Be sure to check out what events are going on in Union Square when you visit. There’s usually some sort of improv theatre or jazz night..
Union Square is a public square in downtown San Francisco, but it also refers to the shopping, hotel and theatre district that surround it. It earned its named during the American Civil War when it was used for rallies for the Union Army. Today, it’s raison d’être is rather different: shopping. The area surrounding the square is home to one of the most densely-packed and glamorous selections of stores, boutiques, art galleries and beauty salons to be found in the United States.
Six department stores can be found within three blocks of Union Square, including Neiman Marcus, Macy’s (separate Men’s and Women’s, naturally), Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York. Add to that a small armoury of luxury retailers as well as flagship technology stores, including Apple, of course, and you can see why people are drawn here like moths to a flame.
Even if they no longer cheers the troops here, Union Square is still the ceremonial heart of San Francisco. It is the site of many public concerts and events, protests and parties, as well as the annual winter ice rink, Christmas tree and Menorah lighting. Since 2009, in each corner of the square there has been a painted heart sculpture from the Hearts in San Francisco public art installation. Every year, they are auctioned off and new ones take their place — often the old ones pop up in other parts of the city.
Don’t miss the central pillar either: atop it is the Goddess of Victory, as modelled by Big Alma Spreckles, who volunteered her services when she found out that sugar-baron Adolph Spreckles was in charge of the monument committee. Spreckles eventually became her sugar daddy, and in the end she donated her fortune to build the Legion of Honor.
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