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  • Writer's pictureMariko

Hidden Gems of Berkeley, CA (Part 1: South Side)

When many people first think of Berkeley they think of two things: the university campus and Telegraph Avenue which is the epicenter of the "berzerkeley" counter culture. Even growing up in the Bay Area, this was all I really knew of the city before moving there.

After living in Berkeley for 6 years, I've discovered so many hidden gems. If you plan to visit, definitely still check off the famous sites- the campus, Telegraph Ave, the Big C, Tilden Park, Berkeley Bowl, Chez Panisse, Cheeseboard, etc, but make sure to sprinkle in some of these local treasures too.

I initially set out to write one article featuring all of the Berkeley's hidden gems. However I quickly realized that there were too many that I wanted to share, so I broke up this post into two parts: South Side and North Side Hidden Gems.


Clark Kerr Track

Clark Kerr Track is one of the best places to see a Berkeley sunset. While many people think you have to go all the way up to the Firetrails, Grizzly Peak, or the Big C to get the best view of the Bay Area, Clark Kerr offers just as good of a view, without the big climbs or crowds. The dirt track is located right above Clark Kerr campus housing. Make sure to take a walk through the campus on your way up to the track. The Spanish-Mission style campus used to be the California School for the Deaf and Blind before it was converted into student housing in 1983. With the Harry-Potter style dining hall, tennis courts, pool, skate park, track and beach volleyball courts all located on campus, Clark Kerr is by far the nicest student housing at UC Berkeley.

view from the track with Clark Kerr Campus in the foreground

Clark Kerr Fire Trails View and Rope Swing

This is a great add-on if you are visiting Clark Kerr track. On either side of the track you can follow paths to Stonewall Panoramic Trail. The specific viewpoint with the rope swing is unmarked on Google Maps, so I tried to pinpoint the trail below. This lookout point gives you a great 180* view of East Bay, a birdseye view of campus, all with the San Francisco skyline in the distance.

view from the lookout point

Fourneé Bakery

Whenever I am on the South Side of Berkeley I stop by Fourneé Bakery. This artisan bakery sells some of the best breads and pastries in Berkeley (which is a very high bar to beat!). I recommend getting the twice-baked chocolate almond croissant and then eating it at the outside tables with the beautiful Claremont hotel as your view.

Fourneé's Chocolate Almond Croissant

Elmwood Neighborhood

If you are looking for more substantial food than pastries, head on down to Elmwood & College Avenue. These blocks include some of the best and most underrated restaurants and shops in Berkeley. Some of my favorite restaurants are Nabolom Pizza (similar concept to Cheeseboard without the crazy lines!), Italian Homemade Company and La Mediterranee, but you can hardly go wrong. Once you've eaten, check out the cute local shops in the area such as Sweet Dreams Toy Store, Your Basic Bird and Therapy.

Nabolom's Pizza of the Day

Thai Temple Brunch

Thai Temple Brunch is not technically located in South Berkeley- but it is close enough that I'm adding it here. Thai Temple Brunch is one of the most Berkeley experiences you could possibly have. The Thai Buddist temple Wat Mongkolratanaram hosts the brunch on Sunday mornings from 10am-1pm. Guests exchange cash (no cards accepted) for tokens and then purchase amazing Thai food from open air street-food style booths. I recommend buying the 3 item plate option from one of the main three lines, then going off to the far right booth to purchase mango sticky rice and then finally going to the cash exchange area to get Thai Ice tea.

After you have filled up your plate, you can sit at one of the couple dozen tables that the temple sets up or on the grass in the far back of the property. From students, to families, to outside visitors, there is always a great group of people who show up on Sunday mornings. Unfortunately Thai Temple is currently closed due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Once they do open back up, make sure you go right at the 10am to avoid the crazy long lines.

Picture of Thai Temple Brunch

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