Insider's Guide to the Embarcadero

  • 01 of 09

    The Low Down

    The Ferry Building
    ••• The Ferry Building. Ann S. via Yelp

    Great for running, walking, or just soaking in the Bay Lights, the LED light art installation across the western span of the Bay Bridge, the Embarcadero is a great introduction to the San Francisco lifestyle. 

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  • 02 of 09

    Location

    Map of San Francisco area

    On the easternmost side of the city, the Embarcadero stretches along the shoreline, hosting cruise ships, ferries, and bay cruises. The Ferry Building marks its center, but it sprawls down to China Basin and up to Fisherman’s Wharf.  

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  • 03 of 09

    History

    The Embarcadero circa 1982
    ••• The Embarcadero circa 1982.

    The Gold Rush brought over 700 ships carrying hopefully prospectors who proceeded to abandon their ships on the shoreline, creating an impromptu landfill. The Ferry Building was the main entrance to the city until 1936 when the Bay Bridge opened for business. Before the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the speedway was covered by a highway exit that collapsed in the quake. The Ferry Building, the crown jewel of the neighborhood, was renovated and reopened as a food hall in 2003. 

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  • 04 of 09

    Eat: Breakfast

    Salad with avocado

    Begin with an avocado toast from Frog Hollow Market, loaded with perfectly ripe and presented avocado with a dusting of salt and pepper on Acme green onion bread. It is simple but delicious. Then brave the line at Blue Bottle Coffee for their signature pour over to kick-start your day. 

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  • 05 of 09

    Eat: Lunch

    RoliRoti porchetta sandwich
    ••• RoliRoti porchetta sandwich. John K. via Yelp

    If it’s a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, browse the Ferry Building Farmers Market for the Tacolicious stand for innovative tacos or the RoliRoti truck for out-of-this-world rotisserie chicken and porchetta sandwiches. On the other days of the week, check out Gott’s Roadside, which has just about every menu item you could possibly be craving – burgers, fish tacos, kale salad, BBQ chicken sandwiches and hot dogs. If the sun is out, snag a seat at the communal picnic tables outside and let the people watching commence. 

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  • 06 of 09

    Eat: Dinner

    Dinner
    ••• Tze-Cheong C. via Yelp

    Situated right in the Ferry Building with windows looking out onto the ferry ports, the Slanted Door is a San Francisco institution. Charles Phan creates modern Vietnamese small plates like spring rolls with gulf shrimp, pork shoulder, and vermicelli noodles or grass-fed shaking beef. Bring friends and order to your heart’s desire. 

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  • 07 of 09

    Drink

    Bar
    ••• Karen C. via Yelp

    For Whiskey: Whiskey lovers will feel like they’ve died and gone to heaven upon entering Hard Water. This sparse space with vaulted ceilings has a marble U-shaped bar in the middle and an entire wall covered in every whiskey varietal you can imagine. Feel free to point to a bottle and the bartenders will climb the steel ladder and bring it back for you. Pier 3, (415) 392-3021

    For a Party: By day, nothing beats lounging out on Pier 23 Café’s sprawling deck with a chardonnay in hand looking out at the sailboats on the bay. At night, jazz trios fill the space with friendly, warm music and good vibes. And they serve food all day long so you can sustain yourself through a few beers. 

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  • 08 of 09

    Shop

    Shopping
    ••• Thomas C. via Yelp

    For your shopping needs, you need not look any further than the Ferry Building. Bram Cookware handcrafts clay pots from bean pots to gratins. Heath Ceramics is known for their beautiful ceramic dishware. Books Passage is a hub of literary wonders. Cowgirl Creamery sells fresh, delicious cheeses made just north in Point Reyes. Beekind specializes in – what else – honey sourced from beekeepers across the Bay Area. At this point you’ve probably noticed a trend: this is a great place to stock up on kitchen essentials. 

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  • 09 of 09

    Play

    San Francisco Exploratorium
    ••• Exploratorium

    For Kids: All right, the Exploratorium is not just for kids. It’s full of wacky interactive exhibits playing with light sound, gravity, motion, and more. And each exhibit has scientific reasoning behind it. Don’t forget to feel your way through the Tactile Dome, a pitch black maze you navigate in complete darkness.

    For Sports: From April through October, AT&T Park roars to life as the three-time world champion San Francisco Giants take to the field. Even if you’re not a fan of America’s favorite pastime, it’s still worth a visit for the views of the bay. Even in the off-season, you can take a tour of the stadium and get access to the dugout, batting cage and visitor’s clubhouse.

    For Adventure: You can’t leave San Francisco without taking a tour of the famous prison of Alcatraz. Alcatraz Cruises leaves from the Embarcadero, but make sure to book tickets ahead of time – like, right after you’ve booked your flight out here. There’s sometimes a four-month wait list during the height of...MORE the summer season.