Somewhat as Times Square is to New York or Trafalgar Square is to London, Union Square is to San Francisco. This is the place where the city's Christmas tree is erected and the New Year rung in. Its role as the city's principal gathering spot dates back to the 19th century. (Its name reflects the fact that rallies in support of the Union—that is, the northern states—took place here during the Civil War.) This square is, however, much smaller than Times Square, measuring just over one hectare (2.6 acres). But what it lacks in scale, it makes up for in intimacy: It's dotted with palm trees and benches where visitors and shoppers at nearby boutiques can rest and take in the scene.