The Embarcadero

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The waterfront walk along the Embarcadero is one of San Francisco’s most travelled tourist areas. Beginning at AT&T Park and ending all the way at Pier 45, this street offers visitors one-of-a-kind views of San Francisco Bay along with enough shopping, dining, and entertainment options to occupy you for your entire stay.


Named for the Spanish word for “wharf,” the Embarcadero is a waterfront roadway that is actually located atop a sea wall sitting against San Francisco Bay. This seawall was built up over the years as the city itself grew and required more space for development. Back in the 19th century, a large cove named Yerba Buena Cove existed below Telegraph Hill as far east as Rincon Point. The idea of filling the cove, which now houses San Francisco’s entire financial district, as well as build out the seawall began in 1860 and was slowly implemented over the course of the next several decades.

The Embarcadero, which literally translates as “the place to embark” became the city’s primary sea port, anchored by the Ferry Building located on Market Street. This area saw a tremendous volume of traffic prior to the construction of the Bay Bridge in 1933. In fact, the road that is now a one way for vehicles and popular for foot traffic was a short line railroad and the area boasted the busiest trolley loop in all of the metropolitan area.

Following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake a highway which had divided the waterfront area of the Embarcadero was torn down, leaving room for substantial retail development. The boulevard, lined by palm trees, was updated and several new plazas and squares were developed for people to gather. Public transportation to the area was restored to a level above that of its trolley days with two of the remaining cable car lines ending at the Embarcadero at Market Street. Continued development as well as the extension of BART and Muni lines to the area have helped propel the waterfront to increasing fame among not only tourists after the views, but locals who have found favorite restaurants and shops up and down the thoroughfare.

Main Attraction

There are many things to do and places to visit along the path of the Embarcadero. Though the street itself runs for miles along San Francisco Bay, the main pedestrian area runs from AT&T Park through to Pier 45, with most traffic along the area of Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39.

There is, obviously, no admission cost to the Embarcadero and as a public roadway it is open 24/7. Major draws for people visiting the Embarcadero include the views of the Bay itself, the Old Ferry Building, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, and just plain exercise. In addition there is the Embarcadero Center, located just off the main road. This plaza of 35+ buildings includes two hotels.

The Exploratorium recently moved to Pier 15.

Why It’s a Must-See

Unlike most “tourist attractions” in San Francisco and around the country, the appeal of the Embarcadero is less about seeing, learning, or doing, and more about experiencing. A favorite spot for a walk, jog, or bike ride, this amazing road offers visitors the chance to stretch their legs, take photographs, eat, and shop in true San Francisco style.