Things to do in Union Square
On this narrow street branching east from Union Square, chic boutiques close ranks. The highlight, though, is the Xanadu Gallery’s Frank Lloyd Wright building (140 Maiden Lane). Its stern brick façade conceals a graceful interior with a Guggenheim-esque spiral staircase.
So what if riding a cable car brands you a tourist? The snub-nosed icons are terrific fun to ride, with their bay views from the north side of Nob Hill. Two lines have a terminus just below Union Square, where cable cars sedately spin on a turntable before starting back up the hill again.
Though on the south side of Market Street, this megamall aligns with Union Square in its shopping fervor. Curving escalators wrap between department stores (Bloomingdale’s, Nordstom), boutiques, a multiplex, and a surprisingly good food court.
State-of-the-art LED lighting, an award-winning Funktion One sound system, and high-profile DJ’s make Vessel one of the city’s most popular clubs, attracting such former guests as Jonathan Abrams, the founder of Friendster.
When Fiona Frie moved to the United States from Scotland, she didn’t anticipate a problem finding sweets—at least to her taste. Leaving behind the medical profession, she opened an old timey sweet “shoppe” in Union Square.
An homage to the classic cantina and the influence of Latin American culture in San Francisco, Cantina is a local bar serving classic cocktails, as well as inventive “culinary cocktails,” locally brewed beer, and wine.
“Nothing is worth more than this day,” a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is one of many poetic phrases hand-engraved on Jeanine Payer’s jewelry.
Established in 1979, Three Bags Full is one of the most renowned knitwear stores in the nation. Behind a black tile and glass storefront, the interior is lined with handmade sweaters from the United States, England, France, Australia, and Italy.
Influenced by modernist architecture and graphic design, Babette clothing is known for its sophisticated colors, geometric shapes, and functionality. Owner Babette Pinsky began designing in 1968 and rose to fame in the 1980’s thanks to her signature pleated raincoat.
Even the storefront window of Lang Antiques in Union Square will make you pause in wonder at the glitter of gold and gems. Inside, the cases are overflowing with more than 7,000 pieces of heirloom jewels, from Victorian and Edwardian jewelry to Art Deco, mid-century, and contemporary styles.
Since 1861, a visit to San Francisco wasn’t complete without a wander through Gump’s, the exotic emporium crammed full of jade figurines, Chinese antiques, and Japanese screens.