San Francisco may be best known for its landmarks and Silicon Valley, but there are other reasons to visit: for the shopping and to enjoy its luxurious Mandarin Oriental. Kimberly Miller leads us into temptation in the city by the bay
Photography by Dave Lauridsen
A few blocks walking distance from the captivating Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco lies Union Square, a place considered to be the city’s equivalent of LA’s famed Rodeo Drive. Currently undergoing what some may view as a retail renaissance, the square features numerous luxury department stores and boutiques ranging from Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus (which gets our vote for best designer shoe department in the city) and Saks Fifth Avenue, to the newly opened multi-storey Prada and Gucci flagships, both of which have undergone extensive expansions after relocating. Just off the square is the charming and oh-so-European Maiden Lane lined with Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, and the new Tory Burch boutique, complete with mirrors, lots of orange and, of course, her signature 1960s-inspired tunics.
For those seeking the ultimate collection of vintage jewellery, gowns and accessories, one need look no further than Torso Vintages, at Sutter and Grant Streets. Whether it’s an antique Chanel bauble, a vintage fur coat, or a 1950s Pucci dress, Torso’s highly edited collection is not to be missed. Head one block west and you’ll find one of San Francisco’s greatest treasures and retail landmark, Wilkes Bashford. A boutique department store featuring men’s and women’s designer fashions as well as a stunning array of home furnishings, Wilkes Bashford, named after the proprietor himself, carries ready-to-wear lines such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Nina Ricci and Missoni, in addition to footwear by Christian Louboutin, fine jewellery by local designers, and Pratesi linens for the bedroom. A note to the boys: this is where the city’s best-dressed men go for their threads (think Brioni, Kiton, Loro Piana).
Once you’ve covered the fashion bases, seek out yet another renowned setting unique to San Francisco, that of Gump’s. The 144-year-old, two-storey tabletop mecca is also home to a heavenly collection of bath accessories, jewellery, objets d’art and personal stationery. With crystal, sterling and china from the world’s top artisans, not to mention an exquisite collection of vintage silver behind lock and key, no bride would dare omit Gump’s from her wedding list. When it comes time for a break and perhaps lunch or an afternoon tea is desired, sit under the stained glass dome of The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus at Geary Boulevard and Stockton Street overlooking Union Square – we promise the warm popovers with strawberry butter are worth the trip.
As in any city, there are often unexpected treasure troves nestled within neighbourhoods not frequented by travellers
Once you’ve circled the square, hop on the tram on Market Street and head towards the water where you’ll find the city’s most proud contribution to the art of consumption, also known as the Ferry Building Marketplace. Housed in a former port terminal built in 1898 on The Embarcadero, just north of the Bay Bridge, rests a slew of shops and restaurants, the majority of which are operated by local purveyors of artisan foods. Those with green fingers will love The Gardener, where they’ll find planting tools and handmade ceramics, while shoppers who love entertaining can decorate their tables with antique tabletop collectibles from Culinaire.
From Tsar Nicoulai caviar to the signature Mt. Tam cheese at Cowgirl Creamery’s artisan shop, from cured pork at Boccalone Salumeria to cupcakes from Miette Patisserie, there’s no shortage of options for the picnic basket. Restaurants include the critically hailed Slanted Door, a Vietnamese eatery by Charles Phan, and the more intimate Boulette’s Larder, where you can watch the chefs cook while you peruse their offering of spices and hard-to-find ingredients.
After exhausting the gastronomic delicacies on the waterfront, take a stroll down Sacramento Street in Pacific Heights, one of the city’s most beautiful residential neighbourhoods. Begin near the intersection of Presidio Avenue, where you’ll find Anthem, the street’s newest enclave of home accents and furnishings. The cheery, sun-filled space is stocked with an elegant-meets-edgy assortment of luxurious tabletop items, bedding, frames, and furniture, and is the perfect place to find a gift for any occasion.
Walk around the corner to find Circle & Square on Presidio Avenue, a tiny nest of eclectic baubles and over-the-top accessories, including earrings and necklaces by local designers Alex & Lee. Though San Francisco forecasts don’t typically beckon a bathing suit, there is only one great spot to find the best swimwear and that is Waterlilies between Walnut and Laurel Streets. Whether you’re looking for a sensational one-piece or a sexy bikini, the beachy cool boutique carries the latest from designers such as Eres and Haverhill, not to mention swimsuit coverups by Milly, sandals by Bernardo, and resort-chic pendants and earrings by local designer Jennifer Tuton whose simple yet elegant materials consist of delicate chains and colourful stones.
Barneys New York 77 O’Farrell St (+1 415 268 3500)
Neiman Marcus 150 Stockton St (+1 415 362 3900)
Saks Fifth Avenue 220 Post St (+1 415 986 4300)
Prada 201 Post St (+1 415 848 1900)
Gucci 240 Stockton St (+1 415 392 2808)
Yves Saint Laurent 166 Maiden Lane (+1 415 837 1211)
Marc Jacobs 125 Maiden Lane (+1 415 362 6500)
Chanel 155 Maiden Lane (+1 415 981 1550)
Tory Burch 50 Maiden Lane (+1 415 398 1525)
Torso Vintages 272 Sutter St (+1 415 391 3166)
Wilkes Bashford 375 Sutter St (+1 415 986 4380)
Gump’s 135 Post St (+1 415 982 1616)
The Rotunda Neiman Marcus 150 Stockton St (+1 415 362 4777)
Ferry Building Marketplace 1 Ferry Bldg, The Embarcadero and Market St (+1 415 983 8000)
Anthem 3274 Sacramento St (+1 415 440 6500)
Circle & Square 344 Presidio Ave (+1 415 409 3440)
Waterlilies 3440 Sacramento St (+1 415 474 9200)
Philanthropist 3571 Sacramento St (+1 415 441 1750)
The Grocery Store 3625 Sacramento St (+1 415 928 3615)
Susan 3685 Sacramento St (+1 415 922 3685)
Spruce 3640 Sacramento St (+1 415 931 5100)
Ghirardelli Square 900 North Point St (+1 415 775 5500)
Crown & Crumpet Ghirardelli Square (+1 415 771 4252)
ElizabethW Ghirardelli Square (+1 415 351 2800)
Helpers Bazaar Ghirardelli Square (+1 415 441 0779)
Helpers House of Couture Appointment only (+1 415 387 3031)
April in Paris 55 Clement St (+1 415 750 9910)
Acrimony 515 Gough St (+1 415 861 1025)
Dish Clothing 541 Hayes St (+1 415 252 5997)
Alla Prima Fine Lingerie 539 Hayes St (+1 415 864 8180)
Alabaster 597 Hayes St (+1 415 558 0482)
Battersea 297 Kansas St (+1 415 553 8500)
Sarlo 295 Kansas St (+1 415 863 1011)
Hedge 48 Gold St (+1 415 433 2233)
Carrots 843 Montgomery St (+1 415 834 9040)