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Get it all in one place: best San Francisco malls and shopping centers



"Shopping mall" and "San Francisco" don't exactly go hand in hand - even if one hand is trying to offer a huge wad of cash to the other. The simple fact is that in a town of forty-nine square miles, there's just not a lot of space for sprawling malls that also need even more sprawling parking lots. (If you want to get a local talking for hours on your trip, just ask them their opinion on San Francisco traffic. That's a topic everyone has an opinion on.)

But the demands for convenient shopping have only increased over the years, so large shopping areas like Metreon and City Target have squeezed their way in between skyscrapers and stubborn green spaces. And, since tourism is San Francisco's #1 industry, developing more shopping areas became a necessary and practical goal.

Go for convenience, accessibility, and selection. Those are the perks of San Francisco's best malls and shopping centers. You can get in and out quickly and see a ton of things. Loads of local shopping options include high-brow and low-brow stores, along with food offerings should you need a drink or a bite along the way. Check out the wide variety at places like Landmark Embarcadero Center or the Ferry Building. Indoors or outdoors, there's a bounty to be had.


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Vans Store - Stonestown Mall


Stonestown is the quintessential American mall. Straight down nineteenth avenue, Stonestown has all your shopping needs, from the big box stores like Macy's and Nordstrom to the smaller specialty stores like The Body Shop, Brookstone, H&M, and Pandora. The Food Court has just about every dining option you could think of, from Panda Express to Starbuck's to Ms. Field's Cookies. The adjoining movie theatre, the Stonestwon Twin, plays more indie films as opposed to the blockbusters. If the hills of San Francisco have worn out your soles, and you're simply ready for a place that puts shopping, food and entertainment all in one convenient box, then head to Stonestown Mall.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: Stonestown is at the southern boundary of San Francisco, so there's a little more room, which results in a larger mall and more shopping options.

Tom's expert tip: If you happen to near Stonestown on a Sunday, they host a fantastic farmer's market, a great place to get some locally made food and crafts.

Read more about Vans Store - Stonestown Mall →




If you're looking for art galleries in San Francisco, California that feature work by locals, check out City Art Gallery. Nearly 200 local artists are members of this cooperative gallery, and their works cover a wide range of mediums, including painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture and jewelry. Most of the friendly, helpful staff are artists who have work displayed themselves. If in town on the first Friday of any month, check out the featured opening reception. You can't really appreciate San Francisco without considering her art, and you can't really appreciate her art without a visit to City Art Gallery. Make time for local art on your trip!

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: City Art Gallery is not only a great spot to pick up some wonderful local art, but it's also a great spot to meet local San Francisco artists.

Tom's expert tip: A great way to experience the Mission District is to attend City Art's Opening Reception for new artists the first Friday of every month from 7 -10p.m.

Read more about City Art Gallery →


North Point Shopping Center
Photo courtesy of yelp


If San Francisco is challenged to find the space for large malls, the North Beach/Fisherman's Wharf area is only doubly so. There's plenty of tourist shopping available around North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf, but North Point Shopping Center is really the only spot for some of the more practical items you might need on your trip. If you've rented a car, they actually have their own garage, which can be a big plus. Besides everyday items or emergency rations you might need at Safeway and Radio Shack, there's also a convenient Wells Fargo Bank if and when those traveler's checks run out.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: North Point Chopping Center is as close to a mall that space-challenged Fisherman's Wharf can offer.

Tom's expert tip: North Point Shopping Center offers free 90-minute parking with a purchase - which is worth the price in this busy area near Fisherman's Wharf.

Read more about North Point Shopping Center →


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When in San Francisco, do as the San Franciscans do. Expand your idea of mall from an air-conditioned box to the exotic mix and match shopping that only Chinatown bazaar can offer. And the bazaar with the most extensive selection is definitely the Canton Bazaar. From home decor that includes silk lanterns, incense stands and rattan trays, to silk kimonos, brocades and jacquards, you'll find some extraordinary items. If you feel you need to energize your shopping experience - and learn something about a whole new culture along the way - make time for a shopping trip at the Canton Bazaar.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: Canton Bazaar is a truly unique shopping center that will offer you memorable gifts for your trip.

Tom's expert tip: Leave time for lunch - eating in Chinatown is a San Francisco must do!

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Downtown
The Metreon


Opened in 1999 by Sony as a massive place for movies, games, shopping and all forms of entertainment, the 350,000-square-foot Metreon Center on the corner of 4th and Mission eventually collapsed under the weight of its own grand vision. But this San Francisco real estate, within steps of Moscone Center, Yerba Buena Gardens, MOMA and other world-class attractions, was too good to leave unused. The new Metreon is sleeker, studded with smaller shops and chock-full of the latest technology that only a city next to Silicon Valley could harness. Besides the clothing, food and accessories you can find in the City Target, the highlight for shoppers at the Metreon is usually the quirky, beloved local store, Chronicle Books, a great place to find a truly authentic San Francisco gift.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: The Metreon is one of the larger shopping spaces in downtown San Francisco.

Tom's expert tip: If you're in the neighborhood of the Metreon, don't pass up MOMA, right next door.

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Landmark Embarcadero Center


The Landmark Embarcadero Center is an underutilized downtown shopping area, often overshadowed by The Westfield Mall and Union Square. But if you're on Embarcadero and want a smaller, more intimate shopping experience, stroll through the interconnected four buildings that make up the center. From Ambassador Toys to Boudin Bakery to Edward's Luggage and Gifts, the stores may be a bit more expensive than local malls but the quality is worth it. Like the products sold, the Embarcadero Cinema plays only independent, thoughtful films and is a favorite movie house for locals. If you happen to be around on a Sunday, head over to the Ferry Building for their farmer's market.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: Landmark Embarcadero is both indoor and outdoor, so it's a good option if you still want to enjoy the outdoors while you shop.

Tom's expert tip: Be sure to skip across the street to the renovated Ferry Building for a fantastic selection of locally -made goods and crafts.

Read more about Landmark Embarcadero Center →


Crocker Galleria


A favorite among discerning San Francisco shoppers, this mall's selection includes 40 high-end stores showcasing classic designer creations. Located about three blocks east of Union Square, the glass-domed, three-level pavilion houses everything from Polo Ralph Lauren and Bossa to Ravits Watches & Jewelry and Aricie Lingerie. Foodies rejoice over the fantastic dining options here, too, which include New Asia Asian Cuisine, the San Francisco Soup Company and Leila Mediterranean Cuisine. Crocker is an appealing space even for a quick walk-through since both ends are open, which allows fresh air and easy access. New stores that arrived in 2013 include the popular "Project Juice."

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: Crocker is small but has some very unique specialty stores worth checking out.

Tom's expert tip: If you need a quick but excellent lunch during your shopping spree, stop by 360 Gourmet Burritos.

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Westfield San Francisco Centre


One of the best shopping malls in San Francisco, Westfield Centre is located just two blocks from Union Square and features more than 170 alluring boutiques. Inside, you'll find Bloomingdale's and the second-largest Nordstrom in the country, as well as Betsey Johnson, Herve Leger, Kenneth Cole and H&M. Delightful sit-down and quick-serve restaurants stand poised to meet refreshment needs of all kinds, and the complex also includes a nine-screen movie theater. Even if you don't like shopping, head to the top to view the gorgeous glass dome, where you can also lounge with your laptop and enjoy the free wi-fi.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: Westfield is centrally located downtown, a real hub of concentrated shopping for tourists and locals alike.

Tom's expert tip: If you're really into shopping, the Westfield can offer deluxe shopping packages that ensure you will shop until you drop.

Read more about Westfield San Francisco Centre →


Union Square
Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy

The Union Square neighborhood centers around Union Square, a great little urban park, which is itself surrounded by a host of upscale shopping venues. In fact, the district is generally acknowledged as the city's main shopping haven. In the vicinity are Macy's, Saks, Gumps and Gucci; they, along with other retail standards, keep shoppers busy for hours. Restaurants and theaters are also found here, as is convenient garage parking. Transportation is easily accessible, and public concerts are an occasional diversion. Even better, the busy district affords great people-watching. If the fog has lifted and it's a beautiful San Francisco day, you can criss-cross lovely Union Square and go shop to shop but still get some fresh Pacific air.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: The stores surrounding Union Square offer a wide variety for the serious shopper.

Tom's expert tip: Check out the TIX Bay Area booth in Union Square that offers half-price tickets to many Bay Area events.

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Ferry Building Marketplace
Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy


Most malls are usually enclosed, maybe for protection against summer's heat and winter's cold. Although a lot of the Ferry Building's artisanal shops are inside, many booths also spring up outside on the weekends to take advantage of the Ferry Buildings glorious location right on San Francisco Bay with a view of both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. If you want more out of your shopping experience than just a pile of stuff, head to the Ferry Building, an iconic San Francisco structure. A popular destination for anyone who loves to cook or eat, the Marketplace offers a variety of specialty food stores and restaurants. A farmers market is held outside on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Recommended for Shopping Malls and Centers because: The Ferry Building is a wonderful shopping area for the whole family, a mix of indoor and outdoor attractions that can't be beaten.

Tom's expert tip: Check out the Farmer's Market on the weekend for fantastic California produce.

Read more about Ferry Building Marketplace →


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Meet Tom Molanphy

The only thing that Tom Molanphy loves more than the food, art, music, and culture of San Francisco is sharing it with others. San Francisco never gets old for Tom.

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