San Francisco

With its grand department stores and funky secondhand boutiques, San Francisco summons a full range of shopping experiences. From the anarchist bookstore to the mouthwatering specialty-food purveyors at the gleaming Ferry Building, the local shopping opportunities reflect the city's various personalities. Visitors with limited time often focus their energies on the high-density Union Square area, where several major department stores tower over big-name boutiques. But if you're keen to find unique local shops, consider moving beyond the square's radius.

Each neighborhood has its own distinctive finds, whether it's 1960s housewares, cheeky stationery, or vintage Levi's. If shopping in San Francisco has a downside, it's that real bargains can be few and far between. Sure, neighborhoods such as the Lower Haight and the Mission have thrift shops and other inexpensive stores, but you won't find many discount outlets in the city, where rents are sky-high and space is at a premium.

Seasonal sales, usually in late January and late July or August, are good opportunities for finding deep discounts on clothing. The San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner advertise sales. For smaller shops, check the free SF Weekly, which can be found on street corners every Wednesday. Sample sales are usually held by individual manufacturers, so check your favorite company's website before visiting.

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  • 1. Amoeba Music

    Haight | Music

    With well over a million new and used CDs, DVDs, and records at bargain prices, this warehouselike offshoot of the Berkeley original carries...Read More

  • 2. Berggruen Gallery

    SoMa | Art Galleries

    Twentieth-century European and American paintings, including Bay Area figurative works, are displayed throughout two airy floors at this well...Read More

  • 3. Britex Fabrics

    Union Sq. | Textiles/Sewing

    Walls of Italian wool in deep, rich colors, yards of faille-striped silk, and neat stacks of fresh cotton prints await your creative touch....Read More

  • 4. Chronicle Books

    SoMa | Books/Stationery

    A local beacon of publishing produces inventively designed fiction, cookbooks, art books, and other titles, as well as diaries, planners, and...Read More

  • 5. Cowgirl Creamery Artisan Cheese

    Embarcadero | Food/Candy

    Fantastic organic-milk cheeses—such as the mellow, triple-cream Mt. Tam and bocconcini (small balls of fresh mozzarella)—are produced at a...Read More

  • 6. Diptyque

    Union Sq. | Household Items/Furniture

    The original Diptyque boutique in Paris has attracted a long line of celebrities. You can find the full array of scented candles and fragrances...Read More

  • 7. Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market

    Embarcadero | Market

    The partylike Saturday edition of the city's most upscale and expensive farmers' market places baked goods, gourmet cheeses, smoked fish, and...Read More

  • 8. Fraenkel Gallery

    Union Sq. | Art Galleries

    This renowned gallery represents museum-caliber photographers or their estates, including Nicholas Nixon, Nan Goldin, Richard Misrach, and Garry...Read More

  • 9. Green Apple Books

    Richmond | Books/Stationery

    A local favorite with a huge used-book department also carries new books in every field. It's known for its history room and rare-books collection...Read More

  • 10. Gump's

    Union Sq. | Department Store

    It's a San Francisco institution, dating to the 19th century, and it's a strikingly luxurious one. The airy store exudes a museumlike vibe,...Read More

  • 11. Heath Ceramics

    Mission District | Ceramics/Glassware

    Founded in Sausalito in 1948, Heath designs and produces sleek, glossy tiles for the home and newly spun bowls, plates, and cups in rich earth...Read More

  • 12. Margaret O'Leary

    Union Sq. | Clothing

    If you can only buy one piece of clothing in San Francisco, make it a hand-loomed cashmere sweater by this Irish-born local legend. The perfect...Read More

  • 13. Molinari Delicatessen

    North Beach | Food/Candy

    This store has been making its own salami, sausages, and cold cuts since 1896. Other homemade specialties include meat and cheese ravioli, tomato...Read More

  • 14. Paxton Gate

    Mission District | Souvenirs

    Elevating gardening to an art, this serene shop offers beautiful earthenware pots, amaryllis and narcissus bulbs, decorative garden items, and...Read More

  • 15. SFMOMA Museum Store

    SoMa | Jewelry & Watches

    The museum's shop is an excellent stop for unique souvenirs, including its large selection of watches and jewelry, as well as artists' monographs...Read More

  • 16. Sports Basement

    Potrero Hill | Sporting Goods

    This sprawling store rewards intrepid shoppers with significant discounts on name-brand sportswear, accessories, and camping and outdoor gear...Read More

  • 17. Verve Wine

    Lower Pacific Heights | Wine/Spirits

    Wine nerds will fall in love with this trendy, upscale destination from one of the country's few master sommeliers, Dustin Wilson. Many wine...Read More

  • 18. Vital Tea Leaf

    Chinatown | Food/Candy

    Tea enthusiasts will feel at peace in this bright, spacious, hardwood-floor haven for sipping. You'll find more than 400 different varieties...Read More

  • 19. XOX Truffles

    North Beach | Food/Candy

    The decadent confection comes in countless bite-size flavors here, from the traditional (cocoa-powder-coated Amaretto) to the unusual (flavored...Read More

  • 20. 826 Valencia

    Mission District | Toys

    The brainchild of local author Dave Eggers is primarily a center established to help kids with their writing skills via writing programs, tutoring...Read More

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