- Yoojin Shin
As Washington and Montgomery Streets in San Francisco cross, there is an avenue that slices a diagonal path. To Americans, the avenue is called ‘Columbus,’ but to its primarily Italian residents and shop-holders, it is known as ‘Cristóforo Colombo.’ Beginning at the corner of the famous Transamerica Pyramid, Columbus Avenue stretches for about a mile until it reaches the North Beach Cannery Shopping Center. Replete with fragrant eateries and shops that offer a warm Italian charm, Columbus Avenue is the perfect destination for a slow stroll on a sunny weekend.
The walk starts at the Transamerica Pyramid, the tallest skyscraper in the city of San Francisco. Right across from the Pyramid stands the Church of Scientology of San Francisco, which lies within a landmark building of the original Transamerica Corporation. The church is classically Victorian — or now, San Franciscan — with an aura of the older days, working to slow down the hustle/bustle of your heartbeat.
After a brief walk, you’ll spot Caffè Macaroni, a perennial favorite and an appropriate start to Little Italy. A tiny but classic Italian trattoria, Caffè Macaroni serves a steaming plate of pasta with rich, fluffy slices of bread. At Caffè Macaroni, and everywhere else on Columbus Avenue that offers outdoor seating, you must sit outside to enjoy the faint smell of espresso and do a lot of people-watching.
Further down the street, you can grab a cup of coffee at Réveille Coffee Co., which stands in a sleek wooden space. In addition to its delicious coffee choices, Réveille also serves healthy breakfast and lunch menus.
Caffè Macaroni, 59 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 956 9737
Réveille Coffee Co., 200 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 789 6258
Laced with twinkling streetlights and outdoor restaurant patios, the remainder of the street boasts countless restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that cater to every need. Grab a meal, a fluffy cannoli, or a shot of espresso, and indulge in the moment. Read a book over a cup of coffee; catch up with your old friends over wine and hearty Italian food; strike up a conversation with a stranger; buy some good cheese to bring home. At Columbus Avenue, there is never a hurry.
Italian art galleries and furnishing boutiques add extra fun to the walk — in particular, Biordi Art Imports retails high-end ceramic and glass items made in Italy and is a perfect place to window-shop an array of beautiful, decorative pieces. Stroll in, take a look, and the owner, Gianfranco, will show you the finest ceramic work.
Biordi Art Imports, 412 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 392 8096
For sweet refreshment, stop at Gelateria Naia for a delightful scoop of Italian gelato or ice cream, all made from natural ingredients and seasonal fresh fruit.
Gelateria Naia, 520 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 677 9280
At the intersection of Filbert Street and Columbus Avenue, you can see the Saints Peter and Paul Church, which signifies the outer edge of the Washington Square Park. Surrounded by lush greenery, the church offers a peaceful stop for rest and contemplation. Peer inside, marvel at its beautiful architecture, and, if you’d like, send off a prayer for the well-being of your loved ones.
After a brief stroll into the church, you might stop at Melt Café — not to be confused with The Melt — a hidden gem on Columbus Avenue. Coated in vibrant green, the café serves some of the best fondues in the city, accompanied by weekly open mic nights, movie nights, and frequent live jazz performances. Take a seat inside and unwind over a glass of wine and good music.
The edge of Columbus Avenue takes you to the Cannery Shopping Center, which has an endearing assortment of shops, galleries, restaurants, and entertainment within its warm brick walls. If you’d like, you can turn left onto Beach Street and visit the famous Ghirardelli Square or dip your toes into the water.
So take your loved ones for a stroll down Columbus Avenue, and experience a unique slice of San Francisco culture — the places you will find and the people you will meet just might surprise you.
Saints Peter and Paul Church, 666 Filbert St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 421 0809
Melt Café, 700 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 392 9290
By Yoojin Shin
Yoojin is an economics student at the University of California, Berkeley, in a constant pursuit of happiness and good vibes. Someday, she hopes to make a living out of thinking and writing about important social issues. Until then, she has made it her mission to chronicle every single boba place in the Bay Area. For snapshots of her explorations, follow her on Instagram @yoojinshin1.