Welcome to Berkeley, California: home of Californian cuisine, the Free Speech Movement, the stunning expanse of Tilden Regional Park, and of course, one of the best public universities in the country, UC: Berkeley (known by locals as Cal). This San Francisco Bay Area city is a smorgasbord of culture, cuisine, and natural beauty for visitors and residents alike.
With blocks upon blocks of vibrant metropolitan landmarks and sylvan streets, which Berkeley neighborhoods deserve to be on your shortlist?
If you’re researching Berkeley neighborhoods to live in, or you’re simply admiring the fine neighborhoods of Berkeley as a guest, look no further. Sit back in your travel chair and enjoy learning about the best Berkeley neighborhoods.
#1. Downtown Berkeley
Downtown Berkeley is the heart of the city. It starts the path to Berkeley’s famous Gourmet Ghetto, a stretch of famous Berkeley restaurants along Shattuck Ave, museums, shopping, and plenty of public transit.
A few notable elements in this neighborhood include:
- Downtown Shattuck BART station
- The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
- California Jazz Conservatory
- The Berkeley City Club, a.k.a. “Julia’s little castle” is a 100-year-old Gothic-style hotel designed by Julia Morgan of Hearst Castle fame
If you want to live where all the magic happens, a home downtown like Common Bosco is for you.
Quick local tip: The city and its corresponding neighborhoods are named in relation to UC Berkeley. So when you see Northside, you know that it’s north of the university.
If you’re trying to live close to the UC Berkeley Campus, Northside is a convenient option. This residential neighborhood is just a ten-minute walk or less to the main campus. Many of the university halls are even located within Northside itself.
Here are some of the perks of living in this Berkeley neighborhood:
- A relaxing, tree-lined residential space
- Picturesque surroundings of historic university buildings
- A community of fellow students and university staff
- Close to parks and gardens, like the UC Botanical Garden
- A short walk to Shattuck Ave and University Avenue bars, restaurants, and cafes
- A ten-minute bus ride to Downtown Berkeley and the BART Plaza
The Southside neighborhood, also called South Campus, is, you guessed it—directly south of the university. This is a popular neighborhood for students, faculty, and young professionals. Because it’s so close to campus, you’ll find plenty of lively Berkeley restaurants, coffee shops, and bars to explore.
Southside is home to a number of attractive Berkeley spots, including:
- The UC Berkeley School of Law
- UC Berkeley’s sorority and fraternity houses
- The famous outdoor Greek Theatre
- Top-rated coffee shops like Mezzo and Romeo’s Cafe
- The Berkeley Piano Club
- Berkeley’s historic People’s Park
#4. North Berkeley
The more expansive corner northwest of the university is known as North Berkeley. As it’s further outside of the campus hustle and bustle, more young professionals and small families put down roots here.
But don’t underestimate its chill facade: North Berkeley has been coined the official birthplace of restaurant row, Gourmet Ghetto. Shattuck Avenue runs north through the neighborhood and is brimming with delectables of all kinds.
Here’s what residents of North Berkeley love about their neighborhood:
- Endless restaurant options in the Gourmet Ghetto within walking distance
- Their very own North Berkeley BART train station
- Plenty of grocery stores, like Safeway, Target, and Cedar Market
- Home of the Ohlone Dog Park off of Hearst Avenue
- Close proximity to schools like Little Ducklings Day School, Ruth Acty Elementary, and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School
#5. South Berkeley
South Berkeley is the matching sock to North Berkeley, just southwest of Cal. Locals love this area for its diversity, eclectic restaurants, and hipster style. If you live for the vintage clothing hunt, enjoy perusing the Saturday flea market (referred to by locals as “The Berkeley Flea”), or like to explore the world through your taste buds, you’ll feel right at home in South Berkeley.
Here are some of our favorite spots in this neighborhood:
- The year-round Berkeley Flea Market
- Plenty of women- and BIPOC-owned shops like Sweet Adeline Bakeshop
- An array of top-rated global cuisines like Easy Creole and The Kebabery
- The neighborhood-beloved market, Berkeley Bowl
- Close proximity to the Ashby Avenue BART station
- A short 15-minute driving commute to Downtown Berkeley (or a five-minute train ride)
Westbrae, sometimes grouped with West Berkeley, is about a 20-minute bus ride northwest of the Cal campus. Herein lies a fine-tuned balance between tranquil shore living and convenient proximity to everywhere. But don’t worry—there’s still plenty to do in a Westbrae backyard. Westbrae shares the North Berkeley BART station, neighborhood amenities like public pools, and some of the best organic produce markets in the city.
Hop over to Westbrae if these advantages catch your eye:
- A half-hour trip west to spend the day on the Californian coast
- A gardener’s paradise, home to the Westbrae Nursery
- Sustainable shopping at Monterey Market and Berkeley Natural Grocery Company
- An array of exceptional bars and restaurants on San Pablo Avenue
- A relaxed residential atmosphere for families and professionals
- Home to Cedar-Rose Park for picnics, barbecues, and outdoor fun
Explore Berkeley like a local with Common
There’s a neighborhood for every taste in this bustling city. It may feel far away now, but we guarantee that in time, these Berkeley neighborhoods will feel as comfortable as your favorite walking shoes—which you should absolutely bring, by the way.
At Common, we can help pave the way for exploring, visiting, and living in the cities you love most around the U.S. We make it easy for every kind of renter to plant roots in rich cities like Berkeley, California.
Common Bosco is a Berkeley coliving community you’ll be proud to call home in Downtown Berkeley. No need to worry about furniture, utilities, meeting new people, or finding fun things to do in Berkeley—we take care of everything. Plus, how many other places can you save money living in the heart of the city? (Hint: pretty much none.)
Come see all the ways we’re innovating city living at Common.
- Berkeley Law. Neighborhood Guide. https://www.law.berkeley.edu/academics/llm/admitted-students-2/housing-ll-m-students/neighborhood-guide/
- Niche. Southside. https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/n/southside-berkeley-ca/
- Niche. North Berkeley. https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/n/north-berkeley-berkeley-ca/
- U.S. History. History of Berkeley, California. https://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h3096.html
- Berkeley Parents Network. Living in North Berkeley. https://www.berkeleyparentsnetwork.org/recommend/housing/northberkeley
- Berkeley Office for Faculty Equity & Welfare. Berkeley Neighborhoods and Nearby East Bay Communities. https://ofew.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/berkeley_neighborhoods.pdf