Union Square is the main shopping area in the city. It’s usually busy and hectic, but you can find every major store in a few square blocks.
To get to Union Square by BART, you would get off at the Powell station to emerge right in the middle of all of the stores. If interested, this is where one of the cable car turnarounds is located, along with the lengthy line of people waiting to jump on (see the Quick Tips section of this journal to avoid waiting in line). Getting there by MUNI is easily done with a MUNI map--many of the MUNI bus lines will take you to Union Square. If driving, there are three affordable parking garages nearby: Union Square garage (333 Post Street), Ellis O’Farrell garage (123 O’Farrell Street), and Fifth & Mission garage (833 Mission Street).
I like to park at the Fifth & Mission garage, since it’s a little less hectic than the other garages, which are either right in the middle of Union Square (prepare for a wait to get into the garage there) or right near Macy’s (lots of pedestrians to watch out for). From the Fifth & Mission garage, a good walking route is to head to Nordstrom and the mall first, then browse the stores along Powell until you hit Macy’s and Union Square park. Making your way around the park, you’ll find great boutiques and specialty stores. Walk back on a street parallel to Powell, like Stockton. With this route, you’ll see most of the major stores and get a good sense of area.