The City by the Bay is known far and wide for its world-class museums, top-notch culinary scene, and sheer scenic beauty—but those are not the only reasons to visit. From internationally famous luxury department stores to the abundance of locally made artisan items, San Francisco offers never-ending options when it comes to high-quality, one-of-a-kind fashion, home décor and art pieces. Here are several top San Francisco shopping experiences you shouldn’t miss during your stay.
Union Square Is A Shopper's Heaven on Earth
As one of the largest and most dynamic downtown shopping areas in the United States, Union Square is a pedestrian-friendly district of gorgeous historic architecture, top name-brand boutiques, and luxury department stores. Because the area is also home to some of the city’s finest hotels, dining establishments and theaters, Union Square makes for a perfect shopping destination, even if you only have a weekend. Everything is within walking distance and set against the backdrop of San Francisco’s most iconic landmarks, including the cable cars, Chinatown and Nob Hill.
From the racks of stores like Saks Fifth Avenue (348 Post St.) and Barney’s New York (77 O’Farrell St.) to the architectural elegance of the Westfield Shopping Centre (865 Market St.), where both Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom are located, San Francisco has luxury department store shopping covered.
Don’t end your Union Square shopping spree there. Make sure you check out the finery at Tiffany’s (350 Post St.) and Gump’s (135 Post St.) before swinging by Carolina Herrera (45 Grant St.) and Cartier (199 Grant Ave.) for chic accessories, and Jimmy Choo (166 Geary) for a new pair of kicks. (You're going to need them after walking around San Francisco).
Take a stroll down the neighborhood's charming alleyways for more hidden treasures. Maiden Lane, a pedestrian only street from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., offers outdoor cafés and upscale retailers including Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and Yves Saint Laurent.
Finally, stop by local designer Joanie Char (537 Sutter St.) and check out the offerings at Hero Shop (982 Post St.), run by Vogue editor Emily Holt.
Westfield San Francisco Centre Has It All
Located a short distance from Union Square, this indoor mall features over 200 top brands, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Bloomingdale’s, Crocs, Club Monaco, H&M, Kiehl’s, Nordstrom and Banana Republic. It also offers a variety of restaurants, from kid-friendly to fine dining, when you need to grab a bite to eat. If you want to find a wide variety of shopping under one roof, Westfield San Francisco Centre provides one of the city’s premier retail experiences.
Shopping San Francisco's Neighborhoods
Many of San Francisco’s other neighborhoods are also places to be explored by anyone with an eye for fashionable goods.
Hayes Valley, located just west of Civic Center and walking distance from Union Square, is a sunny stretch of high end boutiques, including Azil Boutique (451 Hayes St.), where handmade jewelry by local designers can be claimed, and UKO (350 Hayes), which specializes in European-style women’s clothing.
Another stand-out shopping district is Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights, easily accessible on the 1 California Muni bus from downtown. It is home to local knitwear sensation Margaret O’Leary (2400 Fillmore St.) as well as international fashion names like Rebecca Minkoff (2124 Fillmore St.). Just down the street lies the Japan Center, the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown. It's a multilevel shopping mall filled with unique imported items like the cast iron and bronze teapots at Asakichi (1581 Webster St., #207).
A visit to the Marina will bring you face to face with formidable fashion along Union Street, where shops like Marmalade (1843 Union St.), the bohemian urban wear boutique that has won several readers’ choice awards, and Sweaty Betty (2086 Union St.), the London-based clothing line for active folks, are located. Be sure to explore the cross streets, which contain many more retail gems.
No shopping trip to San Francisco is really complete without a perusal of the many unique shops on Haight Street, which is easy to get to on the 7 Muni bus. Besides novelty shops and some of the city’s top vintage outlets — pop into the massive Wasteland (1660 Haight St.) to see what the fuss is about — this area is also home to hip, local, urban clothing boutiques like RVCA (1485 Haight St.) and Gypsy Streetwear (1399 Haight St.).
Last but not least, check out the cutting-edge scene in the Mission District, which is easily accessible from downtown on BART. Here, the city’s truly independent vibe is on full display with standout shops like Le Point (301 Valencia St.), which stocks emerging brands from around the globe, and Mira Mira (3292 22nd St.), where offerings from small designers are carefully curated. Thrift and vintage shopping is at its best in the Mission, too, with Community Thrift (623 Valencia St.) and Schauplatz Vintage (791 Valencia St.) both well worth a visit.
Uniquely San Francisco Shopping
From the current, hard-hitting books of City Lights Bookstore (261 Columbus Ave.) and the gorgeous antique maps at Schein & Schein (1435 Grant Ave.) in North Beach to the taxidermied animals and carnivorous plants at Paxton Gate (824 Valencia St.) in the Mission, San Francisco is brimming with one-of-a-kind shopping opportunities. Be sure to check into Local Take, which has shops both in the Castro (3979B 17th St.) and the Inner Sunset (1371 Ninth Ave.). Specializing in San Francisco-inspired items, as well as locally made products, this gift shop has something for everyone.
Swing by Timbuk2 (506 Hayes St. and 587 Shotwell St.), where you can design your own backpack or messenger bag, and 3 Fish Studios (4541 Irving St.), which offers unique California themed prints by local artists. You can have them printed onto totes, magnets and other items. The Richmond District's Foggy Notion (124 Clement St.) stocks San Francisco-themed designer tees and much more.
San Francisco has one of the largest maker and craft designer scenes in the nation, making it an excellent place to shop for unique home goods. Stop by San Francisco Mercantile (1698 Haight St.) for an outstanding selection from over a hundred local makers and designers. The City by the Bay also hosts several terrific maker and craft fairs throughout the year, including the Renegade Craft Fair every July in the Fort Mason Center.
Just a short drive from San Francisco — to the north, east or south — are some of the region’s best outlet malls. Find discount prices on top brands such as Armani, Diesel, DKNY, Kate Spade, BCBG Max Azria, Calvin Klein, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Combine sightseeing with visits to a premium outlet at any one of these locations:
- Napa – Visit the region’s premium outlet on your way to wine country. Located off of Highway 29 at 629 Factory Stores Dr. in Napa, CA.
- Petaluma – Taking a trip to enjoy the wine and culinary delights in Sonoma County? Visit the premium outlet at 2200 Petaluma Boulevard North in Petaluma, CA.
- San Francisco Premium Outlet – On your way to Lake Tahoe or Yosemite, swing by the massive outlet mall off of Interstate 580 at 2774 Livermore Outlets Drive in Livermore, CA.
- Gilroy – Stop in Gilroy on your way to Monterey. Gilroy’s premium outlet is located off of Highway 101 at 681 Leavesley Rd. in Gilroy, CA.