The Embarcadero is the boulevard that runs all along the waterfront of San Francisco, from the Bay Bridge, past the Ferry Building, and down to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf.
A number of San Francisco attractions are sprinkled along this street and it's a popular place for strolling.
It's also not a bad area to actually find parking in one of San Francisco's busiest areas.
San Francisco's main ferry terminal has morphed into a gourmet hotspot. Inside the building is a collection of gastronomically-interesting booths and eating places to tempt visitors with special condiments, desserts, wines, and numerous other delicacies.
This is also the site of a popular farmer's market held here on Tuesdays and Thursdays (10 to 2) and Saturdays (8 to 2).
The Blue and Gold Line runs ferries from here to Sausalito, Oakland, Alameda, Vallejo and Larkspur.
Pier 14 is a popular pier that lies between the Bay Bridge and the Ferry Building. It's a pedestrian walkway that stretches far out into the bay with great views of the city, the bridge and Yerba Buena Island.
This is a good place to watch the ships crossing under the Bay Bridge, and the ferries coming and going to the Ferry Building nearby. The end of the pier is a also popular fishing spot.
There's a series of metal plates along the pier with excerpts from Rudyard Kipling's poem, The Sea and the Hills. In part:
Who hath desired the Sea? Her menaces swift as her mercies?
The in-rolling walls of the fog and the silver-winged breeze that disperses?
It was on Pier 14 that Kate Steinle was killed in July 2015 by an illegal alien with a long criminal record who had already been deported 5 times, and who was released by SF Sheriff's office because of the San Francisco's sanctuary city policy. People often put flowers at the place where she died.
This is still a very popular pier, and it's actually in a very safe area, which made the attack even more shocking.
Since 2002, a huge sculpture of Cupid's bow and arrow has decorated the area near Pier 14 at the base of the Bay Bridge. Some people love it and others don't; I think it's pretty cool.
Hornblower runs its cruise ships out of Pier 3; they have a nice selection of bay cruises. There's some limited public parking available as well.
Hornblower has a great San Francisco dinner/dance cruise. Delicious food and amazing views of the city and bridges. For more details, and photos of this cruise, see my page on the SF dinner cruise.
This is a great pier for strolling; good bay and city views.
The new home of the Exploratorium, our fun, hands-on, science museum and play place, is now at Pier 15. See more on the Exploratorium.
Pier 27 is the location of the new (since 2015) cruise ship terminal for San Francisco.
The terminal is a modern, two-level structure designed accommodate the 60 to 80 cruise ships that dock in San Francisco every year. The new terminal is a "green" building that collects rainfall on its roof. A large parking lot is adjacent.
Tip for cruise ship passengers: there are two garages near the waterfront that provide special arrangements for parking your car during a cruise. You can book a space online at either one:
The ferry for Alcatraz leaves from Pier 33. For tips on how to get tickets and what to expect on the Alcatraz tour, see Alcatraz.
This is San Francisco's waterfront shopping and entertainment pier. Pier 39 marks the end of the Embarcadero and the beginning of Fisherman's Wharf.
See more information on Pier 39 attractions.
Seeing San Francisco typically involves a lot of walking. If you want to save your feet a bit, there are pedicabs available near the Ferry Building.
Or try the relatively new service, the Water Taxi, from Pier 1 ½, next door to the Ferry Building. This little boat runs from here to the Hyde Street Pier at the far end of Fisherman's Wharf (only stop), or in the opposite direction to AT&T Park.
Runs frequently and costs $10 one-way ($5 for SF residents).
The Embarcadero was also a busy port during the Gold Rush era. The area was called Yerba Buena Cove, named after Yerba Buena Island nearby (where the two sections of the Bay Bridge attach now).
The photo below was the view of the Embarcadero area as it looked in 1851, looking towards Yerba Buena Island and the Berkeley hills across the bay.
COVID-19 Updates: as of midnight Monday, March 16, San Francisco has been under a "shelter-in-place order.
The city has released a reopening schedule (tentative) starting June 1, 2020, with successive changes at later dates.
All residents were ordered to stay home, except for necessary trips to grocery stores and essential medical visits, and solo outdoor activities like hiking.
Now, there is a gradual reopening of certain businesses and activities.
See COVID rules for current SF status.
Highlights of changes: everyone in SF is now required to wear a mask when they are outside and within 30 feet of other people.
Parking lots for SF beaches are now open (as well as the beaches).
Starting June 15 customers can enter retail businesses (with a mask), religious services can resume, and restaurants can offer outdoor dining.
Opening dates for indoor dining, hair salons and barbershops have been postponed until an unknown date.
Mid August: gyms, playgrounds, swimming pools and indoor museums can possibly open.
For info on what's open in other cities and counties of California, see California reopening schedules.
See coronavirus news in the SF Chronicle for details and updates.
Also see site and parking lot closures for the National Park Service (Alcatraz, Muir Woods, etc.)
Plus helpful info on which parks and hiking trails are open in the Bay Area.
Get the latest tips on visiting San Francisco.