North Beach: A Brief Biography


Every great American city has its own Italian neighborhood: Manhattan has Little Italy, Boston has the North End… San Francisco has North Beach. In less than one square mile, North Beach packs in a myriad of dining options, thriving nightlife, and some of San Francisco’s best Italian cuisine and gelato. It’s distinctly European atmosphere will have you saying, “I have a feeling we’re not in San Francisco anymore,” while enjoying an espresso and cannoli at one of Columbus Avenue’s many sidewalk cafés.

Historically home to the infamous Gold Rush-era “Barbary Coast”, North Beach was once an actual beach. However, it was filled in with landfill in the 19th century to make way for housing and shipping ports. Eventually, a large population of Italian-Americans settled in this vibrant neighborhood, giving birth to the North Beach we know and love today.


Cucina Italiana... or Italian Kitchen!
North Beach celebrates its Italian heritage, and offers a wide variety of Italian eateries.


Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe and politician Joseph Alioto all lived in North Beach in the 1950’s. During this time many of  the neighborhood’s cafés and bars became the epicenter of the Beat literary movement of the 1950s and 60s. Some of the generation’s best writers, including Allen Ginsberg, published works through North Beach’s iconic City Lights Bookstore, giving rise to the Beat Generation and the San Francisco Renaissance.


Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio
Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio leaving City Hall after their wedding.


City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco
City Lights Bookstore was at the center of the Beat Literary movement, with some of the generation’s best authors publishing their works through the bookstore.


Today, this vibrant neighborhood is home to many Italian restaurants, cafés and bakeries, though the neighborhood has become a cultural melting pot over the years. North Beach is also one of San Francisco’s main nightlife districts, rooted during the Beatnik era.


The Transamerica Pyramid Building looking from Columbus Avenue.
The Transamerica Pyramid Building looking from Columbus Avenue.


North Beach provides a myriad of dining options, a thriving nightlife, some of the best Italian food and, of course, gelato. North Beach hosts festivals and street fairs throughout the year, like the Columbus Day Parade, and the neighborhood is still a hot spot for musicians and artists alike (you won’t miss them at the North Beach Festival in June).


A view of Saint Peter & Paul's Church, Washington Square Park (established in 1847) , and Coit Tower.
A view of Saint Peter & Paul’s Church, Washington Square Park (established in 1847) , and Coit Tower.


North Beach sidewalk café
A typical sidewalk café scene in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood.


Located on the Northeastern section of San Francisco, North Beach enjoys considerably warmer and sunnier weather than the western half of the city. If you’re cold in the Sunset or Richmond and craving some gelato, definitely head out to this neighborhood.

Stay tuned for our expanded Neighborhood Guides—coming soon to—, with all the information you’ll need when deciding on the next neighborhood to call home (or maybe just for a night out on the town).

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