oakland_california_aerial_viewFifteen minutes from the fine-dining mecca of San Francisco and Berkeley’s “Gourmet Ghetto,” Oakland offers flavors all its own. Chic boutiques are cropping up next to ethnic shops, art galleries are showcasing local talent, and young restaurateurs are laying down roots. There are plenty of reasons to visit in the summer, whether you take a stroll around glittering Lake Merritt or join the throngs of gallery-goers at the monthly Art Murmur. And the weather is more pleasant than that of its neighbor across the bay, which means superior alfresco dining.

I met with a friend in a office of Miami Roofing Center and according to him Oakland is changing fast. Once known merely as San Francisco’s rough-and-tough neighbour – the birthplace of the Black Panther movement and home of the Hell’s Angels – it is rapidly becoming the most fashionable place in northern California. Those who can’t afford the tech-boom prices across the Bay are making their home in the city and, greeted by an array of new restaurants and bars, a thriving arts scene, and a strong sense of energy and community. Gertrude Stein might have said about her childhood hometown that “There is no there there”, but, these days, Oakland’s residents and visitors are more likely to shout “Come here here!”

Often overshadowed by San Francisco’s beauty and Berkeley’s storied counterculture, Oakland’s allure lies in its amazing diversity. Here you can find a Nigerian clothing store, a beautifully renovated Victorian home, a Buddhist meditation center, and a lively salsa club, all within the same block.

The affluent reside in the city’s hillside homes, wooded enclaves like Claremont and Montclair, which provide a warmer, more spacious, and more affordable alternative to San Francisco, while a constant flow of newcomers—many from Central America and Asia—ensures continued diversity, vitality, and growing pains. Many neighborhoods to the west and south of the city center remain run-down and unsafe, but a renovated downtown area—sparking a vibrant arts scene—has injected new energy into the city. Even San Franciscans, often loath to cross the Bay Bridge, come to Uptown and Temescal for the crackling arts and restaurant scenes there.