Union Square Shopping

Union Square Shopping

Union Square is the place in San Francisco for mainstream fashions, major department stores and designer label shopping. It’s always brimming with people jumping on and off cable cars, sidewalk flower vendors, street artists and street musicians, and the usual hustle and bustle of this very busy city center. Located in the heart of the city, Union Square has a wide variety of retail venues within its 2.5 square acres. Where San Franciscans cling to their particular neighborhoods’ cultural diversity, all its citizens call Union Square their own. Union Square is like the central plaza in a small town that draws people together. The name was derived from protests held there in support of the Union in the early days before the Civil War. ( It was originally deeded for public use in 1850.) The centerpiece of Union Square is the 97 foot tall Victory Monument, which was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 to commemorate the 1898 U.S. victory over the Spanish fleet in Manila. Remarkably, the column did not fall in the devastating 1906 earthquake. Union Square is surrounded by hotels, including the massive Westin St. Francis, which stretches the length of Union Square’s west side. Most tourists stay in this area because it’s so handy to restaurants, art galleries, theaters, and shopping. The square underwent a 2002 renovation to the tune of $25 million, adding an amphitheater, new landscaping, granite pedestals, and even underground parking.

The big name stores represented in Union Square are the massive Macy’s (on the south or Geary side of the square,) Saks Fifth Avenue (on the north or Post side,) Neiman Marcus (on the southeast corner,) and Tiffany. If you are looking for a mall, there is the multi-level San Francisco Shopping Centre two blocks below the square on Market Street at the Powell Street cable car turnaround. Nordstom is the anchor store there, in fact, it’s the largest store in the company chain, taking the top five floors of the eight floor shopping complex. If you’re lucky, you may see the famous San Francisco twins, namely Marian and Vivien Brown, sitting at the Nordstrom grand piano, playing exquisitely. The elderly ladies have been a fixture around town for years, recognizable in their identical outfits.

Just off Union Square is the famous little side street named Maiden Lane. Originally famous for its Barbary Coast bordellos, this elegant alley is now full of galleries, cafes and boutiques, if you still haven’t maxed out your plastic.

If you’re not staying nearby, Union Square is accessible from the Powell-Hyde cable car line on the south side. There is parking in the underground Union Square Garage but parking is cheaper at 330 Sutter near Stockton.