Union Square is a plaza of 2.6 acres (11,000m²) bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Streets in San Francisco. "Union Square" also refers to the central shopping, hotel, and theater district that surrounds the plaza for several blocks. The name "Union Square" stems from the fact that the area was once used for rallies and support for the Union Army during the Civil War.
Today, this one-block plaza and nearby area is one of the largest collections of department stores, upscale boutiques, tourist trinket shops, art galleries, and salons in the Western United States, which continue to make Union Square a major tourist draw, a vital, cosmopolitan place in downtown San Francisco, and one of the world's premier shopping districts. Grand hotels and small inns, as well as repertory, off-Broadway, and single-act theaters also contribute to the area's dynamic, 24-hour character.
At the end of Powell Street two blocks south, where the cable cars turn around beside Hallidie Plaza at Market Street, is a growing retail corridor that is connected to the SOMA district. Nob Hill, with its grand mansions, apartment buildings and hotels, stands to the northwest of Union Square. Directly northeast is Chinatown, with its famous Dragon Gate at Grant Avenue and Bush Street.
The city's historic French Quarter northeast of Union Square and centers on the Belden Place alleyway, between Bush and Pine Streets, and Claude Lane off of Bush Street. This area has many open air French Restaurants and Cafes. Every year the area is the site of the boisterous Bastille Day celebration, the nation's largest, and Bush Street is temporarily re-named Buisson.
Directly east of the Square off of Stockton Street is Maiden Lane, a short and narrow alley of exclusive boutiques and cafes that leads to the Financial District and boasts the Xanadu Gallery, San Francisco's only building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, with its interior most notable for being the predecessor for New York City's Guggenheim Museum. The square is part of the Barbary Coast Trail, linking many San Francisco landmarks.