Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Financial District, San Francisco

  • Published 2023/02/25

San Francisco—the City by the Bay—is renowned for its historical, architectural, and natural beauty.

The Financial District, in particular, is a great spot to explore this charming city.

As the city’s business center, the Financial District of San Francisco is a concrete jungle known for its towering skyscrapers and bustling business life.

Besides the corporate vibe, there are plenty of attractions and activities for travelers to discover.

From historic buildings to vibrant outdoor scenes, the San Francisco Financial District knows how to wow its visitors.

But with everything you can see and do here, it can be hard to know where to start.

To make things a little easier for you, here is a list of the 15 best things to do in the Financial District, San Francisco, California:

See the Magnificent Transamerica Pyramid

Exterior of the Transamerica Pyramid

Morenovel /

If you can single out one iconic landmark in this concrete jungle, it has to be the Transamerica Pyramid.

This striking spire-topped building is one of the most recognizable buildings in San Francisco and serves as a reminder of the power of the city’s Financial District.

At 48 stories tall, the Transamerica Pyramid is the second tallest building in San Francisco and provides a great vantage point to witness stunning city views.

Designed by famous architect William Pereira, this modern-style building was the former headquarters of the Transamerica Corporation before they moved to Baltimore, Maryland.

View from below the Transamerica Pyramid

Acchiappasogni /

Despite their departure, this building is still aptly named the Transamerica Pyramid and has become a popular tourist attraction.

Thanks to its one-of-a-kind pyramid design, you can easily spot this building amongst the skyline.

Even if you’re outside the pyramid, the magnificence of this landmark is sure to capture your attention, making for a great photo opportunity.

Aerial view of the Transamerica Pyramid

Leonard Zhukovsky /

Visit the One Maritime Plaza

Exterior of the One Maritime Plaza

Blackguard SF, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located just two blocks from the Transamerica Pyramid is another uniquely designed skyscraper, One Maritime Plaza.

This office building is another notable example of modern architecture, located at the heart of the San Francisco Financial District near the Embarcadero Center.

It was initially built in 1964 as the building for the Alcoa Corporation; it underwent numerous remodeling to become what it is today.

The One Maritime Plaza is one of the first buildings to incorporate seismic protection, such as external X-shaped bracing and trusses.

These features give the building its trademark look and one that would enable tourists to recognize it even from a distance.

The One Maritime Plaza is an iconic Financial District San Francisco building.

Take in the Views at Filbert Steps

Stairs of Filbert Steps

Benny Marty /

A great way to take a break and escape the chaos of this business hub is to take a peaceful stroll up the Filbert Steps.

Located at the footsteps of the iconic Coit Tower, the Filbert Steps are a long flight of stairs comprising 400 steps.

This stairway takes you up to the hilltop of Telegraph Hill, which offers spectacular views of the city skyline and the breathtaking San Francisco Bay.

It’s one of the best spots to catch a glimpse of some of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Side view of Filbert Steps staircase

Eric Broder Van Dyke /

You can also take in the sights of the Financial District itself from this elevated viewpoint.

This is an ideal spot for some weekend sightseeing and a great way to take in the beauty of the Financial District of San Francisco.

Filbert Steps is an urban oasis amid the Financial District that’s worth visiting during a trip to San Francisco.

Coit tower at Telegraph hill

Benny Marty /

Wander Beale Street Plaza

Buildings at Beale Street Plaza

Dead.rabbit, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Beale Street Plaza is a metropolitan park in the middle of the San Francisco Financial District.

Numerous towering skyscrapers are a backdrop for this attractive and popular meeting place.

It’s an excellent spot for taking in the sights and sounds of this bustling district and getting a good feel of the area.

This small park features an assortment of trees that provide much-needed shade and coolness to an otherwise warm and busy place.

This park contrasts the skyscrapers greatly and provides respite from the hustle and bustle of financial district life.

With ample space for strolls, Beale Street Plaza is the perfect spot to start soaking up the atmosphere of the Financial District of San Francisco.

Taste the Finest Wines at the San Francisco Wine Society

Signage outside San Francisco Wine Society

Julie Soefer Photography

As a city known for its world-class wines, you can’t visit San Francisco without experiencing its best.

The San Francisco Wine Society, located at 408 Merchant Street, right in the middle of the Financial District, is one of the best places to taste and sample the best wines San Francisco offers.

This wine society is composed of members who share a common passion for wine and its culture, making it a perfect destination for those who love to explore the world of wine.

The San Francisco Wine Society offers an extensive collection of local and international wines from various regions.

Interior view of San Francisco Wine Society

Julie Soefer Photography

From California Cabernet Sauvignon to Pinot Grigio and even Italian Merlot, you’ll find a wide selection of wines you can sample and purchase here.

The interior of this wine bar is quite warm and cozy.

It features brick-layered walls and an array of wooden furniture that adds a rustic touch to the overall experience.

They even serve food to accompany the wines, such as artisan cheese boards and cured meats.

Drop by the San Francisco Wine Society if you want a great place to enjoy some of the best wines.

Interior view of San Francisco Wine Society

Julie Soefer Photography

Learn about America’s First Bank at the Wells Fargo Museum

Exterior of the Wells Fargo Museum

Tada Images /

Why wouldn’t you want to take a peek into the United States’ first banking institution?

The Wells Fargo Museum is one of the Financial District’s most popular attractions and one that you shouldn’t overlook as a potential tourist spot to visit.

Located at 420 Montgomery Street, right on the outskirts of the Financial District, this museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of America’s banking industry.

Stagecoach displayed in the Wells Fargo Museum

Captain-tucker, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visitors can learn about the journey of Wells Fargo from its humble beginnings in 1852 to the present day.

The museum also houses antique stagecoaches, gold coins, and a 19th-century Concord stagecoach.

It is a great way to understand the legacy of Wells Fargo.

Apart from the displays, there are also interactive exhibits and a theater that features movies about the company’s history.

If you want to take a little history trip, visit the Wells Fargo Museum and learn about one of the significant contributors to the beginnings of America’s banking system.

Buy Local Artisan Food at the Historic Ferry Building

Exterior of the Historic Ferry Building

Levent Konuk /

The Historic Ferry Building is one of the most famous and iconic landmarks in the San Francisco Financial District.

Located along the Embarcadero, the Historic Ferry Building was once a terminal for ferries and steamboats.

Built in 1898, this grand structure has long served as a symbol of San Francisco’s early maritime history.

Today, this building is home to the historic Ferry Building Marketplace, where artisan food vendors gather to sell and promote their local products.

Interior of the Historic Ferry Building /

From freshly baked bread, delicatessen meats, organic fruits, and vegetables to gourmet chocolates, coffee, specialty teas, and an assortment of cheeses, you’ll find unique local products here.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find great bargains and deals that are hard to come by elsewhere.

Buy something at the historic Ferry Building and support local artisan food vendors.

Aerial view of the Historic Ferry Building

Engel Ching /

Meet the Chinese Community at Portsmouth Square

People at Portsmouth Square

Mark Zhu /

San Francisco’s Financial District is home to a sizeable Chinese population, with its community within the city.

Portsmouth Square is one of the best places to glimpse this community.

This public park, located in the heart of Chinatown, at the corner of Kearny and Clay Streets, is a popular gathering spot for locals.

The friendly people and vibrant atmosphere make it a great spot to observe the people and their culture.

Children playing at Portsmouth Square

Mark Zhu /

You’ll find various activities, such as Tai Chi classes, public performances, and even martial arts exhibitions.

Aside from this, you’ll also find street vendors selling authentic Chinese snacks, traditional herbal medicines, and other local products.

So if you’re looking to get closer to the city’s vibrant Chinese community, walk around Portsmouth Square, and you’ll find something interesting.

Elderly people playing cards at Portsmouth Square

James Kirkikis /

Unleash Your Inner Nerd at City Lights Bookstore

Exterior of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers

Robert Mullan /

For all the bookworms out there, check out the City Lights Bookstore.

Located at 261 Columbus Avenue, this independent bookstore houses books ranging from popular bestsellers to rare and hard-to-find titles.

This bookstore specializes in the arts, world literature, and political history and has hosted many writers from the Beat Generation since it opened in 1953.

Its long service towards the people of San Francisco earned it the title of an official historic landmark in 2007.

Interior of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers

Robert Mullan /

You can also find titles related to San Francisco’s culture and history on its shelves, making it an excellent destination for those looking to learn more about the city.

The store’s interiors feature a cozy atmosphere, making it a great place to relax and browse through books.

Whether you’re a bookworm or just looking for a place to relax, the City Lights Bookstore is the perfect spot.

People choosing books in City Lights Booksellers & Publishers

Robert Mullan /

Have a Good Laugh at Punch Line San Francisco

When you want to chill out in the Financial District of San Francisco, why not head over to the Punch Line San Francisco?

Located at 444 Battery Street, Punch Line San Francisco is the oldest running comedy club.

It’s also one of the best places to go for good times and laughs with friends and family.

This comedy club features an array of well-known comedians and up-and-coming talent.

The warm and cozy pub-style atmosphere amplifies the entire experience, making it an excellent spot for some lighthearted entertainment.

Remember not to take yourself too seriously, and you’ll have a great time at Punch Line San Francisco.

Feel the Big-City Vibes at Union Square

Aerial view of Union Square

Oscity /

Everywhere you go in the Financial District will give you that big-city vibe.

However, there’s just something about Union Square that sets it apart from the rest.

Located downtown, Union Square is a major shopping destination with luxury stores and designer boutiques.

Some of the most famous stores here include Tiffany & Co, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus.

Market at Union Square

Jakub Zajic /

It’s also home to the iconic Dewey Monument, a memorial statue, and a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike.

You’ll find street performers, tourists, and locals mingling together.

Check out restaurants, cafes, and bars that give the area a livelier and more vibrant atmosphere.

Aside from being a shopping mecca, Union Square is also known for its regular events and attractions.

See world-class performances of the San Francisco Opera, the Symphony, and the Ballet.

If you want to explore the city’s top shopping destination, head to Union Square.

People at Union Square

Benny Marty /

Learn about the Cable Car at the San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Exterior of the San Francisco Cable Car Museum

ken18 /

Since its invention in 1873, the San Francisco Cable Car has become one of the city’s most iconic and beloved modes of transportation.

This cable car system is a classic and the world’s only rolling national historic landmark.

If you want to learn more about its history, visit the San Francisco Cable Car Museum.

Located at 1201 Mason Street on the borders of the Financial District, this museum offers visitors a closer look at the city’s cable car system.

Interior of the San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Kit Leong /

You can explore its exhibits, which showcase a collection of old cable cars and learn about the mechanics behind them.

The museum is also known for its extensive library of books, pictures, and historical artifacts.

You can take a self-guided tour or book a time with the museum’s knowledgeable guides.

So, if you’re curious to learn more about a crucial piece of San Francisco’s history, head to the San Francisco Cable Car Museum.

Cable car displayed in the San Francisco Cable Car Museum

wonderlustpicstravel /

Other Things to Do Nearby

The San Francisco Financial District is only a tiny part of the Bay area.

There are plenty of other things to do nearby that you should check out.

Here are other attractions that you can visit within San Francisco:

See the Dubs Play at Chase Center

Exterior of Chase Center

Sundry Photography /

After capturing the five championship titles in Oracle Arena in nearby Oakland, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors moved to their new home in 2019, the stunning Chase Center.

Located at Mission Bay, this state-of-the-art arena offers a memorable experience when watching the Warriors’ home games.

Entrance gates of Chase Center

Sundry Photography /

Watch Stephen Curry’s now iconic warm-up routine, which includes threes from the mid-court line and other trick shots.

With a seating capacity of 18,064 during basketball games, the Chase Center offers an unforgettable experience for NBA fans.

Aside from basketball, the arena also hosts live concerts and other events throughout the year.

Interior of Chase Center

Américo Toledano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Watch the Giants at Oracle Park

Exterior of Oracle Park

Michael Vi /

There’s nothing like spending a summer evening at a baseball game watching the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park.

Located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza on Third Street and King Street—about 1.6 miles from the San Francisco Financial District—this ballpark offers spectacular views of downtown San Francisco.

Featuring a modern design with classic touches, Oracle Park is known for its lively atmosphere and friendly fan base.

The field of Oracle Park

Sundry Photography /

There’s plenty of food and drinks to choose from, including classic ballpark bites like hotdogs, burgers, fries, and craft beers.

If you want to cheer on the Giants, head to Oracle Park and catch a game or two.

Baseball players in Oracle Park

Conor P. Fitzgerald /

Cross the Breathtaking San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge

Sunset view of San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge

canadastock /

No San Francisco travel list is complete without mentioning its iconic landmark, the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge.

Located just under a mile from the Financial District, the Bay Bridge is the symbol of the Bay Area skyline.

It is also considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the world.

Stretching 8.4 miles, it is one of the longest bridges in the US and carries most traffic between San Francisco and Oakland.

The road of San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge

massimofusaro /

Crossing this bridge presents a stunning view of the Bay Area and a great sunset view.

Don’t forget to cross the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge!

Night lights of San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge

Dan Schreiber /

Final Thoughts

The San Francisco Financial District is a booming and economically important area in the Bay.

As the city’s business center, this is where most attractions and activities operate, so you can expect many things to do here.

Don’t forget to check out the best things to do in the Financial District, San Francisco.

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