…things to do and places to eat.
By Mary Charlebois
Berkeley is just right for a weekend urban getaway. Bezerkley as it is lovingly called, is home to UCSF, the University of California San Francisco, and known as the epicenter of the free speech movements of the 60s.
Thirty minutes from San Francisco, Berkeley overflows with celebrated architecture, unmatched museums, classic and innovative galleries, live performance, a kaleidoscope of eateries, parks, and the San Francisco Bay.
Make your weekend home at the Graduate Berkeley. This historic hotel is across the street from UC Berkeley campus, and in the center of very walkable Berkeley. The décor is college campus retro and 60s mod with luxury bohemian character. Near the sports stadium, museums, shops, and eateries, Graduate Berkeley is enjoyably buzzy.
Graduate Hotels are in university towns around the country. Each hotel celebrates the spirit and history of the local school. website
Aftel Archive of Curious Scents
On a tree-lined residential Berkley street, Mandy Aftel, a perfumer, has created an archive of scents. Her knowledge of aromas comes from her distinguished career as a maker of perfumes. Her extensive collection of rare scent related objects is fascinating. Mandy’s scent organ, with over 300-essences, is your instrument for creating your own personal scent.
The building that houses the museum was hand-built by the Aftel’s. It is a work of art and a lovely, inviting space. See the website for hours and tickets. website
Beer and free speech for all
In the free speech movement of the 1960s, Mario Savio held meetings in this building. Today it’s a pub with a past. Take a break from Berkley touring. Relax indoors, in the courtyard, or front patio. There’s an amiable crowd and excellent service. Play pool or walk around the building for a look at photos of historic moments that happened here. website
Berkeley Art & Film
BAMPFA is a twofer. A modern art and a film museum reside in the same magnificent building. This University of California visual arts center is a feast for your eyes and ears. Their mission is to “inspire the imagination, ignite critical dialogue, and activate community engagement through art, film, and other forms of creative expression.” They have been at this mission since 1881.
The Berkeley Art Museum is populated with changing exhibits, an indoor amphitheater, library and study centers, Fisher Family Art Lab, reading rooms, a café, and a gift shop. Paintings and sculptures are decidedly modern. Some pieces call upon ancient subjects or techniques, others are innovative, even controversial.
The Pacific Film Archive is the largest in the world and continues to grow. The collection is housed in a climate-controlled bubble inside the BAMPFA building. A film lover’s dreams come true here. The film center is used for research by film students, historians, and professionals from around the globe.
Public showings of archived films are enjoyed in a state-of-the-art theater. Film talks are frequent. Every style, era, and language are exhibited. website
Freight & Salvage Coffee House
This Berkley institution started life in 1968. A mecca for musicians, Freight and Salvage, is a nonprofit community arts organization and home to performers of traditional music from regional, ethnic, and social cultures throughout the world.
F&S is a listening room. Folks come here to hear the music. See the website for nightly schedules of performers. website
Climb the Campanile
Don’t worry, the only way up is by elevator. Sather Tower offers an astounding view of UCSF campus, Berkeley, and the San Francisco Bay. The third-tallest bell and clock tower in the world can be seen for miles. It’s a photographer’s dream spot. For music lovers, enjoy a tower carillon concert three times a day.
Due west of Berkeley are San Francisco Bay and San Francisco. The little-known Berkley Waterfront has one of the most spectacular views of San Francisco on the bay.
This quiet and uncrowded district has over 100-acres of parkland, seven-miles of trails, marinas, launches, eateries, and marine services of all types. Boat rentals and boating lessons are prominent.
Berkeley, where to get your 3-squares
Breakfast and the world’s best omelet
La Note is an authentic Provençal restaurant in downtown Berkeley. Breakfast and lunch bistro fare share the menu with rustic Provençal dinners. No matter what meal you have there, try an omelet, share it with the table. I’ve never had one better, not even in France. There’s a lovely patio when weather permits. website
Lunch around the world in the student union
La Cocina Food Court in the UC Berkeley Student Union is an incubator for women-owned eateries. The food is exceptional. Try Syrian, Vietnamese, Mexican, and several ethnic styles. I suggest a dine-around. Try a little something from every stall.
Elegant dinner—spectacular architecture
Julia’s Restaurant at the Berkeley City Club was designed by Architect, Julia Morgan. Julia’s Restaurant is ultra-fine dining. The impeccable service and French cuisine are offered in a luxurious and romantic dining room. I still dream of the grilled hanger steak. website
Berkeley City Club is an old-school institution in Berkeley. Built-in 1927 as a woman’s club, it was designed by Julia Morgan, architect for Hurst Castle. Often called the ‘little castle,’ the architecture is captivating, covering several classical styles. Discovering hidden gardens, secret coves, cozy rooms, art, and sculpture, I thought of a Moorish castle in a bygone era.
Today, Berkeley City Club is a hotel, restaurant, and meeting space. It’s worth the time to explore the public spaces and lavish indoor pool. They don’t make um like this anymore. Day passes are available to non-guest for the spa and pool. website
Berkley is a concoction of tradition and innovation. There is plenty to do, lots to eat, and history around every corner.
Walking guides are available for Berkeley neighborhoods for Apple and Android. Check Apple or Amazon.
Berkeley is in San Francisco’s East Bay. Oakland (OAK) is the closest airport, about 15-miles.
Once in Berkeley, a car will not be necessary. It’s a safe, walkable city, and public transit is efficient, frequent, and affordable. Consider public transportation or Uber to get from the airport to your hotel.
Read about Berkley’s 30+ museums in my GoNOMAD article, Berkeley California: Museums Conventional to Curious.
To learn more about Berkley ESP (eat, sleep, play), go to – Visit Berkley.
Thanks for stopping by, MaryGo