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San Francisco Shopping: A Traveler’s Guide

San Francisco shopping is a pleasure, no matter what size your budget is. Huge department stores and tony boutiques can be found in the Union Square area, while bargain hunters flock to the thrift stores of Haight-Ashbury and the Mission District.

San Francisco Shopping Guide

Read on to discover the best shopping in San Francisco.

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Haight Street

Head to Haight Street for hippie favorites like incense, used books, and thrift store fashions. Bibliophiles should check out the Bound Together bookstore on Haight Street—you won’t find any Danielle Steel on the shelves, but you will find the works of Noam Chomsky and Mumia Abu-Jamal. With millions of new and used CD’s and LP’s, Amoeba Music is considered by many aficionados to be the best record store in America, offering everything from jazz and opera to R&B and progressive rock. You can literally spend an entire day picking through the racks (or you could just ask one of the staff—approachable music lovers who combine encyclopedic knowledge with a refreshing lack of condescension).

Union Square

Union Square and its surroundings make up the most popular San Francisco shopping district, where big-name stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue rub shoulders with designer boutiques like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier.

North Beach

In North Beach, you’ll find boutiques selling handmade goods, as well as City Lights, one of the city’s best and most historic bookstores (it was founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and has served as a meeting place for writers, artists, and intellectuals).


Chinatown‘s ticky-tacky tourist shops are fun to browse, but don’t miss the side streets, where you’ll find higher-quality items like fabric, jewelry, and traditional herbs.

Mission District

The fashionable Mission District offers a wealth of thrift stores, antique furniture, and unique housewares. Valencia Street is the main drag.

Ferry Building

One of the best spots for browsing is the Ferry Building, where a farmers’ market boasts a bounty fresh local produce and artisan foods.

San Francisco Malls

If you’re looking for a San Francisco mall you have plenty of choices, including Westfield San Francisco Centre (with luxury brands such as Burberry, Kate Spade, and Tiffany & Co.) and Embarcadero Center, offering more than 70 stores as well as dozens of restaurants for when you need a break.

San Francisco Premium Outlets

There are numerous San Francisco outlets, but one of the best is San Francisco Premium Outlets, where you can find deep discounts at stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, Coach, Armani, and many more.

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—Original reporting by Lauren Price and Sarah Schlichter

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