AOL PICK from our Editors
San Francisco shopping is a hodgepodge of boutiques, department stores and vintage shops that reflect the eclectic taste of the city's residents. Union Square is the main shopping hub for department stores, designer labels, familiar chains, galleries and a sprinkling of superstar locals (Gump’s, Harputs, Wilkes Bashford). Boutique lovers and individualists flock to Hayes Valley for one-of-a-kinds, housewares, shoes stores and furniture shops. The Mission (Valencia Street) is hipster haven, with retailers catering to edgier tastes and a mix of new and secondhand stores, while Pacific Heights' Fillmore Street and the Marina's Union and Chestnut Streets are ideal for trendy items and high-end shopping.
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley
San Francisco's teensy version of SoHo, Hayes Street (and surrounding streets and alleys) serves up our favorite non-chain, boutique shopping in town. It's flush with cool wares and goodies for the whole family: killer shoes, fresh fashions and hip home accents and furnishings. The best way to enjoy the neighborhood is to simply meander, wandering in and out of the storefronts that beckon. A few standouts to get you started include: MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing), Azalea, RAG CO-OP (men's and women's clothing), Gimme Shoes, Paolo Shoes (men's and women's footwear), Timbuk2 (messenger bags), Huf (skater shop) Lotus Bleu (home design/textiles) and Peace Industry (felt rugs). Also generously sprinkled throughout the area are hip coffee joints (like cult favorite Blue Bottle), cafes and bakeries (La Boulange, Miette), trendy restaurants (Absinthe Brasserie, Bar Jules, Suppenkünche)—ideal spots for delicious eats when you need a shopping break. There’s excellent people-watching, to boot.
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Neighborhood: Pacific Heights/Japantown
With its chic French décor and cache of unique finds to make Francophiles squeal avec delight, you can count on Nest when a special gift, chic pick-me-up or simply an inspirational browse is on the day's agenda. Every nook of the charming corner store is a revelation. You'll find everything from affordable Tintin novelties and precious children's books to luxe linens and sophisticated country quilts like those from John Robshaw. Not to be missed: the beautiful glass cases filled with unusual jewelry with vintage appeal and prices that range from doable to "maybe if I win the lottery." Colorful journals, artisan-crafted clothing and scarves, gorgeous leather handbags (starring hard-to-find local label 49 Square Miles), coffeetable books and more are all stylishly strewn about the lovely space.
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Neighborhood: SoMa (South of Market)
For more than a decade, San Francisco shopaholics have been savoring the South Park secret called Jeremys. This loft-like space is stuffed with high-end men's and women's designer fashions and accessories at 40% to 70% off retail prices. Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior and Costume National are a few of the labels that rotate in and out on a regular basis. Be prepared, though, to wade through racks of merchandise that may have been used in advertisements and window displays, slightly damaged, from previous seasons, or production samples. And it’s true, Jeremy’s is très hit or miss, but all it takes is one killer score (OMFG Marc Jacobs wedges, for example) to make the time commitment well worth it.
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Neighborhood: North Beach
Long-time resident AB Fits lives on Upper Grant Street—a hip, semi-undiscovered indie shopping area. This all-star retailer caters to an urban-chic clientele of guys and girls who favor a wardrobe of jeans and classics with an edge. The store has been dealing in better denim and stocking labels from around the globe well before brands like Seven of All Mankind and Joe's hit the scene. Over the years, it has built a solid rep for personal service, satisfying even the most skeptical shoppers by happily fitting them with jeans that flatter. The store's well-edited roster of denim labels includes AB Fits own label, Dope & Drakkar, Rogan, Ksubi, Notify, 5EP, PRPS and more. Equally covetable tees, sweaters, jackets and cool accessories also grace the shelves. After shopping, hit up one of the nearby (yumola) Italian bakeries, pizza joints or famed cafes. Caffe Trieste (601 Vallejo St.) is a great place to start.
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Neighborhood: North Beach
Can you say literary nirvana? Founded in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (one of the city's first Beat poets to land in San Francisco), City Lights served as a meeting place for poets and writers, and played a huge part in the Beat scene. Most famously, Ferlinghetti was the first to publish Ginsberg's then-controversial poem—Howl.’ Today, hordes of shoppers pack the medium-sized space for a stellar collection of poetry, literature, art and political paperbacks. Of course, there is a dedicated section on the Beats (in the Poetry Room upstairs) and a comprehensive selection of San Francisco/Bay Area travel books.
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