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Columbus Tower in North Beach, San Francisco. Photo: Shutterstock
Columbus Tower in North Beach, San Francisco. Photo: Shutterstock

Places

Relive the beatnik days in San Fran

San Francisco’s North Beach district is full of places deeply connected to the city’s 1950s Beat movement and the 1960s countercultural movement.

Beat Museum

Although the Beat movement was not born in San Francisco, the artists became a fixture in the city’s North Beach neighborhood. Founded by a couple of Beat fans, The Beat Museum looks at Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snider through original manuscripts, key texts, photos, personal effects and memorabilia.

Beat Museum

540 Broadway, San Francisco

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Caffe Trieste

Caffe Trieste was a favorite writing haunt for Kerouac and Ginsberg, as well as Alan Watts, Gregory Corso and Richard Brautigan. Francis Ford Coppola later reportedly wrote much of The Godfather here. One of the earliest espresso bars on America’s west coast, it’s a great spot to refuel and check out the photos of famous writers on the walls.

Caffe Trieste

601 Vallejo Street, San Francisco

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Language of the Birds

The Language of the Birds is an art installation of a flock of 23 "flying" illuminated books with English, Italian and Chinese words and phrases that seem to have fallen from them and become embedded in the floor.

Language of the Birds

320 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco

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City Lights Bookstore

Co-founded by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953 as the City Lights Pocket Book Shop, this was a meeting place for Beat writers and the publisher of many Beat volumes, including Allen Ginsberg's poem "HOWL," the subject of an obscenity trial in the 1950s.

City Lights Bookstore

261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco

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Vesuvio

Vesuvio – known as Vesuvio’s – claims that Neal Cassady, the inspiration for the character Dean Moriarty in Kerouac's novel On the Road, stopped by for a drink on his way to one of Allen Ginsberg's readings at Six Gallery (which sadly does not exist anymore). Many Beat writers frequented this watering hole, especially Kerouac; the story goes that he stood up writer Henry Miller in Big Sur because he got extremely drunk at Vesuvio’s instead.

Vesuvio

255 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco

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Tosca Café

This favorite haunt of the Beats – reputedly the third oldest bar in the city – was saved from closure by Sean Penn in the mid-2000s and is now a great spot for dinner and a coffee-free House Cappuccino, crafted solely with steamed hot chocolate and brandy.

Tosca Café

242 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco

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Spec's

Officially called Specs' Twelve Adler Museum Café, this quirky dive bar has been dubbed everything from a speakeasy to a lesbian bar. Named for its bespectacled owner Richard "Specs" Simmons, it’s more famous for its history, collection of curios and local cast of regulars than the quality of its drinks and it’s a lively spot, especially at weekends.

Spec's

12 William Saroyan Place

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Last edited: August 2, 2017

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