People may think of Santa Monica as a laid-back beachside city, but Santa Monica's shopping options rival cosmopolitan destinations like Manhattan and nearby Beverly Hills and other shopping spots in LA. That’s because its array of offerings range from one-of-a-kind artwork and eco-inspired housewares to iconic skater labels and straight-from-the-runway styles…all within a walkable locale that’s around 8.3 square miles.
Maybe it’s the proximity to the beach, but Santa Monica’s shopping areas have a distinctly easygoing vibe. Shoppers can step out in numerous looks that fit their style—whether that’s faded jeans and a tee or a polished maxi dress—and feel at home either way. By Juliana Shallcross
The perfect gift
Start downtown at Santa Monica Place. This luxury Santa Monica shopping area houses world-renowned anchor stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Tiffany & Co., and Barneys Co-Op. Plus, with Santa Monica Place’s same-day delivery service, you can feel free to buy as much as you want—without the worry of the how to haul it all back to your hotel.
Pop into the Vans store across from Santa Monica Place, one of the company’s earliest retail locations. Check out the latest editions of the brand’s signature deck shoes, which became popular with Southern California skateboarders in the late 1960s. For that iconic Southern California surf and skate shop, stop into ZJ Boarding House on Main Street.
Only in Santa Monica
From Lincoln to 17th Street, Montana Avenue is dotted with upscale Santa Monica shopping and womenswear boutiques for brands typically only found within larger stores. Labels such as Splendid, Michael Stars, Jill Roberts and Margaret O’Leary have their own dedicated stores here, ensuring a more vast and varied selection than exists in other retailers. Have kids at home? Leave time for uniquely California stores Limonaia, a curated gift store; Kicks, a shop with cool editions of your favorite sneakers; Accents Jewelry Design, an accessory boutique devoted to local designers; Planet Blue, an outpost for beachy-cool men’s and women’s apparel.
Just a block north of Santa Monica Place is the Third Street Promenade in the heat of Downtown Santa Monica, which runs from Wilshire down to Broadway. It was closed to cars in 1965, creating a pedestrian-friendly shopping haven. Though it’s mostly lined with more mainstream clothing stores such as Gap, Anthropologie, Adidas, Sephora, Forever 21, and Old Navy, it maintains a distinctly Southern California vibe. As you relax on a bench surrounded by palm trees and beautiful planted flowers, you can take in the talents of various street performers who flock to the three-block stretch. Grab a bite to eat from Monsieur Marcel or Locanda del Lago and people-watch from their outdoor patios, conveniently located right in the middle of the Promenade. If you diverge off the promenade to Second Street or Fourth Streets, you’ll find smaller, individually-owned Santa Monica shops for unique gifts.
Along Pico, running parallel to I-10, is a wide-variety of independent shops. Find cool gifts and cute dresses at Brat and clothing and accessories with an international flair at Kathmandu Boutique. South of Pico Boulevard and just a few (flat) blocks from the beach, Main Street is home to many independent stores with an eco-friendly angle, possibly inspired by Santa Monica’s outdoor culture. Pop into Mindfulnest for locally made art, gifts, and accessories; or Angel City Books for a curated and eclectic selection of vinyl records and used books.
With a widespread public transportation system and plenty of dedicated bike lanes, it’s incredibly easy to get—and shop—around, Santa Monica. Just be sure to take advantage of delivery services, or bring a friend along to help carry the bags.