Everything You Need to Know About San Francisco's Ferry Building
In a destination with more than its fair share of world-famous icons, San Francisco's Ferry Building stands out for its two-fold celebrity status: it's both a historic architectural landmark and a pillar of the city's celebrated culinary scene. The Ferry Building Marketplace and its adjacent farmers market serve in an equally outstanding capacity as places to eat and immerse yourself in the local community. Spend some time browsing the vendors lining the Nave, the market's central indoor thoroughfare, and you'll experience one of San Francisco's most-vibrant gathering places, while discovering the bounty of Northern California's artisan food and wine producers. If you ever find yourself hungry to experience the epicurean side of San Francisco, head down to the Embarcadero and feast your way through the Ferry Building.
The San Francisco Ferry Building first opened in 1898, when it was the largest project ever undertaken in the city. With its elegant arches and 245-foot clock tower, the enormous Beaux Arts-style building was inspired by classical European architecture. It served as the city's primary transportation hub, welcoming as many as 50,000 commuters a day, who rode in on the ferry in the mornings and reversed the journey in the afternoons. At its peak, it was one of the busiest transit terminals in the world. The construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge in the 1930s, along with the proliferation of the automobile, made the Ferry Building all but obsolete. It was transformed into office space in 1955.
In March 2003, the San Francisco Ferry Building re-opened to the public as the Ferry Building Marketplace, marking the end of an extensive four-year restoration project. Ferry services resumed. The marketplace's mission is to promote regional artisan producers and be a gathering place for the Bay Area's communities. It's also a very popular tourist attraction.
The Ferry Building Marketplace is packed with food vendors who offer treats, from coffee and pastries to charcuterie and farmstead cheeses. Visitors can find the makings of a fine picnic or hotel room feast, but you can also stay put and enjoy a meal at one of the numerous sit-down restaurants in the marketplace. At Mijita, dine on Mexican cuisine made with Bay Area ingredients. The finest meats are showcased in classic Americana style at American Eatery at Prather Ranch. The breakfasts at Boulette's Larder, country-inspired and eaten at communal tables, are renowned. The ahi burger at Gott's Roadside is a local favorite, as are its hand-spun milk shakes. Hog Island Oyster Company offers the freshest Tomales Bay oysters, raw or in creative preparations, serving them alongside other seafood options and incredible views of San Francisco Bay. The Slanted Door, with its contemporary take on classic Vietnamese cuisine, is notable for being twice-named the nation's outstanding restaurant by the James Beard Foundation.
Farmers Market & Outdoor Vendors
The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is open adjacent to the Ferry Building on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The market is operated by the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), which offers classes and demonstrations alongside vendors' stalls. The market attracts around 40,000 shoppers every week. The crowds come for fresh, local produce and artisan offerings including breads and cheeses. The Thursday market offers street food, and on Saturdays, a number of local restaurants come out to showcase items from their menus.
How to Get There
The Ferry Building Marketplace is located on the Embarcadero, where Market Street meets the water. It is easily accessible via public transport, including Muni, BART, the F-Line historic streetcar, and by ferry. The BART Embarcadero station is one block from the marketplace, and multiple Muni buses, subways and streetcars stop at or near the building as well.
Drivers are advised to park in Pier 3 along northbound Embarcadero or get validated parking at the ACE Parking Lot at Embarcadero and Washington Street or the Golden Gate Garage at 250 Clay St. Valet parking is available at the Ferry Building Monday through Friday.
A number of other great San Francisco attractions are in the vicinity of the Ferry Building Marketplace, along with many hotels and restaurants. Further up the Embarcadero at Pier 15 is the Exploratorium, one of the most unique science museums you'll ever visit. A little further still is bustling PIER 39, home to the Aquarium of the Bay, a carousel, and the city's famous resident sea lions. Continue from here to Fisherman's Wharf, one of the most famous attractions in San Francisco. It's the departure point for ferries to Alcatraz as well as sightseeing cruises, and the location of Madame Tussaud's and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
Southward on the Embarcadero is Rincon Park, known for its giant bow and arrow sculpture and unmatched views of the Bay Bridge. Head up Market Street and you will pass through a remarkable shopping district lined with grand old highrise buildings.