An Essential Guide To San Francisco’s Ferry Building

Jamie Ferrell Jamie Ferrell

An Essential Guide To San Francisco’s Ferry Building

San Francisco’s Ferry Building is one of the city’s most iconic buildings, serving as a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. It’s a center for events, pop-ups, a farmers’ market, and countless excellent merchants who sell their wares daily in the building’s many stalls. When’s the last time you explored this beautiful and famous landmark? Read on to learn more about the Ferry Building’s history, plus some essential stops you should make on your next trip.

History of the Ferry Building

American architect A. Page Brown designed the Ferry Building in 1892, taking inspiration from the famous Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain. Construction was completed on the edge of the Bay in 1898, and it served as the city’s portal for ferry fleets and trains. As many as 50,000 people commuted by ferry, making the building one of the world’s busiest transit terminals at the time. Thanks to its sturdy structure, the building survived both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes with minimal damage.

Upon construction of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge, ferry transit became obsolete and much of the Ferry Building was converted to office spaces in the 1950s. It was also obscured by the massive elevated Embarcadero Freeway for 35 years, which came down after the 1989 earthquake.

The Ferry Building underwent an intensive 4-year restoration and reopened in 2003 as we know it today. It contains a world-class food marketplace promoting regional artisans and high-quality goods from Northern California. The ferry terminal continues to operate, connecting San Francisco to nearby Oakland, Alameda, Richmond, and more.


You truly can’t go wrong with any of the Ferry Building’s merchants, all of which are celebrated local artisans in their field. Their expansive outdoor dining area has excellent views of the Bay.

Dining options are abundant, with both sit-down restaurants and grab-and-go meals available throughout the building. Some of our favorites include Red Bay Coffee for unique drinks like their popular Charcoal Vanilla Latte, Humphry Slocombe for out-of-the-box ice cream flavors (bourbon and corn flakes, anyone?), and Hog Island Oyster Co. for fresh oysters and shellfish with beautiful Bay views.

Artisanal products include everything from pottery to caviar. The Epicurean Trader is an essential stop for small-batch products to round out a luxurious charcuterie board, among other things. Heath Ceramics specializes in mid-century American pottery, and Benedetta brings high-quality sustainable beauty products. Pick up your weekly loaf from Acme Bread Company, or treat yourself to some “bean-to-bar” chocolate products from Dandelion Chocolate.

What’s more, we’ve heard that the popular Fog City Flea pop-up market will become a permanent installation at the Ferry Building, starting February 12.


Events and pop-ups

Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market (recurring): This popular market is regarded as one of the finest farmers’ markets in the country, and is frequented by high-profile chefs and farmers alike. It takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-2pm and Saturdays from 8am-2pm.

Lunar New Year Pop-Up (1/22-2/13): Some of Chinatown’s best small businesses will be in the building for a four-week pop-up celebrating Lunar New Year. Check it out 8am-3pm Saturdays and Sundays from January 22-February 13.

I Love You So Ferry Much (2/13): This Valentine’s Day pop-up will bring giant flower walls and more for excellent photo ops. Bring a date and pamper yourselves with a nice meal! Happening Sunday, February 13 from 10am-2pm.

Keep a close eye on the Ferry Building’s events calendar, as fun pop-ups and events occur throughout the year. The building is also available for private events.

Visiting the Ferry Building

The Ferry Building is open daily from 7am-10pm, but hours for individual businesses vary. Find it on the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street at One Ferry Building in San Francisco.


Featured image: Ronnie Chua via Shutterstock

Food & Drink Things To Do