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Union Square is a great starting point for a day in San Francisco.  Some of the city’s best theatres and art galleries are here.  So are top-notch restaurants, terrific shopping and the chance to see some historic architecture and stunning city views.

Built in 1847, Jasper O’Farrell, a civil engineer, was responsible for the design of San Francisco’s city plan.  He set aside the area of Union Square to be used as a public plaza. Just before the Civil War, the park was used as a location for frequent demonstrations which supported the Union troops, giving it the name Union Square.

There’s history in this area, and it’s also a thoroughly modern part of San Francisco known for great shopping. Boutiques, designer and antique shops, plus the Westfield Mall are all here. Choose any street or alleyway in the Union Square neighborhood and there is shopping galore.

Top shopping choices include:

1)    The Big Department Stores: Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales.

2)    The Big Brands: Many people love H&M, Victoria’s Secret and Urban Outfitters.

3)    The Big Names: Designers like Ferragamo, Betsey Johnson and Armani have their stores near Union Square. One specific street to check out is pedestrian-only Maiden Lane where stores like Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent make their home.

4)    Jewelry Stores: If you’ve ever wanted to go to Tiffany’s, now is your chance!

5)    Antique Shops:  These are interspersed around Union Square and include 333 Peking Arts, a top choice for Chinatown antiques.

6)    Home Décor: Baccarat, Villeroy & Boch, Crate & Barrel, Sur La Table and Gumps.
Get out the plastic!

All of this shopping is bound to make you work up an appetite. You can get everything from cheap take-out to luxury dining in Union Square. Some top choices:

1)    Budget Dining: Try the hole-in-the-wall restaurants near the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market for great, fast food. Bangkok Noodles is a top choice for quick Thai food and Blondie’s is a favorite for pizza slices.

2)    Diner Food: A mid-priced range of food can best be found at the diner-style eateries that are available in this neighborhood, such as Lori’s Diner or Betty Boop’s Diner.

3)    Luxury Dining:  If you’re looking for something more upscale try Kuleto’s Italian Restaurant, Farallon’s coastal cuisine or Morton’s the Steakhouse.

4)    Unique Eats:  Have you ever gone to get sushi boats? Sushi Boat Restaurant on Geary is a good choice for you. For dessert try rice pudding at Leila Mediterranean restaurant.

Union Square is about walking around and people watching as much as anything.  Have your camera handy!