North Beach - Little Italy

North Beach is one of the most tourist-friendly neighborhoods in San Francisco. It is rich with history, filled with attractions and provides numerous shopping and dining opportunities. It is also located within close proximity to other popular tourist hot spots. This guide can help you figure out what’s worth seeing in this busy part of San Francisco.

Location of North Beach

North Beach is located in a great spot for visitors. Columbus, a main street, runs right through North Beach so it’s easy to get here by car or bus. To the north of this neighborhood you’ll find Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, a very popular spot for tourists. To the south of North Beach you’ll find Chinatown, another great neighborhood to visit. From North Beach you’re only a short walk to the Embarcadero as well as the Financial District of the city and you’re a quick bus ride away from the shopping center of Union Square.

Little Italy History...

North Beach got its name from the fact that a long time ago it used to actually be a beach on the northern end of the city. The city’s borders have been extended today so it’s not a beach anymore but the name stuck. If you’re looking for information on actual San Francisco beaches then check out our guide to the top five San Francisco beaches.

When it was an actual beach, it was home to fishing wharves and boat docks that drew in Italian American immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century. The neighborhood became known as Little Italy and still retains this feel today with restaurants, cafes and gelato shops that are reminders of Italian towns.

In more recent history, Little Italy was home to the Beat Generation of poets. These people filled the cafes, bookstores and bars of the area during the 1950’s and 1960’s. This history is celebrated in the area today.

Washington Square Cathedral San Francisco

Washington Square

Top North Beach attractions

Some of the most popular must-see tourist attractions in North Beach include:

City Lights Bookstore


Off-the-beaten path North Beach attractions

Beat Generation Museum


North Beach hot spots for entertainment

In addition to the standards bars and saloons, North Beach is home to some very great spots for live entertainment:

North Beach San Francisco

North Beach transportation

People who want to use public transportation to get to and from North Beach will have several options. MUNI buses that run through this area include the #30, the #41 and the #45. People who want to bus up to Coit Tower from North Beach can take the #39. Another popular form of transportation is the cable car; the Powell-Mason Line runs right through the North End of North Beach. Alternatively, it is very easy to find taxis to flag down on the street here; Columbus and Grant are the best streets to find them.