Shop: where you can buy the tricks of the famous illusionist Houdini.
  • Animal Country: In a plush shop there shouldn't be anything strange…. instead there is! Follow the sign "stuff your bear here" and start build your own teddy bear customized. Unfortunately the exercise has closed
  • Pearls inside the oysters: more than one shop at Pier 39 will allow you to open an oyster and buy the pearl inside!
The sign for the left-handed shop at Pier 39
Clocks in reverse at the Pier 39 left-handed shop,
The plush shop at Pier 39 in San Francisco
Build your own teddy bear at San Francisco's Pier 39
Alcatraz Souvenir Shop at Pier 39 in San Francisco
Visit San Francisco's Pier 39. View

Where to eat?

Il Clam chowder is one of the most famous dishes in San Francisco: you will find many restaurants offering it along the waterfront of the Fisherman's Wharf and precisely to the Pier 39, where the soup is usually garnished with finely chopped basil. However, you can also taste this typical dish in other areas of the city. We ate it a Neptune Waterfront Grill & Bar – bel ristorante overlooking its Alcatraz – ea The Hook, a decent fast food restaurant, both on pier 39. Not far from the pier, in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf, there are also some Italian restaurants where you can try other typical dishes, such as Cioppino and crab (dungeness crab): Read our recommendations here.

And now? What else to do and where to sleep ...

Once you've visited Pier 39 there is still a lot to do in the city, to find out check out our article on what to see in San Francisco. If, on the other hand, you still have to organize your stay and you want to stay overnight not far from the pier do not miss our advice on where to sleep in Fisherman's Wharf area.

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