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Shopping in San Francisco

San Francisco has many of the big names, mostly clustered around Union Square. There are also dozens of galleries and bookshops within short radius of the square.

Key areas

A walk through Chinatown can pay dividends, as discounted imported jewellery, clothing and objets d'art appear down Grant Avenue, every few yards. The Haight has become somewhat commercial. But past the GAP, at the Haight-Ashbury intersection, you can find folk art, music, and vintage clothing shops.

There is a more intellectual vibe in North Beach, where Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Avenue, stays open until midnight. Here, you'll also find made-in-San Francisco boutique designer shops. Al from Al's Attire in Grant Street has a penchant for elaborate shirts and coats made from his own coveted collection of vintage material.

Currently in vogue, Ghirardelli Square, a former chocolate factory located at 900 North Point Street, and Cow Hollow, to the north of the exclusive Pacific Heights, are both worth making the effort. Tiny Hayes Valley, west of the Civic Centre, has a stretch of funky local art galleries and stylish clothing boutiques, plus an astonishing array of top-notch restaurants and hip nightspots. Pacific Heights, has a similar yet slightly more upscale feel, with many modern houseware and high-end gift shops.

Markets

It's a foodie city, so come to the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market, one of the country's best, which runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. For vintage and curios, try Alemany Flea Market, which runs all day every Sunday.

Shopping centres

Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre on Market Street includes Nordstrom department store, which occupies the top five floors of this nine-level collection of 90 merchants. For a refined experience, try the Crocker Galleria, modelled after Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It's in the heart of the financial district at Post Street.

Opening hours

Opening hours vary widely - many shops are open well into the evening and most are open at least some hours on Sunday.

Souvenirs

For cheap and cheerful souvenirs, you have two good choices – the bazaars that appear round every corner in Chinatown or the tourist-geared outlets around Fisherman's Wharf. From Golden Gate Bridge models to fridge magnets, it's all at these spots.

Tax information

San Francisco adds an 8.5% non-refundable sales tax on every item.

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Clift Hotel

Nearly a century old, the Clift is a local landmark set amid the theatre district. Once known for its striking red panelled interior, it is now adored for its Philippe Starck makeover. The designer waved his creative wand back in 2001 and turned the Clift into one of the must-see hotels in San Francisco. Proof lies in the Redwood Room bar, where locals fond of a little luxury gather. The 372 guest rooms are small but elegantly decorated in shades of violet and grey. Egyptian cotton sheets, Wi-Fi and in-room massage and spa services add to the luxury.

Twin Peaks

Don't fret, this hotel has nothing to do with David Lynch, but is named after its neighbourhood between Lower Haight and The Castro. It offers one of the few acceptable budget options within easy reach of the downtown districts. Rooms are basic, and if you really want to save money you'll have to share a bathroom, but you can't argue with the price.

Orchard Hotel

One of San Francisco's smaller boutique hotels, the Orchard has 104 guest rooms, including nine suites. Luxuries include quality linens and toiletries, Balinese wood, black granite bathroom countertops, plush bathrobes, surround-sound DVD and CD players, Internet and mini-bars. Complimentary European breakfast buffet is served downstairs.

The Scarlet Huntingdon

Visible from much of the city, this luxury retreat sits opposite Grace Cathedral at the highest point of Nob Hill. All 134 guestrooms are individually decorated and each has great views across the city. Chandeliers and plush upholstery fill the public areas, and if you can tear yourself away from the vistas, the hotel also has its own spa.

Harbor Court Hotel

Perched on the city's eastern coastline, the Harbor Court offers an unrivalled view of the Bay Bridge. Its 131 rooms contain an entertainment centre, high-speed Wi-Fi and a moderately sized sitting room. Sleeping quarters combine traditional and contemporary furnishings, and some beds are canopied. Windows are double-glazed to block out traffic noise and Ozumo Japanese restaurant next door offers room service.

Seaside Inn

Close to the Seaside would be a more apt name, as this motel-style place is several blocks inland. Nevertheless, it is only a 10-minute walk from the attractions of the Marina District. Rooms are simple but very comfortable, with both breakfast and parking free. Moreover, the attractive neighbourhood of Cow Hollow, filled with trendy bars and restaurants, is only a short stroll away. Book in advance for the best deals.