About Civic Center
Starting on the water's edge, check out views of the Bay Bridge and indulge in the city's culinary powerhouse--the Ferry Building Marketplace (open daily) and the adjacent San Francisco Farmer's Market (open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays). Heading southwest along Market Street, you'll pass the hustle and bustle of the Financial District, where busy office workers clog the streets during lunch and rush hours, until you hit the city's premier shopping destination, Union Square. Two elegant malls, several department stores, and tons of shops (from designer to bargain) make it the place to max out the plastic--which means great fashion finds as well as maddening crowds. On the corner of Powell and Market, the huge line isn't for the shops, however--it's the Powell Street Hill Cable Car Turnaround, where a bevy of tourists are waiting to ride the iconic San Francisco Cable Car up to Fisherman's Wharf. Union Square also happens to house the city's major hotels (making it tourist central) and some of its finest restaurants, such as Farallon and Michael Mina.
Further southwest you'll hit Civic Center, the seat of urban government as well as an arts district. The square block containing City Hall is also home to the city's main public library, the incomparable Asian Art Museum, popular music venue the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the San Francisco Symphony, and the War Memorial Opera House. The American Conservatory Theater's critically-acclaimed productions and the Warfield's concerts are only blocks away, as is the low-key enclave of Hayes Valley, a leafy neighborhood featuring ultra-cool (yet pricey) boutiques, great dining including affordable eats as well as elegant pre-performance prix fixe meals, and killer java at Blue Bottle Coffee.