Exploring the San Francisco waterfront-Ferry Building

The earthquake of 1989 was devastating in its impact to the city, paralyzing the area for weeks and causing extensive damage. One major benefit, however, was the destruction of the ugly double-deck Embarcadero Freeway that separated downtown from the waterfront and dominated the area with concrete and exhaust for 35 years. Once the Embarcadero was liberated by the earthquake the beauty of the area could be reclaimed.
Ferry Building
The historic Ferry Building, built in 1898, is a gem but had fallen into obscurity and was blocked visually by the Embarcadero Freeway. The Ferry Building was re-born and restored after the freeway came down, and today anchors the south end of the Embarcadero. The original architect, A. Page Brown, included a distinctive 245-foot-tall clock tower modeled after the 12th century bell tower in the Seville Cathedral in Spain to welcome visitors to the City by the Bay.

Inside the Ferry Building are a variety of shops, cafés and restaurants catering to every facet of food, from artisan cheeses, chocolate and gelato to cookware and tableware. You can easily lose yourself inside the Ferry Building for a couple of pleasant hours.

The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and is widely acclaimed for both the quality and diversity of its fresh farm products, as well as artisan and prepared foods. It is visited by more than 25,000 residents and visitors each week, and you can often find famous chefs and farmers at the Market. The Farmers Market is located outside of the Ferry Building.

The Ferry Building is located along the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street at the center of a transit hub. The marketplace is accessible by MUNI, BART and Ferry Boat. The historic trolley cars (Line F Market) stop directly in front of the Ferry Building and travel along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf and other locations.

America’s Cup

America's Cup

America's Cup with Golden Gate Bridge in background (Photo: Courtesy of America's Cup)

A very recent development that will affect the waterfront was the January 2, 2011 announcement that San Francisco has been awarded the 34th America’s Cup, a sailing race that represents the oldest competitive race in international sport. Significant development will occur in several locations along the waterfront over the next two years in preparation for this exciting race, to be held late in 2013. Plans call for Piers 30/32 for the team bases, the public Race Village to be staged at Piers 27/29, regatta operations on Pier 23, and the media center at Pier 19. If you decide to take a stroll from the Ferry Building to Fisherman’s Wharf you may see some activity around these piers in the coming months as preparations for the big event take shape.

Next stop

The next stop along our tour of San Francisco attractions will be an exploration of Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square.


Ferry Building Marketplace
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111
(415) 983-8030

San Francisco Ferry Building

San Francisco Ferry Building (Photo: I Aksamit)

In Part I of “Exploring the San Francisco Waterfront”, we’ll start at the Ferry Building. The San Francisco waterfront is iconic to San Francisco, with views of the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge soaring over downtown, along with bustling activity on any day of the week. The whole Embarcadero (the name of the waterfront and adjacent roadway, meaning “point of embarkation” in Spanish) can be a day’s activity if you start at the Ferry Building and work your way to Fisherman’s Wharf.