4.5
55 votes

City Lights Bookstore

261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, California 94133 USA

$
$$$$
Budget
Open Now
Fri 10a-12a
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards
    Accepted
  • Wheelchair
    Accessible
  • Public
    Restrooms
  • Outdoor
    Seating

“Iconic beat generation bookstore”

City Lights is an independent bookstore- publisher combination that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. It also houses the nonprofit City Lights Foundation, which publishes selected titles related to San Francisco culture. It was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin (who left two years later). Founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, City Lights is one of the few truly great independent bookstores in the United States, a place where booklovers from across the country and around the world come to browse, read, and just soak in the ambiance of alternative culture's only "Literary Landmark." Although it has been more than fifty years since tour buses with passengers eager to sight "beatniks" began pulling up in front of City Lights, the Beats' legacy of anti-authoritarian politics and insurgent thinking continues to be a strong influence in the store, most evident in the selection of titles.The nation's first all-paperback bookstore, City Lights has expanded several times over the years; we now offer three floors of both new-release hardcovers and quality paperbacks from all of the major publishing houses, along with an impressive range of titles from smaller, harder-to-find, specialty publishers. The store features an extensive and in-depth selection of poetry, fiction, translations, politics, history, philosophy, music, spirituality, and more, with a staff whose special book interests in many fields contribute to the hand-picked quality of what you see on the shelves. Poetic justice has been served here since 1957, when Ferlinghetti won a landmark freespeech ruling when he was pulled up on an obscenity charge for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s incendiary Howl. Head upstairs to the Beat section if you want a copy of it, or of the original scroll version of On the Road." -  BBC TRAVEL

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Reviewed by
Tatiana Danger

  • Road Warrior
  • 1,169 Reviews
  • 638 Helpful
August 31, 2014
Rated 3.0

Stroll down Jack Kerouac Alley to City Lights Bookstore. When you visit this iconic beat generation bookstore, head upstairs to the Beat section to check out the scroll version of On the Road.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Anna Hider

  • Blogger
  • 1,280 Reviews
  • 422 Helpful
April 29, 2014
Rated 5.0

The whole top floor is devoted to beatnik authors if that's what you came for (although they have a really cool selection of other stuff)- even though it's a little cliche, I'm really glad I got a Kerouac book here!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Dakota

  • Blogger
  • 131 Reviews
  • 22 Helpful
November 11, 2015

This place is wonderful and full of great icons from the beat generation such as Charles Bukowski. There's also a great cookbook section on the bottom floor.

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City Lights Bookstore

261 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, California
94133 USA

Hours

Open now until 12:00 am
  • Sun - Sat: 10:00 am - 12:00 am

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  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • Outdoor Seating
  • Wifi
  • Street Parking
  • Yes Parking

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