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The art & culture lover’s guide to the North Beach

Updated January 2023

With its jazz clubs, Italian heritage, and galleries, North Beach is one of the artsiest neighborhoods in San Francisco. It will take more than a weekend to fully explore the explosive arts and culture scene here, but this list of places to check out should get you started (and keep coming back for more).

Pier 39

Caricatures, interactive arts, live music, and street performances

The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

Pier 39 is a hotbed of arts and culture in North Beach. At the Entrance Plaza, you’ll be treated to live music every day of the week, from Latin Fusion to Bolivian Jazz.

If you want a fun souvenir to take home with you, head to the caricatures cart and have the in-house artist sketch a delightful portrait of you or a loved one. And while you’re here, remember to have your picture taken by the Open Heart sculpture; it’s one of the many interactive arts scattered around the 45-acre complex.

Ferry Building Marketplace

Farmers market, local arts and crafts, artisanal food and products

One Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA

The Ferry Building Marketplace is the place to be if you want to shop for fresh and local produce and artisanal products, arts, and crafts made by San Francisco’s specialty food purveyors and artists. Some establishments and merchants you’ll find inside include Heath CeramicsAcme Bread CompanyBiscuit BenderFar West Fungi, and Cowgirl Creamery’s Artisan Cheese Shop.

One Ferry Building is a piece of San Francisco’s history and culture. It was built in 1898 as a transportation hub where travelers arrived or bid farewell to pursue adventures abroad.

The Exploratorium

Art and science exhibits, After Dark Thursdays, and immersive experiences

Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

Art and science collide at the Exploratorium, which isn’t just a museum but a “learning laboratory.” Kids and adults alike will have fun here— there are a ton of interactive and immersive exhibits that will challenge your perceptions about science, life, and art.

The best time to visit the Exploratorium would be during their After Dark event, which happens every Thursday night. The entire Exploratorium takes on a different skin during this week’s time. Explore dark domes, try trick mirrors, peek into a giant kaleidoscope, and admire the light displays. This is only for adults, by the way. Click here for the upcoming After Dark events. 

Autodesk Gallery

Cutting-edge design, concept art, and digital prototypes

1 Market Street #200, San Francisco, CA

At the Exploratorium, the spotlight was on art and science. Here at Autodesk Gallery (billed as one of the top destinations in San Francisco), art meets engineering and cutting-edge design.

Autodesk builds, and you can see some of their finest works and the machines and tech they used at the Gallery. There are several exhibits to explore, but if you want a more profound experience, join Autodesk in one of their Design Nights or build your stuff at the Design & Make Studio.

North Beach might be the neighborhood for you.