San Francisco/Nob Hill-Russian Hill

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Atop the hills overlooking the bay and bustling downtown San Francisco are two adjacent neighborhoods famed for their wealth, panoramic views, and the historic cable cars which still climb the steep streets of the area. Nob Hill is an affluent neighborhood dating back to the gold rush, today renowned for its lavish hotels and charming shops and restaurants. Just to the north is Russian Hill, a quieter residential area most well known for its pleasant walks and the famous crooked section of Lombard Street. The district is bounded roughly by Van Ness Avenue to the west, Bay Street to the north, Sutter Street to the south, and Powell Street and Columbus Avenue to the east.

Understand[edit]

Nob Hill-Russian Hill map

Nob Hill[edit]

Nob Hill is one of the city's most affluent neighborhoods. The advent of the Cable Car made this hilltop accessible, and the city's early railroad and Gold Rush millionaires rushed to settle here, far away from the unruliness of the Waterfront and Barbary Coast. In fact the hill derived its name from a slang term used to describe men of wealth and prominence -'Nabobs'. Today, it is most renowned for its famous hotels and for city landmarks such as the impressive Grace Cathedral. At its peak is Huntington Park, with the Roman "Fountain of Tortoises" located at its center. The area was almost completely destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, but ensuring its survival were a host of luxury hotels that were built over their charred ruins. Given its lofty elevation, the hill has great select views over the city and bay.

Russian Hill[edit]

Russian Hill is a hilly residential neighborhood located west of North Beach (and Telegraph Hill) and north of Nob Hill. These three hills have largely given San Francisco its "hilly" charm. The boundaries of Russian Hill are generally considered to be Van Ness Avenue on the west, Pacific Avenue on the south, Columbus Avenue on the east (northeast), and Bay Street on the north. In spite of the hilly terrain, the streets of Russian Hill are laid out mainly in a grid pattern, resulting in some of the steepest grades in the city, e.g., Filbert between Jones and Leavenworth. Because of the steepness of the hill, several streets, e.g., portions of Vallejo, Green, Greenwich and Larkin are blocked to motor vehicles and replaced by staircases. There are also beautifully landscaped pedestrian-only lanes such as Macondray Lane and Fallon Place. The most touristy block in Russian Hill is the winding Lombard Street, between Hyde and Leavenworth, with eight switchbacks, beautiful landscaping, and an arresting view of Telegraph Hill, Alcatraz Island and the East Bay. The hill's name goes back to the Gold Rush-era when settlers discovered a small cemetery at the top of the hill which contained Russian colonists who had created a settlement here during the 18th century. The cemetery was removed, but the hill's name remains to this day. There is no significant Russian presence here as the city's Russian community is located primarily in the Richmond District.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

Driving into this district is not recommended due to the steep hills, narrow and dead-end streets, lack of parking, and sometimes confusing traffic diversions. Avoid any street that is also a cable car line (Hyde between Washington and Fisherman's Wharf, Mason between Columbus and Washington, and Jackson/Washington between Powell and Hyde), as the cable cars stop at every intersection, and they usually stop in the intersection.

If you must drive in, the best streets to take are Van Ness Avenue (running north-south along the western edge of the district), Columbus Avenue (running northwest-southeast through the northeastern corner of the area) and the east-west Broadway Street, which becomes a tunnel between Powell and Larkin Streets. When parking in this hilly district, remember to always apply that parking brake and turn your wheels so that the tires are against the curb.

By cable car[edit]

The power house for the cable cars; Cable Car Museum

All three Cable Car lines cross at Powell and California. The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason cable car lines run between Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf. The Powell-Hyde line runs on Powell Street, Jackson/Washington Streets, and Hyde Street, running up and down Nob and Russian Hills and stopping at the top of the crooked section of Lombard Street. The Powell-Mason line runs on Powell and Mason Streets on the east edge of the district. The California cable car line runs east-west on California Street between Market Street in the Financial District and Van Ness Avenue.

By bus[edit]

MUNI bus routes #1-California, #10-Townsend, #12-Folsom/Pacific, #19-Polk, #27-Bryant, #30-Stockton, #45-Union/Stockton, #47-Van Ness and #49-Van Ness/Mission pass through the district. The #1, #10, #12 and #45 run east-west through the district, the #19, #47 and #49 runs along the western edge of the district, the #30 runs on Columbus through the northeastern corner of the district, while #27 crosses across the southwestern part of the district.

Get around[edit]

This district is small enough for walking, but being very hilly, it can be somewhat strenuous.

See[edit]

Looking down winding Lombard Street
  •    Cable Car Museum1201 Mason Street (at Washington),  +1 415 474-1887. Daily April–September: 10AM-6PM. Daily October–March: 10AM-5PM. Here you can see the mechanisms that drive San Francisco's famed cable cars, as well as plenty of cable car memorabilia and information on the history of the cable cars. Admission is free.
  •    Lombard Streetbetween Hyde and Leavenworth. Do see the "crookedest street in the world", a one-block portion of Lombard Street that contains eight hairpin turns, created to reduce the hill's natural steep slope. The best time to see and photograph the winding street from the bottom (from Leavenworth St) is in the morning because Lombard Street runs east-west and slopes eastward. The best time to see and photograph the view from the top (from Hyde St) is in the afternoon. At night there are great views of Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. The wild parrots of Telegraph Hill frequently fly over head in the morning.
  • Famous hotels. Pretend you are a guest and not just a visitor, and have a look around the lobbies of some swanky San Francisco hotels. The Fairmont and Mark Hopkins have impressive lobbies that will leave you counting your pennies to see if you can afford a room. See below under the Sleep section for further info.
  •    Filbert Street (between Hyde and Leavenworth). At a 31.5% grade, this is one of the very steepest streets in the entire Western Hemisphere. Like many of the steeper streets in the city, it has steps along the sidewalk and its own special set of parking rules, so that people and cars don't all come tumbling down! Free.
  •    Francisco Streetbetween Hyde and Leavenworth. This block contains twelve spectacular mansions in a variety of styles. It is very close to the crooked section of Lombard Street and is worth the minor detour on the way.
Grace Cathedral
  •    Grace Cathedral1100 California Street (between Taylor and Jones),  +1 415 749-6300. M-F 7AM-6PM, Sa 8AM-6PM, Su 7AM-7PM, cathedral holidays 8AM-4PM. The main Episcopalian church of the city, based on the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. They request a donation and the tour is an hour long. You learn a lot but at times it is way too detailed.
  •    Nob Hill Masonic Center1111 California Street (between Taylor and Jones),  +1 415 776-7000. In addition to the lodge room and corporate offices, this place also has a museum of Freemasonry.
  • Polk Streetbetween Broadway and Union. These five blocks form the heart of the Russian Hill neighborhood district. There are over 20 restaurants, 10 bars and cafes, and 20 shops. Dinner at many of the restaurants typically require reservations.

Do[edit]

  •    The Old First Church1751 Sacramento Street (at Van Ness). The Old First Church has concerts F 8PM & Su 4PM, and some other evenings, throughout the year. Ticket prices are typically $10-$15.
  •    Masonic Auditorium1111 California Street (between Taylor and Jones),  +1 415 776-4702. Hosts many concerts and other special events.

Buy[edit]

  •    Argonaut Book Shop786 Sutter Street (at Jones),  +1 415 474-9067fax: +1 415 474-2537. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-4PM. The bookshelves here are any war buff's haven, with a treasure trove of books on the history of California and the American West. It also has good collections on the American Civil War, American railroads, regional Americana, antiques and maritime books.
  •    Atelier Des Modistes1903 Hyde Street (at Green),  +1 415 775-0545. W-Sa 12PM-8PM. Bridal gowns and jewelery.
  •    Cris2056 Polk Street (at Broadway),  +1 415 474-1191. M-F 11AM-6:30PM, Sa 11AM-6PM, Su 12PM-5PM. A consignment shop with high-end goods.
  •    Lombardi's Sports1600 Jackson Street (at Polk),  +1 415 771-0600. M-W 10AM-7PM, Th-F 10AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 11AM-6PM. A massive sporting goods store, with two floors of merchandise.
  •    Molte Cose2044 Polk Street (between Broadway and Pacific),  +1 415 921-5374. "Molte Cose", or "many things" in Italian, fits the name of this shop. Tons of cool adornments, clothes and accessories.
  •    Velvet da Vinci2015 Polk Street (between Broadway and Pacific),  +1 415 441-0109. Tu-Sa 12-6PM, Su 12-4PM. Established in 1991, the gallery shows contemporary jewelry by international artists and craft-based sculpture. Housed in an old furniture factory the gallery has 10 exhibitions a year and is a must see for fans of cutting-edge jewelry.
  •    You Say Tomato1526 California Street (at Larkin),  +1 415 921-2828. Tu-F 10AM-7PM, Sa-Su 10AM-5PM. English food store that will appease the expats.

Eat[edit]

There are many great options in these two neighborhoods -- lots of smallish, cozy eateries. Frequently the nicer restaurants require reservations.

  •    Big 4 Restaurant1075 California Street (between Cushman and Taylor),  +1 415 771-1140. Breakfast M-F 7AM-10AM, Sa-Su 7AM-11AM, Dinner daily 5:30PM-10PM. In the Huntington Hotel. $13-$35.
  •    Crustacean Restaurant1475 Polk Street (at California St),  +1 415 776-2722fax: +1 415 776-1069. Lunch Su 11:30AM-3:30PM, Su-Th 5PM-9:30PM, F-Sa 5PM-10:30PM. Mixed reviews about this Vietnamese restaurant, so make your own decision. However, the roast crab has consistently garnered good reviews.
  •    Frascati1901 Hyde Street (at Green),  +1 415 928-1406fax: +1 415 928-1983, e-mail: . M-Sa 5:30PM-9:45PM, Su 5:30PM-9PM. A pan-European that is somewhat fancy but still relaxed and features local food.
  •    Harris' Restaurant2100 Van Ness Avenue (at Pacific),  +1 415 673-1888fax: +1 415 673-8817. Excellent steak house; luxurious dining (plush seats, table cloths, brass chandeliers, etc.).
  •    Nara Sushi1515 Polk Street (between California St & Sacramento St),  +1 415 567-1515, e-mail: . Su-W 11:30AM-Midnight, Th-Sa 11:30AM-2AM. Popular with locals that rave about the freshness of the sushi here. Solid sushi at good prices, and large quantities too.
  •    Nob Hill Cafe1152 Taylor Street (between Clay and Pleasant),  +1 415 776-6500. A north Italian bistro that serves lunch, dinner and a Sunday brunch.
  •    Okoze Sushi1207 Union Street (at Hyde Street),  +1 415 567-3397. Su-W 5:30PM-10:30PM, Th-Sa 5:30PM-11PM. A good sushi restaurant very near the cable car lines on Hyde Street. There is typically no need for a reservation. $25-$40.
  •    The Original Front Room1550 California Street (between Larkin and Polk),  +1 415 771-1591. Su-W 11AM-11:45PM, Th 11AM-Midnight, F-Sa 11AM-12:45AM. Arguably the best pizza in Nob Hill.
  •    Ristorante Milano1448 Pacific Avenue (at Morrell/McCormick, between Hyde and Larkin),  +1 415 673-2961. M-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, Su 5PM-10PM. Pleasant Italian restaurant. $9-$23.
  •    Zarzuela2000 Hyde Street (at Union St),  +1 415 346-0800. M-Th noon-10PM, F-Sa noon-10:30PM. Spanish tapas, hor d'oeuvres and appetizers.
  •    Za Gourmet Pizza1919 Hyde Street (between Union St and Green St),  +1 415 771-3100. Su-W Noon-10PM, Th-Sa Noon-11PM. A good, cheap pizza-by-the-slice restaurant that is open relatively late. $5-$10.

Drink[edit]

  •    Bacchus Wine Bar1954 Hyde Street (between Union St & Warner Pl.),  +1 415 928-2633. Nightly 5:30PM-2AM. Small intimate twenty-seat bar that is a good place to go to get a nice glass of wine or a sake cocktail.
  •    Hi-Lo Club1423 Polk Street (between Pine and California). Mon-Sat 4PM-2AM. A new venture by veterans of the Tenderloin bar scene. Nice, craft cocktails, signature house creations, and an impressive beer menu are set in a swanky new/old interior that intentionally has no TV.
  •    Zeki's Bar1319 California Street (at Helen between Hyde and Leavenworth),  +1 415 928-0677. Daily 4PM-2AM. A step up from the Nob Hill Tavern.

Sleep[edit]

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget under $100
Mid-range $100 - 199
Splurge $200 and over

Budget[edit]

Mid-range[edit]

Splurge[edit]

Fancy hotels abound in Nob Hill
  •    Fairmont Hotel950 Mason Street (at California),  +1 415 772-5000fax: +1 415 772-5013, e-mail: . One of the most famous hotels in the city, having been gutted in the 1906 earthquake and fire, and rebuilt. The lobby is fantastic, and many rooms have fantastic views. The grandest suite costs $10,000 a night, but you can get a nice room for $300-400.
  •    Huntington Hotel1075 California Street (at Taylor),  +1 415 474-5400fax: +1 415 474-6227, e-mail: . A former apartment building-turned-luxury hotel with individually decorated rooms.
  •    Intercontinental Mark Hopkins1 Nob Hill Place (at California and Mason Streets),  +1 415 392-3434fax: +1 415 421-3302. Historic hotel atop Nob Hill. Convenient for walking tours of the city.
  •    Petite Auberge863 Bush Street (between Taylor and Mason),  +1 415 928-6000fax: +1 415 673-7214. A French provincial style inn. Cozy parlor with fireplace, afternoon wine and hors d'oeuvres. Many of the 26 guestrooms offer fireplaces. Breakfast buffet each morning.
  •    Stanford Court Hotel905 California Street (at Powell),  +1 415 989-3500fax: +1 415 391-0513. Another 4-star hotel with marble baths and free limousine service.
  •    White Swan Inn845 Bush Street (between Taylor and Mason),  +1 415 775-1755fax: +1 415 775-5717. A lovely small hotel with a fireplace in all 26 guestrooms. Dark wood paneling, floral carpets, comfy furniture, and English art and collectibles set the tone. Evening turndown service, breakfast buffet, and evening wine and hors d'oeuvres served fireside.
  •    Hotel Vertigo940 Sutter Street (on the corner between Hyde and Leavenworth),  +1 415 885-6800, e-mail: . A hotel with lots of bright colors and relatively few amenities compared to other splurge hotels in the area, but with nice rooms and a friendly staff.

Connect[edit]

There are many cafes in Nob Hill which provide internet service.

  •    Cup-A-Joe896 Sutter St (at Leavenworth Street),  +1 415 563-7745. M-F 6AM-9PM, Sa-Su 7AM-8PM. A basic, local coffee shop with a decent tea selection with a good amount of street seating for when the weather is nice. Free wireless plus a few machines to work on.
  •    Quetzal Internet Cafe1234 Polk Street (between Bush and Fern Streets),  +1 415 673-4181. M-F 6:30AM-10PM, Sa-Su 7:30AM-10PM. Basic internet cafe. Free wireless, desktop workstations (16 cents/minute), printing available (15 cents/page).
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