The Ferry Building

As you step off the iconic San Francisco streetcar onto the bustling Embarcadero, the majestic Ferry Building instantly captivates you. Standing at the end of Market Street, this grand structure, with its 245-foot-tall clock tower, is a visual symbol of the city's history and resilience. Constructed in 1898 during the heyday of ferry travel, the Ferry Building was once one of the busiest transit hubs in the world, serving up to 50,000 commuters per day. The building's design reflects the Beaux-Arts architectural style, with its grand arches, extensive use of glass, and a clock tower inspired by the Giralda bell tower of Seville Cathedral in Spain.

While the rise of the automobile and construction of the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge led to a decline in ferry traffic, the Ferry Building survived. The damaging 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused the demolition of the double-deck Embarcadero Freeway that had long hidden the building, allowing it to reclaim its prominence on the city's waterfront.

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Culinary haven

After undergoing an extensive renovation in the early 2000s, the Ferry Building re-emerged as the Ferry Building Marketplace. Now, the building is home to some of San Francisco's finest artisanal food vendors, each with a unique story to tell. Here, food lovers can explore everything from exotic mushrooms at Far West Fungi to the freshest oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company.

The marketplace is also a gathering spot for some of the city's most acclaimed chefs and restaurants, such as Boulettes Larder, a popular spot for brunch and high-end pantry items. The food ethos here is local, sustainable, and utterly delicious.

Farmers’ market and more

One of the key attractions of the Ferry Building is the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the market attracts farmers and food producers from across the Bay Area. It is a vibrant, bustling spectacle, with stalls bursting with fresh produce, artisanal bread, homemade jams, locally harvested honey, and much more. It's also an opportunity to chat with growers and producers, learn about their products, and gain insights into the region's food system.

Besides its permanent vendors and the Farmers Market, the Ferry Building also hosts a variety of food-related events, including cooking demonstrations, tastings, and book signings. It's not uncommon to see local celebrity chefs sharing their culinary skills or authors discussing their latest food-themed books. These events add an extra layer of engagement to the Ferry Building experience.

Location and accessibility

The Ferry Building is not just a foodie haven; its location makes it a perfect starting point for further exploration of San Francisco. From here, you can stroll down the Embarcadero, taking in views of the Bay Bridge, or wander towards Fisherman's Wharf. If you fancy a ride, hop on one of the many ferries to destinations such as Sausalito or Angel Island for a different perspective of the city.

Accessible by streetcar, bus, bike, or on foot, the Ferry Building is a lively and vibrant destination for locals and tourists alike. Whether you're indulging in gourmet goodies, browsing the unique boutiques, attending an event, or taking in the historic architecture and ambiance, the Ferry Building is an essential experience when visiting San Francisco. It encapsulates the city's history, its connection to the sea, its vibrant food scene, and its commitment to sustainable and local farming — all under one very grand roof.

Best places to visit near the Ferry Building

  • Embarcadero. Take a stroll along the Embarcadero waterfront promenade, enjoy the views of the bay, and explore the nearby parks and public art installations.

  • Fisherman's Wharf. Head north along the waterfront, and you'll reach Fisherman's Wharf, a bustling tourist area. Enjoy seafood restaurants and souvenir shops and visit attractions like Pier 39 and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

  • Alcatraz Island. Take a ferry to visit the infamous Alcatraz Island. Explore the former prison and learn about its intriguing history through guided tours.

  • Exploratorium. Located just steps away from the Ferry Building, this hands-on science museum offers interactive exhibits and educational experiences for all ages.

  • Chinatown. Just a short walk from the Ferry Building, San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest in North America. Explore the vibrant streets, visit shops, and indulge in delicious Chinese cuisine.

  • Coit Tower. Located on Telegraph Hill, about a mile from the Ferry Building, Coit Tower offers panoramic views of the city and the bay. Take an elevator to the top and enjoy the stunning vistas.

  • Golden Gate Bridge. While not directly near the Ferry Building, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see attraction in San Francisco. Take a short drive or use public transportation to reach the bridge and enjoy breathtaking views.

What are the most interesting and unique facts about Ferry Building?

  • The clock tower features four enormous dials, each 22 feet in diameter, which can be seen from all sides. The clock tower is still one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, and until the Bay Bridge was constructed in the 1930s, it was the first thing travelers would see when approaching San Francisco.

  • The Ferry Building has survived two major earthquakes. During the 1906 earthquake, despite the fires that consumed much of the city, the structure survived due to its sturdy construction. It also withstood the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.