Top 9 Things to Do in North Beach

A former immigrant neighborhood, North Beach is steeped in literary history and Italian flavors.

  • 01 of 09

    Visit City Lights

    City Lights bookstore, San Francisco, California
    Buyenlarge / Getty Images

    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.

  • 02 of 09

    Break for Coffee at Trieste

    Trieste Cafe on Vallejo Street, North Beach.
    Orien Harvey / Getty Images

    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 it Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay for The Godfather here.

  • 03 of 09

    Browse Shops on Grant Avenue

    Grant Avenue at night
    Steve Lewis Stock / Getty Images

    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.

  • 04 of 09

    Climb the Filbert Steps

    Filbert Street Steps
    By Christopher Beland (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    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.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Visit Molinari's

    Erica Chang [ CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    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 imported canned goods from Italy. 

  • 06 of 09
    Coit Tower, San Francisco
    Sabrina Dalbesio / Getty Images

    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.

  • 07 of 09

    Raise a Glass at Tosca

    Cocktail Pour at Tosca Cafe
    " Cocktail Pour @ Tosca Cafe" ( CC BY 2.0) by Schill

    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. 

  • 08 of 09

    See the Sentinel Building

    Sentinel Building
    Debra Brash / Design Pics / Getty Images

    This 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.​

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  • 09 of 09

    Savor the Sweets at Caffe Greco

    Caffe Greco
    ( CC BY-SA 2.0) by kmf164

    This bustling spot is revered for its authentic Italian coffee and homemade cannoli, gelato, and tiramisu.