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Union Square usually starts waking up around 10am. For this tour, we'll assume you've already given yourself the opportunity to experience its glory hours.
Sears Fine Food on Powell Street
A sit-down breakfast option on Powell Street. Sears is an old-school Union Square institution, open since 1938. There may be a line, but you can get in faster if you're willing to take a spot at the counter.
Sears Fine Food is at 439 Powell Street between Post and Sutter. Phone: 415-986-1160. Website: www.searsfinefood.com.
Emporio Rulli Union Square
To maximize sightseeing time, order something you can have at a nearby table of take with you.
Emporio Rulli il Caffe is on Union Square itself, and offers pastries and coffee. Website: www.rulli.com/il_caffe.php.
Posh Bagel is right on the way to Chinatown, at 270 Sutter Street just west of Grant. Phone: 415-951-0133.
Post Street at Grant Avenue
From the north side of Union Square, follow Post Street east to Grant Avenue, and go left.
Intersection of Grant Avenue and Sutter Street
Continue to Grant Avenue, crossing Sutter Street, toward Bush Street.
Chinatown Gate at Grant and Bush
Crowded and commercialized, Chinatown is neverthless an authentic slice of San Francisco history. Gold rush-era immigrants from China settled here and the impressions of their personality and culture remain, and have been elaborated upon over the years.
From Union Square, follow Post Street one block east and go left on Grant Street to enter the ornate gateway at the intersection of Bush Street.
You'll see many shops with similar merchandise - shirts, slippers, lanterns, toys. Enjoy the color and bustle as you walk up Grant Street 3 blocks, to Sacramento Street.
Sacramento Street crossing Grant Avenue
From Grant, make a left on Sacramento Street.
Entrance to Waverly Place, at Sacramento Street
From Sacramento Street, make an immediate right onto the narrow Waverly Place.
Waverly Place, between Clay and Washington Streets
Continue on Waverly Place, past Clay Street toward Washington Street.
The end of Waverly Place, at Washington Street
Where Waverly Place ends, jog left on Washington Street.
Ross Alley, between Washington and Jackson Streets
Enter Ross Alley from Washington Street. This narrow alley, the oldest in San Francisco, has been home to brothels and opium dens, and to film crews.
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley
The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is at 56 Ross Alley, on the right side near Jackson Street.
Inside Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
You can see fortune cookies being made and buy them in bags of plain or chocolate.
Grant Avenue, between Jackson and Washington Streets
Exit Ross Alley to the right and return to Grant Avenue. Go right on Grant to Washington Street.
Washington Street, looking east between Grant Avenue and Kearny Street
From Grant, go left on Washington Street.
Entrance to Portsmouth Square at Washington Street
On Washington Street, you'll pass Portsmouth Square on your right. This is the site of San Francisco's first public square.
The Hilton Hotel on Kearny Street at Washington
As you cross Kearny Street, you'll pass the Hilton Hotel.
The base of the Transamerica Pyramid at Montgomery and Washington Streets
At Montgomery Street, you'll reach the base of the Transamerica Pyramid. One reason for the unusual shape of this iconic building was apparently to allow light to filter down from the sky to ground level.
Entrance to the Transamerica Redwood Park, from Washington Street
On the opposite (east) side of the building, cross through the Transamerica Redwood Park to Clay Street.
Leidesdorff Street at Clay Street, on the south side of the Transamerica Pyramid
Directly across from the Transamerica Pyramid, you'll find the entrance to Leidesdorff Street. Follow it a short distance to Commercial Street.
Commercial Street, between Leidesdorff and Sansome Streets
From Leidesdorff Street, go left on Commercial Street to Sansome Street.
Entrance to Embarcadero Center
Where Commercial Street meets Sansome, you'll find the stairway entrance to the Embarcadero Center, featuring shops and restaurants. Like much of the Financial District, this area is most active on weekdays.
The upper level of Embarcadero Center
Embarcadero Center is a commercial and dining complex in three sections. The upstairs level features planters with seasonal flowers and views of the surrounding area. Most of the shops are on the lower levels. You can continue east toward the Embarcadero on either the upper or lower level. Website: http://www.embarcaderocenter.com/ec/about/
Justin Herman Plaza and The Ferry Building
Exiting Embarcadero Center on the east side, you'll cross Justin Herman Plaza with the fountain and park to the left and the Ferry Plaza and Clock Tower to the north.
Saturday Farmer's Market at the Ferry Plaza
The Ferry Building hosts a Farmer's Market on Saturdays 8am to 2pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am to 2pm. The Saturday market is the largest and most crowded. Website: http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/farmers_market.php
Inside the Ferry Building
The Ferry Building hosts gourmet gourmet grocery and specialty food shops, plus a few sit-down dining establishments.
Slanted Door features modern Vietnamese Cuisine and has operated in San Francisco since 1995. The entrance is around the back of the Ferry Building, on the north side. They also offer to-go items at their "Out the Door" counter inside the building. Phone: 415-861-8032. Website: http://www.slanteddoor.com/
Embarcadero at Washington Street, at the north exit from the Ferry Plaza
From the Ferry Plaza, follow the Embarcadero north, with the water on your right side.
Waterfront dining along the Embarcadero near Broadway
There are places open for lunch along the Embarcadero between the Ferry Building and Pier 7, as you approach Broadway.
The Plant Cafe Organic is located at Pier 3 near the end of Jackson Street. They feature healthy dishes prepared with a focus on local produce. Patio seating near the water is available, and reservations are accepted. Phone: 415-984-1973. Website: http://www.theplantcafe.com/
Go north on the Embarcadero to Green Street. Cross to the other side of the Embarcadero (opposite from the water).
Parking lot at Embarcadero and Green Street
Continue along the Embarcadero from Green Street for two blocks, passsing a parking lot on your left.
Entrance to Levi Plaza Park from Embarcadero at Filbert Street, across from Pier 23
After passing the parking lot, you'll reach one of two entrances to Levi Plaza Park. Take the second entrance.
Inside Levi Park, near the north entrance from Embarcadero
Cross back through Levi Park, to the southwest corner, and then cross Battery Street to Levi Plaza.
Walkway in Levi Plaza, facing Sansome Street
Go through Levi Plaza, with the offices on your left and the fountain on your right. At the end of the walkway, you'll be facing Sansome Street.
Sansome Street, facing the entrance to the Filbert Street Steps at Telegraph Hill
After crossing Sansome Street, you'll reach the foot of the Filbert Street Stairway to Coit Tower.
Filbert Street Steps leading up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower
After the first steep concrete stairs, you'll reach the shady wooden steps that pass by the hillside homes.
Looking up at Coit Tower from Montgomery Street, between the two sections of the Filbert Street Steps
At the top of the first section of steps, you'll reach Montgomery Street. Follow the signs to begin the second section.
Second section of Filbert Street Steps
Continue up toward Coit Tower, taking time to notice the lush landscaping and small side paths.
Entrance to Coit Tower, at the top of Telegraph Hill
At the top you'll reach the parking lot, and probably a line of cars waiting. Walk around the perimeter and get a glimpse of some of what you'll see at the top of the tower.
Inside the entry way to Coit Tower
Inside the building, you will need to buy tickets to ride the elevator to the top. The cost is $5 for adults, and this is the only way to reach the top.
Stairway inside Coit Tower
After exiting the elevator at the top, one last staircase leads to the observation area.
Southwest view from a window at the top of Coit Tower
The windows at the top of Coit Tower offer views in every direction across San Francisco.
Stairway leading down from the parking lot at Coit Tower to the path around Pioneer Park
From the parking lot at Coit Tower, take the stairway down the west side (opposite from where you came up the hill) to the path below.
Path around the edge of Pioneer Park, leading toward the front entrance and Lombard Street
Follow the path north (to the right) to the front entrance of Pioneer Park.
Pioneer Park, featuring Coit Tower
Exit Pioneer Park at the front entrance and walk down Lombard Street.
Grant Avenue near Union Street
From Lombard Street, go left on Grant Street and follow it down into North Beach, crossing Greenwich and Filbert Streets.
Grant Avenue near Union Street
After crossing Filbert Street, you'll pass shops, galleries and restaurants on Grant Street as you enter the North Beach area.
Broaday at the intersection of Columbus Avenue
Follow Grant Avenue all the way down to where it intersects with Columbus Avenue. Jog half a block down on Columbus to Broadway Street, and turn left (east) on to Broadway.
Broadway Street between Columbus and Kearny
Go half a block on Broadway, up to Kearny Street and turn right (south). Follow Kearny one block south to intersect again with Columbus.
Tommaso's Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria on Kearny Street near Broadway
Open since 1935, Tommaso's serves thin crust pizza from a wood-fired brick oven, along with other Neapolitan dishes.
Tommaso's is at 1042 Kearny Street just off of Columbus, between Broadway and Pacific. (You would have passed it earlier, walking down Kearny to Columbus.) No reservations. Closed Mondays. Phone: 415-398-9696. Website: http://www.tommasosnorthbeach.com/.
The Columbus Tower, at the intersection of Columbus and Kearny
At Kearny and Columbus, you'll reach the base of the Columbus Tower. This distinctive 1907 structure anchors the south end of North Beach and is currently owned by Francis Ford Coppola.
Vesuvio, next to City Lights Books, on Columbus Avenue in North Beach
Continue up Columbus (north) back toward Broadway. Three venerable North Beach institutions are on this stretch of Columbus between Kearny Street/Pacific Avenue and Broadway. The first of these is Vesuvio Cafe, established in 1948 and part of the city's Beat history. Website: http://www.vesuvio.com/
City Lights Books, on Columbus Avenue near Broadway
On the other side of Jack Kerouac Alley is City Lights Bookstore, an independent San Francisco bookseller since 1953. Phone: 415-362-8193. Website: http://www.citylights.com/
Tosca Cafe, on Columbus Avenue near Broadway
Across the street, the historic Tosca Cafe and bar is a trip back in time to the 1940s/50s. Continue back up Columbus Avenue (north) for three blocks through the main section of North Beach.
Molinari Delicatessen on Columbus at Vallejo Street
If it's still light outside, and the weather is good, you can opt for taking a sandwich to the park.
Molinari is an authentic Italian Deli, in business at this location since 1913. Take a number, choose your bread from a bin, and they'll prepare your sandwich any way you'd like. They also offer home-made ravioli in boxes to go. It's at 373 Columbus, near Vallejo Street. Closed on Sunday. Phone: 415-421-2337.
L'Osteria del Forno, on Columbus
For sit-down dinner, L'Osteria del Forno serves all oven-cooked Northern Italian cuisine prepared from choice imported and local ingredients.
L'Osteria del Forno is at 519 Columbus between Green and Stockton Streets. Open daily. Cash only. Phone: 415-982-1124. Website: http://www.losteriadelforno.com/.
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe - Italian Focaccia and Sandwiches, Columbus Street at Union Street
North Beach is packed with attractive-looking restaurants, many with outdoor seating. The secret to North Beach dining is that the most unassuming places are often better than those that try hard to catch your attention as your passing by.
Mario's serves great home-made focaccia and panini sandwiches. They are located right at the corner of Columbus and Union, at Washington Square Park. Phone: 415-362-0536.
Washington Square Park, on Union Street near Columbus in North Beach
At the intersection of Columbus and Union Street, you'll reach Washington Square Park. This dates back to the mid-1800s when it was a public square.
Mural on the west side of Columbus Avenue, across from Washington Square Park
Continue walking down Columbus Street (north), passing Filbert, Greenwich and Lombard Streets.
XOX Truffles, on Columbus Avenue at Greenwich Street
Handmade truffles of all varieties, including vegan selections.
XOX Truffles is at 754 Columbus Avenue between Filbert and Greenwich Streets. Phone: 415-421-4814. Website: www.xoxtruffles.com.
Bimbo's 365 Club, on Columbus Avenue near Chestnut Street
From North Beach, continue walking down Columbus Street (north), passing Filbert, Greenwich and Lombard Streets. At the intersection of Chestnut Street, you'll see Bimbo's 365 Club on the left.
Bimbo's is a landmark, dating back to the 1930s, and has been on Columbus Avenue since 1951. They created the glamourous San Francisco nightclub style. Get tickets to a show and spend the evening here before returning to Union Square. Phone: 415-474-0365. Website: http://www.bimbos365club.com/.
Kennedy's Irish Pub and Curry House, facing Columbus Avenue and Taylor Street, at Francisco Street
If you do see a show at Bimbo's, the kitchen at Kennedy's (across the street) serves curries into the late night. 1040 Columbus Avenue. Phone: 415-441-8855. Website: http://www.kennedyscurry.com/
Cable Car turnaround point at Taylor and Bay Streets
From Columbus Street, jog right on to Taylor Street. At Taylor and Bay Street, the Cable Cars depart and return to Union Square, usually running until about 1am.
Shops on Jefferson Street in Fisherman's Wharf
If you need to visit Fisherman's Wharf, it is three blocks ahead down Taylor Street. Board the Cable Car when you're ready.