North Beach is a vibrant, walkable neighborhood in San Francisco, known as Little Italy due to its Italian roots.
Follow the Italian flag posts down Columbus Avenue past pizzerias, trattorias and cafes.
10 best things to do at North Beach
By the 1920’s North Beach was a predominately Italian neighborhood with many locals working in the fishing industry.
Famous baseballer Joe DiMaggio grew up in North Beach as the son of a local fisherman. Bank of America Founder Amadeo Giannini also started his business here providing low income loans.
North Beach became famous as the hangout for the Beatnik Generation. The Beatniks were the literary counterculture of the 1950’s rebelling against the oppressive social environment of Post WWII. Famous writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg met in North Beach’s cafes and drank coffee years before it became a mainstream beverage in America.
Here's the 10 best things to do at North Beach:
1. Eat at famous North Beach restaurants.
Visit one of North Beach San Francisco's famous Italian restaurants like Calzones, North Beach Restaurant or Tony's Pizza Napoletana.
North Beach RestaurantsNorth Beach Restaurants in San FranciscoBest North Beach Restaurants
2. Stop for a coffee at chic Reveille Coffee Company.
Start the day with a latte at Reveille Coffee Company (200 Columbus Avenue).
3. Hang out at the Beatnik-era Vesuvio Cafe.
Cross the street to Vesuvio Cafe (255 Columbus Avenue), a well known hangout for Beatniks like Jack Kerouac. Check-out the Beatnik memorabilia on it’s walls. Jack Kerouac Alley is just outside, with some colorful murals.
Vesuvio CafeVesuvio Cafe North BeachVesuvio Cafe San Francisco
4. Visit the historic City Light Booksellers and Publishers.
Go next door to City Light Booksellers and Publishers (261 Columbus Avenue).
This is a famous independent bookstore founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It was once the main gathering point for Beatnik writers with poetry recitals and discussions.
Ferlinghetti’s publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and other Poems in 1955 led to an obscenity trial due to the sexual and drug content of the book.
City Lights Bookstore
City Lights Books
5. Check out fascinating memorabilia at the Beat Museum.
Turn right on Broadway and visit the small Beat Museum (540 Broadway).
There’s a fascinating array of letters, photos, and posters, and even a vintage 1949 Plymouth car from the On the Road era. Check out the letter from Kerouac to Marlon Brando, asking him to play the lead in On the Road.
The museum has a gift shop out front, with a great selection of books and vinyl.
6. Visit the stunning National Shrine of St Francis of Assisi.
Walk one block to the National Shrine of St Francis of Assisi (610 Vallejo St). It was built in 1860 but only the towers and front walls survived the 1906 earthquake. The churches interior was rebuilt in 1919.
Explore the interior of this stunning shrine that is now a historic landmark. See exquisite murals at the front of the church by Italian painter Luigi Brusatori.
Little Italy San Francisco
7. Relax at Washington Square.
Continue north along Columbus Avenue to Washington Square. The park has a lovely green space for relaxing, and a small playground. This is the perfect place in North Beach San Francisco for kids.
Washington Square Park San Francisco
8. Take part in the blessing of the fishing fleet, at the St Peter and Paul Church.
Just across the road from Washington Square peek inside the stunning Saints Peter and Paul Church (666 Filbert Street) built in 1924.
This church was the pillar of the Italian fishing community. Each September the blessing of the fishing fleet still takes place with a parade from the church to Fisherman’s Wharf. The church also appears in popular culture. Scenes from Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movie were filmed here.
In 1954 Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe had their photo taken on the steps here after their civil marriage ceremony.
St Peter and Paul Church
St Peter and Paul Church San Francisco
9. Take kids to the cool Joe DiMaggio Playground.
Continue two blocks up Columbus Avenue to the new Joe DiMaggio Playground (651 Lombard Street). Wow! This is a beautifully landscaped park, with slides, climbing structures, towers and basketball courts. Your kids will love it.
Joe DiMaggio PlaygroundJoe DiMaggio Playground San Francisco
10. Climb up Coit Tower for magnificent views.
Drive up to nearby Coit Tower. Climb the steps to the top of the tower for magnificent views over San Francisco.