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Does Oakland even need an introduction anymore? Over the past few years, San Francisco’s neighboring town has grown in hype to the point of becoming the Bay Area’s new capital of cool — especially when it comes to shopping indie boutiques.
There are easily over a dozen must-stop shops in Oakland, as we’ve laid out in our map to the best stores in the city. But the sprawling destination, which (from a retail perspective) is broken up into small pockets of activity, doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to exploring in just one day.
Instead, you could opt to spend more time in each distinct and vibrant community, which all contribute to the city’s compelling and complex identity. From north to south, the following six areas — Rockridge, Temescal, Piedmont, Grand Lake, Downtown, and Old Oakland — should be added to your East Bay must-visit list. Each neighborhood is equipped with enough local heroes, Instagram photo ops, and shopping gems to fill an afternoon and then some.
To read more about our favorite shops and see them in a map, check out our guide to the best shops in Oakland.
It’s hard to believe that elegant Rockridge, one of the first areas to attract San Francisco transplants when the housing boom hit, used to be centered around a major rock quarry. Now, the area’s sunny streets and green spaces are home to stylish couples and young families, and get packed with visitors from all over town and neighboring Berkeley on the weekends.
Your first stop should be Hawthorn (5854 College Ave), a chic women’s boutique; head there for upscale but very wearable pieces from indie designers. Strolling along the main street of College Ave, Smitten ice cream cone in hand (5800 College Ave), is another required activity. So is slurping the famed ramen at Ramen Shop (5812 College Ave).
Though it’s one of Oakland’s ritziest areas, Rockridge is also great for second-hand browsing. Check out Crossroads Trading Co. (5901 College Ave) and Rockridge Rags (5711 College Ave) to dig around before heading to the more curated vintage shop Pretty Penny (5488 College Ave). On your way, stop in Atomic Garden (5453 College Ave) for gifts and souvenirs, should that be your thing.
A couple of years ago, all the hype in Oakland was focused around very cute (and photogenic) Temescal Alley — a small, walkable street lined with shops — but these days, stylish boutiques, popular eateries, and hidden treasures are popping up all over one of Oakland’s oldest neighborhoods.
Clothes shopping, people watching, and nibbling are the activities that come naturally here. There are almost too many cool stores to list, but of course the aforementioned Temescal Alley is a good place to start.
There you’ll find Ali Golden (482 B 49th St), the retail shop of Oakland’s top local designer; Crimson Horticultural Rarities (470 49th St), a lovely place to pick up a succulent; and Mind’s Eye Vintage (484 C 49th St), an affordable men’s, women’s, and kid’s vintage shop. There’s a lot to dig into for jewelry lovers, with Esqueleto (482 A 49th St), a cute multi-brand jewelry store, and Marisa Mason (484 D 49th St), another great jewelry shop. Plus there’s a barber shop, doughnut shop, apothecary store, and more.
For menswear and denim, don’t miss Standard & Strange (5010 Telegraph Ave) around the corner, or Ruby’s Garden (5026 Telegraph Ave) for stylish kid’s stuff. After all that shopping, sit down for dinner at cult-favorite Pizzaiolo (5008 Telegraph Ave) or explore the winning wallpaper (and spicy pav sliders!) of Juhu Beach Club (5179 Telegraph Ave).
Oh, and make sure you check out the neighborhood’s murals while you’re there — a good representation can be found around Telegraph Avenue and 43rd Street. It’s right outside Dandelion Post (4243 Telegraph Ave), a new-ish women’s apparel and lifestyle boutique that’s definitely worth a visit, too.
Residential Piedmont is technically a separate township within Alameda County, but it’s completely surrounded by the city of Oakland. The area instantly makes you feel at home with its old-school, neighborhood-y vibe. Walking around, it’s easy to understand why it was once known as the “City of Millionaires” — impressive mansions along Sea View Avenue and Sotelo Avenue are beautiful reminders of its lavish past.
After some real estate daydreaming, grab a strong cappuccino from Timeless Coffee Roasters and head to a trio of topnotch shops on Piedmont Ave. Neighbor (4200 Piedmont Ave) is a great stop for rustic home items and gifts, while Good Stock (4198 Piedmont Ave) next door is a gift shop and women’s boutique that sources all items from conscientious makers. But the real gem here is Mercy Vintage (4188 Piedmont Ave), one of the Bay Area’s best vintage stores, hands down.
A few more spots scattered along Piedmont are primed for those who love to dig. There’s Issues (20 Glen Ave), a magazine shop stocking hard-to-find titles from the US and abroad, and Stranded (14 Glen Ave), a great local record shop with its own label, which recently moved in from Telegraph Ave. Antique fans should head to Piedmont Lane Gallery (4121 Piedmont Ave), a cluttered but charming antique and vintage store.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, try the warm hummus and fresh salads at Ba-Bite (3905 Piedmont Ave) for lunch, or go all in at KronnenBurger (4063 Piedmont Ave), a self-proclaimed “burger paradise” by local superstar Chris Kronner.
Oakland’s centerpiece, Lake Merritt is an artificial pond that brings real joy to the daily hoards of runners, bikers, and picnickers that flock to its shores. Circle the lake to get a great glimpse of some of Oakland’s landmarks, including the Oakland Museum of California (1000 Oak St), the futuristic Cathedral of Christ the Light (2121 Harrison St), Children’s Fairyland (699 Bellevue Ave), and the iconic marquee of the Grand Lake Theater (3200 Grand Ave) before shopping the afternoon away.
Grand and Lakeshore Avenues, which start at the lake, are dotted with restaurants and boutiques catering to the neighborhood’s fun-loving, polished vibe. Knimble (3258 Grand Ave) is great for consignment finds. Alchemy Bottle Shop (3256 Grand Ave) is a local favorite for interesting spirits, barware, and cocktail books.
Save your splurges for Sherri McMullen’s namesake designer boutique McMullen (1235 Grand Ave), which she fills with everything from cocktail dresses to smart separates by labels like Rosie Assoulin, Carven, Nili Lotan, and more.
After exploring, grab dinner at Boot and Shoe Service (3308 Grand Ave), a cozy Italian spot serving inventive pizzas from the same owners as celebrated Pizzaiolo in Temescal. For drinks, Penrose (3311 Grand Ave) has you covered with delicious cocktails, live music, and indoor palm trees.
Centered around the historic Fox and Paramount theaters, Oakland’s downtown is buzzing with art, music, and shopping. Catch a show at the stunningly renovated Fox Theater (1807 Telegraph Ave) or watch a movie at Paramount (2025 Broadway), where a live organ is sometimes played pre-screening. For further cultural exploration, the galleries along 25th Street offer plenty.
Shopping-wise, Two Jack’s Denim (2355 Broadway) is a neighborhood institution focusing on American-made jeans. Viscera Studio (1542 Broadway) is a cool design store big on 3D-printed accessories. (And several great shops are concentrated in the area of downtown known as Old Oakland — enough that it deserves to be called out on its own, below.)
When you’re done, the Legionnaire Saloon (2272 Telegraph Ave) is always up for a niche, truly cool party; alternately, the Starline Social Club (2236 M.L.K. Jr. Way) offers craft cocktails and a dimly lit night out. If you’re looking for a bite, stop by the city’s first culinary hub for chefs, Forage Kitchen (478 25th St); Flora and Fauna (1900 Telegraph Ave) for a classic meal; or Hawker Fare (2300 Webster St) for authentic Thai food.
Nestled between Jack London Square and Chinatown, Old Oakland, located downtown, is one of the city’s most atmospheric destinations. The refurbishment and culinary takeover of the historic Swan’s Market (538 9th St) was a turning point for the beautiful neighborhood; hip boutiques and more eateries followed, turning the area into a popular weekend hangout. Head here to explore Chinatown’s architecture and walk along the waterfront for some atypical serenity.
Some of the neighborhood’s best shops are home- and kitchen-focused: Kitschy-cute Marion and Rose’s Workshop (461 9th St) offers Oakland-themed souvenirs and gifts in an almost Portlandia-like, put-a-bird-on-it setting. Nearby Umami Mart (815 Broadway) carries all things Japanese, from hard-to-find sake and pantry items to beautiful Japanese porcelain and sought-after barware.
If you’re looking for apparel, Maple Street Denim (465 9th St) has decent men’s and women’s options, and of course, denim. Bosk (494 9th St) is a good stop for men’s streetwear and basics. And absolutely don’t miss Crown Nine (515 9th St), an indie jewelry store with a great selection.