Downtown / Financial District, San Francisco.
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While the high-rises and office buildings that dominate the Downtown skyline are unquestionably San Francisco’s business center, the shopping mecca tucked beneath them, and centered on Union Square, is easily the heart of all things retail.

Also the name of a small adjoining park, Union Square boasts one of the largest concentrations of department stores, art galleries, high-end salons, tourist traps, and boutiques in the country. If it’s a chain – high-end or simply highly popular – it’s probably here, but so are the major economic institutions that make San Francisco one of the financial centers of the world.

As bankers, lawyers, and over-caffeinated day traders make their way to work in the adjoining San Francisco Financial District, tourists flock to the historic cable car turnaround, jumping on the signature trolleys that slowly grind their way up and down the infamous hills of the city every day.

Historic and swanky Downtown hotels draw the moneyed crowd, as do dozens of galleries along Sutter, Post, and Geary Streets, while major live theater venues like The Geary, Curran, and Golden Gate Theatre are all within walking distance in the neighboring Tenderloin.

The French Quarter along Belden Place, meanwhile, offers dozens of options to satisfy a visitor’s bistro fix, and the Bastille Day festival held in its pedestrian-only alley is one of the biggest celebrations of French Independence outside of Paris.

Though the Downtown/Financial District are not bustling nightlife spots, the area around Union Square still keeps the midnight oil burning at a handful of dives and higher-end clubs, and the preponderance of hotels and theaters in the area means it is usually relatively safe at night.

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Where to Go in Downtown / Financial District

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