Packed with high-rise office buildings housing corporate headquarters, banks and law firms, the Financial District is the business hub of San Francisco. It is squeezed into a triangular area to the west of the Embarcadero, north of Market Street and east of Kearny Street, and is home to all six San Francisco Fortune 500 companies.
The Financial District is dominated by the tallest building in San Francisco, the iconic Transamerica Pyramid, as well as being home to numerous consulates from countries across the globe. While it’s primarily a place of business, there are also a few shopping malls within its bounds, including the Crocker Galleria with its designer brands and glass dome, as well as the open public square of Justin Herman Plaza, named for the city planner who led redevelopments in the area. During summer there are free outdoor concerts held here, while winter visitors see it transform into an ice skating rink. The Financial District borders the lively shopping district of Union Square to the west, the cultural enclave of Chinatown to the north-west and the tourist attractions along the Embarcadero waterfront which hugs the bay to the east.
The Financial District is served by numerous bus lines and two BART stations, as well as the light rail that runs along Market Street and the Embarcadero. It’s relatively compact to explore on foot, or there is also the historic California Street cable car which runs east to west through the district and over Nob Hill.
The Financial District began life as a harbour named Yerba Buena Cove which served the nearby military settlement under both Spanish and Mexican rule. It was this potential as a seaport that eventually saw it emerge as a major trade centre under American rule, particularly following the gold rush of the mid-19th century.