- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Mobile AppDownload Fodor's City Guide App for FREE!
City Lights Bookstore
City Lights Bookstore Review
Take a look at the exterior of the store: the replica of a revolutionary mural destroyed in Chiapas, Mexico, by military forces; the art banners hanging above the windows; and the sign that says "Turn your sell phone off. Be here now." This place isn't just doling out best sellers. Designated a city landmark, the hangout of Beat-era writers—Allen Ginsberg and store founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti among them—and independent publisher remains a vital part of San Francisco's literary scene. Browse the three levels of sometimes haphazardly arranged poetry, philosophy, politics, fiction, history, and local zines, to the tune of creaking wood floors. Be sure to check the calendar of literary events.
Back in the day, the basement was a kind of literary living room, where writers like Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac would read and even receive mail. Ferlinghetti cemented City Lights' place in history by publishing Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems in 1956. The small volume was ignored in the mainstream... until Ferlinghetti and the bookstore manager were arrested for obscenity and corruption of youth. In the landmark First Amendment trial that followed, the judge exonerated both men, declaring that a work that has "redeeming social significance" can't be obscene. Howl went on to become a classic.
Stroll Kerouac Alley, branching off Columbus Avenue next to City Lights, to read the quotes from Ferlinghetti, Maya Angelou, Confucius, John Steinbeck, and the street's namesake embedded in the pavement.
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- $211 & up -- 4.5 Star The Fairmont San Francisco, Save 35% Expedia
- $117 & up -- San Francisco Union Square Hotel, 50% Off BookIt.com
- $128 & up -- San Francisco Hotel w/Breakfast, 45% Off — $128 BookIt.com
- $199 -- San Francisco Hotel near Fisherman's Wharf — $199 Courtyard San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf
- $159 & up -- Historic San Francisco 4-Star Hotel, 50% Off — $159 Westin St. Francis
Just thought I'd post our trip report from this past weekend at the Big Sur Marathon. Read more
I’m just going to state the nitty-gritty to keep this post short. Read more
We (husband and 6 yr old son) will be flying to Seattle on July 4th, staying the weekend. Read more
· News & Features
The James Beard award winners were just announced this week, so the race is on to try and get a table ... Read more
From a hidden drum circle in Washington DC to awesome sushi in Chicago's Ukrainian neighborhood, we've... Read more
You could go to San Francisco ten times and still not see it all, so we're here to help curate your nex... Read more