Cow Hollow District, San Francisco: Things To Do In A Local Neighborhood

things to do in cow hollow district
| 3 min read

Strolling tree-lined Union Street in Cow Hollow District, you pass tempting sidewalk cafes, tantalizing restaurants, friendly drinking establishments, fashionable shops, sumptuous spas and the most up-to-date fitness studios. Many are quartered in beautiful Victorian houses, or ‘Painted Ladies’ as they are called.

Some say Cow Hollow and Marina are one neighborhood. Most agree Lombard Street divides the two districts as Cow Hollow’s northern border and Marina’s southern border.

1. Where are the cows?

Cow Hollow's last remaining spring [Mary Charlebois ]
Source: Mary Charlebois

Cow Hollow District is one of the oldest neighborhoods in San Francisco. It’s the place to go shopping, dining, and sightseeing if you want the San Francisco vibe without the tourist crowds.

But at one time, it was filled with grassy meadows, bubbling streams and dairy cows. Long ago overtaken by progress, there is still one spring left in the area. It’s now a fountain that feeds a pool inside a church courtyard.

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2. Shopping is a relaxing occasion here

Handmade cosmetics in Cow Hollow [Mary Charlebois ]
Source: M

Cow Hollow has shopping of the very best kind, small and unique, friendly and uncrowded. This is a shopper’s paradise. Stroll Union Street and drift in and out of fashionable and cutting-edge shops. Find boutiques specializing in things from the useful to the amusing and unusual. Shops for children’s toys, bakeries making dog treats, décor for every room, grooming products made just for lashes, a store specializing in bags for travelers and fashion for all tastes and ages. From one of a kind to vintage, you’ll find something you just have to take home from Cow Hollow.

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3. Eat, drink and be merry

Sidewalk tables at Perry's [Mary Charlebois ]
Source: Mary Charlebois

Cow Hollow is a beehive of restaurants, bistros, pubs and cafes. You can find something for every taste, budget and dietary requirement. Most food establishments serve beer, wine and/or cocktails. You will find places for breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner and late-night snacking.

Tip: Ask a local for a restaurant or happy hour suggestion. They are eager to tell you about their favorites.

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4. Two churches that will captivate you

St. Vincent De Paul Church, Cow Hollow [Mary Charlebois ]
Source: Mary Charlebois

The Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin is the location of what is believed to be the last remaining spring in Cow Hollow. Once this area was rolling pasture land with numerous springs conveying water to the wetlands, then to the San Francisco Bay. Dairy cattle were raised here to provide milk for the city of San Francisco.

Walk inside the church courtyard. A graceful fountain and pool is fed by the last spring. Delicate frescos depicting the life of St. Mary decorate the walls of the courtyard. It is located at 2325 Union Street, Cow Hollow, at the corner of Steiner and Union.

Head one block south on Steiner to Green Street and visit St. Vincent De Paul Church. Step inside the serene, cool interior of this Tudor influenced building. The church has astounding carved wood walls and ceilings surrounding exquisite stained glass that rival that of any European church. It is located at 2320 Green Street, at the corner of Green and Steiner, Cow Hollow.

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5. Painted Ladies all over Cow Hollow

Golden Painted Ladies [M ]
Source: Mary Charlebois

‘Painted Lady’ is a name coined for the ornately painted Victorian houses you will find in San Francisco. The Cow Hollow District has a higher concentration of them than many neighborhoods, because this area was spared much of the destruction caused by a devastating earthquake in 1906.

Walk up the side streets off Union Street and you will find beautifully maintained homes built between 1849 and 1915. Today, not all have the intricate paint jobs suggested by their nickname, but all are fascinating to look at and photograph. Look very carefully at the carved details. Some fascinating images are celebrated in wood.

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6. Useful public library

Cow Hollow's public library [Mary Charlebois ]
Source: Mary Charlebois

The Golden Gate Valley Branch of the public library is located on the corner of Green and Octavia, one block south of Union Street.

You can get a temporary library card that allows you to use the computers with access to the internet at no cost. Newspapers and magazines are available to be read in the library as well as books.

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A welcoming neighborhood

Cow Hollow is a neighborhood filled with history, shopping, good eats and libations. If you want to see the local’s San Francisco, Cow Hollow is a neighborhood with her arms open.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Mary Charlebois is a Northern California Freelance writer, photographer and videographer. Her career in publishing technology fulfilled a lifelong dream, traveling the globe. Now retired,...Read more

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