Don't be fooled by the name. The San Francisco Ferry Building isn't just a transit hub. Even its full name of Ferry Building Marketplace doesn't quite capture what it really is. Saying that there's a weekly farmer's market doesn't quite capture it either.
To paraphrase the St Francis Hotel concierge I overheard describing it once; it's more than just fruits and vegetables. It's food — and wine —and fresh oysters —and more.
To that, I should add that everything is fresh and local. You go to the Ferry Building for Michael Recchiuti chocolate, Cowgirl Creamery cheese, and Blue Bottle Coffee — not for Ghirardelli, Tillamook, and Starbucks. Not that there's anything wrong with those brands, they're just not what the Ferry Building Marketplace is about.
Since it emerged from an innovative renovation in 2003, the Ferry Building has become one of the city's go-to stops for foodies who love its boutique food shops, restaurants, and weekly farmers market.
The Ferry Building Marketplace
Inside the San Francisco Ferry Building, open-fronted shops feature Northern California's boutique, specialty food makers, including such Bay area standouts as Rancho Gordo dried beans, Boccolone Salumeria charcuterie, and Frog Hollow Farms stone fruits and jams.
You can get a full meal at the San Francisco Ferry Building, too. Options include Marketbar Restaurant, whose menu features ingredients from the market, Gott's Roadside gourmet hamburgers and milkshakes and the upscale Vietnamese restaurant The Slanted Door.
Hog Island Oyster Company serves shellfish straight from their Tomales Bay farms, an especially good deal if they are offering a Happy Hour special.
San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market
Outdoors, the San Francisco Ferry Building hosts an organic farmer's market. Markets are held year-round, several days a week, but the largest is on Saturday mornings.
Local chefs and food-lovers flock to it for fresh seasonal produce, but even if you're on vacation and won't be cooking, you'll enjoy browsing the variety available, and you can pick up some fresh fruit, ready-to-eat baked goods and other prepared foods.
Touring the San Francisco Ferry Building
Until the late 1930's, when the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges were built, nearly everyone who came to San Francisco from the north arrived at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Its 240-foot clock tower, modeled after Seville, Spain's 12th-century bell tower, has been a San Francisco waterfront icon for more than 100 years.
If you'd like to learn more about its architecture and history, San Francisco City Guides offers free San Francisco Ferry Building walking tours several days a week.
What You Need to Know About the Ferry Building Marketplace
The marketplace is open daily, but some businesses close early and may be closed on holidays. It's easy to find it on the San Francisco waterfront where Market Street runs into The Embarcadero near the Bay Bridge.
Allow at least an hour to browse around — and bring your shopping bag because it will be hard to go home empty-handed. It's liveliest (and most crowded) on Saturday morning,
I mentioned some of the more famous shops at the Ferry Building above, but you can find a full list of them on their website.
Ferry Building Marketplace
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Ferry Building website
The easiest way to get to the Ferry Building is on one of the historic Embarcadero F-line streetcars, which stop in front of the San Francisco Ferry Building. And of course, many ferries depart and return from behind the building.
A fun way to arrive is to grab a pedicab from the Pier 39/Fisherman's Wharf area and let the driver pedal you along the waterfront to the ferry building.
You can find parking nearby at 75 Howard St. and Embarcadero at Washington, or try the ParkMe app to find the least expensive parking in the area. Street parking in the area is metered, and the Embarcadero Center parking lot is also close enough to walk.
1 Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.