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Just the facts

Main strip: Broadway (from 8th to 17th streets)
Who dwells here: All slices of life
Population: Exceeding 5,000
How old is it: 1850s
Main architecture: Mid 1800s to 1940s storefronts with some gorgeous examples of Art Deco
Neighborhood giant: Frank Ogawa Plaza at City Hall
Well-known icons: The Cathedral Building, the best example of Gothic Revival in the U.S., and The Tribune Tower, former home base for the Oakland Tribune
Where to mingle with locals: Awaken Cafe, City Center, Tribune Tavern, Oaklandish

The vibe

To say Downtown Oakland is eclectic and diverse would barely skim the surface of this melting pot. You’re just as likely to bump into a scholar, a Federal judge, a tech entrepreneur and a civil rights activist in a one-block area. Just five years ago, a swath of the area’s Victorian and Art Deco storefronts were vacant and in need of repair. Now they are renovated and lit up with cool shops like Umami (selling Japanese barware), Oaklandish (details below), and art pioneer Joyce Gordon Gallery. Downtown is peppered with architectural marvels: the African American Museum and Library in a 1902 Carnegie; the Pardee Home, dating back to 1868; and the Rotunda Building, a massive elliptical dome in the heart of the district. Different than other downtowns, Oakland’s isn’t about just business. Downtown Oakland is a vital crossroads, where all the cultures meet, eat and sleep. Many murals around the streets tell the stories of the people and of their plights.

The inside inside scoop

Time to let out your inner gamer—video game connoisseurs will feel at home at the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE).  Go deep into the collection of playable video games and game history, or check out one of the weekday events on the calendar.

If you only have three hours

Take a time capsule into the late 1800s at Preservation Park, a gated area that preserves 16 Victorian structures. The buildings are private offices and event spaces, but you can grab a bite at the Brazilian Rio California cafe. Order the Jerk Chicken and sit on their Victorian deck, or by the iconic Parisian fountain in the center of the park.

The 12-city block City Center complex in the midst of downtown is a heavyweight, with a conference center, hotel, parking garage, restaurants, racquet club and BART in the basement. Free noontime concerts are held throughout the year.

Give Oakland a huge hug by shopping (and buying) branded gear from the 800-square-foot Oaklandish. Wearing one of these shirts is a mark of your Town pride, and a portion of proceeds benefit community projects.

Get a taste of the local licks at Awaken Café.

How to get here

Freeway exit: From San Francisco, take 1-80 E to 1-880 S, continuing onto West Grand Ave. and turning onto Broadway; from the South Bay, take 1-880 N (exit toward Broadway/Downtown); from Berkeley, take 1-80 W to 1-580 E, taking 1-980 W (exit at 18thStreet)

BART stop: 12th Street/City Center

Bus lines: Most lines intersect with Downtown Oakland (see for the best route)

Where to stay

Downtown Oakland has a cluster of affordable hotel properties to choose from: Moxy Oakland Downtown, The Oakland Marriott City Center, adjacent Courtyard Marriott and the Clarion Hotel Downtown.