Much of the San Francisco Financial District real estate consists of commercial office and retail space, but there are a few stunning condominium buildings, offering elegant finishes and close proximity to the best of urban living.
There are a surprising number of hip boutiques along Grant Street. Look out for Gimme Shoes, Ab Fits, Kate Spade, Hermes, DeBeers, Kenneth Cole, Juicy Couture, Ted Baker, Ed Hardy and the flagship store of Banana Republic.
Maiden Lane, a pedestrian alley off Union Square, was named for the ladies of the night who worked the street well over a century ago. Now it is populated with tony shops. Breeze past Yves Saint Laurent, John Varvatos, Chanel, Theory, Tse, Gumps, De Vera and soon, Prada. Be sure to look into Xanadu Gallery (once known as the V.C. Morris Gift Shop): it’s the last building Frank Lloyd Wright completed while he was alive, and the precursor to the Guggenheim. And stop into Otis for a drink.
Further north, look carefully and you’ll discover San Francisco’s French Quarter. This quaint area is centered along two alleys: Claude Lane (featuring Café Claude and Gitane) and Belden Place. The latter is packed with a wonderful array of restaurants in one short block, including Café Bastille, Plouf, B44, Belden Taverna, Sam’s Grill, Café Tiramisu and Brindisi Cucina di Mare.
Chinatown may be flooded with tourists, but make no mistake: this is still the thriving centerpiece of Chinese culture in San Francisco. It is interesting to note that Portsmouth Square is considered the birthplace of the city during the 1849 gold rush. It is also here that most of the underworld of the Barbary Coast did most of their business.
The Barbary Coast stretched from modern-day Chinatown to the docks. This encompassed much of the Financial District, including the Transamerica Pyramid, as well as Jackson Square.
San Francisco’s Jackson Square Historic District was originally home to commercial and retail establishments, saloons, and a wild “nightlife.” Decimated by the 1906 earthquake, it was rebuilt and served as an eating and drinking neighborhood both during and after prohibition. By the 1950s the neighborhood changed again, eventually evolving into its current state as a district for antique stores and designers. Jackson Square real estate is a dynamic mixture of historic buildings, commercial space and stylish lofts and condos.
Design shops, most of which are along Pacific Avenue in Jackson Square, include Artemide, Kartell, vitra., Design Within Reach and House of European Design. Be sure to stop into William Stout Architectural Books, Carrots and Thos. E Cara, Ltd which offers an impressive collection of historic espresso machines. And if you look carefully you’ll see the offices of Dwell Magazine on Gold Street.
Art, antique and collectable stores are primarily located along Jackson Street. Browse through Hedge Gallery, Sarah Stocking Antique Posters, Arader Galleries, Le Trianon Gallery, Montgomery Gallery and Amadi Carpets.
Hotaling Place, a quiet pedestrian alley, sits in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid. Here you’ll find Foster Gwin Period Antiques, Bubble Lounge, Villa Taverna (a private club) and Chiaroscuro.
For other dining options consider Zinnia, Taverna Aventine, Bocadillos, Bix, Café Prague, Coi, 850 Cigar Bar & Grill, and soon, Quince.
Sydney Walton Park is a great place to spend an afternoon. Surrounded by design (Landor) and advertising agencies (McCann Erickson), Kokkari Estiatorio is across the street and Globe in down the block. And in the late afternoon you can hear the parrots of Telegraph Hill chattering away.