Top 20 San Francisco attractions

Ferry Building San Francisco

Ferry Building San Francisco

Discover cool local shops and waterfront restaurants, at the San Francisco Ferry Building.

The San Francisco Ferry Building has a marketplace full of artisan crafts, and farm fresh produce.

It's the perfect place to shop for a unique gift, plan a meal with locally sourced ingredients, or watch ferries gliding across the Bay from the comfort of a waterfront restaurant.  It's located at the Embarcadero, at the foot of Market Street.

10 best things to do at Ferry Building

1. Shop at food stalls selling Bay Area produce. 

The Ferry Building is a foodies paradise, with ground floor stalls bustling with dozens of merchants.  Some of the many temptations include premium cheese, organic bagels, handmade Argentinean empanadas, culinary mushrooms, Chinese tea, parisian inspired confections, and craft beer. 

The produce is all locally sourced from Bay Area farms, bakeries and wineries.

SF Ferry BuildingSF Ferry Building

2. Dine on the waterfront patio.

Enjoy both casual and more high-end dining along the waterfront of the Ferry Building.  It's fun watching the boat activity out on the Bay, and the constant buzz of passengers boarding and disembarking ferries.

Ferry Building RestaurantsFerry Building Restaurants

3. Take a ferry to Sausalito and visit famous Muir Woods.

Golden Gate Ferries runs a service to Marin Countyincluding Sausalito, Larkspur and Tiburon. The Sausalito route is popular for tourists wanting to visit Muir Woods.  Tourists arrive in Sausalito by ferry, then take a shuttle to Muir Woods.

There's also a service to the East and North Bay with San Francisco Ferries.

San Francisco FerriesSan Francisco Ferries

4.  Discover how the Ferry Building was once the busiest transport hub in America. 

The stunning, beaux arts Ferry Building was completed in 1898, and was once a major transportation hub. During the heyday of ferry travel up to 50,000 people passed through this building each day.  There was even a grand turning circle out the front of the building where cable cars and automobiles pulled up.

San Francisco Ferry BuildingSan Francisco Ferry Building

5.  Learn about the Ferry Building's decline in the 1930s. 

In the late 1930s, the Ferry Building went into a period of decline when ferry traffic dropped off after the opening of the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge.

The Ferry Building was eventually converted into office space in the late 1950s and 60s.  Unfortunately many of the original architectural features were removed with this modernization effort. For example, the 660-foot long Great Nave that was formerly the light-filled arrival and departure area for visitors, was sectioned off into small offices.

6. Admire the Ferry Building's stunning restoration in 2003.

The Ferry Building was restored to its former glory between 1999 to 2003.  However, there were significant changes. The former baggage storage area on the ground floor was chosen as the new marketplace, not the original passenger area on the upper floor. Large openings were cut through the original passenger floor to expose the huge skylights, and a third floor addition at the mezzanine level was also removed. 

The result is a light-filled, open structure on the upper floor, now available for special events.  There's almost 6,500 square foot of original mosaic tile on this floor, previously covered by vinyl. Look at those stunning trusses and brick arches, concealed for decades, but now completely visible.

The Ferry Building San FranciscoThe Ferry Building San Francisco

7. Check out the cool playground across the road.

Cross the road to the fun playground at Sue Bierman Park, with peep through views of the Bay Bridge.

Sue Bierman ParkSue Bierman Park

8. See the striking waterfall sculpture from the remains of the Embarcadero Highway.

Can you imagine an elevated highway running in-front of the Ferry Building?  That's exactly what happened when the Embarcadero Highway was built in 1958, creating an unsightly barrier between the waterfront and city. 

However, in 1989 the highway suffered severe damage in the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake.  Common sense prevailed, and a decision was made to remove the highway in 1992.

The below waterfall sculpture is from the concrete remains of the highway.  The area is lovely and open now, with a plaza, playground and waterfront path.

embarcadero highway ruinsembarcadero highway ruins

9. Take a lovely waterfront walk along the Embarcadero. 

This waterfront walk passes attractions like the Ferry Building, Pier 7 and Exploratorium.   Pier 7 is due north of the Ferry Building, and has breathtaking views of the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island.   

Pier 7 San FranciscoPier 7 San Francisco

When strolling along Pier 7, you'll also see the San Francisco Belle moored across at Pier 3.  It's perfect for a city lights cruise with dinner and cocktails.  Brunch cruises are also available.

San Francisco BelleSan Francisco Belle

Choose from stunning waterfront restaurants along The Embarcadero. Options include The Waterfront Restaurant (below), and Coqueta Restaurant.

Embarcadero san franciscoEmbarcadero san francisco

10.  Continue along the waterfront to the fabulous Exploratorium science museum. 

The Exploratorium museum is beloved by kids and adults alike, with dozens of hands-on experiments.

Know before you go

  • Ferry Terminal address:  At the foot of Market Street, on the Embarcadero.
  • Parking: check here.
  • Cable Cars:  The California Cable Car line goes to the Ferry Building.

Ferry BuildingFerry Building

More Restaurants & Shopping in San Francisco

Review this attraction