North Beach Neighborhood
||San Francisco, CA|
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North Beach is the famous neighborhood of San Francisco's beat poets. The first thing to do here is go to City Lights Bookstore, where it all happened back in the 50s. Here they still have an upstairs room dedicated to poets who wish they were living in the 50s. You can hear them reciting as you browse the bookstands downstairs. There are some great books to be found here, especially by local writers on the shelf to the right as you walk in. It's a funky little store jam-packed with stuff.
The next thing to notice about North Beach is that it was the neighborhood where Italian immigrants settled during the Gold Rush, and that is why it has such fantastic European-style sidewalk cafes! You almost feel like you are in Paris as you walk down the streets here and see all the hip, young faces in the cafes.
North Beach was also an area with a wild night scene in the 1800s, with many a brothel. Back then, if a man walked drunk down the streets he might be captured and forced to work on a nasty ship in horrendous conditions. Don't worry- this won't happen to you these days!
Peter and Paul Cathedral can be found in North Beach, a gorgeous white cathedral that also reminds one of Europe's finest. Laid out in front of it is the city park, Washington Square Park, which is the home of the North Beach Festival in mid-June. This festival celebrates North Beach's Italian and Beat history and you will hear some great old Jazz music here. At the end of July, there is the North Beach Jazz Festival.
To soak up some music history, head to Vesuvio, a gorgeous bar with stained glass windows, where Jack Kerouac and Dylan Thomas used to hang out. Choose from downstairs or upstairs seating. For some nitty-gritty history, head to The Saloon, one of the oldest bars in San Francisco, where many a wild happening occurred in the 1800s. The crowd here is still pretty rowdy and they have great blues musicians. Janis Joplin used to party here.
A cool kick-back Bohemian bar is Specs, in the alley across from City Lights Bookstore. Check out the strange collection of memorabilia on the walls.
If you're hungry, there are some great cafes to choose from. You can find some really good Italian food in North Beach. Try the fixed price menu at Cafe Divine, with soup, salad, and pasta all for $20 during happy hour. Here you can sit on the outdoor terrace, or sit inside and enjoy views of Washington Square Park through the huge windows.
For perfect thick-crusted Sicilian pizza, try Golden Boy Pizza. Order a beer with your pizza- relax and enjoy the good music selection.
For a lunchtime picnic, grab a foccacio bread at Liguria Bakery, and eat it across the street at the park. They sell out early so arrive before everyone else. Or head over to Molinari Delicatessen, which has been in business for a century, and choose from their amazing selection of imported cheese, deli meats, and desserts. You can also buy sandwiches there to eat at the park.
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Shop is a historic little bar and cafe, where you can sense the groovy days of the 1950s. Their grilled eggplant on Foccacio bread is delicious, but it can be very crowded in this small cafe, so come during the week.
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Peter and Paul Cathedral, behind Washington Square Park.
From Powell Station, you can simply walk up Montgomery Street and then up Columbus Avenue and you will find yourself in North Beach. The walk is about 1 1/2 miles.
Washington Square Park is where Columbus Ave intersects with Union St and Powell St.
City of Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Avenue, call (415) 362-8193.
North Beach Festival, www.northbeachfestival.com.
North Beach Jazz Festival, www.nbjazzfest.com.
Vesuvio, 255 Columbus Ave, at Jack Kerouac Alley, call (415) 362-3370.
The Saloon, 1232 Grant Ave, at Columbus, call (415) 989-7666.
Specs, 12 Saroyan Pl, near Columbus and Broadway, call (415) 421-4112.
Golden Boy Pizza, 542 Green St, call (415) 982-9738.
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Shop, 566 Columbus Ave, call (415) 362-0536.
Molinari Delicatessen, 373 Columbus Ave, call (415) 421-2337.
Liguria Bakery, 1700 Stockton St, call (415) 421-3786.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.