Downtown/Financial District

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Now: Thick with workers and business people at all hours of the weekday, the financial district turns majestic and desolate on weekends, as the tall buildings cast giant lonely shadows across the sidewalks. If you're at leisure here on a weekday, you have a crazy number of lunch spots available to you, along the street level of the high buildings.

Then: Early settlers found themselves here after coming ashore, and first homes and businesses were built here and in the area that is now Chinatown. For some years, this small concentration of development was San Francisco. The population explosion fueled by the gold rush drew larger businesses and financial institutions, all wanting to be headquartered in the busiest part of the city. High rise clusters that survived the 1906 earthquake were augmented during a late 20th-century skyscaper boom, forming the skyline. The distinctive Transamerica Pyramid was completed in 1972. One reason for the unusual shape was apparently to allow light to filter down from the sky to ground level. See related postcards.

How To Get There: The Financial District is a short walk from Union Square, zig-zagging a couple of blocks toward the northeast. You'll know you're there when you can't see the sun anymore. It's an even shorter walk from either the Montgomery or Embarcadero Muni/BART stations, due north or northwest, respectively.


  • Above the Financial District, from the Mandarin Hotel

  • Looking down at the Financial District

  • Montgomery Street at the Transamerica Pyramid

  • The base of the Transamerica Pyramid at Montgomery and Washington Streets

  • Entrance to the Transamerica Redwood Park, from Washington Street

  • Transamerica Pyramid against the sky

  • Redwood park at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid

  • Base of the Transamerica Pyramid at street level

  • Leidesdorff Street at Clay Street, on the south side of the Transamerica Pyramid

  • Commercial Street, between Leidesdorff and Sansome Streets

  • Tlaloc - Mexican on Commercial Street

  • Le Meridien Hotel on Battery Street near Sacramento

  • Battery Street in the Financial District

  • Pacific Coast Stock Exchange

  • Anglo Bank Building

  • US Bank Building, Financial District

  • Bank of America tower against the sky

  • Bank of California

  • Kearny at Pine, near the base of the Bank of America building

  • Kearny Street

  • Restaurants on Kearny Street near Pine

  • Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

  • Sansome Street at California Street

  • Caffe Bianco on Sutter Street

  • San Francisco Soup Company is everywhere in the Financial District

  • Courtyard at Davis Street and California

  • Focaccia Cafe and Bakery on Sacramento Street

  • Tadich Grill on California Street near Front Street

  • The Bubble Lounge, on Montgomery Street near Columbus, for champagne and drinks

  • Tommy Toy's Chinese Cuisine on Montgomery

  • Perbacco - Italian cuisine on California Street near Front

  • Palio d'Asti on Sacramento near Montgomery

  • Aqua - seafood and American cuisine on California and Front Street