Standing at the apex of the Filbert Street Steps, you can understand what Italian fishermen and beat poets saw in North Beach: tough climbs and giddy vistas, a place with more sky than ground, an area that was civilized but not entirely tamed.
A vibrant Italian community thrives in North Beach, which is home to dozens of Italian restaurants and coffeehouses. Columbus Avenue, the neighborhood's main street, is lined with many eclectic shops and one-of-a-kind fashion boutiques - perfect for an afternoon stroll. An alleyway off of Columbus, between Kearny Street and Broadway, is named for Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac, who once lived there. Kerouac also regularly visited the famous City Lights Bookstore, on the corner of Columbus and Broadway, a must-stop for book lovers. Broadway, east of Columbus Avenue, still serves as the city's main red-light and nightclub district, bustling as it does with many bars, nightclubs, jazz clubs.
You won’t find an actual beach in North Beach, though you will discover natural beauty atop Telegraph Hill, the neighborhood’s bucolic centerpiece. A hike up the Filbert or Greenwich street steps will put you at the top, where you can take in panoramic views of the city from Coit Tower. Or forego the climb and watch wild parrots frolic in the treetops from the friendly confines of a park bench in Washington Square.
North Beach lies just below the Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf. The neighborhood is easily accessible by bus and cable cars. The Powell-Mason cable car turnaround is on the northwest corner of North Beach, and travels down Columbus Avenue, turning up toward Nob Hill. You’ll find plenty of dining and shopping on Columbus Avenue as well as on Grant Avenue and Washington Street.