San Francisco Ferry Building and Marketplace: Gourmet central

//San Francisco Ferry Building and Marketplace: Gourmet central

San Francisco Ferry Building and Marketplace: Gourmet central

An example of “touristy done right,” the San Francisco Ferry Building and Marketplace connects visitors to local businesses.

San Francisco Ferry Building - clock tower

The clock tower was modeled after the Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain.

There are lots of things I like about the USA, but seeing the same chain restaurants, coffee roasters, and retailers occupy main pedestrian streets coast to coast is not necessarily one of them.

When I travel hundreds of miles to another city, I am interested in exploring what is unique about it. I might go boutique shopping, find a local bar or coffee shop, or look for other activities that bring me closer to the destination. Often times, this requires going beyond downtown.

The San Francisco Ferry Building proves that a fulfilling local experience can be within easy reach.


Located on the waterfront in the city center, the landmark ferry terminal is a guidebook staple due to its historic and architectural significance. It opened in 1898 as San Francisco’s main transportation center (before the bridges were built, it was the only way to reach the city from the water).

The Beaux Arts design features the Nave, a 660-foot-long indoor main street covered with a steel/glass ceiling, and a 245-foot-tall clock tower modeled after the Giralda bell tower in Seville.

Today ferries still carry passengers across the San Francisco Bay, but since a 2003 renovation, the building has also become a destination for local gourmet food. The 65,000-square-foot marketplace features boutique food vendors and restaurants showcasing the diversity of San Francisco’s cuisine. There is also a bi-weekly farmers market.

Inside San Francisco Ferry Building

Go inside the Ferry Building to find local food vendors, restaurants, and coffee shops.

Coffee shop inside San Francisco Ferry Building

The marketplace is popular with visitors and residents alike


I was hesitant to go inside the building on my first San Francisco trip, assuming that I would find fast food joints and standard souvenir shops. I was quickly proven wrong.

Unlike some of its counterparts in other cities, the marketplace does not miss the opportunity to provide a quality, destination-driven experience. Chain businesses are few and far between. Instead, the focus is on vendors and products from Northern California. Wines, breads, cheeses, olive oils, chocolates, mushrooms and seafood all can be found in the market, along with locally-owned delis, restaurants, wine bars, and coffee shops. The place caters to both travelers and locals. 

If you go in the afternoon, you may dine alongside lunch crowds from the nearby Financial District.

San Francisco Ferry Building - mushroom stand

You can shop for fresh produce…

San Francisco Ferry Building - olive oil stand

… specialty food items…

Pepples Donuts Ferry Building

… and organic desserts.


  • I suggest visiting the building for breakfast or lunch, then taking a ferry to the town of Sausalito across the bay.
  • Restaurants may be crowded, but if you have to wait, check out the waterfront patio in the back with views of the Bay Bridge.
  • San Francisco City Guides offers free walking tours by trained volunteers. Tours are at Noon on Tuesdays and Saturdays (farmers market days).
  • Jetting Around’s merchant picks: Cowgirl Sidekick (cheese and dairy bar), Slanted Door (Vietnamese restaurant), Pepples Donuts 
View of Bay Bridge from San Francisco Ferry Building

The waterfront patio has views of the Bay Bridge

F Market Streetcar

The building is easily accessible by public transportation, including the the historic F Market Streetcar

Getting There and Links

Ferry Building Marketplace
One Ferry Building
Phone: (415) 983-8030
Website | Facebook | Merchant list

Public transportation: Accessible by BART, many MUNI lines, the F Market Streetcar, the California Street Cable Car, and select ferry lines. More information at

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Have you been to the San Francisco Ferry Building? What was your experience like?

By | 2014-02-06T01:07:32+00:00 February 8th, 2013|CITIES|16 Comments

About the Author:

Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.


  1. avatar
    Aaron February 8, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Great market, definitely a place for foodies and coffee. Checked out all the mushroom stuff at Far West Fungi when there for someone. Looked for Pepples Donuts on recommendation, but they were closed, next time! Was there at the end of the business day so loved watching all the people passing through and hopping the ferries.
    Aaron recently posted..Cleveland: Touring A Christmas Story.My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around February 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      I always want to buy all those mushrooms, but I usually don’t have a kitchen in my hotel room… Usually I have to “settle” for some gourmet snacks. ;) The ferries are cool. I took one and kept on thinking that it would be nice communiting that way to work.

  2. avatar
    D.J. - The World of Deej February 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Yeah…Aaron’s recommendation came from yours truly:) So tell me, what donut did you have? Please tell me you got one…
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island – Picture of the WeekMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around February 8, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      I did! :) I had the blood orange one, and I think Mr. JA got something too.

  3. avatar
    Rose Scott February 9, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Those donuts look delish!!
    Rose Scott recently posted..Vegan baking tips – Is it really possible to bake a cake without cracking eggs?My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around February 9, 2013 at 11:14 am

      They were pretty good! :))

  4. avatar
    Pawel February 9, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to visit San Francisco…yet! But, based on your stories, the city seems amazing; therefore, maybe spring break will be a good time to visit.

    • avatar
      Jetting Around February 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      I think you’d love it there, Pawel!!

  5. avatar
    Miret February 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Looks like a place I would like… ;-)
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  6. avatar
    Scott - Quirky Travel Guy February 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I like these sorts of marketplaces… I would line up for the donuts!
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..Travel blogging couples share funny and inspiring memories in honor of Valentine’s DayMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around February 14, 2013 at 7:49 pm

      Yeah, I love markets too and this one is one of my favorites. Luckily, there wasn’t a big line for the donuts when I visited. :)

  7. avatar
    Cassie February 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Yes! This is a wonderful post and something I’ve been meaning to write about, myself. It’s one of my favorite places in SF. I’d suggest going when the onsite farmer’s market is open (Saturdays and Wednesdays, I believe). It’s huge and wonderful, bringing even more small vendors and growers and food producers in to sell their tasty wares!
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    • avatar
      Jetting Around February 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      Hi, Cassie. I’m glad to read these words coming from a Californian. :) This place is fabulous and I’ll be sure to go back next time I’m in SF and hopefully catch the farmers market.

      • avatar
        Kevin February 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm

        Like Cassie said, this place is for locals just as much as it is for tourists, and that’s why I think you found it one of those “tourist-y” places that works. It’s real San Francisco, and it’s in one of the most beautiful areas of the city. You can also likely find a flock of wild parrots in a nearby park.

        One other secret that you shouldn’t miss next time is the Candy Cap Mushroom popsicles at that Mushroom store. You have to ask the clerk to get them out of the little freezer they have in the corner, but for $3, it’s maybe the cheapest way to get a uniquely Bay Area experience. The mushroom itself has a maple syrup essence, and that taste is really intense in the popsicle. It’s awesome!
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        • avatar
          Jetting Around February 26, 2013 at 4:56 pm

          That is a great piece of advice, Kevin! Thank you so much. The mushroom place is always my favorite stop at the Ferry Building – I could just stare at the selection… I’m glad you share my impression of the place. :)

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