Neighborhood Hangouts: Shopping in Hillcrest

Hillcrest is San Diego's most vibrant neighborhood, and its bustling business district offers up lots of opportunities for shopping. Boutiques, mom and pops, and retail chains make shopping in Hillcrest an all-day excursion. Here are some suggestions to shopping in Hillcrest.
  • 01 of 15
    Kitschy - that's the only way you can describe Babette Schwartz. And good fun it is as this gift shop and novelty store kind of epitomizes the attitude of Hillcrest, which means it is full of humor and attitude. Babette Schwartz (yes, she's an actual person) offers up books, hundreds of magnets of all shapes and sizes, candles, t-shirts, Mexicana, bead curtains, salt and pepper shakers, greeting cards, post cards, pop culture, incense, journals, classic toys, key chains, and novelty items. 421 University Ave. (between 4th Ave & 5th Ave), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 220-7048.
  • 02 of 15


    If you're looking for hipster retro cool athletic shoes, then Mint is the place for you. This little shoe boutique in the heart of Hillcrest is where you can find those fashion forward styles by Puma and Adidas. And they have those hard-to-find retro styles like Tiger, Roos, and Converse. If you like cool urban sneakers, this is your place. 525 University Ave. (between 5th Ave & 6th Ave), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 291-6468
  • 03 of 15

    House Boi

    A lot of boutiques and stores claim to be unique, but House Boi is the real thing. Ari Clare and Alex Wheeler decided to create House Boi in summer of 2007 to fill a niche in the San Diego marketplace. A unique retail concept integrating contemporary furniture and home accents with hip men’s clothing and accessories. It is almost indescribable, a mixture of furniture, men's apparel, jewelry, and dance club, House Boi offers up truly trendsetting and unique items that will make your home or yourself stand out. And the owners get raves for their genuine friendliness. 1435 University Avenue (between Richmond St & Normal St), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 298-5200.
  • 04 of 15

    Record City

    Not only are record stores a dying breed, but often the experience of shopping in a record store is like one of being an unwelcome guest in some hipster's private party. But Record City is different - the staff is helpful if not actually friendly, the selection of used records is good, and the vibe is like being in some sacred space, when music was an art and not a commodity. 3757 6th Ave.(between Evans Pl & Robinson Ave), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 291-5313.
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  • 05 of 15


    Twirl is one of those boutiques that women love upon discovering. Offering an assortment of unique and fresh fashions, Twirl has a legion of fans who love the store but hope no one else discovers it because they want to be the only one with the piece of clothing they purchase. Friendly staff, cool clothing make Twirl well worth seeking out, even if parking is a pain. 3840 5th Ave. (between Robinson Ave & University Ave), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 291-0933.
  • 06 of 15
    If you're looking for luxurious candles and related home items, Cathedral is a must-visit shop. A bit on the pricey side, but it's worth the visit if you want to find that unique piece for the living room or bedroom. 435 University Ave.(between 4th Ave & Brant St), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 296-4046.
  • 07 of 15
    Hats, hats, hats - the name says it all. Pretty much any style you're looking for if it isn't your standard baseball cap. 3821 4th Ave. (between Robinson Ave & University Ave), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 683-5533.
  • 08 of 15

    Flashbacks Recycled Fashions

    Vintage clothing is one of those things where you either like it or don't even bother with it. Hillcrest is known for it's "vintage" clothing stores (used to most of us), and Flashbacks Recycled Fashions is among the best of the lot. Flashbacks focuses on fashions of the '60s, '70s and '80s (check out the store's sign), and it's big on those who never had the pleasure of growing up in those polyester-laden decades. 3847 5th Ave, (between Robinson Ave & University Ave), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 291-4200.
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  • 09 of 15

    Pomegranate Home

    Pomegranate Home is one of those home furnishings stores that make you think, "Oh, yeah, not everything has to be overstuffed, gaudy and ornate that you find at Jerome's or Mor furniture." Tasteful, eclectic, and dsitinctive are what you'll find at Pomegranate - a true boutique furniture store, rather than a big warehouse. 1037 University Ave, (between 10th Ave & Cleveland Ave), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 220-0225.
  • 10 of 15
    With the advent of the bog box sporting goods store, you don't see a neighborhood tennis shop anymore. Ray's Tennis Shop is the real deal - a mom and pop operation with everything you need. In fact, the place is packed with tennis equipment. And if you need your tennis racket re-strung, this is the place to go. Proprietor Hiroko Ray is a re-stringing expert - and she's a character, to boot! 1434 University Ave. (between Normal St & Richmond St), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 295-5362.
  • 11 of 15

    Excalibur Cigar & Hookah Lounge

    If you're looking for an after dinner cigar in a speakeasy type of setting, then head over to Excalibur Cigar and Hookah Lounge. It's tucked away in a cluster of buildings on Fifth Avenue, so you feel like you're sneaking off to do something bad. They have a decent selection of cigars, as well as hookahs, and they even serve beer and wine. Oh, and you can actually smoke in the building. So I guess you are sneaking off to do something bad, yes? 3858 5th Ave, (between Robinson Ave & University Ave), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 260-8099.
  • 12 of 15

    Hillcrest Newsstand

    It's not on the level as Paras Newsstand in North Park, but it's a neighborhood newsstand, nonetheless, and that's a good thing. Decent selection of periodicals, and in a prime location in the center of Hillcrest. 529 University Ave. (between 5th Ave & 6th Ave), San Diego, CA 92103 (619) 260-0492.
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  • 13 of 15
    If you're looking for those punk-flavored Dr. Martens boots you finally need to replace, then Tredair is your place. It's pure rock n' roll footware by way of the U.K. Creepers, jack boots, Docs - this is where you get them. 406 University Avenue Suite A, San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 299-3743.
  • 14 of 15
    Urban Outfitters is a clothing and home retail chain for the stylishly hip and it has finally opened a second San Diego store in Hillcrest (the other is in the Gaslamp). Even if the clothing isn't up your alley, it's a cool place to browse. 3946 5th Ave. (between University Ave & Washington St), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 209-5279.
  • 15 of 15
    It might be part of the Ace Hardware network, but Hillcrest Hardware is like your neighborhood mom and pop hardware store. You'll find everything you'll need for your home repairs, but only if you head downstairs to the basement level because you'll realize the store is deceptively larger than you think. Friendly, knowledgeable staff and its gay-friendly vibe makes Hillcrest Hardware especially unique to this neighborhood. 1007 University Ave. (between 10th Ave & Cleveland Ave), San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 291-5988.