Four Seasons San Francisco: Within Walking Distance

From the Ferry Building farmer's market to the upscale shops on Maiden Lane, you can easily explore San Francisco's eclectic offerings on foot.

Nov 27, 2012
  • Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco
  • Blue Bottle Coffee Bar at SF MOMA, San Francisco
  • San Francisco City Guides Tour
  • Cable Car Museum, San Francisco
  • Union Square Shopping, San Francisco
  • Xanadu Gallery on Maiden Lane, San Francisco
  • McLouglin Gallery on 49 Geary Street, San Francisco
  • Inside the Ferry Building, San Francisco
  • San Francisco's Chinatown
To get your bearings and enjoy a moment of green space, cross Mission Street to the oasis of Yerba Buena Gardens. If you stand in the middle of the gardens, above the waterfall, you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent view of the just-renovated Metreon entertainment complex, the Museum of Modern Art and the architecturally striking Contemporary Jewish Museum.
Photography Thinkstock
The excellent Blue Bottle Coffee has several busy outlets around town, as well as a few in New York, but the shop at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is less well known. If you visit the museum between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm (excluding Wednesdays), you can sit outside in the rooftop sculpture garden, sip a cup of the café’s rightfully raved-about drip coffee, and snack on a slice of colourful Mondrian cake or some Frida Kahlo Mexican wedding cookies.
Photography Clay McLachlan/
Not many people know about the walking tours offered by San Francisco City Guides, but the tours are always interesting and informative—and free. One of Rippel’s favourites is City Scapes and Public Places, which explores hidden parks and rooftop gardens of the Financial District. One notable stop is the 1906 building at 1 Kearny Street, across Market Street from the Hotel, where you’ll visit a privately owned public roof garden with expansive views.
Photography Michael Cushing
On your way to the museum, stop by Powell and Market, about a block and a half from the Hotel, to see a cable car turnaround, where operators reverse the direction of the cars with the help of a revolving wooden platform. The sight will get you warmed up for a tour of the Cable Car Museum (approximately a mile from the Hotel), where you’ll see displays including cable cars from the 1870s. The museum is free and a perfect outing for families.
You probably know that Union Square—bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton streets—is a famed shopping area, home to names like Barneys, Neiman Marcus and Saks. But what you may not know is that the square was used during the American Civil War for rallies in support of the Union Army; that’s how the area got its name.
Photography courtesy Union Square SF/ Kimpton
When you’re done with the bustle of Union Square, pop in to this hidden gem tucked between Kearny and Stockton. Just two blocks long, the pedestrian-only Maiden Lane is home to quiet street cafés and upscale shopping (as in Chanel and Hermes). You’ll also find an entrance to Gump’s, a popular source of tasteful homewares and gifts since 1861, and the Xanadu Gallery, in a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1948—look for the spiral ramp inside, which calls to mind Wright’s design for New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
Photography Alexander Broadman/Xanadu Gallery
“If you walk up Grant Avenue from the Hotel,” says Rippel, “everyone turns left toward Union Square.” But turn right, he says, to find one of the best places to see contemporary art in San Francisco. Nearly 20 galleries—including the Stephen Wirtz Gallery, Haines Gallery and The McLoughlin Gallery—are housed in a beautiful old building at 49 Geary Street, which once was home to Western Union offices.
Photography Phillip Ringler
The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, operated by the non-profit Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture, isn’t exactly a secret. But locals—including local chefs—come here for a reason. The focus on organic local produce makes this a don’t-miss for food lovers. And if you want to avoid the crowds of the big market on Saturday, visit Tuesday or Thursday morning starting at 10:00 am, when you’ll find a smaller version of the market in progress.
Photography David Wakely
Today considered the heart of Chinatown, Portsmouth Square in the 19th century was the main public centre of the city, so there are many historical landmarks around the square. California’s first public school was built here in 1848, and the discovery of gold was announced here in the same year. Old St. Mary’s Cathedral, the first cathedral built in California, was constructed here in 1854.
Photography courtesy California Travel and Tourism Commision/Andreas Hub

San Francisco, famously, is a city of many walkable neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct personality that invites the pedestrian to explore and linger. Walk Score ranks the City by the Bay a very close second only to New York as the most walkable large city in the U.S. Where should a visitor begin? Right at the doors of Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco. Even short-term visitors can get an authentic taste of the city’s history and culture, following these savvy suggestions from Chef Concierge Andreas Rippel.


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