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Telegraph Avenue - Soul of Berkeley

BY Trevor Cheitlin February 26, 2018

In many ways, Telegraph Avenue is the essence of Berkeley.

Telegraph Avenue is Berkeley’s melting pot. It’s where the city’s past, present and future come together in dynamic color. It’s where Berkeley’s vibrant academic scene blends with its eccentric 1960s heritage, where old school record shops meet chic clothing boutiques, where bright-eyed Cal students and quirky street vendors walk side by side.

In many ways, Telegraph Avenue is Berkeley.

If you’re on a college visit, strolling down Telegraph isn’t so much an option as it is a necessity. With its proximity to the heart of campus and many of UC Berkeley’s residence halls and Greek housing, you will likely be spending a lot of time on Telegraph if you go to Cal.


Telegraph’s eclectic shopping scene is one of its major draws. Within this six-block radius from Cal’s south entrance, there is an abundance of locally-owned businesses with goods across the spectrum. Stock your closet with trendy streetwear from Bows and Arrows, vintage threads from Mars or funky hats from the Berkeley Hat Company. For the bookworms, Moe’s Books is a throwback Berkeley favorite, a sprawling book emporium with a extensive collection. Say hi to the Wizard, a famous tarot card reader who often sets up shop in the vicinity.

Into music? There’s a reason that Berkeley resident Michael Chabon set his 2012 novel “Telegraph Avenue,” along the thoroughfare: Telegraph is famous for its record shops. Rasputin Music has been a favorite of the area since the 1970s, with an absolutely massive collection of popular music and hidden gems alike filling its shelves. Just down the street, Amoeba Music has the selection to challenge Rasputin. New to the scene is the Mad Monk Center for Anachronistic Media, just across from Amoeba. If the provocative name doesn’t arouse your curiosity, perhaps Mad Monk’s varied mix of records, books and colorful artwork will. 

There’s plenty to do in the Telegraph area besides shop. Straddled by Haste Street and Dwight Way, People’s Park is a historic site, scene of one of the defining moments of 1960s Berkeley, “Bloody Thursday,” the culmination of simmering tensions between the University, its students, and ultimately the Berkeley police. The confrontation is depicted on a large mural just down the street at Haste and Telegraph. For more Berkeley history in the Telegraph area, check out Sproul Plaza, heart of the famous Free Speech Movement. There’s a plaque on the spot where Mario Savio urged his fellow students to rebel against the machine, to “put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop.”

Telegraph is a great jumping off point to Cal’s varied history, and to many exciting events on campus, as well. Zellerbach Hall is home to a wide variety of concerts and performances. Next door, Haas Pavilion houses Cal’s basketball, volleyball and gymnastics teams.

While it doesn’t have quite the breadth of fine dining options as nearby Downtown Berkeley or the Gourmet Ghetto, Telegraph is no drag. Cafes, pubs and date night spots aplenty line these streets. From lattes at 1951 Coffee Company, to beer and burgers at Freehouse Berkeley and ice cream sandwiches at CREAM, Telegraph knows how to cater to the in-crowd.

When all is said and done, and you need a place to lay your head, you won’t have to stray far. Telegraph is home to some of Berkeley’s highest rated hotels. The Graduate Berkeley, Rose Garden Inn, Berkeley City Club and Bancroft Hotel are all great, accessible options whether you are a prospective student, visiting parent, event-goer, or simply visiting Berkeley for the fun of it.

For more recommendations and information about the area, take a look at Bravo Your City’s Telegraph Avenue microguide.

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