North Beach has an average violent crime rate and an above average property crime rate for San Francisco.
North Beach holds a lot of history along its narrow, cramped streets, including the oldest street in San Francisco: Grant Avenue. This neighborhood was largely saved from damage during the 1906 earthquake and the tech boom has made much less of an impact on its aesthetic than in other parts of the city. It’s located in the northeast corner of city and is sometimes referred to as Little Italy.
The docks historically served as a gateway for immigrants new to the city, and little pockets of different nationalities popped up in the North Beach and Chinatown areas. Most are gone now, but the checkered tabled-clothed restaurants, cafes made lively by old-timers, and shops offering tailoring and shoemaking are a remnant of the large Italian population once present here.
North Beach is also historically important to the Beat literary movement, giving it an avant garde edge. Although, like its Italian roots it has mostly shed its artist population, pushing them away with some of the highest rents in the city.
A section of North Beach was a former red-light district which featured brothels, jazz clubs, and bars. This history helps explain the glare of neon signs for strip clubs on Broadway, which now seem out of place in this charming neighborhood. Be warned that these clubs can attract loud and rowdy late night crowds.
An art installation named “Language of the Birds” marks the intersection of the North Beach and Chinatown neighborhoods, paying homage to its cultural and historical history with twenty-three lighted books appearing to take flight like that of birds, and with inscriptions written in Chinese, English, and Italian. To the east lies Telegraph Hill and the surrounding neighborhood is referred to by the same name. It is marked by Coit Tower, a 210-foot tower that can be seen across San Francisco. This area of the neighborhood tends to run a little wealthier. And to the north is Fisherman’s Wharf, a popular tourist attraction along the water, densely packed with restaurants and gift shops.
Housing is mostly standardized post-quake walk-ups (up the hill are higher-end rentals and single family homes) from the 1910s and 1920s. It’s a very walkable neighborhood, connected to the rest of the city by a few buses. It’s less foggy and out of the way than the other seaside neighborhoods (although there’s no beach, so it’s a compromise).
These days, North Beach is headed towards a population predominantly made up of Chinese Americans and young professionals. Families might want to consider another neighborhood since it’s not stroller friendly and the strip clubs draw in a somewhat sketchy crowd at night. For others it’s a beautiful neighborhood with a great location and plenty of things to see and do and eat to keep you busy.
This extensive arts supply store is housed in what used to be the Hippodrome, an entertainment club during the height of the Barbary Coast red-light district era (1850s-1910s). You can still see a walled-off section of a tunnel on the lower floor, rumored to have once been used for criminal activity.
A 210-foot tower donated in 1929 by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a volunteer firefighter. It features impressive murals on its ground floor and an elevator to the top where you can take in 360º views of the city and Bay.
A North Beach Italian icon serving coffee, pastries, wine, and beer, and occasionally hosting live music. You can usually find a group of old-timers sitting around and talking about how the city has changed in their lifetimes.
Photo Credits: Thanks to @tigernagel, @pier39, @katwalksf, @melissarighero, @_ccrider, @changewithchan, @tinne_aerts, @jennichka.s, @ketusastar, @solostace, @victoriamstudio, @peskolu, @ebirenka, @rankichi7, @saltyschwartz, @aaronanpku, @foodiesnica, @chasingspraypaint, @cowingtipping, @patpostro, for your great photos of this neighborhood!
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