While we usually pilgrim to calmer locales when we have a day or two off from work, Union Square is still our go-to neighborhood when we want to feel the pulse of a big city. Streets bustling with people from all over the world, locals rushing to work, glossy high-end shops and department stores inviting you to lighten your cash load, the clangs of the famous cable car, vibrant art galleries and more are contributing to Union Square’s lively atmosphere. Here's where to stay, play, and eat when staycationing in San Francisco’s most cosmopolitan neighborhood.
(Photo by Ana Kamin )
The 101-year-old Warwick Hotel, constructed by Arthur Brown Jr. (the same guy who did Coit Tower and City Hall), recently underwent a major makeover. Sleek new design elements add a contemporary, chic vibe while the original turn-of-the-century chandeliers, black and white photographs of old school SF, and antique armoires, serve as reminders of the hotel's storied history. The elegant rooms make you want to stay in and order breakfast in bed all week long, but the complimentary afternoon tea and cookies will have you meeting and mingling with other guests over tasty bites. When you're ready to venture out for real food, don't look too far: Aveline and The European are both housed in the hotel. Order the corn fritters with fresh figs and poblano salsa) for a meal you won't forget anytime soon. And if shopping is on the agenda, check out their shopping package which offers a $200 gift card to Nordstrom and breakfast for two at Aveline. Where can we check in?
Sears Fine Food (photo by Ana Kamin )
Since 1938, Sears Fine Food has been serving traditional American breakfast, lunch, and dinner to tourists, locals, and even celebrities. Before you start the inevitable shopping marathon, you might want to bank some energy in the form on their famous Swedish pancakes (which they even sell as a baking mix to take home). What's better than an edible souvenir? // 439 Powell Street
Slightly tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Union Square, Hop & Hominy’s menu includes Southern favorites such as fried oysters, buttermilk fried chicken, shrimp & grits, pulled pork mac & cheese, and a variety of American microbrews. // 1 Tillman Pl.
Katana-Ya might be easy to miss, but don’t be fooled, Michelin Guide-recommended ramen and sushi restaurant is just what you need after a long day of walking around. Stop by for an unpretentious, affordable bowl of steaming ramen and to rest your aching feet. // 430 Geary St.
Located on the corner of Bush and Powell, Uncle Vito’s dishes out no-frills Italian comfort food. Space is very limited, so we recommend ordering a pizza to-go and walking three minutes to the Hooker Alley Community Garden for a romantic lunch or dinner among the veggie beds. // 700 Bush St.
(Photo by Ana Kamin )
For a more educational pastime, check out Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco guided tour, where you'll learn about many of the hotels, clubs, and other locations featured in Hitchcock's most famous films. The 1.5-hour tour from Nob Hill to Union Square is organized by San Francisco City Guides and is free (donations are appreciated), no reservation necessary.
A short walk to Maiden Lane (which used to be part of city’s former red light district) will reveal a line-up of upscale boutiques and art galleries. The street's most famous building, the V. C. Morris Gift Shop—designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1948 as a prototype for the Guggenheim Museum—will be soon a home to another “high-end fashion boutique.” // 40 Maiden Ln.
Sunset is the best time of day for a cable car ride. Grab a hot chocolate, cuddle up in layers, take a seat (Powell and Geary almost never has a line) and ride all the way to Fisherman's Wharf and back. Feel free to oooh and ahhh along with the tourists. // More info.
After dark, choose one of the many theaters playing local performances and Broadway hits alike. Check out the full list of theaters and their current plays for a fancy night out.