The Best Bookstores in San Francisco

A setting moon above the famous Painted Ladies... adding even more beauty to this breathtaking San Francisco view.
A setting moon above the famous Painted Ladies... adding even more beauty to this breathtaking San Francisco view. | Unsplash
Hope Corrigan

From a landmark store that’s an icon of the Beat Generation to a tiny community shop nestled blocks away from the beach, San Francisco has plenty of bookstores that offer a vast selection of titles, genres and authors. Here are the top bookstores not to miss when visiting this famously literary city.

City Lights Booksellers & Publishers

On Columbus Avenue in the heart of North Beach, City Lights is an unmissable San Francisco icon. Founded in 1963 during the height of the Beatnik era, the bookstore began as an all-paperback store but now offers a wide variety of both major publishers and independent ones. City Lights itself is an independent publisher of alternative politics, world literature and art books as well as acclaimed titles such as Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. Try to catch one of the bookstore’s frequently held author signings or events, and be sure to grab a postcard or bookmark on your way out.

1. Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoia Day Tour

Activities, Tours

Embark on a full-day adventure from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park, immersing yourself in the stunning landscapes of the Sierra Nevada. Travel in comfort aboard a van, passing through historic Gold Rush towns on your way to Yosemite. Marvel at iconic natural wonders such as the granite cliffs of Half Dome and El Capitan, and the majestic sequoias of Tuolumne Grove. Enjoy several hours to explore the park at your own pace, whether you choose to hike, visit the Valley Visitor Center, or simply soak in the breathtaking views. Throughout the journey, listen to insightful commentary from your guide about Yosemite’s geological formations and natural history. The tour includes convenient pickup and drop-off from selected San Francisco hotels, ensuring a seamless and memorable experience exploring one of America’s most beloved national parks.

Dog Eared Books

Dog Eared Books has been part of the San Francisco literary community since 1992. In the heart of the Mission on Valencia Street, the bookstore offers new and used books as well as magazines, calendars, cards and notebooks. With a turquoise facade and a sunshine-filled interior, it provides an inviting space to grab one of many staff-picks at the ready. Dog Eared Books also offers an entire section dedicated to local artists and writers, making it worth a visit for the uniquely San Francisco atmosphere.

Green Apple Books

Green Apple Books started in 1967 as a small used bookstore and has now grown to an established San Francisco mainstay with both an Inner Sunset and Inner Richmond location. The latter boasts a main storefront with new and used non-fiction, kids’ books, cookbooks and new releases; the annex a couple of doors down houses new and used fiction, music, graphic novels and science fiction. The Apple-a-Month Club sends staff-picked, new-release fiction paperbacks once a month to customers anywhere in the United States.

The Booksmith

A couple of blocks away from the Haight-Ashbury intersection, the Booksmith has a rich history. Originally opened in 1976, the bookstore often hosted celebrated authors – featured speakers have included Hunter S. Thompson, Ray Bradbury and Allen Ginsberg, who gave his very last reading here. The space is inviting with vibrant interiors and prominent tables stacked with staff recommendations; cards, calendars and other gifts are found at every turn. Check out the Booksmith blog for book suggestions, updates and events such as poetry readings, author signings and book parties at a nearby event space, the Bindery.

Omnivore Books on Food

You’ll find only one literary genre at Omnivore Books – food and drink. Located in Noe Valley, the bookstore features new, antique and collectable cookbooks (separated in store by country and region) and titles focused specifically on food. The interior is sophisticated with bright yellow walls, white bookshelves neatly lined with books and featured titles stacked on display tables. Owner Celia Sack leverages Twitter, Facebook and email mailing lists to keep customers up to date on store happenings such as events, cooking demonstrations and author talks. Omnivore Books also offers a personalized cookbook club where members receive a signed copy of a cookbook from featured chefs four times a year.

Black Bird Bookstore

While you won’t find shelves jam-packed with every title imaginable, the sunny and inviting Black Bird Bookstore carefully curates a diverse set of titles, including many by women of color, children’s books and contemporary fiction and non-fiction. A short walk from the beach, the bookstore’s interior is airy and bright, with both a reading area near the back and a plant-filled outdoor patio. Black Bird Bookstore features locally designed wood shelving from Woodshop, and the adjacent Trouble Coffee invites patrons to pair a good book from Black Bird with an espresso and cinnamon toast.

2. Muir Woods

Forest, Park

Explore the ancient coastal redwood forest and the charming artistic community of Sausalito on this half-day tour departing from San Francisco. Cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to reach Muir Woods, where you’ll marvel at some of the oldest and tallest trees on the planet. After immersing yourself in nature, enjoy panoramic views of the San Francisco skyline from Sausalito’s waterfront and peruse its eclectic art galleries. At the conclusion of the tour, choose to return to San Francisco via convenient drop-off points or take a scenic ferry ride back to Pier 41. This tour offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural exploration in the Bay Area.

Christopher’s Books

Dubbed Potrero Hill’s neighborhood bookstore since 1991, Christopher’s Books is delightfully old-school, having been in the same location for 25 years and taking orders by phone, email or, of course, drop-in. The bookstore offers a wide inventory of calendars, books and notebooks as well as children’s books and toys. Christopher’s Books is surviving the Amazon age with a focus on face-to-face interaction with customers. The beloved bookstore is both pet-friendly and often holds book drives for local charities.

Looking for more literary inspiration? Explore San Francisco’s literary legacy, discover the city’s literary landmarks, and read up ahead of your trip with these SF-based books. And find out more about the iconic Beat Generation.

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