Written by word master Kelly Aiglon
To shop in a city with as many boutique-filled streets as San Francisco, you’re gonna need a little guidance. Not to mention sustenance to make it the long haul. We’ve got you covered with our picks for the best shopping neighborhoods, plus a lunch spot within each to round off your day. Shop. Pause for a bite. Repeat until your credit card screams for mercy.
The historic neighborhood that’s famous for peace and love is also known for having some of the nation’s best vintage shops. Start at the iconic intersection of Haight and Ashbury, where Magnolia Brewery makes the case for having a beer and housemade sausage before you shop (little known fact: it has a seven-barrel brewery in its basement). Then head north to Wasteland, known for edgy styles that will bring out your inner emo. Nearby, Held Over carries retro styles from every decade of the 20th century, from bell bottoms to stirrup pants. Be sure to stop at Booksmith, which carries new and used reads, and is known to host celebrated authors; and Amoeba Records, where you can rifle through hundreds of new and used vinyls. If you need a little more fuel and it’s past 3 p.m. grab a martini at Zam Zam which has no more than two dozen seats but infinite potential for a good time.
Polished indie boutiques and loved upscale retailers make their home in this near-Marina neighborhood, where land meets water and the mood is bright. You could spend a whole afternoon on Union Street, starting at Belga restaurant, which is inspired by Belgian brasseries and serves amazing moules-frites. From there, browse Ambiance, a San Francisco original that’s packed with on-trend women’s clothing and jewelry; and Danielle, known for hard-to-find French and Italian labels. Anomie is a great spot for handcrafted gifts, while Chubbies caters to stylish guys. Union Street is also where you’ll find staples like Lululemon Athletica, BCBGMaxazaria and Sephora. It’s hard, too, to ignore the vast amount of spas and mani-pedi spots, and you should definitely make an Oxygen Mini Facial at Spa Radiance part of your itinerary.
The neighborhood’s rich diversity and colorful culture is reason #1 to go. Shops follow suit with an eclectic array of old, new and just plain curious. Start on Mission Street at one of the many authentic tacquerias (our pick: El Tacho de Lolinda for a margarita and chicarrones). Head over to Valencia Street for only-in-San Francisco shops like 826 Valencia’s nonprofit youth writing center shop, Pirate Supply Store. True to its name, it sells cheeky pirate gear like peg-leg sizing charts. Next door, Paxton Gate is equally quirky, with its display of taxidermy and carnivorous plants. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Dandelion Chocolate, maker of delicous single-origin chocolate bars. And don’t leave without a stroll down Clarion Alley, where street artists have left their colorful marks in the form of politically charged murals.
This name is newer to the shopping map but no less dynamic. Found between Mid Market and Lower Haight, it provides your fill of coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques. You’ll find mostly high-end boutiques carrying niche designers. Acoté gives a wink to Francophiles with its selection of French label Cotelac’s younger line for men and women; while MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing) goes the runway route with pieces by the likes of Dries Van Noten. Into athleisure? Stop at Outdoor Voices for casual pieces made from organic cotton; and Amour Vert, which sells apparel with a zero-waste philosophy. Shoe hoarders will want to dip into Gimmie Shoes for the latest styles from Paul Stuart, and also hit Undefeated for designer sneaks. Tie a bow on your day with a piping-hot bowl of ramen from Nojo Ramen Tavern.
All hail the neighborhood Virgin Hotel San Francisco calls home. Formerly an industrial center, SoMa has lots of new shine in the form of condo developments, shops and musuems (from the hotel, you can walk right over to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). Start with a bite at our Commons Club, which puts a twist on modern California cuisine and also knows how to shake up a good cocktail. Once you’re ready to explore, start at San Francisco Flower Mart, a city institution that welcomes the public with bloom-filled booths and as many colors and aromas as you can imagine. Spread your shopping wings at Muji, a surprising home of minimal Japanese gems like notebooks, mugs and toothbrushes. If you want to worm your way through books, browse the hundreds of personality-packed reads at local publisher Chronicle. Or, if you love big-name shops, go on a spree just west of the hotel on Market Street, where you’ll find everything from Anthropologie to Old Navy.