THE FULLEST Guide to Berkeley
In this famous university city, gorgeous residential neighborhoods meet state-of-the-art campuses, fine dining meets organic co-ops, and some of the country’s youngest and brightest minds meet old school hippies and political activists — and it all comes together beautifully. Isabella Onken, Berkeley native and wellness enthusiast, plays tour guide this round — get her Berkley picks of the bunch below!
The Claremont is a classic California hotel and a Berkeley landmark. Having been built in 1915, this whimsical building is the perfect base to experience Berkeley at its finest. Recently taken over by the Fairmont Group, the Claremont offers redone accommodations and a brand new gym, pool, and spa set against the Berkeley hills.
While it is technically in Marin, not Berkeley, Cavallo Point is worth mentioning as a fun place to do a relaxing night or two if you’re already in the area! Cavallo Point is a little village nestled at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge that offers historic lodging redesigned as cozy but luxe accommodations. They have a great restaurant on-site, a sweet spa and healing arts center, and wonderful trails for hiking and biking around iconic terrain.
Alice Water’s acclaimed institution that really kicked off the organic and local food movement in the United States. Alice is a legend and her beautiful space (complete with daily floral arrangements from local florist Max Gil) is a not-to-be-missed treasure. Downstairs houses the $100-ish pre-fix menu that changes daily depending on whatever is fresh, seasonal, and excellent. The upstairs cafe is more casual for those looking for something a la carte and less expensive.
Right across from the Claremont on a quiet Berkeley street, you can find the best croissants in the United States. Fornée is a truly amazing bakery with a cult following. Each day they churn up seasonal pizzas, fruit galettes, and the most amazing bread including a French fougasse made with olives, preserved lemon, and duck fat. The line moves fast but the life-changing pastries make every second worth the wait.
La Note is an authentic Provençal bistro in downtown Berkeley and is one of the best breakfasts around. This little gem will transport you to France. You must try the ‘oufs Lucas’ that is made with goat cheese, chives, roasted tomatoes, their fresh baguettes, and organic lemonade. Given the amazing food and charming ambience, there is normally a bit of a wait on the weekends, so go early and grab a seat on their outside patio.
Duende is a Spanish-inspired neighborhood restaurant in Oakland’s uptown district. It is cool, fun, and the food is amazing. Chef Paul Canales creates a stunning menu from organic seasonal produce, grass-fed local meat, and wild fish. He is serious about sourcing only the best and buys meat only if he has visited the farm. Canales also cures his own meats on-site and is just generally obsessed with quality. While their traditional seasonal paella is unbelievable, they also offer a whole-grain farro option for those thinking about glucose levels.
Located beside the Kissel Hotel in Downtown Oakland, Occitania is a new restaurant that bridges parts of Southern France, Northern Spain’s Catalonia, and Northern Italy’s Piemonte region. The menu is full of regional dishes like grilled lamb and petrale sole, alongside French bistro classics like steak frites, french onion soup, and escargots, all featuring sustainable ingredients from local farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. The space is also gorgeous, so come for the memorable fare and stay for the inventive architecture and local art.
Tail of the Yak is quintessential Berkeley AKA quirky in all the best ways. The women who run the store have international knowledge of all things beautiful and offer treasures from around the world like embroidered vintage Ukrainian caftans, Mexican blouses, Georgian diamonds, and Lithuanian linens. You’ll also find cabinets full of vintage glassware, home decor, and the most special hand-pressed paper goods that are made by the owner.
Julie Addison is a fine paper goods artist and a hidden treasure known only by the most stylish Bay Area locals. She is open by appointment and books out fast but if you can score a way in, Julie can create the most special hand-pressed stationery, invitation suites, gift boxes, and more — all printed on vintage paper and tied with hand-dyed silk ribbon.
Erica’s namesake boutique is located in the cute Fourth Street neighborhood. Her designs are made with gorgeous textiles and nod to her reverence for nature. Make sure to check out her famous silk slip dresses and delicate knits. Mixed in with her own designs, the shop highlights clean beauty products, conscious homewares, and perfect leather goods.
The 34-acre Berkeley Botanical Garden houses 10,000 types of plants including many endangered and extinct species. It is a magical little haven of international plants including a Redwood forest. Ideal for a leisurely nature walk or a picnic amongst the plants. Definitely a Berkeley gem!
The Tilden Nature Area and Tilden Little Farm is a perfect family activity where kids can feed goats, sheep, and cows — plus pet the resident bunnies! The Farm was built in 1955 and several heritage cattle breeds are preserved here including Milking Shorthorn Cattle. Bring your own lettuce or celery (but nothing else) and watch the kids light up as they feed the animals!