North Beach, San Francisco

North Beach, San FranciscoThis part of San Francisco is called Little Italy, and it’s one of the friendliest places in a city that’s known for being fun-loving.  North Beach is bounded by the former Barbary Coast, now Jackson Square, the Financial District, Chinatown, Russian Hill, Telegraph Hill, and Fisherman’s Wharf at Bay Street.

North Beach got its name because it actually used to be a beach on the northern end of the City.  During that time, it was home to fishing wharves and boat docks that drew Italian immigrants.  The neighborhood was called “Little Italy,” and the restaurants, cafes and gelato shops still feel like parts of an Italian town. Little Italy was also home to the Beat Generation, spawning a number of poets and writers. 

Seven North Beach places to Explore:

1)      Washington Square Park:  This small city park is located on Columbus Street and Union.  Lounge on the grass and people watch.  It’s a top spot for neighborhood festivals such as the North Beach Festival in June, and the Italian American Heritage Festival in October.

2)     City Lights Bookstore:  A must.  This infamous and famous bookstore is one of the best places, ever, to browse for interesting books.  The important thing:  It’s connected with the Beat Generation of poets.  Upstairs were readings given by Ferlinghetti, Kerouac, and Ginsberg.  Ferlinghetti still runs a press here, turning out one or two books per year.  It’s on the corner of Ferlinghetti St., as a matter of fact.

3)     Cable Car Museum:  There’s a collection of historic cable cars that will knock your socks off, also lots of info about them and their connection with the City.

4)      Restaurants:  This area is restaurant heaven, especially if you like good Italian food, and like watching handsome waiters in tight pants.  It’s worth ordering two deserts just to watch them walk away from you for a good, last look before you take off.

5)     Sts. Peter and Paul Church:  This historic Church is right across the street from Washington Square Park.  It’s a beautiful church, and it’s the place Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio (a local) got married.

6)     The National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi:  This church is a national shrine that is the perfect place to pick up information about this beloved saint.  It’s also a great place to grab a little peace and quiet while sitting on a pew inside.  Lovely.

7)      The Beat Generation Museum:  This is a fairly new museum, and it is located, appropriately, near the City Lights Bookstore.  If you’re interested in those guys, and if you’re not you might want to be, you can get a lot of info about this crew.

The Beat Poets were the first voices that shattered and howled at the windows of The Silent Generation.   Go stand in the middle of hip living history.


Writer: Meredith Blevins, featured travel writer for the Authentic Wine Country.  Join her at for wine-country mysteries, classes, and the untamed west.

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