Discovering Berkeley CA…

…things to do and places to eat.

By Mary Charlebois

Discovering Berkley

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.

Discovering Berkley at the Berkeley Graduate

Berkeley Basecamp

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.

Discovering Berkley at the Berkeley Graduate

The hotel sports two places to eat. Henry’s is open for dinner and drinks after. The renowned Tartine Bakery is open for breakfast and lunch.

Graduate Hotels are in university towns around the country. Each hotel celebrates the spirit and history of the local school. website

Discovering Berkley at Aftel Archive of Curious Scents

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

Discovering Berkley at the Free House

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

Discovering Berkley at BAMPFA

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.

Discovering Berkley at BAMPFA

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

Discovering Berkley at Freight and Salvage Coffee House

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


Discovering Berkley at UCSF

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.

Discovering Berkeley on the Berkeley waterfront
Discovering Berkeley on the Berkeley waterfront

Berkeley Waterfront

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.

Discovering Berkley at the Berkley waterfront
Discovering Berkley at the Berkley waterfront

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

Discovering Berkley at La Note

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

Discovering Berkley at La Cocina’s Cantina

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.

Discovering Berkley at Julie’s Restaurant

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

Discovering Berkley at the Berkeley City Club

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.

Discovering Berkley at the Berkeley City Club

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

Discover Berkley

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.

Getting there

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

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