Union Square – San Francisco’s heart – has enough attractions to spend there a whole day. Its name dates back to the Civil War and the statue at its center commemorates the war against Spain in 1898. Delimited by Post, Stockton, Geary and Powell streets, the square is surrounded by big shopping centers: Sacks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s share the plaza with Nike Town and Levi’s. Armani, Versace, Gucci, Hermes and other famous names are at walking distance. Borders have a major branch there and at the very center of the plaza is the sunny Emporio Rulli offering excellent Italian snacks and coffee. The Circle Gallery building at 140 Maiden Lane is a famous building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Advancing up and north through Stockton, Chinatown is reached after crossing California Street. The neighborhood main street is Grant – one block east of Stockton – but the last offers a more traditional view of it. Chinatown main attractions are the traditional structures – including graceful pagodas – and the plethora of shops selling everything from jade to dim sum through Chinese-seals. Eastern Bakery, at 720 Grant, claims to be the oldest Chinese bakery in the area, dating back to 1924 and provides an environment close to the one found in Beijing’s tea houses. Continuing north through Stockton, the colorful North Beach neighborhood is reached after crossing Union Street. Despite its name, the traditional Italian Quarter has no shores. Washington Square – next to Union Street –is its center and features a beautiful Catholic Church. The Vesuvio coffee shop on Columbus Avenue – on the western side of the park – is an excellent place to restore energies with an Italian cappuccino.
Further north, Stockton Street almost reaches Fisherman’s Wharf – the biggest tourists’ center in town. At Stockton’s end, turn right and then take the first left into Embarcadero; the wharf is just ahead with an incredible number of souvenir shops, restaurants and travel agencies. Pier 39 is the first pier on the row and a good place to eat a well earned seafood meal. From here it is possible to take ferries to Alcatraz, Sausalito, Tiburon, as well as bay tours. On Pier 45 the Pampanito submarine awaits visitors; nearby the Anchorage Shopping Center – on Jefferson Street – and the Cannery – next to it – are lively centers in the way to Ghirardelli Square, the old site of a chocolate factory. Beyond the rich shopping opportunities, the plaza is gorgeous, offers great views of the bay and the opportunity to taste the original chocolate that gave it its name. This walk along Stockton Street offers an easy walk as well as an opportunity to enjoy some of the main San Francisco attractions at your own pace.