Little Italy, San Diego, is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city, full of culture and delicious food to satisfy any palate. Whether you’re moving to San Diego or have been around a while, there are likely things to do in Little Italy San Diego that you have yet to experience.
Explore eight of the top activities, including eating your way through the neighborhood, on your exploration of Little Italy.
1. Linger Over Coffee and Sweet Treats
Little Italy, San Diego has an excellent coffee scene, perfect for kicking off your morning with a caffeine fix alongside a fresh baked good or two. Popular cafe stops include Lofty Coffee Co. and James Coffee Co., two shops that have popularized craft coffee in San Diego. For morning bites that are a bit more substantial, try Frost Me Cafe and Bakery, even more, well-known for their extensive cupcake menu.
2. Eat Fresh at the Mercato
Arguably the best farmers’ market in San Diego is the Little Italy Mercato, a Saturday market featuring more than 200 local vendors on any given weekend. It has easily become one of the most popular things to do in Little Italy, San Diego. Take home fresh fruits and vegetables, prepared foods from the food trucks on hand, or unique gifts for special occasion shopping. If you’re lucky, you may hear some live music while you’re there, too.
If you’re overwhelmed by all of the Saturday market choices, Little Italy has a smaller weekday farmers market from 9 am-1:30 pm every Wednesday: the Little Italy Wednesday Market. Expect the same fresh ingredients for the perfect weeknight meal to take back to your Little Italy luxury apartment, if you’re so lucky.
3. Take a Historic Walk
Little Italy, San Diego is best explored on foot. That way, you’re able to come upon some historical landmarks and cultural touches that make this neighborhood so unique. A key highlight includes the Little Italy sign that welcomes visitors to the area, surrounded by mosaic tiles that tell a story of their own.
Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, a 1920s-era church and the neighborhood’s first house of worship, and the markers outside of the Hyde Edwards Salon and Spa on Kettner Boulevard – look closely to see who the tenants were before the salon came in – shouldn’t be missed, either.
4. Get a History Lesson
If you’re looking for a bit of education and some entertainment, as both of these museums are quite fun, Little Italy, San Diego has two museums for you to explore. The San Diego Firehouse Museum features firehouse-themed artifacts from the 1800s and more modern historical items of importance. Don’t miss the piece of steel from the World Trade Center while you’re there.
While you’re taking a walk on the bay, you’ll see a series of ships that certainly look as if they boast some historical importance. The ships are part of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. The most popular among visitors is the 1860s-era Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship. Perhaps the best way to experience the vessel is during one of their special events, particularly around the Halloween season.
5. Explore the Public Spaces
Little Italy is a downtown San Diego neighborhood through and through, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t places for residents and visitors to relax and take in the sunshine.
Start with Waterfront Park, the most scenic bayfront space within walking distance of Little Italy’s best. The park is perfect for a picnic – stop by Mona Lisa Italian Foods for hearty gourmet sandwiches – or people-watching, as it’s popular with locals and kids splashing around in the fountains.
A newer addition to Little Italy’s public spaces is Piazza della Famiglia, 10,000 square feet in the heart of Little Italy of shaded seating and water features. The piazza serves as a gathering space for many of Little Italy’s annual festivals and popular for live music performances and other cultural events.
6. Sample Little Italy’s Best Restaurants
Little Italy San Diego restaurants are some of the best in the city. As this was once the home to thousands of Italian immigrants, most here for jobs in the tuna industry that thrived here, the Italian food has remained top-notch. Choose from the Sicilian-style Barbusa or the sister restaurants Monello and Bencotto. For a little bit of everything, the Little Italy Food Hall boasts several food stations inside, from Maine lobster rolls to inventive twists on classic tacos, along with a full bar.
There’s more variety in Little Italy, too, if you’re looking for some food diversity. Celebrity chef Richard Blais likes Little Italy enough to have opened two eateries here. The fine-dining Juniper & Ivy, and The Crack Shack, a more casual fried chicken spot that has become a neighborhood staple. If you’re interested in a glitzy and glamorous vibe, then luxe wood-paneled steakhouse, Born and Raised, is the perfect spot. Or, for a fun night out with friends, Nolita Hall offers a vibrant atmosphere with great food, cocktails, and shuffleboard. Don’t miss watching the plane arrivals appear on the flight board behind the bar.
Another option is to walk along the neighborhood’s main streets, like India Street, and stop at the restaurant that looks best to you. You’ll undoubtedly run into a gelato place or two.
7. Shop for Unique Finds
In addition to the downtown San Diego amenities you’ll enjoy by living in an apartment like Allegro Towers, you’ll also find that you’re within walking distance to most of what you’ll ever need to shop for or treat yourself to.
Little Italy San Diego shopping is diverse. Explore the neighborhood’s art galleries, clothing boutiques, and fine jewelry shops for unique gifts and home purchases that you won’t find anywhere else.
8. Enjoy the Nightlife
Little Italy San Diego bars are of the buzzy sort, packed on weekends with visitors and locals looking to wind down. As with most of San Diego, a craft brewing capital, there are breweries to choose from in Little Italy, namely Ballast Point Brewing Little Italy and Bolt Brewery.
Those seeking a more casual bar experience will like the Princess Pub & Grille and the Waterfront Bar & Grill. Wine drinkers will like M Winehouse, housed in one of the oldest buildings in Little Italy. The historic property was built in 1888 as the A.W. Pray House and is designated as a historic landmark – and now wine bar – today.
Little Italy Has It All
If you’re ready to see the best Little Italy has to offer from a place you can call home, schedule a visit to see the Allegro Towers, the neighborhood’s best luxury apartments.