It would be easy to never leave San Francisco's Ferry Building Marketplace — the 3-acre space has pretty much everything you need: grab-and-go food vendors, local snack sellers, produce markets, a butcher, a cheese shop, fine dining, Blue Bottle Coffee and several sweets destinations. A bookstore, public bathrooms and the porch overlooking the Oakland Bay Bridge could make the transit hub turned food hall easily livable, but unfortunately the one thing it doesn't have is permanent residences.

The grand ferry takeoff point wasn’t always so desirable. Construction started during the California Gold Rush, circa 1898, on a necessary hub for workers commuting around the Bay Area. Then the 1930s brought along a new, alluring transit option: the car. Why crowd onto a ferry when you can drive yourself across the shiny new bridge?

By the 1950s, the Ferry Terminal became obsolete, and soon hid in the shadow of the elevated Embarcadero Freeway, which obscured the historic architecture until an earthquake destroyed the highway in 1989. A decade later, boasting historic landmark status, the Ferry Terminal underwent a four-year renovation project, rebooting the lower level for public use and converting the upper levels to offices that upheld the original design.

Now, vendors specializing in artisanal cuisine influenced by countries across the globe occupy dozens of stalls inside the market, while outdoor vendors including lunchtime quick-service pop-ups and a popular farmers market, stake claim to the sidewalk space in front of the building.

On market mornings — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays — it’s not unusual to spot a famous face (like Alice Waters) hunting for fresh vegetables at the lauded Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. An estimated 40,000 people are estimated to visit the market to shop for farm fresh produce each week. And if you don't plan on cooking, there’s plenty of ready-to-eat fare inside the enormous food hall.

More: America's most historic food markets

See the photo gallery above for a virtual tour of the marketplace merchants, and view more market tours below.