Columbus Tower

North Beach & Chinatown

If these copper-clad walls could talk, they'd name-drop shamelessly. The tower's original occupant was political boss Abe Ruef, ousted in 1907 and sent to San Quentin for bribing city supervisors. Grammy-winning folk group the Kingston Trio bought the tower in the 1960s, and the Grateful Dead recorded in the basement. Since 1972 it's been owned by Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, who shares offices with Joy Luck Club director Wayne Wang and Oscar-winning actor-director Sean Penn. Coppola runs ground-floor Cafe Zoetrope.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby North Beach & Chinatown attractions

1. Wentworth Place

0.08 MILES

Dragons bring this shadowy brick byway roaring to life. The narrow entryway is illuminated with 'Dragon Boats Chasing Moonlight,' a new mosaic mural…

2. Chinese Culture Center


You can see all the way to China from the Hilton's 3rd floor inside this cultural center, which hosts exhibits ranging from showcases of contemporary…

3. Jack Kerouac Alley

0.11 MILES

'The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great…' This ode by the On the Road and Dharma Bums author is embedded in his…

4. Beat Museum

0.12 MILES

The closest you can get to the complete Beat experience without breaking a law. The 1000-plus artifacts in this museum's literary-ephemera collection…

5. City Lights Books

0.12 MILES

No one could have predicted the cultural force City Lights would become when it first opened in 1953. Sure, it had a proletarian ethos suggested by its…

6. Portsmouth Square

0.12 MILES

Chinatown's unofficial living room is named after John B Montgomery's sloop, which staked the US claim on San Francisco in 1846. SF's first city hall…

7. Chinese Telephone Exchange

0.12 MILES

California's earliest high-tech adopters weren't 1970s Silicon Valley programmers – they were Chinatown switchboard operators c 1894. To connect callers,…

8. AP Hotaling Warehouse

0.14 MILES

'If, as they say, God spanked the town/For being over-frisky/Why did He burn His churches down/And spare Hotaling's whiskey?' This saloon-goers' retort…