The Best Things To See And Do Near Union Square, San Francisco

The Embarcadero roadway runs along the eastern shoreline and is the ideal cycle if you want to take in landmarks, heritage spots and beautiful bay views
The Embarcadero roadway runs along the eastern shoreline and is the ideal cycle if you want to take in landmarks, heritage spots and beautiful bay views | © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo
Courtney Holcomb

Locals and tourists alike flock to Union Square, one of the most iconic destinations in San Francisco. If you find yourself nearby, be sure to check out some of our favorite things to do in the area, including visiting the cultural institutions, enjoying fine dining, exploring the shops, and more.

Cable Car Turnaround

San Francisco is known for its classic cable cars, so if you’re looking to satisfy your inner tourist, be sure to check out the Cable Car Turnaround. You can hop on one of the routes for a tour of Downtown San Francisco and Fisherman’s Wharf, waving at the locals as you drive past. Alternately, just enjoy watching the cars come and go at the turnaround, perhaps while eating a snack or a picnic-style meal.

American Conservatory Theatre

The American Conservatory Theatre is one of the most acclaimed theaters in San Francisco, a performing arts theater that produces dynamic plays and showcases the best acting around. The main theater is iconic and spectacular, filled with ornate architecture and extravagant decorations. If you get the chance to catch a live show here, you won’t be sorry.

Martin Lawrence Galleries

Martin Lawrence Galleries has been around since 1975, highlighting original paintings, sculpture, and limited edition graphics of both prominent artists and those just beginning to emerge. The gallery promises art of the highest quality, providing works by the likes of Philippe Bertho, Erté, Marc Chagall, Robert Deyber, François Fressinier, Kerry Hallam, Frederick Hart, Keith Haring, Douglas Hofmann, Liudmila Kondakova, René Lalonde, Felix Mas, Takashi Murakami, Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt, and Andy Warhol.

Bourbon & Branch

Bourbon & Branch is a must-visit Prohibition-era bar in San Francisco. This spot is set up to help you experience a real-life speakeasy ambiance, complete with a full set of house rules that everyone is expected to follow. These include being quiet, not using cell phones, and not taking photos, all intended to help you feel like you are truly in the 1920s.


In the blocks surrounding Union Square you’ll see a massive Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co., and Louis Vuitton. The streets branching off of those blocks are a retail lover’s dream, featuring countless other great spots to shop such as Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Walk three blocks south from the square and you will find San Francisco’s Westfield Centre, featuring a huge variety of stores including J. Crew, H&M, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, and Victoria’s Secret.

Belden Place

Enjoy a taste of Europe in Belden Place, an alley near Union Square known as the city’s French Quarter. Sitting at one of the alley’s outdoor patios, you’ll feel like you’re on a European vacation as you taste cuisine from France, Spain, Italy, and more. Some of the best restaurants on the avenue include Belden Taverna, Cafe Bastille, and Cafe Tiramisu.

San Francisco Art Exchange

The San Francisco Art Exchange was founded in 1983, originally a tiny fine arts business exchanging the works of such masters as Picasso, Miró, Chagall, Warhol, Haring, and Dalí. Since then, the gallery has evolved into an organization promoting contemporary visual artists, working with a group of over 70 prominent artists and photographers to ‘[explore] the importance and value of art and imagery that have become part of the popular consciousness.’

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