City Lights

Shopping, Bookstores Chinatown
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
22 Love It
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City Lights
City Lights

Since 1953, City Lights has been a San Francisco institution. Situated in North Beach, just off the seedy strip of Broadway, the shop feels like a small piece of history. The Beats are the shop's patron saints, and quotes and photos of Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg are displayed throughout the store. (Quotes also gleam underfoot in the adjacent alleyway, like a counterculture yellow brick road). It's a beautiful space, with arched doorways, vintage art and light filtering in through large east-facing windows. It's not uncommon for regulars to settle into a sunny corner with a book. Beat literature and poetry is housed upstairs, while current literature, fiction and nonfiction is shelved on the main floor. Many of the staff picks have progressive political leanings, as you might expect from a shop where posters read “Eat, sleep, read, provoke,” and “A literary Habitat for Humanity.” It's not just a bookstore—it's a legacy.


Venue name: City Lights
Address: 261 Columbus Ave
San Francisco

Cross street: between Broadway St and Jack Kerouac Alley
Opening hours: Daily 10am–midnight
Transport: Bus 8AX, 8BX, 8X, 10, 12, 41
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Average User Rating

4.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Stephanie C

You can get lost for days in this bookstore. There are so many sections, and definitely don't forget to go downstairs. As mentioned below, the place can get a little crowded, but at least that means this place will stay open and continue to be a landmark in the city for years to come.

Erin Kuschner

Second to Green Apple, City Lights is my favorite book store in SF - isn't it everyone's favorite book store here? There's just so much history and star power behind this place, namely from the Beat generation, and wandering its halls is a great way to get lost in your own thoughts and the books that line these walls. It can be a bit overwhelming, and it certainly gets crowded due to its popularity, but no visit to SF would be complete without a stop here.