Discover the history of a generation of writers known as the Beats at the Beat Museum, which pays tribute to the movement in memorabilia, books, and a video documentary. This small museum, situated on a busy corner of San Francisco’s Italian North Beach neighborhood, is easy to include on a tour of the city.
Citizens of San Francisco pride themselves on their renegade history. The Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, Charles Bukowski, and William S. Burroughs, among others, gave voice to a renegade spirit and a tolerance for individual expression that reverberates throughout the city to this day.
The spirit of openness and the defining touch points of the Beat era—the Howl obscenity trial and jazz—are some of the discoveries to be found at the Beat Museum. There is a small admission fee (family and group discounts are available), and a 90-minute guided museum tour helps visitors distinguish a “beat” from a “beatnik.”
Discounted admission is included in two of San Francisco's popular visitor passes, which allow the passholder reduced entrance fees to a variety of local attractions.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Quirky as the movement, the museum displays original artifacts next to secondhand books.
- Enter from the street and walk up a short flight of stairs to enter the small museum.
- The museum serves as a great introduction to the Beat Generation. Fans of 1950s and 1960s music, literature, and history will find plenty to savor here.
How to Get There
North Beach is easy to explore on foot. The Beat Museum, located on Broadway near the intersection of Columbus, is accessible by numerous Muni bus lines. Muni 30, 10, and 12 bus routes all stop within a block of the museum. Parking is difficult and driving is not recommended unless using a car service.
When to Get There
Poetry readings, book release parties, and events honoring the key figures of the Beat Generation are regularly scheduled in late afternoon and evening hours and attract a local crowd of writers and free speech enthusiasts. For a quieter experience, visit during the morning. The video documentary runs on a continuous loop.
The Beat Museum’s Local Hangouts
Explore the Beat era in a short walking tour of their North Beach hangouts. Vesuvio Café, open from 8am to 2pm, was a regular hangout for the Beats. The eclectic establishment, with art and poems gracing the walls, has been a haven for jazz, poetry, and the good life since 1948. City Lights Bookstore, on Jack Kerouac Alley, carries even more Beats literature and works from Ken Kesey and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.