San Francisco’s nightlife: 10 historic places you can’t miss

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San Francisco’s nightlife has always been one of the most famous and unique: considered one of the most European cities in the United States, San Francisco offers a wide variety of pubs for those who are looking. It’s very different from other big capitals because of its very relaxing and chill atmosphere. There are a lot of food places and pubs that are quiet and very accessible. Most of the pubs are also historic places that were open at the beginning of last century, then revitalized first by the beat generation, then during the Summer of Love. That’s why San Francisco has been confirmed, throughout the years, a city of freedom and opportunities.

If you are in San Francisco, these are the historic places that you cannot miss to feel a little bit like in the middle of the Summer of Love or in the years of the Beat Generation, when being unconventional was a lifestyle and not a necessity.


Cafe Du Nord (2170 Market St.)

Café Du Nord was opened before the Prohibition era and was kept open even during those years. Over time it became a real institution and now it’s one of the most loved historic places in the Castro district. Its basement activity began after Sala’s debut and it was kept open during the Prohibition years as a speakeasy. In the end, live music was added and the basement’s premises has received a lot of prizes for supporting local talents.


Far East Cafe (631 Grant St.)

Far East Café is one of the historic pubs of San Francisco when we talk about Chinese food with weird furniture, typical dishes of the Cantonese cuisine and the Sichuan area. You can’t miss it if you want to enjoy the atmosphere of old China.


Aub Zam Zam (1633 Haight St.)

This is a very important piece of history, Aub Zam Zam became famous because of its extremely rude approach to the customers that didn’t follow his rules and order drink that he didn’t like. The owner used to just kick them out.


The Bus Stop (1901 Union St.)

Historic place linked to the history of San Francisco and to the Muni, which is cable car that stops right in front of the restaurant. Since the 60s, this place has been always relevant and nowadays it represents one of the last bastions of the times that used to be.

Mission District

The Homestead (2301 Folsom St.)

It was open in 1906 and, apparently, it was one of the few pubs where it was possible to speak during the Prohibition era. The internal design is still the one from that time. The Homestead is one of the most authentic pubs you will find in San Francisco.

Nob Hill

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar (950 Mason St.)

Located in the popular and luxurious Fairmont San Francisco, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar has been relevant since 1945 thanks to its design, its food and the kitsch atmosphere. You cannot miss it you if you want to dive into a very different reality.


House of Shields (39 New Montgomery St.)

It’s one of the most ancient bars of San Francisco. It was open in 1944 and it used to be an only men club. In the Prohibition era, there was a secret tunnel that was used to connect the pub to the Palace hotel. Women were accepted in the bar only in 1976.

North Beach

Vesuvio Cafe (255 Columbus Ave.)

Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg used to hang around here since it is very close to the City Lights. At first, it was a meeting place for poets of the Beat Generation and for hippies, today it’s still somewhere where you can enjoy poetry and jazz, but it has become more touristic.

Union Square

Sears Fine Foods (439 Powell St.)

An institution of the city of San Francisco, it was born in 1937 thanks to a Swedish ex-circus performer. It was purchased by someone else in 1950 and it became famous because of its two pink Cadillacs that were always parked there and that could be used by customers. They even had a working a radio and heating.

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If you are looking for other night pubs in San Francisco, something less classic buts still popular among the locals, I suggest you to go check the official website of the city. To plan your visit in San Francisco at best, you can also read our completed guide and our itinerary of five days that has details on where to eat whenever you will find yourself.

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Categories: Travel & Food
Article written by Veruska Anconitano aka La Cuochina Sopraffina


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