Exploring San Francisco’s Embarcadero

The Ferry Building is one of the most iconic buildings along San Francisco's Embarcadero. 

When the behemoth Embarcadero Freeway came down after San Francisco’s devastating earthquake in 1989, the city’s eastern waterfront slowly came to life. Hotels, restaurants, public art, the Ferry Building, and most recently the Exploratorium are now attracting visitors to this picturesque part of the city. And, with more than 4 miles of wide walkways, you’re never too cramped to share the waterfront with tourists and locals, making it possible to spread out a bit and enjoy the area’s destinations and views.


The Embarcadero offers more than 4 miles of walkways along San Francisco's waterfront. 

BART’s Embarcadero station is only a few minutes walk from the Ferry Building and serves as ground zero for exploring some unique landmarks that don’t cost a thing to visit. Pack a lunch, or purchase one at any of the great take out spots along the bay, park yourself on a bench, and spend a half day enjoying the Embarcadero.


Pier 24 houses an acclaimed photography collection. Photo courtesy of Pier 24/Tom O'Connor Photography.

Pier 24

In 2010, the Pilara Foundation opened Pier 24, a photography museum filled with Andrew and Mary Pilara’s acclaimed photography collection. Since the museum’s opening, this quiet and contemplative space has offered eight exhibits of artistic importance, gathering the foundation’s massive 3,000 plus photographs into exhibits that examine time, place and emotion.

McEvoy installation.

The current exhibit, "Collected," at Pier 24. Photo courtesy of Pier 24. 

Its current exhibition, Collected (open through Jan. 31, 2017), offers visitors a chance to view prominent art from nine Bay Area collectors, each with a different approach to collecting. The result is a powerful assembling of modern photography. Free admission. Reservations are required and can be made online or by calling (415) 512-7424.

Ferry building

The Ferry Building is a popular destination for locals and tourists. 

Ferry Building

You can easily be entertained shopping and eating your way through the Ferry Building, but do you know its significance and historical relevance to San Francisco? Twice a week, San Francisco City Guides offers free walking tour of this iconic landmark. For a calendar of dates and times, check here.


Unleash your inner scientist at the Exploratorium a learning laboratory for science, art and human perception. 


Though the science-oriented kid- and adult-friendly Exploratorium is worth a visit (and a ticket), non-ticketed guests can still explore the grounds of the museum and the views from its Pier 15 location. There’s more than an acre of free space to investigate, and the Bay Walk surrounding the museum invites guests to cross bridges and view the outdoor gallery. Visitors can also peruse the museum’s store and dine at both of its restaurants: SeaGlass and Seismic Joint Cafe.

Pier 27

The Embarcadero offers the perfect urban hike along the San Francisco waterfront. 

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