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Ferry Building and Embarcadero

Ferry Building and Embarcadero

The Ferry Building anchors San Francisco to the Bay at the foot of Market Street

San Francisco’s Ferry Building is an emblematic edifice that encapsulates the city’s historical charm and its contemporary zest for life. This architectural marvel, with a storied past dating back to its opening in 1898, has evolved from a bustling transit hub to a vibrant marketplace that celebrates the Bay Area’s rich culinary culture.

Ferry Building History

The Ferry Building’s design, inspired by the 12th-century Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain, was a symbol of San Francisco’s ambition. Upon its completion, it was the city’s beacon for ferry travelers, a critical part of the city’s transport network, especially before the construction of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Despite facing obsolescence with the rise of automobile travel and the construction of these bridges, the Ferry Building withstood the test of time, including surviving the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes virtually unscathed.


San Francisco's Ferry Building
San Francisco’s Ferry Building

Ferry Building Today

Following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, San Francisco embarked on a significant restoration project that transformed the Ferry Building. Reopened in March 2003, the Ferry Building now hosts the Ferry Building Marketplace—a haven for food lovers and a showcase for local artisans. This transformation was part of a broader effort to revitalize the waterfront and reconnect the city with its maritime roots. The marketplace, along with the outdoor Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, has become a focal point for the city’s dynamic food culture, offering everything from organic produce to artisanal cheeses and wines.

Not to be Missed: The Ferry Building Marketplace is a must-visit for anyone interested in experiencing the best of Northern California’s food scene. With nearly 50 local artisan food merchants, restaurants, and cafes housed within its historic walls, visitors can enjoy a wide array of culinary delights. From tasting the freshest oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company to indulging in award-winning Vietnamese cuisine at The Slanted Door, there’s something to satisfy every palate. The adjacent Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, operating three days a week, is a treasure trove of fresh, sustainable produce and gourmet treats.

Location, Address, Website, and Hours:

  • Location: On the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street, San Francisco, CA.
  • Address: One Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111.
  • Website: Ferry Building Marketplace
  • Hours: The marketplace and its vendors typically operate seven days a week, with hours varying by merchant. The Farmers Market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

In Popular Culture: The Ferry Building’s iconic clock tower and distinctive architecture have made it a beloved backdrop in various films, television shows, and photography, symbolizing San Francisco’s enduring allure and its historical significance.

Why You Should Visit:

Beyond its architectural beauty and historical significance, the Ferry Building is a living testament to San Francisco’s commitment to sustainability and support for local farmers and artisans. It offers a unique blend of historical exploration and culinary adventure, making it a destination where every visit can yield new discoveries.

Fun Facts:

  1. At its peak, the Ferry Building was the second busiest transit terminal in the world, surpassed only by London’s Charing Cross station.
  2. The 245-foot-tall clock tower is modeled after the Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain, and features four clock faces, each 22 feet in diameter.

Pier 7 on the Embarcadero
Pier 7 on the Embarcadero

The Embarcadero

The Embarcadero in San Francisco is a testament to the city’s resilience and innovation, evolving from a bustling port to a vibrant, historic district that charms locals and tourists alike. This waterfront avenue serves as a living museum, showcasing over a century of San Francisco’s maritime and urban development history.

The Embarcadero History

The Embarcadero’s story begins in the late 19th century, functioning as the city’s lifeline to the world, facilitating trade and transportation. However, the construction of the Embarcadero Freeway in the mid-20th century obscured its beauty and accessibility. It wasn’t until the freeway’s damage from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that San Francisco saw an opportunity for transformation. The subsequent removal of the freeway led to a renaissance of the area, reintroducing it as a grand palm-lined boulevard, adorned with plazas and public art, and restoring its connection with the waterfront​​​.

The Embarcadero Today

The Embarcadero is now celebrated for its scenic beauty and historical significance. It hosts attractions like the Ferry Building Marketplace, the Exploratorium at Pier 15, and the iconic Cupid’s Span sculpture at Rincon Park. Its transformation has also included the enhancement of public transportation, with extended Muni lines that connect various city points along the waterfront​​​​.

Not to be Missed

 Visitors should not miss the Embarcadero’s historic piers, the bustling Ferry Building Marketplace, and the serene walk along Herb Caen Way. The area’s redevelopment has made it a prime location for leisurely strolls, offering panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay and a direct line to the heart of the city’s maritime history​​​​.

Location, Address, Website, and Hours:

  • Location: Stretching along the San Francisco waterfront from the Bay Bridge to Fisherman’s Wharf.
  • Website: For more detailed information, visit SF Port’s official website.
  • Hours: Public spaces are open 24/7, with business hours varying by establishment.

Why You Should Visit

 The Embarcadero offers a unique blend of San Francisco’s past and present, making it an essential visit for anyone looking to experience the city’s rich history and vibrant culture. Its redevelopment showcases a successful blend of historical preservation and modern urban planning, making it a model for waterfront revitalization worldwide​​​​​​.

Fun Facts

  1. The Embarcadero was named one of the “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” in the US by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2016, highlighting its vulnerability to seismic events and rising sea levels​​.
  2. The area features the “Cupid’s Span” sculpture, inspired by San Francisco’s reputation as the home port of Eros, adding a modern artistic touch to the historic waterfront​​.

Nearby Points of Interest

 this island prison is now a famous tourist attraction, but in its heyday, it housed the era’s most infamous prisoners. Inmates could hear laughter carried across the water from the city, and many attempted the one-mile swim to land. Visit today for a tour!
Famous for its sunbathing sea lions, shopping, and seafood, PIER 39 houses a delightful collection of specialty shops and tourist attractions that will delight the entire family. Eat at the Hard Rock Café, ride the vintage hand-painted carousel, or watch a live magic show with the kids. Don’t forget to visit the Welcome Center for your free coupon booklet!
don’t miss the panorama from the 210-foot high tower, which offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco skyline.
:  Little Italy offers a variety of bars, comedy clubs, and authentic Italian restaurants. Try some focaccia bread, or take a walk in the relaxing green space of Washington Square.
Cable Cars: open to the public since 1873, this fascinating mode of transportation conveys visitors from Market Street to Beach Street, where Fisherman’s Wharf is less than a ten-minute walk away. Be sure to watch operators move the cable car on a turntable to point it in the right direction for the return trip to Market Street!

the Ferry Buiding and the Embarcadero are featured on these tours :

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Lucky Tuk Tuk City Tour

Explore beautiful San Francisco in your own private, electric Tuk Tuk! Perfect for families and groups. A personal guide for your party commandeers this modern-day rickshaw at a pace that’s right for you!
Evening Tour
Night View of Bay Bridge and Coit Tower from San Francisco

Night Private Charter San Francisco Lights Tour

Explore San Francisco at night in a cozy, electric Tuk Tuk! Get up close to the glittering lights and go where buses don’t dare in this modern-day rickshaw. Live commentary included!

Jump Aboard these Other Fun Tours and Rentals to Explore San Francisco

Buckle in and explore the city with an entertaining driving tour of or a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge to walk among the .
San Francisco Jeep Tours will drive you and up to 6 guests in a convertible Jeep. You’ll see all the iconic sites and attractions on exclusive routes with a fun and experienced tour guide.

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