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7 Places Book-Lovers Should Visit in San Francisco

Woman reading book standing up
Written by Going Places

This blog post was updated on December 24, 2019.

While in San Francisco, bibliophiles should take note. If you’re looking for a bookish adventure or some cool places to explore during your travels, you’ve come to the right city! There’s a great selection of independent bookstores as well as literary landmarks and museums for you to add to your itinerary, so the next time you’re in the mood to tuck into a great book or take a literary tour check out any of these places around the San Fran area.

Hotel Union Square

If you’ve ever read any of the 1900s novels by mystery author Dashiell Hammett, then the Hotel Union Square will be an interesting spot for you to visit. It’s where Hammett spent a great portion of his career writing his well-known books. The hotel named one of the rooms the Dashiell Hammett Suite in honor of his great work done there. You’ll find cool things around the room like a suitcase filled with his books, photos of Hammett’s family, and more. Book the suite to see it all for yourself! Oh, and if you can’t get to the hotel, you can always visit the author’s plaque dedicated to the fictional character in The Maltese Falcon novel, which is relatively close to his home.

Location: 114 Powell Street


Booksmith is a multi-genre bookstore that specializes in bringing some of the hottest writing and media talents to the SF area. Check the online calendar to find out which literary or pop culture star will be at Booksmith for an author talk and book signing when you’re in town.

Location: 1664 Haight Street

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William Stout Architectural Books

woman reading book in store

Architecture buffs and design aficionados will be able to spend hours at William Stout. Located just a few blocks from the Transamerica Pyramid, this gem of a bookseller is a great place to pick up stunning coffee table tomes or sleek design booklets. So many visual temptations await!

Location: 804 Montgomery Street

The Green Arcade

Calling all intellectual artists and activists: The Green Arcade is the bookstore for you! Enjoy a well-edited selection of titles on public art, social justice, urban planning, community organizing, the environment, gardening, architecture, and sustainability. After you’ve selected your books, then stock up on gifts made by local artisans and crafters.

Location: 1680 Market Street 

Omnivore Books on Food

person reading cooking book

A bookstore dedicated to culinary culture, Omnivore books is every foodie’s dream. Featuring a delicious array of publications on cooking, farming (urban and traditional), gastronomy, food history (the list goes on), Omnivore’s well-curated selection is a feast for the senses. Check their website to find out the latest information on live demos and lectures from sommeliers, food critics and historians, and chefs-authors.

Location: 3885 Cesar Chavez Street

The Beat Museum

Although it’s not a large museum, the Beat Museum is home to fantastic memorabilia from writers of the Beat Generation (a group of writers, artists, and thinkers that came together in the 1950’s in San Francisco). Here you’ll find the original manuscripts and first editions, letters, and more. The museum is proudly dedicated to keeping the work of the Beat Generation alive.

Location: 540 Broadway

City Lights

citylights bookstore in San Francisco

Image via Flickr – CC by 2.0 – Michael Voelker

A San Francisco institution, City Lights was founded in 1953 by poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin during the heyday of the Beat Generation. City Lights was the first all paperback bookstore in the US and has expanded to three floors packed with fantastic reads. If you’re looking for a specific novel that’s hard to find, this bookstore should have it. The business also became a publishing company in 1955 and has published over 200 titles, all of which are stocked in the bookstore. You can find plenty of other textual gems here as well, including past and current fiction, reference books, and manifestos.

Location: 261 Columbus Avenue

Know of any literary sites in San Francisco? Tell us where we can find more fascinating spots in this city!

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Going Places

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