UNION SQUARE boasts the city’s largest collection of luxury, department and boutique shopping. Add to that a spectacular selection of hotels, art galleries, restaurants, and theaters and you have one of the premier tourist attractions in the Western United States. It’s come a long way …

In 1849 Col. John Geary gave 3 acres of sand dunes to the city for use as a public park. It became a campground for prospectors and remained undeveloped until 1855, when the hills were leveled for a recreation field. In the 1860’s, it was given the name of Union Square and finally landscaped as a park by 1880. 1887 saw cable cars running along Powell Street, serving fashionable Nob Hill and Chinatown.

Many notable changes have happened to the square and its environs since then. 1903 saw the start of construction of the St. Francis Hotel and the dedication of the 97ft tall Dewey Monument. The St. Francis was gutted by the fire following the 1906 earthquake, but rebuilt to become one of San Francisco’s iconic hotels.

 Post-earthquake construction also included large department stores on Post and Geary streets, attracting throngs of shoppers. In the early forties, the underground Union Square Garage was built – the first of its kind in the US. Subsequent decades brought more businesses to the district, but the square itself went into a decline and received an ‘extreme makeover’ from 2000-2002. Through all these changes, Union Square has played the role of ‘ceremonial heart’ in San Francisco. Concerts, demonstrations, celebrations and other public events have always been part of the square.

Today Union Square hosts the cable car bell ringing contest, the USC-Stanford pre-football game rally, Macy's spring flower show, the Cherry Blossom Festival, the lighting of the Christmas tree and the Menorah and, of course, the Chinese New Year Parade.

 UNION SQUARE WALKING TOURS is the second walking tour founded by DEL SEYMOUR. His first, TENDERLOIN WALKING TOURS has achieved award status and he and his partner PAM COATES have set a unique standard as guides.