For a downtown boutique shopping experience in Palo Alto , head for University Avenue and its surrounding neighborhood. Here you’ll find restaurants, salons, and both chain and independent shops and boutiques. The best art supply store in the whole of the Silicon Valley  is University Arts (267 Hamilton St., 650/328-5000, www.universityart.com , Mon.–Sat. 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Thurs. until 7 p.m., Sun. noon–4 p.m.). Even out-of-town artists make it a point to come down to check out the vast shelves filled with the finest brushes, colors, and raw materials.
Sadly, the once-fabulous, aging, and elegant Varsity Theater now houses a Borders (456 University Ave., 650/326-3670, www.bordersstores.com , Mon.–Thurs. 9 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 9 a.m.–noon, Sun. 9 a.m.–10 p.m.). It’s got everything most Borders bookstores have, plus a decent collection of Palo Alto  and California local literature.
An independent jeweler with three locations in the Bay Area  (and that’s all), Gleim the Jeweler (322 University Ave., 650/323-1331, www.gleimjewelers.com ) offers a wonderful range of upscale jewelry targeting the many wealthy residents of Palo Alto  and the surrounding towns. Specialties of the house include diamonds, designers, and estate jewels. At Gleim, you’ll find shiny baubles that don’t exist anywhere else.
Gleim also has a storefront in the major area mall: the stunningly landscaped, open-air Stanford Shopping Center (Sand Hill Rd. and El Camino Real, www.stanfordshop.com , Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–6 p.m.). Here you’ll find the upscale boutiques and top-tier department stores befitting the affluence of the area. Big stores include Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Neiman Marcus. Smaller shops range from designer boutiques such as Ann Taylor and to more affordable chain retailers like Banana Republic. A few truly special specialty stores, such as L’Occitane and Smith & Hawken, also cluster in the large complex.