Whether you’re a new or returning student, there’s plenty to see and do in Berkeley. It’s part of what makes Cal such a great school. But with so much to choose from, what’s worth your valuable time?
We’ve pulled together a list of recommendations based on years of experience from Cal students, alumni, and Berkeley locals to bring you a collection of some of the most popular spots in town.
Few places come close to the level of popularity the Cheese Board enjoys in Berkeley. From both locals and students. the Cheese Board is celebrated for its fresh bread, baked goods, and delicious cheeses. But more than anything, the Cheese Board is recognized for some of the best (and unique) pizza around. This isn’t Papa John’s, the flavors and ingredients are exceptional and the sourdough crust is out of this world. They do one type of vegetarian-friendly pizza each day so be sure to check their website before heading down to get in line. If you’re looking for an alternative closer to campus, Sliver is the only real substitute.
This place is hard to miss most of the time due to the constant line of students spilling out down the block waiting to grab an ice cream sandwich. If you’ve never had an ice cream sandwich before (and even if you have), CREAM is an experience like none other. Pick a scoop from one of their many fantastic flavors like peanut butter twist or their royal caramel swirl and put it between two warm and fresh cookies that come in a variety of flavors as well. One bite and you’ll understand why there’s always a line.
A new addition to Berkeley but it’s already worthy of this list. Combining the fun of board games with great coffee and snacks, Victory Point Cafe has proven itself to be a perfect spot for breaking the ice with new roommates, mitigating the awkwardness of a first date, and even just an awesome place in general for trying old and new games. With a selection of over 800 board and card games, you are guaranteed to be able to find something fun. For only $5 a person you can stay there as long as you wish. If you’re trying to stretch your entertainment budget, make sure Victory Point is on your list.
Enough good things cannot be said about Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen on Shattuck. If you show up early you can avoid the crowd, but show up late and you better be ready to wait as this place is a favorite of both students and locals. Their ribs are easily some of the best in town and their buttermilk fried chicken with mashed sweet potatoes is legendary. A side of hush puppies and a house lemonade perfectly compliment every dish. Be sure to top the meal off with their soft and sweet beignets. Angeline’s brings a taste of New Orleans to Berkeley and has been a landmark restaurant since the day it opened.
Even if you’re not old enough to enjoy the noteworthy house-crafted drink selection Jupiter offers, you can definitely experience the live music, fresh pizzas, and camaraderie this Berkeley institution provides. At Jupiter, you can mingle with locals, host a club event, or even take some time for yourself in a great environment. If you’re looking for a spot for your first (legal) drink or last one to celebrate graduation, Jupiter has always been the right choice for generations of Cal students.
The quintessential Berkeley cafe. Located right across from Boalt hall, it’s easy to see why Strada is popular. It’s proximity to campus and available study space (along with quality caffeine options and snacks) has made Strada the most well-known and memorable cafe in town for Cal students. But it’s not just great for a last-minute study session or a 9 in the morning class pick-me-up, it’s also a perfectly situated spot for meeting new people or meeting up with friends since by the end of the first month of class everyone knows where Strada is on campus.
While not as refined an experience as Jupiter, Pappy’s makes this list for another reason: it’s all about Cal. If you’re looking for a spot to catch (or celebrate) a big Cal game and be surrounded by your fellow students, faculty, and alumni, it’s almost impossible to find a spot as ideal as Pappy’s. Even if Berkeley sports aren’t your thing, Pappy’s has you covered with dancing, DJs, and a menu that’s ideal for hanging out and having a good time. It’s an easy starting point for students looking to dive into the social scene in the Berkeley area.
Berkeley doesn’t have a lot of Chinese restaurants, but what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. Great China is the best in town and is certainly worth the almost guaranteed wait. Popular for much of its menu but most of all for its Peking duck. The food is delicious and the location is beautiful, but it’s best to save this spot for a special occasion since it can get pretty expensive.
This has been the definitive Berkeley brunch spot for as long as most people can remember. While La Note also offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner services, brunch is what makes them popular. Their menu of French/French-inspired breakfast favorites and filling sandwiches has something for everyone. If you’re looking for a recommendation, their creme fraiche pancakes are a must. If a more Americanized take on brunch is your thing, the Sunny Side Cafe on Oxford is another extremely popular standby.
After enjoying so much great food and entertainment it’s nice to know there’s a quite space in Berkeley to relax and wrap up the day. The Berkeley Rose Garden is, without a doubt, an amazing place to watch the sunset and get close to the greener part of town. If you want a spot to sit, come about an hour before sundown because it fills up fast on most days. But don’t worry, even if you end up standing it’s a memorable experience.
There’s a ton to see and do in Berkeley and this list is only the tip of the iceberg. If we were to cover everything you would have graduated before you finished reading. This isn’t the last time we look at popular Berkeley spots so keep an eye out for future articles to discover more great experiences.
Now that you know what’s worth checking out it’s time to go and tackle the list. If you discover any other great places you think deserve a spot on the list feel free to let us know by reaching out here.