Many graduates from the University of California Berkeley look back on their time in the idyllic city with great fondness, recalling the beautiful campus, views of San Francisco, and intellectual discourse. Yes, it’s impossible to talk about Berkeley without acknowledging its radical-hippie past, but there’s much more to the town than activism from the ‘60s, though the liberal culture and energy remain prevalent.

Here, we’ll give you a rundown on how to enjoy a day in Berkeley like a proper Cal student. Let’s say you’re a second-semester senior with a job already lined up: old enough to drink, young enough to necessitate frugality, and relaxed enough to have a good time without worrying about finals. Keep reading for the details — no textbooks required!


Philz Coffee by kennejima is Licensed under CC by 2.0

Philz Coffee by kennejima is Licensed under CC by 2.0

College kids can be counted on to start the day with a jolt of caffeine, and in Berkeley, you have a handful of options. If you’ve spent much time in the Bay Area, you’ll be familiar with Philz Coffee. It’s far and away the most popular coffee shop in town, partly due to its tasty mint mojito iced coffee, perfect for any time of day.

If you’re looking for something even more local, Alchemy Collective Coffee is the place to be. This worker-owned co-op roasts their own beans, and regardless of whether you identify with the “hipster” label people commonly assign to Alchemy, you’re sure to come away with a great cup of coffee.

Campus Tour

Once you’re fully awake, head to the university. One of the most notable features of UC Berkeley’s campus is the abundance of trees, from a towering bunch of blue gum eucalyptus trees to the gnarled, dead-looking (but still very much alive!) Faculty Glade California buckeye. Get your fill of blooms at the UC Botanical Garden, which features a majestic grove of redwoods, a Japanese garden, and more.

Noteworthy buildings on campus include the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, with its gleaming, 4,200-square-foot bronze screen on the exterior of the building. If the weather’s nice (and your hotel is lacking), you can purchase a day pass to access the marble-lined rooftop pool at Hearst Gym. Cap off your campus visit with a trip up the Campanile, a 307-foot bell tower that’s the third tallest of its kind in the world.

Lunch Break

Pop over to the Cheese Board for the best cheese and bread in town. (Yes, it’s another worker-owned co-op. Power to the people!) If the cheese selection is too overwhelming, you can also opt for a pastry or slice of pizza — it’s all good. Whether you’re there for lunch or dinner, the pizzeria treats customers to live music along with tasty vegetarian food.

Make sure you save room for more dairy: Even the lactose intolerant can find something to love at Ici Ice Cream, beloved for its inventive flavors, handmade cones, (ice cream) sandwiches, and even candies.

Commune With Nature

Walk off your stresses with a trip to any of the numerous East Bay Regional Parks. One of the closest to Berkeley is Tilden Regional Park, where you’ll find a botanic garden of native California plants, Lake Anza’s sandy beach, a steam train offering scenic rides, and even a Nature Area with farm animals. Alternately, you could explore the nearby Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, which comprises a steep hike that’s rewarded with beautiful views at the top.

Iconic Dining

The quintessential (and upscale) Californian cuisine served up at Chez Panisse might not be on every college kid’s budget, which is why the more affordable, next-door Chez Panisse Cafe is such a treat. Regardless of which restaurant you choose, executive chef and owner Alice Waters brings her philosophy of local, sustainable eating to the table. It might seem routine now, but when Chez Panisse opened in 1971, it was just as much a reflection of Berkeley’s rebellion against the Establishment as the Free Speech Movement of the previous decade.

Nighttime is Showtime

Chao Kusollerschariya / Shutterstock

Chao Kusollerschariya / Shutterstock

If you haven’t been invited to a frat party, don’t fret! Berkeley has no shortage of pubs, lounges, and wine bars to cater to the college crowd. But while you’re in town, why not check out a show instead? You’ll find cutting-edge productions at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Aurora Theatre Company, and the Impact Theatre, just to name a few. Plus, customers 30 and under get a 50% off discount at Berkeley Repertory, and customers 35 and under get the same discount at Aurora!

What are your favorite things to do in Berkeley? Let us know in the comments!

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About The Author

Laura Li

Laura has a background in journalism. Currently based in NYC, she has traveled all around Asia and has a special spot in her heart for Hong Kong, where she spent time studying abroad and working. Next stop: Europe!