Your Guide to North Beach

February 23rd, 2018

North Beach is one of America’s favorite neighborhoods. It’s the home of Joe DiMaggio, the hub of the West Coast beatniks and site of the very first topless bar in the U.S.

The neighborhood situated near Russian Hill, Chinatown and the Financial District is walkable and includes Victorian architecture, steep hills and sweeping views.

Stanford Court Hotel is located right in the mix, just a 10-minute walk away from SF’s Little Italy. Here’s your North Beach guide. 


Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Neil Cassady, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and others all turned cafes and bars in North Beach into a now historic center for the beat subculture. Points of interest include Vesuvio Cafe, a kitschy bar that’s been around since 1948 and has seen the likes of Bob Dylan, Francis Ford Coppola and just about all the beat poets (255 Columbus Ave). Across the alley of Vesuvio (aptly named after Jack Kerouac who lived off the little street), is City Lights Bookstore, co-founded by Ferlinghetti. City Lights is an independent bookstore and publisher, originally publishing Ginsberg’s famous collection, Howl and Other Poems (1956). There’s an astounding array of books at City Lights and the staff is knowledgeable and helpful. Treat yourself.

Little Italy

Italian immigrants flooded the area after the 1906 earthquake and the area flourished. To check out all the delicious results of this, check out the beautiful Washington Square Park (home of the equally-beautiful Saints Peter & Paul Church), heading southeast on Columbus Avenue. There you’ll find Stella Pastry and clusters of great Italian dining. A point of interest is the copper-green Sentinel Building, located near Washington Square at 916 Kearny Street. The copper-green building belongs to Francis Ford Coppola and is home to his American Zoetrope Studios. Also, check out the famed Caffe Treiste at 601 Vallejo Street. Coppola wrote most of The Godfather screenplay at the cafe and it was a favorite spot among the beatniks.

Red Light District

North Beach was a red light district before the U.S. knew what a red light district was. Before the 1906 earthquake, this area was the lawless Barbary Coast (as it was actually a coast back then, later filled with landfill) where many gold miners and came to check out the area’s dancehalls, brothels and saloons. This area was destroyed after the earthquake and later Prohibition further stamped the ungodliness. In the 1950s, nearby Broadway Street became a place for jazz and live entertainment clubs. The Condor Club located at 560 Broadway was the first topless bar in the United States, opening in 1964. Many adult entertainment clubs line the Broadway Street headed south today, though it doesn’t have the luster of its mid-20th Century fame.

If you want more information, don’t hesitate to ask SCH’s concierge for more info about what to see or where to eat in North Beach.


Book a stay at Stanford Court, a boutique hotel in Nob Hill.

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