This former immigrant neighborhood is steeped in literary history and Italian flavors.
1. Visit City Lights
Courtesy City Lights
A former hangout of Beat generation writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, City Lights has been designated a San Francisco landmark. This iconic bookstore houses three levels of volumes, including an impressive poetry collection. The store stays open until midnight. 261 Columbus Avenue; 415-362-8183.
2. Break for Coffee at Trieste
A quintessential North Beach coffeehouse that has been family owned for 40 years, Trieste presents weekly concerts that range from opera to Italian folk and pop. It’s no surprise this authentic, atmospheric spot is a haven for artists and writers; word has is Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay for The Godfather here. 601 Vallejo St.; 415-392-6739.
3. Browse Shops on Grant Avenue
Charmingly narrow Grant Avenue epitomizes the independent spirit of North Beach. Here you’ll find a terrific collection of small cafes and boutiques selling clothes by local designers and vintage wares. Grant Avenue between Columbus and Filbert Streets.
4. Climb the Filbert Steps
Along the east side of telegraph hill, the Filbert steps wend their way past charming lushly landscaped historic cottages (these are private residences). The top affords a terrific city view; lucky walkers may spot the famous parrots of Telegraph Hill, who make their home among the trees here. Filbert Street between Sansome and Montgomery.
5. Visit Molinari’s
This family-owned delicatessen has been a local landmark since 1896. The crammed interior is stocked with an impressive selection of hanging sausages and salamis, massive olive oil jugs, and important canned goods from Italy. 373 Columbus Ave.; 415-421-2337.
6. Visit Coit Tower
This stunning Art Deco tower was erected in 1934. The park at the tower’s base affords spectacular views of the city; inside, Diego Rivera-inspired murals tell the history of San Francisco. Telegraph Hill Blvd. at Greenwich Street or Lombard Street; 415-362-0808.
7. Raise a Glass at Tosca
Even locals can’t resist the charms of Tosca Café, a San Francisco institution. The bar, unchanged since it opened more than 80 years ago, features cozy red vinyl booths, and a vintage jukebox. Tosca serves classic cocktails and a signature brandy-and-chocolate-spiked cappuccino. 242 Columbus Street; 415-391-1244.
8. See the Sentinel BuildingThis wedge-shaped, steel-framed building has a striking green patina. Built in 1907 and now owned by Francis Ford Coppola the Sentinel houses the stylish Café Zoetrope, a wine bar that stocks bottles from the director’s own vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. 916 Kearny; 415-291-1700.
9. Savor the Sweets at Caffe Greco
Courtesy Caffe Greco
This bustling spot is revered for its authentic Italian coffee and homemade cannoli, gelato, and tiramisu. 423 Columbus Ave.; 415-397-6261.