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In Berkeley, streets are numbered opposite from the rest of the Bay Area. That’s one way to tell you’re in Berkeley.

Everywhere else, even-numbered addresses are on the north and east sides of the street, and odd numbers on the south and west. In Berkeley it’s the other way around.

Berkeley packs a lot into a small space. From the Victorians and bungalows of the flatlands to the stately homes high in the hills, Berkeley feels like a cross between a small town and a big city. Famed designers like Bernard Maybeck, Julia Morgan, and Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of Central Park and Golden Gate Park) designed many of Berkeley’s homes, buildings, and residential areas.

The University of California campus — the oldest university in the UC system and the state — dominates the east side of town with its bustling student life for three-quarters of the year. Just south of the campus, Southside is full of student services and also the colorful Telegraph Avenue, where bars and clubs mix with bookstores, cafes, and the sprawling landmark of Amoeba Music. The historic People’s Park is not far away.

But Berkeley is much more than the students and the legacy of the Free Speech Movement. On the west side of town, for instance, Fourth Street offers upscale shopping along a tree-lined walking corridor where locals go out for weekend coffee, or to visit the many home decor and other specialty shops and boutiques. Fourth Street runs through Oceanview, Berkeley’s oldest residential enclave.

A few blocks away, San Pablo Avenue runs north-south through West Berkeley, an old-fashioned neighborhood with 1920’s bungalows, turn-of-the-century homes, and Victorian farmhouses that date back to Berkeley’s beginnings.

Just north of the university up Shattuck Avenue, the famed Gourmet Ghetto has grown far beyond its late-60’s-early-70’s origins with Chez Panisse, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, and the Cheese Board, a collective that offers cheeses from all over the world. Today there are fine restaurants and cafes all along that stretch of Shattuck. It’s also a fine place to live, with quiet residential neighborhoods along shaded streets that ease their way up into the hills. Many homes have great views of the bay.

Berkeley Recreation

Besides the obvious nightlife surrounding the university, Berkeley offers plenty of outdoor recreation in the form of its many parks and wetland areas.

The Berkeley Marina is a fun place to visit even if you don’t have a boat. Bike and walking paths run along the water’s edge. Aquatic Park is great for dog walking, fishing, kayaking and windsurfing. At the annual Berkeley Kite Festival at the end of July, you can learn to make kites, get pro flying lessons, or just look up and see the sky filled with bright colors and some amazing kite ballet. (The “candy drop” is a real favorite with kids.)

Tucked inside north Berkeley is the hill-and-creek hideaway of Live Oak Park. In west Berkeley, 13-acre San Pablo Park serves residents with tennis and basketball courts, a recreation center, large playing fields, and a picnic area with barbeques and a playground.

The major outdoor attraction is Tilden Regional Park, which runs high above the urban flats along the length of the Berkeley hills. Its rolling 2,074 acres feature hiking and biking trails, Lake Anza, the historic Merry-Go-Round, the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens, and much more.

Berkeley Shopping

Besides Fourth Street, Berkeley has several major commercial streets: San Pablo, Telegraph, College, upper Solano Avenue, and especially busy University Avenue, which runs east-west from the university to the bay. You’ll have no problem finding car parts and service on San Pablo. For groceries, the landmark Berkeley Bowl (a former bowling alley) offers a sprawling variety of organic and other foods you won’t find in other supermarkets

Berkeley Transportation

Berkeley is served by three BART stations (one of them near the university) as well as the freeways that frame the East Bay. AC Transit buses criss-cross the city, and there’s an Amtrak stop at Fourth and University.

Berkeley Schools

Berkeley High School is the city’s major high school, located in the middle of downtown (next door to City Hall, in fact).

Berkeley Housing Styles

  • Victorians

  • Colonial revivals

  • Neo-Colonial

  • Craftsman bungalows

  • Mid-century moderns

  • brown shingled cottages