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Top San Francisco Shopping Districts That Aren't Union Square

Picture of Deanna Morgado
Updated: 24 April 2018
Shopping in San Francisco is unlike anything in the world because of its eclectic collection of people, subcultures, and businesses. Despite knowing this, the problem still stands that most of the world believes all of San Francisco’s best shopping only happens in Union Square. While this outdoor shopping mecca holds some of the highest class credit card swiping opportunities, there’s so much more beyond that single San Francisco district. These areas of the city are not Union Square, but they house some of the best shopping in San Francisco.

Marina District

The Marina District, as far as many San Francisco locals are concerned, consists of a couple of things: luxury homes and some of the trendiest shops in the entire city. Most of this district’s ample purchasing takes place along Chestnut Street. This stretch of shops, ranging from indie boutiques to the globally recognized Apple Store, sticks to a neighborhood vibe. Lots of young 20- and 30-somethings frequent the shops in the Marina District, including Union Street. Not to be mistaken with Union Square, many shops on Union Street are inside vintage Victorians, remodeled to create comfortable yet chic experiences. This part of the Marina District is a hotspot for the wealthy types, as it has more jewelry stores per district. For the not so wealthy-types, window shopping in the Marina is almost as fun.

Hugging the hillside | © Malcolm Tredinnick / Flickr

Embarcadero District

This district is a colorful combination of mainstream stores, high-class cuisine mongers, and unique buys at the tri-weekly farmers market. Inside the Ferry Plaza are specialty shops that sell artisan olive oils and regional wines to browsing patrons. Spending an afternoon shopping in Ferry Building transports buyers into a world-class food market where their senses are free to feast. Walking down the Plaza’s indoor street— called the Nave— exposes people to taste the creative honesty that is the San Francisco food scene.

The Ferry Building in San Francisco | © Michele Ursino / Flickr

Sacramento Street

For when those living the more posh lifestyle want to shake things up a bit outside of Union Square, there’s the Sacramento Street Shopping District. Because the boutiques and shops along the seven blocks of Sacramento Street attracted so much traffic, the area became an official district just for shopping. The Sacramento Street Shopping District features ritzy storefronts carrying luxe items for the home, indulgent gifts, high fashion apparel, and other hand-selected goods. Many of these shops cater to many high-end interior decorators in the city, serving as an epicenter of designer repository for the inside of San Francisco homes.

Luxury shopping | © Antoine K / Flickr

Pacific Heights

Over the decades, this district developed an unusual combination of high fashion shops, independent hipster storefronts, and international clothing tycoons. Pacific Heights did what many shopping destinations around the globe tried to do; create a well-balanced shopping experience with plenty of newly added trends, edgy and offbeat items, luxe name-brands, vintage finds, and chic buys. The effort put into the district’s shopping culture ended up paying off in 2014, when Pacific Height’s Fillmore Street was named one of America’s best shopping streets by US News.

San Francisco | © Dale Cruse / Flickr

Haight Ashbury

Reflected in its browsing and buying experience, world-renowned Haight Ashbury honors its roots as the 1960s Hippie Movement birthplace. The shops lining this part of San Francisco consist of earthy, urban, and hip vibes. Skillfully curated thrift stores carry ample opportunities for wardrobes getting updated with pieces of (someone’s) history, while modern boutiques offer chic and colorful things for the home.

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Vintage Haight-Ashbury | © ashton / Flickr

Hayes Valley

Carrying over from Haight Ashbury, Hayes Valley also caters to that cool hippie vibe of shopping culture. Many more bohemian storefronts and boutiques boast that same counterculture feel that San Francisco is known for. Hayes Valley, while trendy, found an artful balance between what’s popular now and the experimental. Indie clothing stores dot this district that explores fashion in a more abstract sense, creating a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Other shops in Hayes Valley raise the bar with luxury furniture and contemporary designer brands.

North Beach District

Window browsing and shopping in the North Beach District is full of charm reminiscent of old Italy. Cosmopolitan shops offer selections of home goods, clothing, and other items from around the world. Other storefronts sell to the more hip crowd, boasting high-end products that can win over even the chicest up-to-date consumers. North Beach’s shopping culture carries an eclectic range thanks to its hand in the Bohemian Movement at the turn of the century— much like how Haight Ashbury led the Hippie movement—as well as the political and literary Beatniks movement after the 1950s. Without these countercultures spearheading in North Beach’s history, the district wouldn’t be the worldly trendsetting shopping hub it is today.