San Francisco

With its grand department stores and funky secondhand boutiques, San Francisco summons a full range of shopping experiences. From the anarchist bookstore to the mouthwatering specialty-food purveyors at the gleaming Ferry Building, the local shopping opportunities reflect the city's various personalities. Visitors with limited time often focus their energies on the high-density Union Square area, where several major department stores tower over big-name boutiques. But if you're keen to find unique local shops, consider moving beyond the square's radius.

Each neighborhood has its own distinctive finds, whether it's 1960s housewares, cheeky stationery, or vintage Levi's. If shopping in San Francisco has a downside, it's that real bargains can be few and far between. Sure, neighborhoods such as the Lower Haight and the Mission have thrift shops and other inexpensive stores, but you won't find many discount outlets in the city, where rents are sky-high and space is at a premium.

Seasonal sales, usually in late January and late July or August, are good opportunities for finding deep discounts on clothing. The San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner advertise sales. For smaller shops, check the free SF Weekly, which can be found on street corners every Wednesday. Sample sales are usually held by individual manufacturers, so check your favorite company's website before visiting.

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  • 1. Margaret O'Leary

    Union Sq. | Clothing

    If you can only buy one piece of clothing in San Francisco, make it a hand-loomed cashmere sweater by this Irish-born local legend. The perfect...Read More

  • 2. AB Fits

    North Beach | Clothing

    The affable staff can help guys and gals sort through the jeans selection, one of the hippest in the city, from hyperlocal to international...Read More

  • 3. Acrimony

    Hayes Valley | Clothing

    A handblown-glass chandelier winks at you through the store's front window, while DJs do their thing in the back. Sandwiched in between are...Read More

  • 4. Ambiance

    Noe Valley | Clothing

    A well-loved destination for fashion-conscious locals, this is a fun place to find 1920s-inspired dresses, velvet scarves, and dangling silver...Read More

  • 5. Buffalo Exchange

    Haight | Clothing

    Men and women can find fashionable, high-quality, used clothing at this national chain. Among the items are Levi's, leather jackets, sunglasses...Read More

  • 6. Cable Car Clothiers

    Union Sq. | Clothing

    This classic British menswear store, open since 1939, is so fully stocked that a whole room is dedicated to hats, pants are cataloged like papers...Read More

  • 7. Christine Foley

    Nob Hill | Clothing

    Discounts of up to 50% apply to the hand-loomed cotton sweaters with fanciful, intricate designs. There's also a large selection of colorful...Read More

  • 8. Cris

    Nob Hill | Clothing

    This upscale designer consignment shop for women (the locals' best-kept secret) is full of nearly new items for a lot less than new prices....Read More

  • 9. Current Clothing

    Cow Hollow | Clothing

    This Union Street shop's name perfectly sums up how in vogue its selection of women's clothing is. The local brand keeps thing edgy and comfortable...Read More

  • 10. Dish

    Hayes Valley | Clothing

    Many of the women's clothes displayed within this spare space are romantic, minus the frills. Look for the chic dresses of local designer Kathryn...Read More

  • 11. Dottie Doolittle

    Pacific Heights | Clothing

    Pacific Heights mothers shop here for charming silk dresses and other special-occasion outfits for their little ones. Less pricey togs for infants...Read More

  • 12. dress

    Marina | Clothing

    This quaint boutique offers up fashions by dozens of brands, among them Kathy Kamei and Ulla Johnson. The clothes have been thoughtfully selected...Read More

  • 13. Elizabeth Charles

    Pacific Heights | Clothing

    Feeding and fueling the city's obsession with international designers, this intimate boutique stocks Caroline Constas, Kinder Aggugini, Isabel...Read More

  • 14. Gucci

    Union Sq. | Clothing

    The gold-label designer exudes luxe elegance in a palatial temple of black lacquer, bronze, and marble. Fine jewelry, handbags, and luggage...Read More

  • 15. H&M

    Union Sq. | Clothing

    Hip, youthful designs for men and women are cheap, cheap, cheap at this import from Sweden that's known as the IKEA of clothing stores. Club...Read More

  • 16. HeidiSays

    Pacific Heights | Clothing

    Fanciful windows brimming with bright and festive prints draw passersby into this store. Perky salespeople help women choose between Missoni...Read More

  • 17. Held Over

    Haight | Clothing

    The extensive collection of clothing from the 1920s through the 1980s in this vintage store is organized by decade, saving those looking for...Read More

  • 18. Helpers' Bazaar

    Fisherman's Wharf | Clothing

    Arguably the city's best-dressed philanthropist, Joy Bianchi, along with other volunteers, runs this store to benefit the mentally disabled...Read More

  • 19. Knitz and Leather

    North Beach | Clothing

    Local artisans Julia Relinghaus and Katharina Ernst have been producing one-of-a-kind and custom products of extraordinary craftsmanship for...Read More

  • 20. Levi's

    Union Sq. | Clothing

    A San Francisco icon, founded in 1853, Levi's offers every style, size, color, and cut of 501s for men and women at its massive flagship store...Read More

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