San Francisco has a complete range of shopping opportunities, and some great one-of-a-kind stores. Union Square is the most famous shopping district, home to Macy's, Saks, Neiman Marcus, and a host of other predictable, world-class designer stores. Embarcadero Center has a broad selection of upscale boutiques. It's seldom crowded, even around Christmas time. San Francisco Shopping Centre on Market Street at Fifth Street is home to Nordstrom and lots of small, upscale mall-type shops, but is most notable for its curved escalators. Ferry Building Marketplace is a foodie?s dream, with stall after stall of gourmet goodies. The Castro is home to many gay-specific stores selling clothes, cards, gifts, and more rainbow merchandise than anyone ever dreamed of. Even with the predictable "Gay Mart" merchandise, you'll still find lots of unusual objects to take home.
Not to be confused with Union Square, Union Street is yuppie boutique heaven, with the sky-high price index you might expect. Fillmore Street (between Jackson and Ellis) has similar stores but lower prices. Upper Sacramento (between Divisadero and Spruce) is quaint, cozy, and still very exclusive. Valencia Street (between 16th and 24th) in the Mission district and 24th Street (between Church and Castro) in Noe Valley are both chock-a-block with boutiques and corner stores, with merchandise ranging from vintage clothing to Mexican crafts. Funkier merchandise can be found in North Beach on Grant Avenue (between Columbus and Filbert) and in the Haight.
Cliff's Variety (479 Castro St; 415-431-5365) is an absolute institution, a hardware store selling everything from toys to taffeta -- oh yeah, and some hardware, too. Worn Out West (582 Castro St; 415-431-6020) sells custom, new and used leather clothing and accessories, as well as used blue jeans, boots, and other clothes. The selection of used merchandise changes all the time, but the staff is always friendly, and the prices are unbeatable. Skin Zone (575 Castro St; 415-626-4004) sells a very wide variety of skin, bath, hair, and body products, with a helpful and friendly staff.
Rolo (450 Castro St; 415-431-4545) sells well-priced, fashionable clothing and shoes. A Different Light (489 Castro St; 415-431-0891) is the best source for local and national publications and gay literature. Under One Roof (518A Castro St; 415-503-2300) is an AIDS relief shop that has raised over $11 million for people living with AIDS through the sale of a wide range of merchandise. Does Your Mother Know (4079 18th St; 415-864-3160) carries a broad range of trashy, gay bric-a-brac; Wild Card (3979 17th St; 415-626-4449) sells greeting cards and other gay paraphernalia.
OUTSIDE THE CASTRO
City Lights Bookstore (261 Columbus Ave; 415-362-8193), in North Beach, has been in business since the mid-1950s, when it was popularized by Beat poets and writers Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, et al. It?s a must-stop for poetry and literature lovers. Ferlinghetti is still the owner. Good Vibrations (603 Valencia St; 415-522-5460; and 1620 Polk St; 415-345-0408) sells sex toys for women and their friends. You'll find top-quality merchandise and extremely knowledgeable and helpful staff. Get Lost (1825 Market St; 415-437-0529) is the place for travel books, gadgets, and luggage. Buffalo Exchange (1210 Valencia St; 415-647-8332 and 1555 Haight St; 415-431-7733) has the best prices on vintage clothing. Another vintage shop is Crossroads Trading, with four outposts in the City. We like the Castro location (2123 Market St; 415-552-8740) the best. American Rag (1305 Van Ness St; 415-474-5214) is great for those in the market for a secondhand Levi?s jacket costing $700. Gump's (135 Post St; 800-882-8055) is San Francisco's famous native department store, with more to look at than to buy.
Mr. S and Madame S Leather (385 8th St; 800-746-7677) is one of the largest and best stocked leather, bondage, and fetish stores around. Foxy Lady Boutique (2644 Mission St; 415-285-4980) and Piedmont Boutique (1452 Haight St; 415-864-8075) are the city's best shops for drag outfits (and we don't mean racing). Top your new outfit off with a wig from the Wig Factory (3020 Mission St; 415-282-4939).
Westfield?s Metreon (Fourth St, between Howard and Mission; 415-369-6000) has contributed to the revitalization of the SoMa (south of Market) area. Catch a first-run digital or IMAX film, pick up locally produced arts and crafts in the downstairs marketplace area, or grab a bite at the multiethnic food court. It can get a little cacophonous and crowded, but it really is a high-tech marvel, overlooking Yerba Buena Park, a beautiful bit of urban greenery.
San Francisco: Introduction
San Francisco: Where to Stay
San Francisco: Where to Eat
San Francisco: Where to Play/Meet
San Francisco: What to See & Do
San Francisco: Resources