Everything you need when planing a vacation trip to San Francisco


The Ferry Building with the Embarcadero Center behind it.

In a Nutshell...

Once one leaves the Fisherman's Wharf district and travels eastward along the waterfront, there is not much that would be of interest to a tourist, with the exception of the Ferry Building and perhaps the shopping at the Embarcadero Center.


Some area highlights...

Ferry Building

The tower at the Ferry Building


This 1898 building is the most prominent feature along the Embarcadero and one of the few survivors in the area of the quake and fires of 1906. This is largely do to its waterfront location, which put it under the protection of fire boats. It sets at the end of Market Street, making it one of the main landmarks of San Francisco. The tower is modeled after the bell tower of the Seville Cathedral in Spain and the Lysikrates Monument in Athens.


BTW, for those of you who keep tract of such things, the clock on the tower is the world's largest wind-up mechanical clock powered by hanging weights some 48 feet long.


Even with the Bay Bridge, the Ferry Building still serves as its original purpose, the disembarkment point for ferries that run between San Francisco and the East Bay. Today it is mainly known for its upscale restaurants, specialty cafes, coffee houses and bakeries as well as upmarket houseware boutiques.


Inside the Ferry Building


Just outside the Ferry Building, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 am to 2 pm and Saturdays 8 am to 2 pm, is San Francisco's best known farmer's market. Although most tourists don't do much produce shopping, know that on the Thursday market, the area is filled with excellent street food venders that draws a large crowd of food lovers.


The Farmer's Market ouside the Ferry Building



Embarcadero Center

The lovely Embarcadero Center


The Embarcadero Center is made up of a hotel building and four early 80's concrete megalithic high rise towers of no architectural note, save for the 17 story open atrium in the Hyatt Regency Hotel. This building with the hotel is topped with what was once the city's only rotating view restaurant, but today it has been demoted to being one of the city's stationary restaurants and bars, but is now open to only members of the hotel's VIP club. The view still remains spectacular for those who are willing to pay the membership fee.


Hayatt Regency atrium


The four towers house offices on the top and some 100 retail shops and restaurants on the bottom. The center also has a cinema and, in the winter, a skating rink. It makes for a charming shopping venue if by charming, you mean being surrounded by raw concrete and tile that sucks the body heat out of you and magnifies the traffic noise.


Shopping in the Embarcadero Center



The center has a 2,400 space underground parking garage. Parking privileges are sold in 15 minute increments, which cost about the same as black caviar on crackers. A better bet is to try the parking lots along the Embarcadero to the west of the Ferry Building.

Retail Shop Hours:

Monday - Friday: 10 am - 7 pm
Saturday: 10 am. - 6 pm
Sunday: 12 pm - 5 pm


Vaillancourt Fountain

The Vaillancourt Fountain as seen from the Embarcadero Center


Between the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero Center sits this 1971 structure called the Vaillancourt Fountain (after its author Armand Vaillancourt) despite the fact the sculptor named it "Quebec Libre!" by painting it with graffiti saying just that. It has never endeared itself into the hearts of San Franciscans even though they are famously accepting of all kinds of oddities. There have been several efforts to improve the city by ridding it of its presents. It cost about $1,000 per day to keep the water flowing though it, so it is not unusual to see it sitting idle. (It is also not unusual on days when it is running, for visitors to ask in all seriousness, if it is some kind of water treatment plant.)


Over the years, it has been called many unkind things, so much so that Mr. Vaillancourt left the city in shame. One such comment that has stuck is when columnist Herb Caen observed that it looks like a pile of poo.


Cupid's Span

Cupid's Span in Rincon Park


Travel eastward from the Ferry Building along Herb Caen Way (that is the name of the waterfront pedestrian promenade) and you will come to this delightful nonsense jutting out of a grassy knoll. It is the work of the husband and wife team of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, called Cupid's Span. It measures some 60 feet high and spans about 140 feet.


In stark contrast to the concrete pile of Vaillancourt, it's exuberant happiness was an instant hit with the city and with most everyone who visits it.


Ferry Building Location:

101 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94105


View Embarcadero in a larger map



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