Shopping Streets, San Francisco
Maiden Lane is now one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the City. The street was formerly a seedy area in the late 19th century but the sleaze moved into the tenderloin district, a few block west of the street. At present, Maiden Lane is a chic, boutique-lined pedestrian mall stretching two blocks, between Stockton and Kearny streets. Wrought-iron gates close the street to traffic most days between 11 am and 5 pm, when the lane becomes a patchwork of umbrella-shaded tables where you can buy coffee and have some light meals or snacks. Shopping and actually buying in the assorted stores here can maxx out your platinum credit card due to it's concentration of upscale retailers, including Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and Yves Saint Laurent and my favorite Hermes'.
What to buy: it depends on what you want to buy.
What to pay: maxx out your platinum credit card
When in San Francisco, Chinatown is a must visit and that means trying the teas that are available for purchase. I entered the Vital Tea-Leaf for the FREE SAMPLE TASTES and was amazed by a full set up bar that ran half the length of the store. The sales person invited me to sit down at the bar and asked if I would like to taste the teas. Why not? Well, I was started off with a green tea that I am familiar with and it progressed to a $100 4oz. white tea bud that was heavenly. Of course, I only tasted about 8 teas but I was still sold on the tea buds. The intense flavors of the teas, reason being that I only tried the tea buds not tea leafs, combined with the heady aromas did me in. You will get first hand knowledge, no pressure to buy, and have a lot of fun tasting teas.
What to buy: I was going in to sample, got an education on teas and tasted tea that cost about $100 for 4 oz. of tea buds. But, let's break it down to about maybe a twenty-five cent piece for a cup. There are 400 types of tea in the store to select the one you like. I walked out with 2 types, a Jasmine Pearl White Tea buds and a Red Rose bud. But, let's break it down to about maybe a twenty-five cent piece for a cup. Tea buds are the way to go for tea connoisseurs and those that appreciate a great cup of tea. There are many types of tea leafs and buds available from the ones you know like green teas to more unusual tea buds like Aroma Red jacket. They have Tea Accessories for purchase as well.
What to pay: Tea buds can be from $10 up to $100 dollars for 4 oz., depending on type.
Great shopping available in San Fran.
There are all the usual shops available, plus there are a lot of British shops like Warehouse, French Connection, Next, H&M.
Bloomingdales is located in the Westfield Centre on Market Street and this centre also houses about 7 floors of shops plus a great food mall on the basement. There is a Bristol Farms located right beside the foodhall and I would recommend their breakfast tub of oats, yoghurt and fruit- very delicious!
Macy's is located at Union Square and there is a Mens Macy's right across from the General store.
If you are looking for a post office (we were), there is one located in the basement of Macy's, tucked away in a corner!
Sac's 5th Avenue is on the opposite side of Union Square to Macy's, and there is a large Borders on Sutter St right beside Union Sq also.
Gap is on Market St and Sutter
Urban Outfitters is on Sutter, right beside Gap.
Anthropologie is on Market St, the OTHER side of Gap. This shop reminds me of our Irish shop called Avoca- it has the same style of clothes and nic naks in it. In fact, I know that Anthropologie do supply Avoca with some clothing so maybe thats got something to do with it, but even the feel of the shop is the same. Anthropology don't do the yummy food and cakes that Avoca do though, you'll have to come to Ireland to experience that!!
What to buy: See's chocolates, very nice!
Artfibers yarn, if you are a knitter, this is the only store that sells it since its their own yarn...
What to pay: With the euro rate against the dollar at the moment, its very beneficial for people converting euros to dollars. I bought a pair of fit flops which at home cost €50 and cost me $40 here. Apart from the exchange rate, goods are cheaper in the States, or maybe its just anywhere outside of Ireland!
Chinatown is a unique place to shop, as the main strip along Grant has throngs of tourists seeking odd clothes, cheap knick-knacks, chopsticks, decorative fans, and Chinese drinks and snacks. If you want a more authentic experience, check out the side streets and alleys; I particularly like Stockton Ave, paralleling Grant, along with many of the connecting streets and alleys. These non-touristy streets offer such unique and authentic streets offer more traditional stores such as pharmacies, butcher shops, fruit stands, gem shops, and much more.
We stopped in several of the smaller back-alley tea shops, fruit and veggie markets, local grocery store, and even one of the herbal pharmacies during our last visit. The vegetable shops had a small variety of interesting fresh items, but not what I really wanted: dragon fruit. The grocery store had a lot of the similar items that you might find at Asian stores throughout the US. We really enjoyed scanning the huge variety of dried fishes, ginseng, deer antlers, and similar items at the herbal pharmacy. Some items sold for amazing prices such as the shark fin at $178 a pound, and whatever was next to it (written in Chinese) for $300 a pound. I remember some items closer to $1000 a pound, but the dried scallops with the flies crawling on them were just $29 a pound.
For cute boutiques and speciality shops, I find Fillmore Street - particuarly the portion between Pine and Jackson - to be far more interesting than Union Street... definitely more so than Chestnut or Sacramento Streets, which were locally recommended for window-shopping.
Now mind you, I'm not talking about buying anything, most of this stuff is still way out my budget. But if you love to window shop, this is the street. I think Union Street has become too saturated with chain shops like Armani Exchange and Bebe - places you can find in any large city that don't really add to the character of the street. Sacramento Street seems to be all about high-end children's fashion (what is up with San Francisco's obsession with haute couture for children?!). And Chestnut - I don't know what happened there. I saw at least three closed storefronts on my latest trip in 2006.
Oh, sure, Fillmore's got a Johnny Rockets, which made me feel like I was back on Melrose Avenue dodging tourists and other fashion victims. But overall, it has a funkier, more vibrant feel to it. It looks like they also have an annual street fest in October that sounds pretty cool.
And as you can see from my photos, Fillmore also provides opportunities for more gratuitous photos of beautiful Victorian architecture.
What to buy: Visit places like Starlet (1942 Fillmore, pictured) featuring high-end lingerie and stripper-wear such as a $300 corset that the staff doesn't seem to mind you looking at and even trying on even if you don't look like you could possibly afford it. This is also where I found Bittersweet, the chocolate cafe (2123 Fillmore, see my tip) and C & O (2208 Fillmore, pictured), a Mediterranean food shop that specializes in olive oil where you can sample the wares with bits of bread. There's also Kiehl's (2360 Fillmore), one of those skin-care places where you can tell it's expensive because everyone's running around in white coats. ;->
While you're at it, take a stroll down California Street at places such as independent supermarket Mollie Stone's (2435 California).
What to pay: Oh, $$$$$, I'm sure - I'm not spending money there outside of pastries and chocolate. This is Pacific Heights, are you kidding me?!
Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein, Donna Karan, Anna Sui et al.
What to buy: Do ensure that your luggage has enough space. Why? SanFran has LOTS of great shopping! Better still if you can bring along an extra bag in cloth material (like what I did). :-))
If you're coming from Europe or Asia, buy only the American brand products. They are really, really worth it (read: cheap).
Brands like Clinique, Prescriptives, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein, Donna Karan, Anna Sui, Estee Lauder etc. are really good buys.
I gave Calvin Klein products a miss because there are just too many imitations right now in the market (to say it's being flooded is an understatement!). Sorry, Calvin!
What to pay: Cheap, Cheap, Cheap vis-a-vis prices in Europe and Asia for American-made products.
Bunch of shops on Hayes Street. Not that special, a bit overpriced but still a cute neighborhood to be in. Place Pigalle is a nice beer/wine bar with pool table. Marlena's is a gay bar, nothing that special unless you're into drag. Very of-the-moment neighborhood.
What to buy: nothing in particular, just artsy junk and local fashion designers. stuff for people with a lot of disposable income. dining options in the neighborhood is good.
Union Street has it all, and here are suggestions for the perfect way to kick off the weekend with a visit. Begins with the best-brunch-ever at ROSE'S CAFE. Then a stop at GOLDLEAF CHOCOLATIER, the city's best chocolate and most unique gifts (chocolate in every shape: champagne bottles, airplanes, cable cars, hearts...) Next is SUMBODY, great bathcare but with NATURAL ingredients (not the kind of place that makes you feel like you'll never breathe the same again!) On occasions I pick up something from ENCHANTED CRYSTAL and I've found some wonderful, unusual gifts for my husband at the SPORTING COMPANY. KOZO ARTS is the spot for handmade, incredible papers. Other unique shops include KRIMSA (finest rugs, nothing like the shops you've seen before), NOVELLA (a simply marvelous day spa), the ARTISANS for unique San Francisco pictures and framing, and BELLA & DAISY'S for the posh & pampered pet.
What to buy: What to pick up along the way:
Rose's Cafe - Think breakfast pizza!
Goldleaf Chocolate - Anything, but especially the fudge and chocolates unless you're buying a gift and then you'll have a hard time deciding!
SumBody - A few slices of soap and effervescent bath balls.
Enchanted Crystal - Unique gifts and holiday decorations
Sporting Company - Gifts for the 'guy who has everything' including some wonderful clothing not to be found elsewhere
Kozo Arts - Handmade papers
Krimsa - Stunning rugs if you're in the market for one, and if you aren't then some of their wonderful pillows and throws
Novella - Look for spa specials on their website and book ahead... they get full quickly
Artisans - A picture of the Sutro Bathhouse or some other San Francisco picture that makes your heart throb with happiness
Bella & Daisy's - Let your pooch decide!
There is something for everyone on Hayes Street. There are great clothing and shoe stores, shops selling furniture and other household gifts, as well as a few great places to eat.
What to buy: Clothing, shoes, household gifts, furniture...
What to pay: Hayes Street isn't an inexpensive shopping area, yet it is not as high as some other areas.
The shops in Pacific Heights are very pretty. Colorfully painted and beautfiully decorated, however the prices are outrageous. Better to window shop than buy.
What to buy: Nothing, it's so exprensive. $8 for one bar of homemade soap. Rediculous.
What to pay: More than you should
Polk Street is a fun place to shop and wander with its neighborhood markets, antique and import stores, specialty foods market and gift shops. It also has a variety of small restaurants - French, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Greek, Mexican, Indian. Not touristy at all. This is one of our "real" San Francisco neighborhoods.
Staying in Upper Haight, it became "our neighborhood" and I loved browsing and buying on Haight Street, as well as people-watching. There are some remnants of hippiedom, but for the most part, many of the shops sell vintage, clothing, or gift items. The Paul Frank store was handy for buying unique souveniers for the younger people in the family, and myself (www.paulfrank.com)
What to buy: Gift items -- I got a photo album with a vintage postcard of San Francisco on the cover - great for our pictures; lots of vintage stores, general browsing and eating. Don't forget the flagship Ben and Jerry's! (I couldn't help but get excited as at that time, as Ben and Jerry's was only available in Toronto). I think we went there almost every day. The huge Amoeba records was good for browsing as well.
What to pay: I thought the prices were reasonable for the items.