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. Cowgirl Creamery Artisan Cheese

    Embarcadero | Food/Candy

    Fantastic organic-milk cheeses—such as the mellow, triple-cream Mt. Tam and bocconcini (small balls of fresh mozzarella)—are produced at a...Read More

  • 2. Molinari Delicatessen

    North Beach | Food/Candy

    This store has been making its own salami, sausages, and cold cuts since 1896. Other homemade specialties include meat and cheese ravioli, tomato...Read More

  • 3. Vital Tea Leaf

    Chinatown | Food/Candy

    Tea enthusiasts will feel at peace in this bright, spacious, hardwood-floor haven for sipping. You'll find more than 400 different varieties...Read More

  • 4. XOX Truffles

    North Beach | Food/Candy

    The decadent confection comes in countless bite-size flavors here, from the traditional (cocoa-powder-coated Amaretto) to the unusual (flavored...Read More

  • 5. Bi-Rite Market

    Mission District | Food/Candy

    San Francisco is one of the culinary centers of the world, and this universally adored grocery store by Dolores Park is its beating heart. It...Read More

  • 6. Blue Bottle Coffee

    SoMa | Food/Candy

    The revered microroaster's practitioners brew their sacred beans in a $20,000 siphon bar from Japan with halogen-lighted glass globes that resemble...Read More

  • 7. Crown & Crumpet Tea Salon

    Japantown | Food/Candy

    This is the perfect spot for all things British; C&C serves traditional afternoon tea starting at 11 am, complete with cucumber sandwiches...Read More

  • 8. Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates

    Cow Hollow | Food/Candy

    A Sacramento chocolatier with a nationally known name expanded to San Francisco in 2018. It’s already a marquee destination for macarons or...Read More

  • 9. Golden Gate Fortune Cookies

    Chinatown | Food/Candy

    Nestled in a narrow alleyway, this tiny destination is impossible to find unless you have directions. This is the place to watch fortune cookies...Read More

  • 10. Graffeo Coffee Roasting Company

    North Beach | Food/Candy

    Forget overly roasted (burnt) mystery coffees if you're snagging a bag from this emporium and working roastery, open since 1935 and one of the...Read More

  • 11. Great China Herb Co.

    Chinatown | Food/Candy

    Since 1922, this aromatic shop has been treating the city with its wide selection of ginseng, tea, and other herbs. You might even hear the...Read More

  • 12. Hing Lung Co.

    Chinatown | Food/Candy

    It's impossible to miss this Stockton Street Cantonese BBQ butchery icon—just look for the air-drying ducks and pigs hanging from above. Roast...Read More

  • 13. Lucca Delicatessen

    Marina | Food/Candy

    Take a number at this throwback to Old Italy and wait your turn to order a sloppy-good, meatball-and-provolone sandwich or the neighborhood...Read More

  • 14. McEvoy Ranch

    Embarcadero | Food/Candy

    This is the only retail outpost of this Sonoma County ranch, a producer of outstanding organic, extra-virgin olive oil. If you stop by in fall...Read More

  • 15. Miette Patisserie & Confiserie

    Hayes Valley | Food/Candy

    There is truly nothing sweeter than a cellophane bag tied with colorful ribbon and filled with malt balls or floral meringues from this Insta...Read More

  • 16. Recchiuti Confections

    Embarcadero | Food/Candy

    Michael and Jacky Recchiuti began making otherworldly chocolates in San Francisco in 1997, using traditional European techniques. Now considered...Read More

  • 17. Sotto Casa

    North Beach | Food/Candy

    A specialty Italian grocer for lovers of Slow Food, this shop is owned by Abruzzo-born Lorenzo Scarpone, who founded SF's Slow Food chapter...Read More

  • 18. The Caviar Company

    Cow Hollow | Food/Candy

    The Caviar Sisters" Petra and Saskia Bergstein created this sustainability-minded brand that has developed a cult following among caviar connoisseurs...Read More

  • 19. The Epicurean Trader

    Cow Hollow | Food/Candy

    Located around the city, this small group of markets presents a terrific selection of gourmet foods and high-quality artisanal food and drink...Read More

  • 20. Victoria Pastry Company

    North Beach | Food/Candy

    In business since the early 1900s and a throwback to the North Beach of old, this bakery has display cases full of Italian pastries (although...Read More

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