Free Berkeley Wi-Fi Cafes

September 7th, 2003

Below I’ve posted a map and a list of cafes near the University of California, Berkeley campus that offer free wireless Internet access. If you have a laptop or other device with a Wi-Fi (802.11b) card, turn it on in one of these places to enjoy a free high-speed connection.

I’m surprised that so few free wi-fi cafes exist in Berkeley, considering that more than 70 such cafes thrive in San Francisco. Do you know of any free wi-fi cafes near the UC Berkeley campus that I’m missing? If so, please let me know: sean[at]

Help expand this list: next time you pass one of those big cafes near campus that charge exorbitant usage fees, go in and tell the manager that she’s losing business to the dozens of Bay Area cafes that provide free wi-fi access.

UPDATE 6/26/05: If you use Windows and you’re interested in seeing who’s in cafes and at other hotspots nearby, check out Meetro. It’s not available for Macs so I haven’t been able to try it out but it looks like fun. -Sean


1   Berkeley Espresso:   1900 Shattuck Avenue, at Hearst Avenue.   The staff here can be a tad gruff, but this is a decent place to get work done. There are plenty of tables and the management provides more than the usual number of power outlets; the coffee’s not bad and they stay open til 11 pm weeknights.   Added 9/7/03.   map

2   Fertile Grounds:   1796 Shattuck Avenue, at Delaware Street.   The staff here is much more friendly than the overworked folks at Berkeley Espresso, and I think the coffee’s better. But they close much earlier than Berkeley Espresso. (I’ll find out the precise closing time and post it here soon.)   Added 9/7/03.   map

3   Free Speech Movement Cafe:  Moffitt Library, First Floor, University Drive at Sather Road on the UC Berkeley Campus.   The cafe provides wi-fi coverage via AirBears, but to use it you’ll need a Berkeley student or staff ID number to use it. It’s a great, lively space decked out with memorabilia celebrating the 1964 Berkeley student protests. But there’s a chilling item in the corner: a large television set displays CNN all day long; a sign warns patrons that the TV’s for viewing CNN, and that “the channel and volume controls are fixed and cannot be manually adjusted.” So in Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement Cafe, CNN has a lot more freedom of speech than anyone else. The cafe is open til 2 am Sunday through Thursday; they close at 10 pm Fridays and Saturdays. This cafe is very popular with Berkeley undergrads; don’t count on getting a table during peak times. Tip: sometimes the classroom next to the cafe is left unlocked when it’s empty; it’s within range of the cafe wi-fi router, and if you can sneak in it’s a great quiet place to get some work done.   Added 9/7/03.   map | site

4   The Bear’s Lair:   First floor of the student union, 2475 Bancroft Way, between Telegraph Avenue and Dana Street on the UC Berkeley Campus.   You’ll find a big cafe and food court here, as well as an adjoining bar with fairly cheap beer. The entire complex has wi-fi coverage via AirBears, but you’ll need a Berkeley student or staff ID number to use it.   Added 9/7/03.   map | site
5   Angel Falls Tea Company:   1510-G Walnut Street, at Vine Street.   I haven’t been here yet, but according to the cafe’s site, they’re open from 11 am 6 pm daily. Thanks to the folks at Beast Blog for the tip.   Added 9/7/03.   map | site
5   International House:   2299 Piedmont Avenue, at Bancroft.   The cafe provides wi-fi coverage via AirBears, but to use it you’ll need a Berkeley student or staff ID number to use it.   Thanks to Andria for the tip.   Added 10/25/04.   map | site

6   Addison Annex Cafe:   2107 Addison Street, at Shattuck Avenue.   Added 11/7/03.   map

7   Le Bateau Ivre:   2629 Telegraph Avenue, at Carleton Street.   Added 11/7/03.   map

8   Brewed Awakening:   1807 Euclid Avenue, at Ridge Road.   WARNING: Don’t be tricked into paying for access that has already been paid for! This cafe does offer free wi-fi, but the access is through Sip and Surf, a service provider that forces you to submit a credit card number before you can register for free access. Your credit card won’t be charged, IF you choose the free-access option when submitting your credit card. Jeff Wolf warns that the design of the sign-up process is very unclear and he inadvertently and unnecessarily signed up for a paid account. So be sure to pay attention during the sign-up process so you’re not misled into paying.   Thanks to Jeff Wolf for the tip.   Added 6/13/04.   map | site

9   Yali’s Cafe:   1920 Oxford Street, at Berkeley Way.   Thanks to John Landahl for the tip.  Added 10/25/04.   map

If I missed a cafe, or if one of these cafes closes or begins charging for Wi-Fi use, drop me a line and I’ll update the list: sean[at] (Remember this is a list of free Wi-Fi cafes, so please don’t contact me about cafes that charge a fee for Wi-Fi usage.)

The folks at Beast Blog are putting together a list of free wi-fi locations throughout the East Bay.

Here’s a list of free Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the world:

And here’s a list of open wireless nodes that Bay Area people have set up, mostly in their homes.

Join the free networks movement! Details:, and the Bay Area Wireless Users’ Group.


35 Responses to “Free Berkeley Wi-Fi Cafes”

  1. comment number 1 by: douglas temple


  2. comment number 2 by: joe

    Hi Sean, joe here. Something that would be interesting to get someone to do (because, of course, we’re too damn busy to do it ourselves) would be a detailed signal strength map of the AirBears network.

  3. comment number 3 by: Michael D.

    You’ve got to make a blog post on this one. It might be the most well-publicized flash mob ever. Hugely syndicated political cartoon strip Doonesbury today has one of its charachters setting up a flash mob for her favorite presidential candidate, Howard Dean. The strip says:

    Time: Sat Sept 13th 10:35 AM

    Place: Foot of Space Needle

    Activity: Link arms in an enormous circle, hop up and down chanting ‘The Doctor is in!’




    Already, a Dean supporter has used Dean’s “Get Local” action tools to recreate the flash mob in real life:

    Maybe someone should go carrying signs since there will surely be a ton of press.

  4. comment number 4 by: Sean

    The business school at Berkeley (Haas) has amazingly fast WiFi access throughout all buildings and in the quad. However, you still need to access it through AirBears.

  5. comment number 5 by: heerforce

    Most of Euclid, between Hearst and Ridge on northside, is blanketed with WiFi access from the EECS department. However, it is not generally available for non-EECS affiliates… but for those who have access, it is certainly a welcome improvement over Soda and Cory.

  6. comment number 6 by: peterme

    We at the Beast Blog have been tracking free wi-fi in the East Bay.

  7. comment number 7 by: peterme

    Whoops. I hadn’t noticed the line about Beast Blog already in the post! My bad eyes…

  8. comment number 8 by: misuba

    Fertile Grounds closes at 8 most nights, 7 on Sundays (and possibly Saturdays as well).

    In a pinch, don’t forget about the Nomad Cafe and Jumpin’ Java, on Shattuck around 66th bordering Oakland. Neither is a sure bet for coverage in my experience, but any port in a storm.

  9. comment number 9 by: Anonymous

    Great to have you expand to Berkeley. I’d been a customer of Angel Falls, but when I stopped by Friday, there was a sign that it was closed temporarily while reworking the menu. The wifi was turned off too.

  10. comment number 10 by: EDawg

    berkeley espresso usually leave their wifi on even after business hours. for those who are roaming around berkeley, especially by car, in the middle of the night and need to connect to the web, just park in front of the place and surf away. i know it’s come in handy for me many times…

  11. comment number 11 by: articus

    Can you share some of that high technology down here in Orlando, FL. We are in 1984 times.

  12. comment number 12 by: for_rent

    New free wi-fi in Berkeley

    Le Bateau Ivre

    2629 Telegraph


    (510) 8491100

  13. comment number 13 by: Laura

    Yali’s Cafe on Oxford near Hearst gets AIRBEARS coverage. They’re open until 7pm M-F, til 5pm on Sat/Sun.

  14. comment number 14 by: jonathan

    I have just put up a free wireless access site at my laundromat, Launderland, at 41st and Broadway, Oakland. Free and 24 hr access for the moment at least…

  15. comment number 15 by: Tom

    Nomad cafe on Shattuck just north of Alcatraz has free wi-fi as well as ethernet plugins. The food menu is sparse but terrific, and it has the best afternoon sunshine of all the East Bay cafe’s I’ve been to.

    You have to share tables quite commonly, but it’s worth it.


    the wandering telecommuter

  16. comment number 16 by: cfactor

    Laura, how good is the reception of AirBears at Yali’s?

  17. comment number 17 by: Chet

    I have lunch at the Public Market in Emeryville, I don’t know where the wi-fi is coming from but usually you have a choice of two for free surfing.

  18. comment number 18 by: DaKing

    angel falls tea (#5) has closed their doors

  19. comment number 19 by: Cyrus J. Farivar

    The Spanish Table at 1814 San Pablo Ave. has free Wi-Fi — so does my apt, which is nearby.

  20. comment number 20 by: AlexJB

    i’m in berkeley espresso right now, and just had to comment on the fact that my connection to my shell account is extremeley spotty. i’ve been dropped a few times in just twenty minutes; very frustrating. don’t know if this is their setup or their provider or what, but i thought i’d share.

  21. comment number 21 by: Joy

    I’m sitting here at Sole ay 2929 Shattuck (at Ashby) with great wi-fi reception. Don’t know where it’s coming from but there are several good signals. Plus the food is terrific (everything from breakfast to pasta to pho and burgers and the usual lattes and cafe suspects) there’s outdoor seating and friendly staff. I’m in heaven!

  22. comment number 22 by: Sam

    There’a an AP at Bonar and Allston. Any others in this area people know about?

  23. comment number 23 by: Ryan MacCarthy

    I started putting together a list of free hotspots as well for the bay area last summer, and just recently put it on line for everyone here:

    If you’re interested in a wap version for mobile phone access to the database while you’re on the road and looking to plug in… Bay Area Free Fi also has a WAP enabled Version for Mobile Phones

  24. comment number 24 by: asdf


  25. comment number 25 by:

    A new Berkeley free WiFi spot:

    Yali’s Cafe

    1920 Oxford St. at Berkeley Way

    (510) 843-2233

    Open M-F 7-7, Sa-Su 8:30-5

    Tried it on 9/8/04 ; connection was quite slow, but worked.

  26. comment number 26 by:

    Another new Berkeley free WiFi spot:

    Yangtze River Restaurant (Chinese food)

    1688 Shattuck

    (510) 548-2327

    Open Su-Th 11-9:30, Fr-Sa 11-10

    Quite fast connection.

  27. comment number 27 by:

    Technically one block into Oakland, but the Rockridge neighborhood is essentially “Berkeley south”:

    Spasso Coffeehouse

    6021 College Ave.

    (510) 428-1818

    Open M-F 6:45 a.m.-7 p.m., Sa-Su 7:30-7

  28. comment number 28 by:

    P.S. Regarding Spasso, you must get the log-on password at the order counter.

  29. comment number 29 by: j. gibson

    New free wireless to avoid, Royal Pizza on University ave. near shattuck across from mcdonalds. The connection was good but the people that run the place are real jerks. Unless you fit their vision of the ideal laptop wi-fi user who has to be a certain sex, race, age,party affiliate, and god knows what else. ps- the pizza is a reflection of their attitude. j.gibson

  30. comment number 30 by: Careca da Serra

    The Capoeira Arts Cafe, 2026 Addison St, between Shattuck and Milvia in downtown Berkeley is happy to now offere FREE wireless internet to our customers.

    Also call us at 510-666-1349 about our upcoming wine lounge events, which include live musical performances from Jazz School students and more.

  31. comment number 31 by: Nick Moffitt

    Spasso coffeehouse indeed has free network access, but they use WEP (which my card doesn’t support!) and keep the key behind the register. I get really frustrated when I pay for a drink in good faith and then it turns out they won’t let me use their wireless for some arbitrary security reason.

  32. comment number 32 by: John Abbe

    I haven’t tried the wifi yet, but dropped by Spud’s pizza and they claim to have it, along with several wired up desktop computers. 3290 Adeline St @ Alcatraz (near Ashby BART) 510-597-0795. They deliver (pizza not wifi).

  33. comment number 33 by: John Abbe

    Nabolom Bakery, 2708 Russell St., ask for the password at the counter. Yummy food, and every Saturday morning Old Puppy and friends are playing a truly eclectic mix of music. I’m not sure how else to describe it. Band member Steven Strauss says, “If it’s the kind of song you forgot you remembered, it’s the kind of song we’re likely to play.”

    Just to confirm, Spud’s wifi indeed works also.

  34. comment number 34 by: furqan

    hhhmmm…….nice buddy

  35. comment number 35 by: Cafe Euro

    I have just discovered Cafe’ Euro, in the Richmond District, at the corner of Geary and 26th ave.

    The coffee is wonderful, the staff are fun, welcoming and kind. The seating is very comfortable and there seems to be plenty of space and available computers.

    I have been searching for the perfect cafe to get some work done and Cafe. Euro most definately meets my needs.
    Open Mon- Fri 6:00 Am to 10:00 Pm
    Sat and Sun 7:00aM TO 10:00 pm