Berkeley's Far-Out Avenue

Telegraph Avenue, near UC-Berkeley, has a hodge-podge of 60s counterculture; great bookstores; and newer, offbeat shops.

Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue, illus. by Michael Klein

Telegraph Avenue, between Dwight and Bancroft, is a strip of old-fashioned counter culture.

Telegraph Avenue covers a lot of ground on its five-mile run from downtown Oakland to the University of California at Berkeley. But the four busy blocks closest to the campus span the greatest distance—from the 1960s to today.

As Telegraph crosses Dwight Way, it metamorphoses from an ordinary urban boulevard into a bustling bazaar crammed with old-style counterculture paraphernalia. The street turns into a narrow one-way strip whose broad sidewalks overflow with fresh-faced undergraduates, straggling tourists, and vendors hawking crystals, tie-dyed T-shirts, batik fabrics, incense, and hand-made jewelry. Chain stores give way to independent booksellers, record stores, cafés, tattoo parlors, vintage clothing outlets, and head shops.

Many of the strip's idiosyncratic businesses—founded in the '60s and '70s and still family owned— are as happening as ever. On one rich block between Dwight and Haste, you'll find the Continental Art Shop, a trove of religious icons from many cultures; the Reprint Mint, which offers printed images from Beaux-Arts classics to '60s rock and contemporary film posters; the Lhasa Karnak Herb Company, a fragrant emporium of vitamins, oils, and (of course) herbs; and famous bookstores Moe's and Cody's, which boast galaxies of new and vintage volumes. Newer places—Gilt, a bath- and beauty-product shop with a rubber-duck yellow interior, and Slurp, a hip Asian noodle shop—fit right in. Like their elders, they're distinctive and unpretentious. How cool is that?

WHERE IT IS Just south of the University of California at Berkeley's Sproul Plaza.

WHO WILL LIKE IT Berkeley history buffs, shoppers with an eye for the offbeat, and bibliophiles.

WHEN TO GO Any day, but avoid late nights, when the vibe on the street can turn tough.

Illustration by Michael Klein

This article was first published in March 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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