San Francisco Shopping: 15 Top Places to Shop in San Francisco

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

You will find several places for San Francisco shopping. They range from high-end shops around Union Square to the inexpensive stores in Chinatown.

Here you will discover a shopping guide for the city. Below is a list of the top places to shop around SF. You will find both a brief description and some of the types of shops you will find in each area. Additional information is also available for many of the options listed.

Shops around Union Square in San Francisco

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1. Pier 39

The most popular place for visitors to shop is Pier 39. This restored pier on the water sits on the eastern side of Fisherman's Wharf.

On the pier, you will find a variety of places to shop including both name-brand and local stores. You will find everything from jewelry to apparel to gift shops. You can also buy some sweet treats and local wines.

In addition to shopping, Pier 39 is also home to a number of family-friendly activities including the Aquarium of the Bay, the 7D Experience, and the Mirror Maze.

You will also find some great places to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

>> Pier 39

2. Union Square

All around Union Square and the surrounding streets, you will find dozens of shops. This downtown San Francisco shopping area includes high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany's, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Right on the square, you will also find an Apple store and a large Nike shop.

If you take a few steps off the square, you will find other popular retailers and luxury shops such as Cartier, Valentino, Dior, and Burberry.

Down Maiden Lane, you will find even more high-end retailers including Hermes, Saint Laurent, and Maison Margiela.

This area also features art galleries where you can check out art from both local and international artists. 

>> Union Square Shopping

3. Chinatown

If you are looking for VERY inexpensive items, then head over to Chinatown. The main shopping area is on Grant Avenue. Here you will find gifts, jewelry, luggage, and more.

If you want to see what the locals buy, then head over to Stockton Street.

While you are here, you can also sample some tasty dim sum, stop by the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, or visit one of their colorful temples. You will also find dozens of inexpensive restaurants with a large menu of traditional Chinese dishes.

>> Tips to Shop in Chinatown

4. Ferry Building

Pier 1 along the SF waterfront is home to the Ferry Building. Here you can sample and purchase tasty treats, as well as enjoy a great view of the waterfront and the Bay Bridge.

Many of the stores here dedicate their space to gourmet foods such as artisan breads, chocolates, and cheeses. You will also find a great wine shop and a few specialty stores for books, the kitchen, and the garden.

More and more wonderful restaurants are also opening up in the Ferry Building. Some of my top picks include the Slanted Door, Gott's Roadside, and the Hog Island Oyster Company.

>> Ferry Building

5. Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is on the western side of Fisherman's Wharf. The original San Francisco chocolate company is almost as old as the city itself, founded by an Italian immigrant in the 1850s, and located at this historic factory-turned-shopping area since the 1890s.

There are three Ghirardelli chocolate shops here, as well as retail shops such as ElizabethW, Lola of North Beach, and Gigi Rose. You will also find some great restaurants, including the San Francisco Brewing Company, which offers indoor and outdoor seating.

A new popular attraction is Subpar Miniature Golf, a fun place to unwind with games and snacks. There is a free walking tour for those interested in learning about the history of this old factory. 

>> Ghirardelli Square in Fisherman's Wharf

6. The Cannery

As you can see, the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood is full of places to shop. Another option in this area is the former Del Monte factory, which was converted into a shopping center known as The Cannery.

This beautifully renovated red-brick building houses only a few stores, but makes for a pleasant stroll. It's not unusual to find street performers entertaining guests as they peruse the shops and enjoy the 130-year-old olive trees in the courtyard. 

Also housed here is the Argonaut Hotel with its award-winning restaurant, the Blue Mermaid, as well as the Academy of Art with its extensive gallery.

Learn More: The Cannery in Fisherman's Wharf

7. Japan Center

This mall is located at the heart of San Francisco's Japantown, which is sandwiched between the Pacific Heights and Fillmore districts. It features Japanese architecture, a Peace Pagoda, and lots of Japanese shops and eateries.

This is a fun place to wander around just for the cultural experience, but there's also plenty of shopping here. The selection of stores ranges from the very inexpensive Daiso (sort of like a Japanese dollar store) to more boutique clothing shops, from beauty products to specialty incense and housewares.

You can find all sorts of edible Japanese treats here, including sushi, ramen, and mochi. Another interesting element of the Japan Center complex is the Kabuki theater, designed both as a traditional 17th century Japanese theater, as well as the city's first multiplex for showing films. 

8. Union & Chestnut Streets in the Marina

Another great place for San Francisco shopping is in the Marina District, which sits along the city's northern waterfront near the Presidio. The area is best known for the picturesque Palace of Fine Arts. 

There are two streets in particular, Union Street and Chestnut Street, lined with a number of cute shops. You will find small, locally-owned boutiques as well as retail chains such as Sephora and the Gap.

Both streets also offer a number of bars and restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops.

Learn More: Marina District Activities & Attractions

9. Stonestown Galleria

Another large mall for San Francisco shopping is Stonestown Galleria. This shopping center is located on the western side of the city near SF State University. Most people who come here to shop are from the local community.

Inside, you will find popular clothing stores such as Express, Uniqlo, and Forever 21. You will also find a large Target, several places to grab a bite to eat, and so much more. In total, there are over 100 retailers here. 

Stonestown Galleria is located at 3251 20th Avenue in the Outer Sunset neighborhood.

10. Embarcadero Center

The Embarcadero Center is a four-block-long indoor-outdoor mall with several buildings in the Financial District between Clay and Sacramento Streets. They start at Battery Street and run almost all the way to Embarcadero Street.

Some of the largest retailers here include Sephora. There are also several great restaurants and a few specialty shops such as San Francisco Gift Baskets and others where you can find flowers, stationery, and cigars.

The official address is 1 Embarcadero Center.

11. Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights

Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights is another one of the popular places to go shopping in San Francisco. This cute street features local designers, small boutiques, and some great coffee shops. You will also find excellent restaurants offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Shopping on this street starts on the north end at Jackson Street and continues for about a half-mile down to around Geary Boulevard. 

On the northern end, you will find more high-end boutiques with women's clothing, shoes, and jewelry. As you near Geary, you will find some less expensive places, including a great Goodwill thrift shop. 

>> More about shopping along Fillmore in Pacific Heights

12. Haight Street in the Haight Ashbury

Haight Street is another fun place for San Francisco shopping. People come to this area for the hippie vibes that take you back to the 1960s Summer of Love.

Here you will find funky shops with costumes, tie-dye clothing, and inexpensive jewelry. It is also home to one of the best music stores in San Francisco, Amoeba Music. 

In addition, this is where you will find a wide variety of second-hand stores. It's a great place to find a deal. 

The shopping on Haight Street starts at Masonic (eastern side) and runs to Golden Gate Park or Staynon Street (west side). This shopping district is about a half-mile long.

>> More about visiting the Haight Ashbury District

13. Mission District

The Mission District is also full of fun shops and places to buy gifts. You will find a number of funky, eclectic stores here, including unique book stores, local chocolate shops, and jewelry. 

You will also find some pawn shops, discount stores, and plenty of interesting places in between.

While you are here, make sure to also stop by to check out the colorful murals all around this district.

You will find most of the shopping along Valencia and Mission Streets between 16th and 24th Streets. You will also find some cool places along 24th Street between Mission and Harrison Streets.

>> More details about visiting the Mission District

14. Hayes Street in Hayes Valley

Hayes Valley, located between SF's iconic Alamo Square and the Civic Center/Theater District, offers three blocks of shopping along Hayes Street.

Most of the stores in this small, cute neighborhood can be found between Laguna and Franklin Streets. They mostly offer high-end goods including clothing, home décor, and shoes. 

I like to stop by here for a nice lunch and then do a little shopping for an hour or two. 

>> More about visiting Hayes Valley

15. Polk Street in Nob Hill

My final recommendation is along Polk Street in Nob Hill. In recent years, this neighborhood has become known for its upscale hotels and mansions, Michelin-starred restaurants, and other luxury services.

However, it continues to feel like a very local district with a handful of cute boutique shops. Here you will find some small gift shops, clothing stores, and a nice thrift store. 

Most of the shops here are between Pacific and Bush Streets. 

>> More things to see and do in Nob Hill

Five Great Places to Buy Costumes

You will find dozens of places to buy costumes throughout San Francisco. 

To narrow them down, I created a list of my five favorite places to buy costumes.

Their selections range from traditional Halloween costume sets to places where you can pull together your own unique look.

>> Five Best Places to Buy Costumes

Where to Shop on Black Friday

Are you visiting San Francisco over Thanksgiving weekend? Are you interested in picking up some great deals on Black Friday?

If so, check out my list of the eight best places to shop for this occasion.

They include some of the best larger malls as well as a few local favorites.

>> Find a list of the best places to shop for Black Friday

More Shopping Recommendations

Other Popular Things to Do in SF

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A Perfect Day in North Beach: If you love Italian food and other goodies, then you will love spending the day in North Beach. In addition to San Francisco shopping, this fabulous district features Coit Tower, one of the best Italian delis in the city, and a step back in time at the Beat Museum. This self-guided tour is the perfect way to see it all in just one day.

A Perfect Day in Chinatown: As I mentioned above, Chinatown is one of the best San Francisco shopping options. However, do you know about all the other great attractions in this district? Follow me as I walk you through the colorful Chinese Temples, take you to one of my favorite Dim Sum restaurants, and give you a chance to learn more about this community's history.

A Perfect Day in Fisherman's Wharf: On my perfect day in Fisherman's Wharf, I take you to some of its top attractions and shopping areas. In one day, you will visit Pier 39, check out the Aquarium of the Bay, and stop by Ghirardelli Square. You will also sample the best Irish Coffee in the city, and enjoy fresh fish for lunch on Fish Alley.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

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