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Shopping in San Diego

San Diego has several distinctive shopping areas. Typical Californian gifts range from T-shirts (a Southern Californian favourite) to expensive artwork from one of the area's many art galleries. A bottle of California wine is always a popular choice.

Key areas

Hillcrest is where visitors can find local grocery stores and funky gift shops. Little Italy, Downtown, offers a tasteful selection of shops that are focused around Mediterranean cooking and culture.

San Diego, like most Californian cities, has a wide range of supermarkets and speciality food stores. Ralphs and Vons are only two of the major markets and are located conveniently in most residential districts. Both are generally open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Alternative grocers including Trader Joe's, Henry's and Barons Market have a wide range of gourmet produce, cheese and wines.

Markets

There are a number of farmers' markets scattered across San Diego County. Among the most popular is in Ocean Beach, where Newport Avenue is closed to traffic on Wednesday 1600-2000, when vendors sell everything from organic veggies and bundles of flowers to incense and tie-dyed T-shirts.

Shopping centres

Built to take advantage of Southern California's sunny weather, Horton Plaza, at Fourth Avenue and F Street, Downtown, is one of San Diego's more compact shopping malls, with a bright, airy interior that is built in multiple levels and designed for easy accessibility. Fashion Valley, 7007 Friars Road, features many upscale shops including Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, Burberry and Bose.

San Diego is a book-lover's paradise with several excellent specialist bookshops. One of the oldest and largest is La Jolla's Warwick's, 7812 Girard Avenue, which has roots dating back to 1896. Three storeys packed with second-hand and new books on all kinds of topics should keep any bibliophile happy for hours. D.G. Wills , 7461 Girard Avenue in La Jolla is popular with scholars from nearby universities. Southern California's New Age vibe thrives at Controversial Bookstore, 3063 University Avenue.

Opening hours

Most shops are open Monday to Saturday 0800-2100, and Sunday 1100-1800, although hours will vary.

Tax information

Sales tax stands at 7.75% in San Diego. There are duty-free stores located in San Ysidro, directly south of San Diego, via I-5, at the US-Mexican border. These stores are tremendously popular and offer a wide selection of products for reduced prices. California sales tax is non-refundable.

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La Valencia

Beauty, elegance, and charm live inside the pink stucco walls of this property, known locally as La V. Stunning views of La Jolla Cove and the ocean act as backdrops in the richly appointed La Sala room (where martinis and tapas are served in the evening) and many of the 100-plus original guest rooms and 15 villas, each boasting a whirlpool tub, king-size bed, and personalised butler service. The hotel's exclusive =Sky Room , with just a dozen or so tables and a small bar, is one of the most elegant restaurants in San Diego. The sidewalk level Whaling Bar is a La Jolla institution where local nabobs mingle over steaks and martinis.

Gaslamp Plaza Suites

The Gaslamp Plaza Suites is a European-style, San Diego hotel built in 1913, with many elements of the original décor intact such as the sculpted Corinthian marble, Australian gumwood carpentry, hand-cut mosaic tiles and bronze and brass embellishments which can be seen throughout the hotel. The location is as central as it could get - in the heart of the Gaslamp District. Complimentary continental breakfast is served daily on the rooftop terrace overlooking the beautiful Downtown area of the city.

Sofia Hotel

One of the oldest hotels in San Diego's Downtown has been transformed into a chic boutique inn with 212 rooms that have the feel of urban studios with efficient Wi-Fi and access to Currant, one of lower downtown's most happening cafes. Some rooms are dark and noisy - ask to see a few before unpacking.

Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

Set smack at the foot of Fifth Avenue, across the street from the San Diego Convention Center at the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, the 12-story Hard Rock attracts awe-struck sightseers ogling The Rock Shop (collectable Hard Rock gear), Nobu (chef Nobu Matsuhisa's entree into the SoCal dining scene), Maryjane's diner-style coffee shop and the Sweetwater Saloon - a sidewalk bar by day and happening dance club at night. Guests in the 420 rooms and suites are greeted with their choice of music drifting from speakers on the flat screen HDTVs. Red leather chairs and low white couches, swirly patterned rugs and square showerheads in the ceilings set a fun-loving mood, enhanced by Sleep Like a Rock beds.

Tower 23

Named for the lifeguard tower it faces, this ultra-hip Pacific Beach hotel has 44 slick rooms with rain showers, Egyptian cotton bedding, LCD screen TVs and H2O toiletries. Some suites overlook the boardwalk and beach and have private balconies. Wi-Fi is available throughout the property - checking your e-mail from a cafe table by the sand is just about as SoCal techie as you can get. The hotel's JRDN restaurant serves the freshest regional seafood and produce in a casual setting.

Town and Country Resort

The resort features 1,000 guestrooms, four swimming pools and whirlpool, five restaurants and three lounges, in addition to 16 hectares (40 acres) of beautifully landscaped grounds. There is also a spa, salon and fitness centre. The 27-hole Riverwalk Golf Club and Mission Valley Regional Conference Center are adjacent. Premier shopping is also available nearby.