There’s much more to shopping in San Francisco than Union Square. Here’s a quick guide to our top shopping neighborhood destinations, along with direction on how to get there..
San Francisco’s downtown shopping district, Union Square is usually the first stop on any out-of-towners itinerary. It has your 7-story Macy’s, Saks 5th Avenue, Nordstrom, Barney’s, and Bloomingdales, in addition to any store you’ve ever seen in a mall anywhere. Head to the side streets for designer showrooms from Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Paul Smith, and others.
One of the most upscale neighborhoods in San Francisco, Pacific Heights’ Fillmore Street is where women go who are on the hunt for architectural, cashmere wraps to wear with that old St. John dress hanging in their closets. To wear to their friend’s gallery exhibit or a ballet matinee this weekend. The window shopping is terrific, and the prices are steep.
If you are into Japanese culture and art, also be sure to check out the Japan Center at Geary and Webster Streets. You’ll find everything from antique watercolor prints and handcrafted tea services to anime books and children’s stationary.
How to Get There: [All directions start from Union Square.] From the corner of Market Street and Stockton Street or Market Street and Powell Street, hop on the 38 Geary or 38L Geary Limited (express bus). Exit at Fillmore Street and Geary Street and walk north, up Fillmore Street.
Sunny blocks where familiar names (Gap, Lucky Brand, Pottery Barn) share space with tiny preppy boutiques, haute baby stores, and cupcake shops. This is where you want to go for cute, comfortable dresses you’d want to wear to a late, Saturday brunch or out for drinks with the girls.
How to Get There: From the corner of Market Street and Kearny Street, or the corner of Stockton Street and Sutter Street, hop on the 30 Stockton. Exit on Chestnut Street, near Fillmore Street, and walk along Chestnut Street.
The vibe is similar to Marina’s Chestnut Street, but you may be more likely to actually buy something along Cow Hollow’s Union Street. You know that friend of yours, who works at a nonprofit and always shows up to brunch in flattering dresses, funky booties, and maybe tops it off with a silk-ribboned fedora? Chances are she shops here. The blocks of boutiques offer a wide variety of clothes at affordable prices.
How to Get There: From the corner of Market Street and Kearny Street, or the corner of Stockton Street and Sutter Street, hop on the 45 Union-Stockton. Exit on Union Street, near Gough Street, and walk along Union Street.
Polk Street might be a bit too off the beaten path for this shopping guide, but I’m leaving it in here for those of you who maybe have already been to Fillmore Street or Chestnut Street and still want to explore. Polk Street is a study in contrasts, where dive-y Vietnamese restaurants share blocks with liquor stores and chic-prairie clothing boutiques offering handmade leather wallets and bags. The stores become increasingly high end towards Lombard Street to the north, finishing with a series of home goods stores selling one-of-a-kind metalwork and art.
How to Get There: On 5th Street near Market Street, hop on the 27 Bryant. Exit on Jackson Street near Polk Street.
Leafy and residential Sacramento Street is your go-to spot for embroidered French county fine linens, exquisite hand-tooled cutting boards made from Philadelphia Sycamore, and ostrich skin lined decorative boxes. The clothing boutiques are surprisingly minimalist and modern – art galleries unto themselves. For those of us on a budget, be sure to check out some of the best consignment stores in the city. You’ll find Marni, Dolce & Gabbana, and Prada at unbelievable prices. Head to California Street for some additional lunch time cafes and coffee shops.
How to Get There: You have two bus options. From the corner of Sutter Street and Powell Street, or the corner of Sutter Street and Sansome Street, hop on the 2 Clement. Exit on California Street near Divisadero Street and walk a block north to Sacramento Street. You could also take the 3 Jackson from Sutter Street and Powell Street, and hop off on Presidio Avenue and Sacramento Street.
The Inner and Outer Richmond
For the serious foodies out there, that also like kitschy, modern design stores and homemade jewelry, Clement Street and Geary Boulevard are for you. The sheer number of Russian bakeries, Chinese groceries, dim sum restaurants, Korean BBQ restaurants, and hipster sports bars can be overwhelming – the Richmond is chockablock full of stores for nearly two miles, all the way down to the Pacific. It’s the perfect place to nibble on a peroshki while popping in and out of a random collection of boutiques.
How to Get There: From Market Street and Stockton Street, or Market Street and Powell Street, hop on the 38 L Geary Limited – an express bus to the Richmond. Exit on Geary Boulevard and Arguello Street or 6th Avenue. Walk one block north to Clement Street.
Are you a guy? Have you been feeling left out of the conversation so far? Boutiques around this city tend to focus on the ladies. Thankfully, the Castro is ready to fill the void with a plethora of mens’ clothing boutiques. Whether it’s rustic Americana, club wear, or tailored Italian suits, you’ll find it here. Also make sure to check out the fantastic series of thrift stores along Market Street (catering to men and women).
How to Get There: The Castro is conveniently located on several MUNI Metro streetcar lines. On Market Street, descend into one of the MUNI stations at Powell Street or Montgomery Street. Hop on an Outbound L, M, K, or T line. Exit 4 or 5 stops later at Castro Station.
In the past 20 years, Hayes Street has gone from a down-and-out inner city neighborhood to an explosion of puppies, neon, and Chevron. Yep, this is where you go for home décor trends. The clothing boutiques are equally stylish, with plenty of cupcake, candy, macaron, ice cream, and bread pudding shops to keep your energy stores up. The neighborhood is precious realized.
How to Get There: Any of the MUNI Metro streetcar lines will take you to Hayes Valley. It’s very easy to get to. On Market Street, enter one of the MUNI Metro underground stations at Powell Street or Montgomery Street. Hop on any Outbound train – N, L, M, K, T, or J. Exit 2 or 3 stops later at Van Ness Station. From Van Ness Station, walk 2 blocks east on Oak Street, then 2 blocks north on Gough Street to Hayes Street. You could otherwise hop on the 21 Hayes on Market Street near Powell Street, and exit on Hayes Street near Octavia Street.
The Mission District
After the Richmond and Union Square, the Mission District is the third most extensive shopping neighborhood in addition to being San Francisco’s resident hipster neighborhood. On Valencia Street and side streets, you’ll find handcrafted jewelry stores, clothing boutiques, and over a dozen vintage stores selling mid-century furniture and clothes. Valencia is also home to many of San Francisco’s third wave coffee shops, if you’re into that. Make sure to stop by Mission Street for its Mexican restaurants and donut shops.
How to Get There: From either the Powell Street BART Station or Montgomery Street BART Station on Market Street (both stations are underground, and shared with the MUNI Metro), hop on the Daly City, Millbrae, or San Francisco Airport lines. Exit 2 or 3 stops later at 16th Street Station or 24th Street Station. Walk one or two blocks west on 16th Street or 24th Street to Valencia Street. Most shops are on Valencia Street between 23rd and 15th Streets.
Divisadero Street/ NOPA
The latest of San Francisco’s neighborhoods to go through a boom, bustling Divisadero Street is now home to a series of semi-hidden boutiques catering mostly to young women. Think Etsy come to life. The old die-hard thrift stores are still here, particularly one fantastic kitchen goods store with Le Cruesets piled in a corner.
How to Get There: Jump on the 71L Haight-Noriega Limited on Market Street near Stockton Street. Exit on Haight Street near Divisadero Street. Walk north along Divisadero Street.
The Haight Ashbury
If there’s one neighborhood you’ve heard of outside of Union Square, it’s likely the Haight Ashbury. Summer of Love, Grateful Dead, The Human Be-In, communal living in old Victorians, and Free Stores. Forty years later, the Haight is prime shopping for teens and young adults whose tastes veer Goth, Bohemian, Rockabilly, or Punk. Make sure to check out Amoeba Records for its mind-boggling collection of new and used music.
How to Get There: Just like for Divisadero Street, hop on the 71L Haight-Noriega Limited on Market Street near Stockton Street. Exit on Haight Street near Buena Vista Park or Central Avenue. I personally prefer to take the N-Judah MUNI Metro line to Cole Valley and walk the few blocks to Haight Street, though. From either the Powell Street MUNI Metro station or Montgomery Street MUNI Metro station on Market Street (both stations are underground), hop on an Outbound N-Judah. Exit 5 or 6 stops later at Cole and Carl Streets. Walk 4 blocks north along Cole Street to Haight Street.
by Maria/Far Out City. Maria writes about San Francisco and urban travel over at Far Out City. All photos copyright by 2012 Far Out City.