Book shelf and wall in City Lights Books in North Beach of San Francisco, California.

North Beach / Telegraph Hill

City Lights Books

City Lights Books, the first all-paperback bookstore in the world, stands as one of the great independent bookstores of the USA. An iconic establishment and headquarters for the Beat Generation literary movement of the 1950s, City Lights is a rather important landmark in San Francisco.

City Lights Books is by far most famous for its connection to the Beat Generation. While sections of bookstores around the world are dedicated to the Beat Generation, City Lights Book Store IS the anti-conformist, non-materialistic Beat Generation, featuring works such as On the Road by Jack Kerouac and “Howl” by Alan Ginsberg.

The official historic landmark represents a period when the term “beatnik” was coined, even influencing rockers such as Bob Dylan and the Beatles.

Inside, the bookstore consists of three stories of poems, books and maps. And outside, you can visit locations where writers were inspired to create their award-winning works — places such as Vesuvio Café (a bar) or Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum (another bar). Needless to say, the poets and writers of the 1950s had their fair share of inspiration.

Do you want to see California like a local? —if so, CLICK HERE!

Some of the most important works of literature of the 1950s were created near the corner of Broadway and Columbus Avenue in North Beach. The bookstore, City Lights Books, is the modern-day representation of those literary pieces. As a bonus, the place is still a normal bookstore. It’s open until midnight most nights, so go get inspired and buy yourself a book.

City Lights North Beach

How Do I Find City Lights Books?

  • City Lights is located in the heart of North Beach, near the corner of Broadway and Columbus Ave. If you visit in the afternoon, we recommend a beer before you arrive, because why not?
  • You can use public transportation routes 9x, 12, 20, 30, 41 and the 45 to reach City Lights. We recommend walking, through, making sure to pass through Jack Kerouac Alley on the way.
  • To reach City Lights Books from Union Square we recommend a walk. The store is located in the middle of San Francisco, so your stroll won’t be boring.
  • Other notable attractions near City Lights Books are Chinatown, Jack Kerouac Alley, Vesuvio Cafe, Specs, The Condor Club, 15 Romolo, The Saloon, the Transamerica Pyramid and Jackson Street for Chinese food.

Orange Sky Co. says:

Orange Sky SF Logo

Browse through City Lights at your leisure; you’ll notice it’s much more than just Beats. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the original co-owner of City Lights and one of the pioneers of the Beat Generation, owns and visits the store regularly.

Location of City Lights Books