Top Shopping Malls & Centers
in the San Francisco Bay Area
These top shopping malls and streets in the San Francisco Bay will give you the best overall experience, even if you are not buying anything. We’ve limited our short list to only the most fun and interesting. See below for more details and check this map for exact locations.
Union Square is the Northern California’s biggest and most renown shopping area. All the high-end stores are here. However, since it is right in the middle of SF access and parking can be challenging at times.
West Field SF Centre is the largest urban mall west of the Mississippi River. It has more than 200 stores and is only three blocks south of Union Square.
This is the classiest open-air mall in SF Bay Area serving such well-to-do neighborhoods as Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside and Palo Alto. It is low-key and rarely over-crowded.
An open-air, multi-use center featuring upscale shopping, dining, lodging and entertainment. It’s unique experience is reminiscient of Las Vegas. The boulevards and store fronts are done in a faux but nice old world European style.
Valley Fair, combined with Santana Row, is the focal point of San Jose shopping. It is one of the largest, busiest, and most profitable malls in Northern California with over 225 stores.
The “premium of the premium” retail outlet stores, approximately 150 of them, are located here. Buy from all the big brand names, including Coach, Nike, Saks 5th Ave, at a good discount. Our relatives from Denmark always stop by here to stock up on the best high-end deals.
As an aside for those who like discount shopping, The Great Mall, at Great Mall Parkway & S. Main St, in Milpitas is the largest outlet mall in Northern California but many of its 200 stores are not outlets. It is in former Ford car assembly plant so there is plenty of space; however, don’t expect a charming atmosphere.
Good Local Shopping
Here are a few of the better local city streets and shopping areas to consider. Several can be found, along with the malls, on our shopping areas map.
- The Ferry Building Marketplace at Market St/Embarcadero, SF. This center has a different marketplace theme and tenants; Wednesday’s and weekends it even includes a farmer’s market. It is located in the historic Ferry Building, right on SF Bay. website
- The Embarcadero Center, 1 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, just across the street from the Ferry Building. This shopping center is targeted at local office workers so most shops are only open weekdays. website
While there don’t miss the beautiful architecture in the Hyatt Regency SF Hotel lobby, 5 Embarcadero Center. website
- Hayes Street, between Gough St & Laguna St, SF, has an interesting selection of speciality shops. If you are looking for similar shopping also check out Filmore Street, between Pine St & Geary Blvd, and Union Street, between Laguna St and Filmore St.
- Sausalito is a nice environment to shop for art or expensive souvenirs.
- 4th Street in Berkeley, between Virginia St and Hearst Ave, has several nice shops and restaurants.
- Downtown Half Moon Bay is small but pleasant shopping. For a main street that is even much more rural we like Pescadero.
- Burlingame Ave, between El Camino Real & California Dr, Burlingame, CA.
- University Ave, between Webster St & Alma St, Palo Alto, CA
- Los Gatos, CA. A very pleasant place for shopping.
- Carmel, CA. This is especially good if you like shopping for art. We also suggest the Pebble Beach Lodge Retail Shops at the Pebble Beach Golf Course on 17 Mile Drive.
- Stoneridge Mall, southeast corner of Hwy 580 and Hwy 680, Pleasanton, is probably the best mall in east Bay if you happen to be in that direction.