Nestled just north of Oakland and across the bay from San Francisco, Berkeley possesses all the rich culture of its neighbors and mixes that with university city vibes. Featuring a diverse dining scene, a thriving artistic community, and neighbors devoted to making the world a better place, Berkeley is a welcoming place to live and an interesting city to explore.
If you’re looking for the hub of action or simply looking for fun things to do in Berkeley, downtown is the best place to start. But that first stroll down Shattuck Ave can be a bit overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together some of our favorite spots in downtown Berkeley for new and old residents alike to check out.
#1. Try Kava at Melomelo
Kava is ground up kava root, a close relative of black pepper. Typically prepared as a tea, kava is important to many cultures of the South Pacific, including Hawaiians and Samoans, and is renowned for its spiritual and medicinal properties. Kava is said to reduce anxiety and promote better sleep.1
Melomelo is San Francisco Bay Area’s first authentic kava bar. And, good news if you’ve recently moved into Common Bosco, it’s located right outside your door. Kava tea might be too bitter for some, so if you aren’t up for that, we recommend trying some of Melomelo’s signature kava cocktails.
#2. Get Messy at Sticky Art Lab
Sticky Art Lab offers classes for both children and adults. They focus on creating experimental art projects from reused material—a conservationist attitude that really suits one of the best Berkeley neighborhoods.
They offer classes and camps that let students of all ages explore the artistic possibilities of:
- Recycled papers and cardboard
- Slime & Splatter
#3. Grab a Slice at West Coast Pizza
Every downtown area needs a pizza place that’s open late. Our favorite place in downtown Berkeley to snag a late night slice is West Coast Pizza. If you feel like staying in for the night, West Coast Pizza also offers free delivery.
While carnivores will surely love the All Meat Massacre pizza (more delicious than its terrifying name suggests) and vegetarians can enjoy the Green Greek pizza, true Berkeley locals know that the star of the menu is actually the cheese sticks.
#4. Take a Gastronomic Tour of Downtown
Maybe you’re in the mood for something more than just a slice of pizza. Well, you’re in luck, because the downtown Berkeley district has one of the best coffee shops and restaurants in the Bay Area.
Some critically approved Downtown Berkeley restaurants include:2
- Ippudo Berkeley – Ippudo’s downtown Berkeley location specializes in what’s known as Hakata-style ramen. That means they’re focused on intense pork flavor in a rich broth.
- The Butcher’s Son – Don’t be fooled by the name, The Butcher’s Son is vegan! The menu here is 100% plant-based and everything is made in-house. The Butcher’s Son boasts one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the East Bay—yes, it holds up against the real thing.
- Comal – Locals rank this Oaxacan-style restaurant as some of the best Mexican food in downtown Berkeley. With its beautiful patio and innovative cocktail list, Comal is amazing for a date night or a bigger gathering of friends—especially since many of their dishes are served family style.
- Tharaphu Burmese Street Food – We highly recommend checking out Tharaphu if you haven’t been. You’ll wonder how you’ve survived so long without crispy roti in your life.
- Jupiter – An out-of-this-world Italian spot with open air vibes that beg to be ‘grammed, Jupiter is a Shattuck Avenue star. Boasting a huge beer menu and woodfired pizza, this jubilant eatery is a must-try. Our favorite pie? The Xanthia, because potatoes and bacon belong on pizza.
#5. A Breath of Fresh Air at Ohlone Park
If you’re looking to enjoy some of that famous northern California weather, consider taking a walk over to Ohlone Park. Just a walking distance from the University Avenue, the five block stretch of green space offers a couple climbing walls and fields for playing sports or just chilling out.
Make sure to stop by the mural that decorates the nearby Downtown Berkeley BART station’s venting ducts. The art was painted by Jean Lamarr to honor the Native American tribe indigenous to the San Francisco Bay Area, the Oholone.3
#6. Explore the Finer Things at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Considering that there’s incredible art decorating the public parks, it’s a safe bet that downtown Berkeley’s actual museums have a ton to offer. The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is the center of downtown Berkeley’s art scene. BAMPFA was founded all the way back in 1881 and has since expanded into a former power plant which makes the architectural design almost as cool as the art contained within.4
Exhibits and special screenings change often at BAMPFA, but some of our recent favorites include:
- Candice Lin: Seeping, Rotting, Resting, Weeping – The Los Angeles-based artist Candice Lin creates “multisensory environments” that focus on Nomadic tent structures to analyze current societal woes.
- The UC Berkeley Master of Fine Arts Graduate Exhibition – A yearly event that showcases the work of graduating students, this could be your first glimpse at the work of the art world’s up-and-coming luminaries.
- Free Outdoor Screenings: Indelible Moments – Watching movies under the stars is one of the best ways to spend a California night. BAMPFA’s outdoor screening series has featured films from a wide variety of directors, including the likes of Jean-Luc Goddard and Spike Lee.
#7. Shop at the Farmers’ Market
Every resident of downtown Berkeley knows that if it’s Saturday morning, it’s time to visit the Ecology Center’s Farmers’ Market. Featuring stands where California farmers sell their locally-grown products, downtown Berkeley’s farmers’ market is devoted to small-scale production and sustainable agriculture.
After you’ve picked out all your fresh produce for the week, don’t forget to stop by a yoga class, or one of the other rotating events hosted year-round by the Farmers’ Market.
#8. Take in a Play at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre
The stage is set for innovative theater at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, a.k.a. Berkeley Rep. With two stages featuring an ever-changing schedule of plays and musicals, downtown Berkeley’s favorite playhouse is actually a Tony award winner. The Berkeley Rep won the award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.
When you enjoy a play here, there’s a good chance you’re going to see something innovative and fresh. Multiple shows have started at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre have gone on to big runs on Broadway.
#9. Swing by the California Jazz Conservatory
Being a center for education really has its perks. The California Jazz Conservatory offers year-round performances from its talented faculty and students. If you’re into jazz, this is going to be your new home.
The Conservatory also offers a wide range of classes to residents near the downtown Berkeley district, including studies on the lives of blues singers like Nina Simone or seminars on dealing with performance anxiety as a singer.
#10. A Night Out in Downtown Berkeley
Whether you’ve spent the day taking in some fine art or filling your belly on Shattuck Ave, there are plenty of good spots for a nightcap in downtown Berkeley. These spots are easy to walk from Common Bosco, so you don’t have to worry about driving home.
- Pappy’s – If you’re looking for an unpretentious and lively spot with plenty of screens to catch PAC-10 basketball games, look no further than Pappy’s.
- Moxy – A chill spot for a more low-key hang, Moxy has a relaxing outdoor space for you to enjoy their rotating selection of 14 draft beers. Most of those taps are devoted to local breweries, so this is a great spot to explore California’s stellar craft brew scene.
- Tupper & Reed – Offering a perfect marriage between vintage design and modern mixology, Tupper & Reed features a menu of sixty—yes, sixty—different cocktails, each prepared with care by some of the best bartenders in Berkeley.
- Study Hall Rooftop Lounge – There’s no better place to enjoy a bird’s eye view of downtown Berkeley than Study Hall. Toss some live music into the mix, and you’ve got one of our favorite spots in the neighborhood—leave your books at home, though. They also serve dumplings here which is a delicious way to soak up the alcohol.
- Jaguar Karaoke – Feeling a little American Idol? Book a private room at Berkeley’s own karaoke lounge. Open late, Jaguar Karoake offers exceptional customer service and a ton of song selections (plus, Chromecast integration so you can play any song you can find on the internet).
Make Common Bosco Your Berkeley Base
At Common Bosco, everything that downtown Berkeley has to offer is just within walking distance. Plus, when you’re ready to expand your exploration, Common Bosco is only a short walk from Downtown Shattuck BART, providing easy access to the rest of the Bay Area.
We want coliving at Common Bosco to be more than just a stylish place to put your feet up after a day wandering Shattuck Avenue. With Common’s curated community events, you’ll have a chance to get to know your neighbors and really belong to a community. We wanted to make sure the Common Bosco also fit into Berkeley’s environmentally-conscious culture, which is why it’s the city’s first all-electric apartment building.
Explore a new city, become part of a neighborhood, and live sustainably—all at Common Bosco.
- MeloMelo Kava Bar. What Is Kava? https://melomelokavabar.com/2021/12/what-is-kava/
- Eater San Francisco. Where to Eat in Downtown Berkeley. https://sf.eater.com/maps/best-restaurants-bars-cafes-downtown-berkeley
- Berkeley Partners for Parks. A Walk Through Ohlone Park. https://www.bpfp.org/ParkGuide/Ohlone/WalkThroughOhlone.html
- BAMPFA. Mission & History. https://bampfa.org/about/history-mission