San Francisco Shopping Tips by atufft Top 5 Page for this destination
San Francisco Shopping: 307 reviews and 461 photos
SFMOMA gift shop
The SFMOMA gift shops (on the 1st and 4th floors) are jam packed with fine gifts to bring home. I'd rather find something here than a Fisherman's Wharf, to tell you the truth. Visit the museum then visit the gift shops.
City Lights Booksellers and Publishers
Located near the corner of Columbus and Broadway in the North Beach District, City Lights Booksellers is a grand tradition of contemporary book publishing and selling that focuses upon the international thought, world of poetry, literature, arts, and progressive politics. Started in 1953 by poet %lLawrence Ferlinghetti%L* (whose own poetry makes him easily the most famous San Franciscan poet during the Beat Generation), and Peter Martin, the store encourages everyone to come and browse for hours. The bookstore claims to have been the first all paperback bookstore, although now hardback books are also sold there. Another claim to fame by the bookstore and publisher is production of banned books and an extensive stock of hard to find books from smaller publishers. The bookstore website also recounts that Ferlinghetti's publication of Allen Ginsberg’s "Howl & Other Poems" in 1956 led to his arrest on obscenity charges, and the trial that followed drew national attention to the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movement writers. (He was overwhelmingly supported by prestigious literary and academic figures, and was acquitted.) This landmark First Amendment case established a legal precedent for the publication of controversial work with redeeming social importance. Ferlinghetti was also a writer of plays and other literature, and a painter.
Address: 261 Columbus Ave.
Phone: (415) 362-8193
Victorian Era Office Buildings in Jackson District
Among the exposed brick of seismically retrofited three story Gold Rush California bank buildings, restored Victorian era office buildings, narrow one-way streets and sidewalks, and neatly clipped ficus trees, of the Historic Jackson District, there exists a neighborhood of interior design--art galleries, fine oriental rug merchants, interior designer offices, antique furniture shops, and so on. Easily within the morning shadow of the skycrapers of the Financial District, this neighborhood provides respite for those deep pocketed bankers, venture capitalists, and others able to acquire the world's finest amenities for their home. The expertise and advice among the staff in these shops is excellent, even if prices are well above the average worker's billfold. Even so, the sales staff are not typically wealthy themselves, or doggedly loyal to the higher class, and so are generally pleased, within reason, to allow browsing by tourists eager learn more about the masterfully crafted merchandise .
What to buy: Don't bother buying--just learn and enjoy window shopping. On the one hand, while European antiques maybe too expensive just about everywhere in the world these days, learning about oriental rugs, for example, is very helpful prior to travel to destinations like Pakistan, Iran, and India. On the other hand, for those who can afford these goods, the selection is as good as it gets anywhere in the world. For everyone, just a stroll through this neighborhood, say on the way between North Beach and the Embarcadero, is a very pleasant and inexpensive experience. Hotaling Street, between Jackson and Washington Streets is particularly worth the walk for it's historic charm. There are also a number of good bars and fine restaurants in the Historic Jackson District. See also the off-the-beaten-path Sydney G. Walton Square for an interesting stop along this way. Another monument worth visiting (for free) in the Jackson District is the old building of the 2nd Federal Mint on Commercial Street, which has been turned into the Pacific Heritage Museum.
What to pay: Don't expect to bargain like at in a oriental bazarre, but expect at least a 10% reduction for whatever you may choose to buy. These merchants mark up there wares at least three or four times their cost, but then their overhead expenses for keeping a shop in San Francisco are also very high. If you pose as an industry interior designer, your prices will be lower.
Directions: Along Jackson Street, between Battery and Montgomery Streets.
View from Embarcadero Center third level
The Embarcadero Center was built in the middle of the financial district, replacing a part of Commercial Street, to provide impulsive financial workers a place to eat lunch and spend their money. The mostly corporate brand-name shops offer the type of modern tastes that a banker's wife would like. There are plenty of corporate style restaurants, such as a Chevy's, and there's also a cinema. What makes this place worth visiting for the tourist though is the wonderful views upward from the open air terrace gardens. Joggers and hikers will find the place virtually empty on the weekend, making multiple steps on the constantly moving escalators especially easy. Then, look up and view the various building in all their glory without street level obstructions. Walk over Front and Davis streets without traffic lights. Pass fountains and Statues until you reach the old Federal Reserve Building on Sansome street. Views of the Ferry Building and Bay are also possible from some vantage points. If you want to get coffee, several shops offer that, and there's even a cinema. See my
What to buy: Perfume, Wine, Flowers, Shoes, Men's & Women's business clothes, and other items of the well appointed business person. There's also a number of ethnic restaurants with a more than quiet atmosphere. Patio dining under the skyscrapers is available for some third level restaurants. There's also a cinema. The window shopping is made wonderful by the great views of the financial district. There's also several sculptures and fountains of interest here. For more great images of the Embarcadero Center, see my Things to Do Tip.
What to pay: Higher than average prices, but the service should be excellent.
Address: See website for details
Directions: See website for directions, but basically it's in the Financial district between Clay and Sacramento streets, and between Drumm and Sansome. There are several parking garages, but be careful about the price...
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