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North Beach is the Little Italy of the West Coast with a bustling atmosphere from mid-afternoon until late into the night. The mornings are a great time to stop into a café for a strong coffee that will make you wonder how Starbucks got so popular in the first place and don’t be surprised if the language you hear at the next table is Italian. It’s as likely to be that as English in this part of town. Stop by for a cannoli in the afternoon and you can people watch or stroll the shops, whatever your preference. But it’s the nights when the area comes into full swing, with busy bars and jammed packed restaurants serving up Italian fare family style just like mama used to make. Osso buco, mortadella, bada bing bada bang. I’m from Jersey and I was even impressed.
- Food and Dining
SF's Little Italy -- "North Beach"
North Beach was at one time a beach, long ago before landfill extended the city. Now it is an Italian neighborhood with tree-lined streets, wonderful Italian restaurants, beautiful Washington Park with the spectacular Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral.
N. Beach is home to the City Lights Book Store where the Beatnik Movement started. This area borders Chinatown & is definitely a must see & enjoy neighborhood. Probably best to fit it into your schedule in the afternoon & evening so that you can have dinner there & enjoy the crowds of people out for a night of fun .
San Francisco's Little Italy and .....
Home of the Beat Generation
North Beach is one of my favorite parts of San Francisco. Maybe that is because I am such a fan of all things Italian. But if there is one part of San Francisco that can be said to define what the City is to me this is it. Historically it is an incredibly rich area from Barbary Coast Days to the days when Chinatown (which butts up against North Beach) had opium dens and other unspeakables, to the more recent 60's when the Beats (who still frequent places like Cafe Trieste) and Carol Doda rubbed shoulders (???)... ok maybe some other body parts as well!
Today you can take guided walks or self guided. Great maps to be found at:
Suddenly you leave China to get into a mix of French and Italian buildings and restaurants.
It seems that is more lively at night, but here we enjoyed a great cappuccino and sandwiches.... with something that made me nostalgic, water with Lemon and ice... a classic at home...
Church of St Peter and Paul at Washington Square
This was the transition between the Chinatown and the Italian zone. Here you can see the church but also we founded in the park a group of Chinese students playing, old couples sitting on the chairs talking of all races you can imagine…. I just loved that of San Francisco, such a variety!
Columbus Avenue and the Beat poets
North Beach is usually described as San Francisco's Little Italy or Latin Quarter. To be sure, Italian restaurants abound on Columbus Avenue, as do small cafes and bars. Of all the neighborhoods in San Francisco, I believe this was my favorite and although it has no doubt changed a lot since the days of Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, I still find it easy to understand why the Beat Generation poets elected North Beach as their favorite place to hang out on the West Coast. In fact, several "landmarks" still bear testimony to the presence of the Beat poets, such as the City Lights Bookstore, the Vesuvio (see my nightlife tips), the Jack Kerouac alleyway, and the Beat Museum. But perhaps the best way to feel like a Beat poet is simply to sit at one of the little cafes and order something to drink!
On a different note, "The Strip", an area famous for its numerous striptease clubs and other types of adult-related entertainment, can be found at the corner of Columbus and Broadway. In 1964, America's first topless act was performed at the Condor, which still operates as a stripclub today. Although the area used to be rather seedy, the clubs that are still in operation today kind of have a neat retro look (at least from the outside!).
- Arts and Culture
Eclectic Neighborhood with welcoming mood
North Beach is a mix of Italian restaurants, hippie coffee shops and yuppie cafes. Some how it all comes together to make a very vibrant and welcoming area. The restaurants and shops are uniquely decorated with lively colors and designs. Murals adorn the sides of buildings thourghout the neihgborhood. Lots of good Italian restaurants.
- Arts and Culture
Traditionally Italian neighborhood
North Beach is one of San Francisco's great neighborhoods. There are a countless number of cafes, laid-out European style, with delicious Italian food. This neighborhood is historically one of Italian immigrants, and restaurants in this neighborhood have all the traditional Italian foods - from panini to pizza to gelato. This neighborhood has a great atmosphere, and it's a big reason why its residents are often in their 20's and 30's. On a nice day, you will see many people relaxing and sunbathing in Washington Square Park, and everyone out on the sidewalk cafes. Straight ahead of Washington Square Park, you will see a breathtaking cathedral - St. Peter and Paul's, where many celebrities have gotten married. Furthermore, the famous City Lights Bookstore is here in North Beach - great for fans of Kerouac and the Beat movement. It is also home to Coit Tower and the Filbert Steps. Nightlife here is also excellent.
North Beach is a wonderful San Francisco neighborhood. It's mostly known as an Italian enclave, but it also houses many of the other ethnic groups that give San Francisco it's distintcive flavor.
When in SF, I love to walk up and down Columbus Avenue. It's got so many restaurants, coffee houses, etc. Columbus Avenue also bisects the city-it's a great way to get from "here to there".
My pic was taken in the heart of North Beach. Sts Peter and Paul Church is in the foreground. Note Coit Tower in the background.
When in SF, spend some time in North Beach-you'll love it
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
North Beach is known today as the Italian neighbourhood although many immigrant settlers of different ethnic background called this place home before the Italians. North Beach is one of the touristy parts of San Francisco that I visit often, the reason being the joyfull atmosphere and the fact that you can dine outside in numerous places. It's a nice place to stroll and a good place to eat. At one point in time North Beach used to be the bohemian neighbourhood of San Francisco, home for the San Francisco's Beat counterculture so a walking tour of the neighbourhood must include the Vesuvio Caffe, the City Lights Bookstore, the Tosca and Trieste Caffes, all places of gatherings for the "beatniks" like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Another highlight of this area is the Washington Square Park lined on one side by the Saints Peter and Paul Church, a beautiful Gothic Revival church. And finally, no tour of San Francisco will be complete without seeing the Coit Tower, which sits on top of Telegraph Hill.
At night this place becomes even more vibrant, with numerous bars, saloons and lots of jazz clubs. Really nice. And I almost forgot about Broadway Street, also part of North Beach. It's the "adult entertainment" zone.
- Historical Travel
North Beach Mural
The mural at the corner of Broadway and Columbus Streets celebrates the colorful ethnic history of Italian North Beach, Chinatown, and originally Irish Telegraph Hill. Painted by Bill Weber across two sides of a building that has windows, the mural depicts immigrant themes--Italian fishermen pulling nets, a Chinese Imperial Dragon, and Irish dominated Telegraph Hill. Personal icons of San Francisco history, including eccentric 19th century street bum, Emperor Norton, Chronicle Columnist Herb Caen, Assassinated Mayor Art Agnos, Senator Diane Feinstein, and Former Mayor Willie Brown, and jazz musicians from the Beat Generation. The mural has undergone one renovation and funds are being raised for another. In the last restoration, Mayor Willie Brown's image was painted over that of Senator Barbara Boxer. Willie wasn't a great mayor but he knows how to pull strings and so had a lot of political clout with the state of California for many years. Betsy Malloy, About.com travel writer notes also that when at this street corner, the notion how North Beach came to be called is evident if one looks down Columbus toward the TransAmerica pyramid. Where Columbus flattens out is where the former shorline used to be. In fact, Telegraph Hill, where Coit Tower is located was once part of a peninsula, originally known as "Goat Hill", that formed the western side of Yerba Buena Cove. The eastern corner of the cove came to about 1st and Mission, and so all of the Embarcadero today is landfill from the 19th century, including the hulls of hundreds of ships. See also my tip about Portsmouth Plaza in Chinatown.
- Arts and Culture
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Hiking and Walking
Broadway Clip Joints
The original "hungry i" (@599 Jackson) & some of the clubs on Columbus & Broadway almost 40 years ago were great places for music, comedy, clubbing, etc.
Today it is still fun to walk by and maybe stop for a quick peek, but keep walkin' - don't get sucked in by the street barkers.
We did once ~ 7-10 years ago and imho these places were some of the worst strip / clip joints I have ever seen.
If you are dying to part with your cash and get not much for it, step right on in.
Actually it is kind of fun (in a semi-sadistic way) to have a quick drink inside and watch everyone ELSE get ripped off...
- Theater Travel
- Arts and Culture
A North Beach day
Here is a look down my favorite Columbus Ave towards the Financial district,
and here also is the obligatory Café Niebaum-Coppola / Pyramid shot I took (completely unoriginal, but I couldn't help it).
Saturday 2/1/05 ... I brushed out a few of the unsightly cables.
What you say we get loose and go for a nightime North Beach crawl?
- Arts and Culture
Will the Real San Francisco please stand up?
It has to be North Beach. North Beach symbolizes everything San Francisco is about - a city settled by an immigrant population, constantly changing communities, always diverse.
North Beach is best known for its Italian settlers, but it is also the home of people from many other parts of the world. This is the part of San Francisco where my husband's family from Serbia made their first home in America amongst Italians, Irish, Chinese and other Slavs.
Whatever its population, North Beach will always be one of the most colorful communities in San Francisco.
- Historical Travel
- Food and Dining
North Beach Square
Despite being within a city, North Beach has the ambiance of a small village.
The square is a welcome piece of green and a great place to chill out.
You can easily find somewhere to eat all around the square and being the Italian district you are sure to be on a winner there!
Walking distance to Fisherman's Whalf or Coit Tower or just about anywhere really!
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San Francisco Travel Guide
Explore the World
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- Zamboanga Hotels
- Saint George Island
- Cooke City
- Traben-Trarbach Things to Do
- Carmarthen Things to Do
- Lovers' Point
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- Soho and the West End
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- Walker Art Center / Sculpture Garden
- Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU
- Royal Chitwan National Park
- Botanical Garden