Fisherman's Wharf

Culture / Landmark / Outdoor Activity / Shopping Area
Fisherman's Wharf One of the biggest reasons vacationers come to San Francisco is to see Fisherman's Wharf, whose twelve million annual visitors put it squarely on top of the heap when it comes to the city's destinations. San Francisco United States 37.8082581995451 -122.408809661865
3.19 31
Fisherman's Wharf - Culture | Landmark | Outdoor Activity | Shopping Area in San Francisco.
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Emma

Party Earth Review One of the biggest reasons vacationers come to San Francisco is to see Fisherman’s Wharf, whose twelve million annual visitors put it squarely on top of the heap when it comes to the city’s destinations. Encompassing a... ... read full review

  • Neighborhood:

  • Address:

    The north waterfront running roughly
    from Pier 35 on the east to
    Van Ness Avenue on the west
    San Francisco, CA 94109

    Get Directions

  • Hours:

    Daily 7am–11pm
    Area never actually closes, but hours for most shops and restaurants fall within this time

  • Recommended as:

    • Day Spot
    • Night Spot

Party Earth Fisherman's Wharf Review

The Scene

One of the biggest reasons vacationers come to San Francisco is to see Fisherman's Wharf, whose twelve million annual visitors put it squarely on top of the heap when it comes to the city's destinations.

One of the biggest reasons vacationers come to San Francisco is to see Fisherman’s Wharf, whose twelve million annual visitors put it squarely on top of the heap when it comes to the city’s destinations. Encompassing a waterfront stretch barely a mile long, the area overflows with seafood joints, souvenir shops, sightseers, and snoozy sea lions.

First-timers often start on Van Ness Avenue near the giant Ghirardelli sign – an iconic part of the city skyline – and though the chocolate factory is long gone, cocoa cravers down untold pounds of candy at an official Ghirardelli store in the warehouse-turned-shopping square below.

Steps away, Aquatic Park draws both camera-toters on the hunt for sweeping bay vistas and hardcore swimmers ready to brave the bone-chilling water, while the adjacent Hyde Street Pier and Pier 45 thrill young and old with historic seafaring vessels, including a WWII submarine.

The Anchorage Shopping Center ensures that anyone in need of salt water taffy and I’m With Stupid t-shirts won’t have to walk far, while the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and Wax Museums usually swarm with families enthralled by two-faced cats and effigies of Lady Gaga.

Pier 39, of course, is perhaps the most famous pier in the world, where weekends mean lines outside the over one hundred shops, the carousel and arcade, and the restaurants dishing out chowder-filled sourdough bowls. Amid this bustling maze of kitsch, street performers shuck for a buck, wide-eyed kids ogle jellyfish and sharks at the Aquarium of the Bay, and ticket vendors tout specials for the ferries departing to Angel Island State Park and to Alcatraz, the infamous island prison.

Meanwhile hundreds, sometimes thousands, of sea lions congregate on retired docks just off the Pier, lounging in the sun and probably wondering what everybody’s staring at.

Although most of Fisherman’s Wharf clears out not long after night falls, there’s so much to see, do, and eat that visitors, like the sea lions, keep coming back for more.

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Tip from Emma:

Head over to 165 Jefferson Street and pick up a Wharf Pass, or get one here. The pass includes a city tour, a bay cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge, and your choice of four additional attractions. You also get discounts at nearly fifty shopping, dining, sport fishing, and tour destinations in the Wharf area.

  • Crowd

    Tourists of every ilk, families, children, musicians, street performers, swimmers, kayakers, boaters, and photographers. All ages.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Attractions:
    Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39, two fully functional WWII-era Liberty Ships and the U.S. Pampanito submarine on Pier 45, Red and White Fleet San Francisco Cruises departing from Pier 43½.

    Alcatraz Cruises departing from Pier 33, an arcade, street performers, the Aquatic Park swimming area and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (Beach Street at Van Ness Avenue), a carousel, and crowds of sea lions at Pier 39 (Beach Street at The Embarcadero). The Blue Angels usually fly over the Wharf in October.

    Museums:
    The Wax Museum (145 Jefferson Street) and Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum (175 Jefferson Street).

    Shopping:
    Over one hundred shops.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    More than a dozen restaurants with sweeping bay views on Pier 39, including Chowder’s, Hard Rock Café, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.

    Restaurants outside of the Pier include Castagnola's Seafood & Chophouse (286 Jefferson Street), Nick's Lighthouse (2815 Taylor Street), Pompei's Grotto (340 Jefferson Street), Scoma's Restaurant (Pier 47 on Al Scoma Way at Jefferson Street), and In-N-Out Burger (333 Jefferson Street).

  • Prices

    Tourist prices put most restaurants and bars in the mid to upper range. Plentiful hot dog and snack stands offer cheaper fare, though even those prices are higher than average.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Anything goes: Hawaiian shirts, shorts, sandals, comfortable walking shoes, jeans, sweatshirts for when the fog rolls in.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Any sunny day to frolic with throngs of tourists, or toward sunset when the crowds begin to thin out.

  • Close By

    The Golden Gate Bridge is just a few minutes’ drive west on Highway 101, and is a must for any visitor looking to tick off the top tourist spots in town.

Fisherman's Wharf User Reviews

Average rating:
Something for Everybody
Anne C. Jun 22, 2013
Without a doubt, you cannot mention San Francisco without immediately thinking of Fisherman's Wharf, the same way you cannot mention Paris without thinking of the Eiffel Tower. It has become the landmark of the city and because of this, one can expect to come across more tourists than locals when taking a stroll through the area. During my recent stay in San Francisco, I had stayed in a flat just a couple of blocks away from the Wharf so it is no surprise that I was able to take frequent walks there. For people who like people-watching, this is the perfect place to do so. This is the spot where people of different races with different styles come together, where you can hear at least five different languages blending in a crowd. For the shopaholics, there are plenty of shops for you to choose from - book shops, souvenir shops, sport shops, and a shop that carry clothes handmade from alpaca hair. If you're left-handed, then I suggest taking a peek in Lefty's, probably the only shop in the world that caters specifically to you! For those that love to eat (such as myself), this is the spot with the best and fresh sea food restaurants in the city. I mean, why would it be otherwise? It's right next to the water! Yes, some may be more expensive than others... so choose well. For the artists, there is a great shop in Pier 39 with the most amazing posters from vintage to contemporary called Poster Arts. For the aspiring magicians, you can find way too many shops to take care of your needs. For those that love arcades, Musée Mécanique is the place for you. You can find every arcade game from decades past in the museum and you can even have a go at it for $.25. For those that consider themselves as flâneurs (fancy 19th century French term for people who like to walk in the city to experience it), you can take all those activities and more in while getting entertained by the street performers while you're at it. In short, whatever it is that interests you, you will most likely discover something that caters to it that you can immerse in... and all while enjoying a great view! Tip: for those who want to take the tour of Alcatraz, I strongly suggest you book it in advance for those tend to get booked up.
Part of the San Francisco Experience
laura a. May 20, 2013
The Fisherman's Wharf is definitely a must see stop for San Francisco tourists. There is something for everyone - tourist gift shops, restaurants and even infamous homeless people who park themselves in the middle of the sidewalk and scare people. Although there may not be much glitz there is history and something tangible and worthwhile in visiting this area of the city. Gorgeous views of the bay and Alcatraz. The Boudin Bakery is worth stopping into and admiring animal shaped bread among delicious bread bowls filled with clam chowder. There's also a neat arcade, Musée Mécanique for nostalgia seekers - many old arcade games and an altogether historic feel. You just need to know what you’re visiting for… you won’t experience a very current and authentic San Francisco experience because it has been grabbed up by the tourism industry. It is however, very worth it to experience once or twice.
Touristy, but not the best way to see San Francisco
Alison B. Apr 17, 2013
When people think of places to go to in San Francisco, they automatically think Fisherman's Wharf. It is the Tourist HQ of the city, filled with street performers, chain restaurants, and views of the bay. I will say that Fisherman's Wharf is in a great location: walking distance to North Beach, The Ferry Building, Buena Vista Cafe, and Musee Mecanique, among others. However, if you really want to see the city I would limit your time here. Since it's so touristy, it doesn't have as much character as the other areas of the city do. Also, many of the places here are "tourist traps" and the nightlife is almost non-existent. If you're looking for a more genuine experience of the city, I would spend your time in other areas.
A must see
Valerie Y. Mar 25, 2013
Fisherman's Wharf is a must go to place if you are ever in San Francisco. It has a great view, with the major tourist attractions of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatrez, and the Pacific Ocean, of course. I went during a trip to San Francisco last summer. It was very crowded, because it is so popular, and so, consequently, there were long lines for the restrooms, which is always annoying. My cousins, aunt, uncle and I ate at Boudin, the Sourdough restaurant. It was quite pricey, but such a great, unique atmosphere, with many seats, that it was worth it. You don’t need to spend money here to enjoy Fisherman’s Wharf though!
Such a great scene!
Grace H. Mar 5, 2013
Love this area. A very historical but simultaneously fun and new-age vibe. So many great places to visit around here, and great food surrounding the area. A MUST-see.
Touristy Fun!
Taylor W. Mar 5, 2013
The Wharf is obviously a well-known attraction in San Francisco, so you can expect it to be crowded when you go but it is absolutely worth-while to do so! When I visited San Francisco my hotel was just a couple blocks away, so my family decided to take the walk and check things out. There are a lot of great restaurants to choose from and plenty of shops to stop into. There were also some cool street performers to be seen! There was a crew of guys scattered along the way with their bodies, clothes and possessions painted solid gold. While they were certainly pandering for money in exchange for posing in photographs, they were an interesting sight that you definitely can't see just anywhere. There was also a really cool group of acrobats performing together, which garnered quite the crowd. You can also check out all the piers and take a boat tour of the bay, which is fun! All in all, a cool way to spend an afternoon or even a full day.
Something for Everyone
Megan H. Mar 4, 2013
Although touristy, riding a cable car into Fisherman’s Wharf is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. The $5 fare (one-way) is worth it to take in an elevated view of Pier 39, the Bay and other sights like the Golden Gate Bridge. If you don’t have a cable car Passport or FastPass, make sure you have cash in hand to pay the fare. Fisherman’s Wharf is home to many great seafood restaurants, although some of them can be a little pricey. If it’s a nice day, get some shrimp or crab from one of the outdoor carts (they tend to be less expensive) and stop at one of the many benches along the pier to eat. Admire the artistry of sourdough bread at Boudin Bakery; they make rolls shaped like crabs, turtles and other San Francisco icons. The French toast is also a great choice if you’re there during breakfast. Anyone with a sweet tooth will appreciate Ghirardelli Square, where you can indulge in all your favorite chocolates and desserts. Pier 39 is home to the famous sea lions, where you can watch them bask in the sun and dive off the wooden platforms into the water. Explore other sea creatures like sharks, jellyfish and stingrays at the Aquarium of the Bay, which features touch pools and other interactive exhibits. Outside the aquarium, street performers provide plenty of free entertainment with magic tricks and other comedy routines. The Blue & Gold Ferry Fleet offers cruises to other nearby attractions like Angel Island and Sausalito, and boats run frequently so it’s easy to do an afternoon trip. Tickets to Alcatraz are also available; they can fill up quickly, so try to purchase tickets early if that’s on your to-do list.
touristy, but a great place with fun-filled activities and entertainment for the whole family
Julie M. Feb 20, 2013
Pier 39 has a reputation for being touristy, but nevertheless, I enjoy it every time I go! It's home to a plethora of restaurants and shops that appeal to people of all ages and interests. My favorite store at Pier 39, the Shell Cellar, sells fish-themed merchandise, and as a lover and collector of anything with a tropical fish theme, it's hard for me to get out without doing at least a little damage to my wallet! There's even an aquarium at Pier 39 for those who, like me, love fish and other forms of marine life. The sea lions are neat to watch, too! Pier 39 happens to be a great place to find unique birthday and holiday gifts. I've found great gifts for my uncle who has a Border Collie at Le Beastro, a store for dog owners and lovers. I also recently found a unique ZipIt bag that I really love at Pier 39. If you're a AAA member, you should go to the Visitor's Center, where you can get a parking validation that will slash two hours or $16 off the cost of parking at Pier 39. The Visitors Center also will give you coupons to use at Pier 39 as well. My daughter got free kids meal at Hard Rock Cafe with one of the coupons.
Great place for tourists
Amanda S. Feb 18, 2013
One of San Francisco's more famous spots, an absolute must see if you're visiting from another city. There are plenty of places to go shopping and occasionally, there are even live performers. Be sure to layer up if going during the afternoon or evening. More than likely, it will be cold and windy. The restaurants are really good, but they are on the expensive side. I noteworthy place is the Ghirardelli ice cream shop.
Of Chowder and Gulls
Jessica L. Jan 29, 2013
Fisherman's Wharf is an iconic destination for most tourists who arrive in San Francisco. Although slightly too tourist-y for most locals, it is a must-visit if San Francisco is on your itinerary. Whether it be for the famous clam chowder, the iconic Pier, or the ever-famous Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory, many tourists consider Fisherman Wharf as a must-visit during their stay in San Francisco. Summers at the waterfront are a dream--the salty sea breeze, the warm, fudge-y ice creams from the local Ghiradelli, and the soft chatter of the omnipresent gulls lining the docks. Of course, as most people know, seagulls are evil. Perhaps after some persistent bugging and war-like defense of one's ice cream, the decision to retire to a restaurant along the pier or even some small shops wouldn't be such a bad idea... The shops at Fisherman's Wharf are of utmost quality. Not only can you shop at higher-end stores, you can also find the local shops that sell knick-knacks found only in San Francisco. Of course, no visit would be complete without a bowl of San Francisco's famous clam chowder. Order it in a sourdough breadbowl, and enjoy your hot, doughy, creamy meal while watching street performers on the sidewalk. The seafood is amazing, the view is gorgeous, and the seagulls are....an addition to the atmosphere. If you're ever in the Bay, stop by the Pier for a fun, relaxing day at the Wharf.
Best Clam Chowder
Robbin W. Jan 28, 2013
Went here on a vacation during Thanksgiving in 2012. Best clam chowder ever. If you are really into seafood and on a tourist trip, definitely go here. Watch out for the seagulls though, so annoying. And, not a lot of places to sit and enjoy your food, so be prepared to either walk a distance to eat it or eat standing up.
Everyone Has to See It Once...
Katherine J. Jan 6, 2013
Fisherman's Wharf is just one of those places you have to go to when you visit SF. It is crowded and touristy, and everything you can buy there is hugely overpriced. However, if you do it right, it can be fun. Go ahead and wait in the line to get the overpriced chocolate ice cream at Ghiradelli. Walk down to the waterfront and stroll past all of the shops selling SF kitsch (and buy the I <3 SF mug for your in-laws if you must). Wade through the tourists on Pier 39. Look out from the pier and you can see Alcatraz in the distance. If you are lucky you can see the sea lions basking on their pontoons too. There are many small seafood restaurants and food stalls where you can grab some very fresh crab, clams, or what have you. Boudin Bakery has decent food, but it is always crowded, and you can find just as good food elsewhere on the Wharf.
Yay tourists!
Risa C. Dec 12, 2012
If you're going to do this you have to do it right. Come from somewhere else in San Francisco and take the trolley to the Fisherman Wharf. Once you're there check out the shops, eat some seafood then head over towards the water. Once you get to the water take some pictures of pelicans and storks and if you're lucky catch some of the sea lions. Don't waste your money on things like "take a picture with a punk" which inexplicably had a line 30 people deep last time I was there. And on your way out be sure to grab a few dark chocolate See's lollypops and mail them to me!
Can't-miss tourist trap
Jody P. Dec 1, 2012
This area is VERY touristy. In fact, it must be the most touristy part of SF. But not going to Fisherman's Wharf while in SF is like not going to the Eiffel Tower while in Paris. You know that no one there is from SF, but you have to see it. Personally, I don't mind touristy places because they attract tourists for a reason - because they are fun. Fisherman's Wharf has a bunch of great (albeit overpriced) seafood restaurants, some shopping, and some unique attractions like Pier 39 (sea lions!) and Ghiradelli Square (chocolate!). You can check out the boats/ships or you can get on a boat and go to Alcatraz from there. You can go shopping, eat, or just wander around for awhile taking in the sights. Be prepared to be surrounded by a bunch of other tourists aimlessly wandering, but don't let that deter you. It is worth seeing!
Too touristy...
Kaile K. Nov 29, 2012
Everything in this area is pretty tacky. Its basically a tourist trap, but it is worth checking out the seafood stalls. There's pretty decent seafood places, but they are packed with tourists. I wouldn't recommend visiting here unless you've never been to San Francisco and you really want to see it. Its just very dirty and crowded and not really the 'authentic' San Francisco that people want to see when they visit.
Touristy
Claire B. Nov 29, 2012
Not really worth going unless it's your first time in San Francisco and you can't think of anything else to do. It smells terrible, is so dirty, and filled with so many tourists you forget what city you're actually in. The food is average and shops are all the same. Overall, San Francisco has so many amazing activities and restaurants to offer, Fisherman's Warf is not a must-see.
a strip of shops
Ellie L. Nov 26, 2012
I think fisherman's warf is a really awesome part of San Fran. It's right on the coast and you can see boats, and even take a cruise around alcatraz if you want! The shops aren't all typical stores like union square; There are more gift shops and trinket shops, and fun things like Ripley's believe it or not museum etc. The Ghiradelli chocolate factory is right at the end, and such an important part of San Fran. I definitely recommend going to fisherman's warf! There are also tons of great restaurants, like SF's own Boudin, which you must try if you haven't already!
Touristy
Remi L. Nov 19, 2012
Fisherman's Wharf is fun stop to make in San Fran, but definitely not a must see. It is very touristy and gets extremely crowded as a result. On a sunny day, can be fun to come down by the water but there are other places to hit up that will be more exciting and show what the city is all about!
Lots of tourists but fun
Anna V. Nov 19, 2012
Fisherman's wharf is a fun place to go in the city, and it's super family friendly. There are also so many children and families there! It is also very close to Pier 39 which is a lot of fun and has the best crepes! Both these places are extreme tourist locations, so be prepared for over-crowded, packed areas, especially on sunny days or weekends. It is really easy to take a trolley here and get a trolley from here to almost any other location in the city!
One of the Best Parts of the City!
Kaitlin P. Nov 14, 2012
This is by far one of the best parts of visiting San Francisco! There is so much to do here and the food is amazing. My favorite part is getting a clam chowder bread bowl from one of the eateries and looking out at Alcatraz! All of the seals are a fun attraction as well! Here you are so close to other great sights in the city and the trolley can take you just about anywhere from here. You can even take a boat ride over to Alcatraz! A great place to eat and take in the hustle and bustle of the city! Major tourist attraction and a definite must when visiting.
Go to Say You Did
Emily R. Nov 14, 2012
Visiting the Fisherman's Wharf is just one of those things you have to do when you visit San Francisco. And I'm sure it deserved that reputation at one point, but today it stands as little more than an overcrowded, dirty sea of people pushing and shoving every which way. The food is subpar, parking is almost nonexistent, and you will no doubt be bombarded by hungry seagulls at every second. Still, there's something charming about it all, and the views are quite nice.
historical landmark, tourist magnet
Rachel G. Nov 13, 2012
Fisherman’s Warf You have not done the &quot;tourist&quot; thing in San Francisco until you have been to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Warf. Don't get me wrong, this is such an amazing place, but everyone else in the world thinks so too. The best days to go here are on weekdays and really bad weather days. On a weekend or a sunny day you can guarantee you will be walking in stop and go traffic. Yes it really is that bad. However, there are some great shops, restaurants, and awesome street performers and artists. This is also the dropping point for Alcatraz and Angel Island!
Tourist Central
Jaclyn W. Nov 8, 2012
Just like anyone would venture to the Seaport in New York, I had to come to the Wharf to see what all the hype was about. You definitely have to go down there at least once. We got breakfast a few blocks away at the Hollywood Cafe. I highly recommend it! We wandered over to the Wharf and took pictures of basically everything. It was still foggy since it was early morning, but Riker's was eerily visible. If we had more time, I would have taken a tour. Then we walked up to Ghirardelli, which was well worth it to test taste the pumpkin spice caramel squares they were handing out as samples. Stopped at a coffee place, then went back down to the Wharf to get a lobster roll. I'm not one for bread, but man is the sourdough roll fantastic. Also, make sure to gorge yourself on saltwater taffy as well as take a quick look at the sea lions. They really are interesting creatures.
Cute Place
Sunset E. Oct 5, 2012
The Fisherman's Wharf is a cute place to see and it's nice to walk along the wharf! Tons of shopping and really the food is okay... If you like fish you will LOVE it!!!! Not many good bars around Fisherman's Wharf! Although its really nice although it gets really cold, so bring a warm jacket or coat!!! It has a cozy feeling! The boat to Alcatraz leaves really close to the Wharf so it's worth making a day out I the two! It's something you should check out if you have a few days in SF.
Why it's a favorite is beyond me!
Anonymous Oct 5, 2012
This is about as weak and tacky as a tourist attraction can be. Parking is expensive, as is the mediocre food, the touted street performers were not around...perhaps only in peak periods.....and friends reported the performers they have seen there were not talented and some were creepy. AND it was cold and windy. It does provide a concrete stroll and people watching if you want to watch people standing in line getting ferry tickets. Why this is one of San Francisco's top tourist attractions is beyond me....perhaps because you can take a cable car there? And granted, It is the place to catch awesome Alcatraz tours and views of the Golden Gate Bridge..... But go to Golden Gate Park or any number of places to get views. This is not great use of your time especially if limited.
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