Bordered on the south by Market Street and on the north by Turk Street, Civic Center stretches to Franklin Street on the west and Leavenworth and Seventh on the east. Its proximity to BART and Muni make the center an easy stop to include in your itinerary.
Civic Center consists of Civic Center Plaza and United Nations Plaza, each bordered by a variety of buildings designed in the classical architectural style of Roman columns and gilt facades. The awe-inspiring architecture houses governmental institutions such as City Hall, cultural attractions such as the War Memorial Opera House, and public resources such as the San Francisco Public Library.
When San Francisco’s original governmental buildings were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, architect Daniel Burnham drew up plans for a neoclassical style Civic Center to serve as the first of many projects intended to beautify the city.
Construction on City Hall and the Exposition Auditorium finished in 1915. Additions were made over the years, including the addition of the Victory Gardens in front of City Hall during WWII and the Davies Symphony Hall in 1980. Most recently, a new building for the San Francisco public library was constructed in 1995, with the Asian Arts Museum moving into the vacated space in 2003.
Civic Center’s broad plazas have served as the gathering place for notable political occasions since its construction. Harvey Milk’s speeches, anti-war rallies, and more have taken place at the Civic Center, whose proximity to City Hall makes it an appealing destination for political activism.
Today, Civic Center is used for a multitude of occasions including a weekly farmer’s market and a variety of festivities. San Francisco’s Pride Parade holds its festivities in the plaza once the parade has finished, featuring street vendors and hundreds of LGBT-themed products.
When the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010, thousands of fans and spectators packed Civic Center and the adjoining streets to watch the World Series Victory Parade. The festivities spilled over into additional streets and made headlines across the country.
Visitors can also see the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall, or attend an opera or ballet in the ornate 3146-seat War Memorial Opera House. Visit the Asian Art Museum for collections of centuries-old Buddha statues, ancient screen paintings, and visiting exhibits of contemporary art.
Civic Center Plaza
The most notable building in Civic Center Plaza is San Francisco City Hall. City Hall can be considered the crowning jewel of the plaza; its manicured hedges, iron gates, and gilded framework make the building one the most beautiful in the plaza. It certainly is the largest; covering the length of an entire city block, City Hall’s rotunda is easy to spot from blocks away.
The Asian Art Museum is located at 200 Larkin Street, across the plaza from City Hall. The building used to house the San Francisco Public Library, until the construction of a new site for the library opened the building up for the Asian Art Museum. The museum opened at the Civic Center location in 2003. The museum displays centuries’ worth of Asian artifacts from multiple countries.
The San Francisco Public Library, the Davies Symphony Hall, and the War Memorial Opera House are also located in Civic Center Plaza.
While Civic Center is home to a wide variety of cultural attractions, visitors should note that the seedy Tenderloin district is located only a block away. Homeless people do sleep in the park despite the city’s attempts to clear it, and panhandlers stand at street corners, but the area is still safe and remains an attraction worthy of visiting.
United Nations Plaza
The Heart of the City Farmer’s Market meets here on Sundays from 7am-5pm and Wednesdays 7:00am-5:30pm. The farmer’s market sells fresh seasonal produce (some of which is organic), in addition to herbs and flowers. This community-oriented farmer’s market is a great way to pick up a fresh breakfast and get a feel for San Francisco’s varied culture.
Watch a musical or play at the Orpheum Theatre! Located at 1192 Market Street, the theatre has produced multiple plays and Broadway-scale shows since its construction in 1926. The lush, 12th century-inspired Spanish interior accommodates over 200 seated guests. Past shows have included Monty Python’s Spamalot, Les Miserables, Bring it On, and Mamma Mia!
BART Civic Center/UN Plaza station is located on the Market side of the plaza, allowing easy access from multiple locations across the city.
Davies Symphony Hall
Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall opened in 1980 as the home of the San Francisco Symphony. Collaboratively designed by architects and acousticians to create an auditorium that allows sound to rise to its very top, this modern but warm space captures and diffuses music throughout the audience, creating an intimate setting that belies the stature of the building itself.
With sweeping views of San Francisco City Hall and the War Memorial Opera House, the curved glass-enclosed lobby offers an unmatched view of San Francisco's Civic Center. The 2739-seat auditorium is ideal for concerts, speakers, readings and presentations. Named for the most generous benefactor of its construction, Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall is dedicated to the joy of music.
Performance Audience: 2739, including Terrace seating behind the stage
Standing Receptions: 1000, across multiple levels
Information by: sfwmpac.org
Davies Hall Interior Pano San Francisco Image courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DaviesHallInteriorPano.jpg
War Memorial Opera House
Designed by Arthur Brown, Jr., the prominent American architect who also created San Francisco City Hall, this cultural landmark is one of the last Beaux-Arts structures built in the United States. Today, the stately building is host to a variety of events. In addition to opera and ballet performances, the 3146-seat auditorium is available for special presentations, lectures and concerts.
With its ornate features and 38-foot ceiling, the grand Main Lobby makes an unforgettable setting for elegant cocktail receptions and sit-down dinners. The War Memorial Opera House is one of the Bay Area’s most sought-after and unique venues, offering modern technology and the ambience of Old World theater.
Performance Audience: 3126
Seated Dinners: 200
Standing Receptions: 500, without entertainment or dance floor
Asian Art Museum
The Asian Art Museum houses one of the largest collections of Asian art in the world with 18,000 objects — some pieces dating back 6,000 years. Strategically located on the Pacific Rim and serving one of the most diverse communities in the United States, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco – Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture is uniquely positioned to lead a diverse, global audience in discovering the distinctive materials, aesthetics and intellectual achievements of Asian art and cultures, and to serve as a bridge of understanding between Asia and the United States and between the diverse cultures of Asia. Asian Art Museum 200 Larkin St San Francisco, CA 94102
415.581.3500 Web: www.asianart.org Tues—Sun 10AM - 5PM Mondays Closed Closed Jan 1, Thanksgiving Day and Dec 25.
Nearby Points of Interest
Union Square: Just 1.3 miles northeast. It offers hours of shopping, dining, and people watching.
Chinatown: is a few blocks from Union Square, and the Westfield Shopping Centre is even closer on Market Street.
Haight Ashbury: Is 2.4 miles away, offering clothing stores, unique boutiques, and used music retailer Amoeba Music.
Alamo Square: Home to the Victorian Painted Ladies shown in the opening credits of Full House, is within walking distance at about a mile away. Food and dining options are also available in the area, and the green space of Alamo Park make for a relaxing break from the rest of the city.
The Castro District: Considered the heart of gay culture in San Francisco, the Castro district is 2.3 miles away. Catch the F line from Market Street to visit this dynamic neighborhood and spend hours shopping, dining, or barhopping.
Golden Gate Park: 4.5 miles west. Where else can you see carnivorous plants, a herd of bison, centuries-old artwork, and year-round concerts? Golden Gate Park has something to offer everyone. Rent a paddleboat on Stow Lake, bike on a surrey around the park, or take a Segway tour and learn the park’s history. Whatever activity you choose, you are sure to have a blast!
City Hall and Civic Center is featured on:
- Private CharterPrivate Charter San Francisco Tuk Tuk Tour
9AM, 11:30AM, 2PM, 4:30PM or 7:30PMHow long?Approx. 2 hoursWhen?DailyDo we fit?Seats 6 (Child ages 3+)How much?From $137.50/hr
Explore beautiful San Francisco in your own private, electric Tuk Tuk! Perfect for families and groups. A personal guide for your party commandeers this modern-day rickshaw at a pace that’s right for you!
- Public TourUltimate San Francisco City Tour
9:30AM, 12 Noon or 2PMHow long?Approx. 2.5 hoursWhen?DailyDo we fit?Seats 6 (Ages 5+)How much?From $30.00/hr
Zip around beautiful San Francisco in cozy, electric Tuk Tuk! Explore more than 15 neighborhoods in this modern-day rickshaw with a fully narrated, guided tour.
- Public TourAlcatraz Combo - Ultimate SF City Tour and Alcatraz Ferry
Available Limited Tickets
9AM or 2PM Alcatraz AM or PMHow long?Approx. 3 hoursWhen?Limited TicketsDo we fit?Seats 6 (Ages 5+)How much?From $48.33/hr
With a Lucky Tuk Tuk Ultimate City Tour + Alcatraz Combination Package you get a full day of fun! Explore the City in a cozy Tuk Tuk then learn the history of Alcatraz as you visit "the rock".
- Public TourLucky Tuk Tuk at Night - San Francisco Lights Tour
7:30 pmHow long?Approx. 2 hoursWhen?NightlyDo we fit?Seats 6 (Ages 5+)How much?From $32.50/hr
Explore San Francisco at night in a cozy, electric Tuk Tuk! Get up close to the glittering lights and go where buses don’t dare in this modern-day rickshaw. Live commentary included!