Nob Hill-Russian Hill in San Francisco
Nob Hill-Russian Hill is an area in the northeastern part of San Francisco, made up of the two adjoining neighborhoods. Nob Hill is an affluent neighborhood dating back to the gold rush, today renowned for its lavish hotels, charming shops and restaurants, views of the city, and the cable car lines which pass through the neighborhood. Just to the north is Russian Hill, a quieter residential area most well known for its pleasant walks and the 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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
This district is small enough for walking, but being very hilly, it can be somewhat strenuous.
- Cable Car Museum (address: 1201 Mason Street) (directions: at Washington) +1 415 474-1887
price: Admission is free
open: 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.
- Lombard Street (address: between 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 (directions: 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!
- Francisco Street (address: Between 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 (address: 1100 California Street) (directions: between Taylor and Jones) +1 415 749-6300
open: 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.
- Grand Lodge F&AM of California (address: 1111 California Street) (directions: 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 Street (address: between 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.
- Shakris Fine Asian Works of Art (address: 954 Bush Street) (directions: between Taylor and Jones) +1 415 929-0280 email@example.com
This galley houses a broad collection of Asian antiques that span thousands of years of history. It has arts from China, Japan, India, Indonesia and Thailand among other countries. Popular categories include ceramics, paintings, metalwork, erotic art, carvings, and jade sculpture.
- The Old First Church (address: 1751 Sacramento Street) (directions: at Van Ness)
price: Ticket prices are typically $10-$15
The Old First Church has concerts F 8PM & Su 4PM, and some other evenings, throughout the year.
- Lumiere Theatre (address: 1572 California Street) (directions: at Polk) +1 415 267-4893
Screening independent films, foreign releases and documentaries.
- Masonic Auditorium (address: 1111 California Street) (directions: between Taylor and Jones) +1 415 776-4702
Hosts many concerts and other special events.
- Argonaut Book Shop (address: 786 Sutter Street) (directions: at Jones) +1 415 474-9067
open: 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 Modistes (address: 1903 Hyde Street) (directions: at Green) +1 415 775-0545
open: W-Sa 12PM-8PM
Bridal gowns and jewelery.
- Candy Darling (address: 798 Sutter Street) (directions: between Taylor & Jones) +1 415 346-1500
open: Daily 9AM-5PM
Unique family-owned chic shop of sweets without the obnoxious chocolate boutique prices. Truffles, caramels, dipped fruits and brittle, to name a few, all made on the premises.
- Cris (address: 2056 Polk Street) (directions: at Broadway) +1 415 474-1191
open: M-F 11AM-6:30PM, Sa 11AM-6PM, Su 12PM-5PM
A consignment shop with high-end goods.
- HUF (address: 812 Sutter Street) (directions: at Jones) +1 415 674-3744
price: ">Get your Vans, your Adidas, and your Nikes on at this sneaker shop named after former pro skater Keith "Huf
- Kissmet (address: 2354 Polk Street) (directions: Between Union and Green) +1 415 931-9979
open: Tu-Su Noon-7PM
A cute Asian importer that has great small gifts for children.
- Lombardi's Sports (address: 1600 Jackson Street) (directions: at Polk) +1 415 771-0600
open: 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 Cose (address: 2044 Polk Street) (directions: between Broadway and Pacific) +1 415 921-5374
price: ">"Molte Cose", or "many things
- Velvet da Vinci (address: 2015 Polk Street) (directions: between Broadway and Pacific) +1 415 441-0109
open: 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 Tomato (address: 1526 California Street) (directions: at Larkin) +1 415 921-2828
open: Tu-F 10AM-7PM, Sa-Su 10AM-5PM
English food store that will appease the expats.
There are many great options in these two neighborhoods -- lots of smallish, cozy eateries. Frequently the nicer restaurants require reservations.
- Big Four Restaurant (address: 1075 California Street) (directions: between Cushman and Taylor) +1 415 771-1140
open: Breakfast M-F 7AM-10AM, Sa-Su 7AM-11AM, Dinner daily 5:30PM-10PM
In the Huntington Hotel.
- Crustacean Restaurant (address: 1475 Polk Street) (directions: at California) +1 415 776-2722
open: 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.
- Frascati (address: 1901 Hyde Street) (directions: at Green) +1 415 928-1406 firstname.lastname@example.org
open: M-Sa 5:30PM-9:45PM, Su 5:30PM-9PM
A pan-European that is somewhat fancy but still relaxed and features local food.
- Front Room Pizza (address: 1550 California Street) (directions: between Larkin and Polk) +1 415 771-1591
open: Su-W 11AM-11:45PM, Th 11AM-Midnight, F-Sa 11AM-12:45AM
Arguably the best pizza in Nob Hill.
- Harris' Restaurant (address: 2100 Van Ness Avenue) (directions: at Pacific) +1 415 673-1888
Excellent steak house; luxurious dining (plush seats, table cloths, brass chandeliers, etc.).
- Hyde Street Bistro (address: 1521 Hyde Street) (directions: at Jackson) +1 415 292-4415
open: W-M 5:30PM-10PM
- Nara Sushi (address: 1515 Polk Street) (directions: between California St & Sacramento St) +1 415 567-1515 email@example.com
open: 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 Cafe (address: 1152 Taylor Street) (directions: between Clay and Pleasant) +1 415 776-6500
A north Italian bistro that serves lunch, dinner and a Sunday brunch.
- Okoze Sushi (address: 1207 Union Street) (directions: at Hyde Street) +1 415 567-3397
open: 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.
- Ristorante Milano (address: 1448 Pacific Avenue) (directions: at Morrell/McCormick, between Hyde and Larkin) +1 415 673-2961
open: M-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, Su 5PM-10PM
Pleasant Italian restaurant.
- Zarzuela (address: 2000 Hyde Street) (directions: at Union) +1 415 346-0800
open: M-Th noon-10PM, F-Sa noon-10:30PM
Spanish tapas, hor d'oeuvres and appetizers.
- Za Gourmet Pizza (address: 1919 Hyde Street) (directions: Between Union St. and Green St.) +1 415 771-3100
open: Su-W Noon-10PM, Th-Sa Noon-11PM
A good, cheap pizza-by-the-slice restaurant that is open relatively late.
- Bacchus Wine Bar (address: 1954 Hyde Street) (directions: between Union St & Warner Pl.) +1 415 928-2633
open: 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.
- Bigfoot Lodge (address: 1750 Polk Street) (directions: between Washington and Clay) +1 415 440-2355
open: Daily 3PM-2AM
Interesting decor (giant Bigfoot statue) and serving basic but decent drinks. Sometimes they light the bar on fire.
- Nob Hill Tavern (address: 1390 California Street) (directions: at Hyde) +1 415 673-9294
open: M-F 4PM-2AM, Sa 7PM-2AM, Su 5PM-2AM
About as basic as it gets. Best prices in the neighborhood.
- Red Devil Lounge (address: 1695 Polk Street) (directions: at Clay) +1 415 921-1695
Good live music venue.
- Tonga Room (address: 950 Mason Street) (directions: at California) +1 415 772-5278
open: Su, W-Th 6PM-10PM, F-Sa 6PM-11PM
Polynesian themed bar in the Fairmont Hotel. Expensive drinks but kind of fun.
- Zeki's Bar (address: 1319 California Street) (directions: at Helen between Hyde and Leavenworth) +1 415 928-0677
open: Daily 4PM-2AM
A step up from the Nob Hill Tavern.
- Hotel Mithila (address: 972 Sutter Street) (directions: at Hyde) +1 415 441-9297 firstname.lastname@example.org
price: Average Price $115
Established in 1920, this is a relatively clean hotel and reasonably priced.
- Best Inn (address: 2850 Van Ness Avenue) (directions: between Chestnut and Lombard) +1 415 776-3220 email@example.com
price: Average Price $180
Nothing fancy, but a clean and comfortable hotel, situated a few blocks south of the Wharf.
- Cornell Hotel De France (address: 715 Bush Street) (directions: at Powell) +1 415 421-3154
A small and historic hotel with a French theme.
- Golden Gate Hotel (address: 775 Bush Street) (directions: between Mason and Powell) +1 415 392-3702 firstname.lastname@example.org
A charming budget hotel in an old Victorian.
- Grosvenor Suites (address: 899 Pine Street) (directions: at Mason) +1 415 421-1899 email@example.com
A very nice place with suites and furnished apartments.
- Holiday Inn Golden Gateway Hotel (address: 1500 Van Ness Avenue) (directions: at Pine) +1 415 441-4000 firstname.lastname@example.org
A Holiday Inn with more amenities than the typical location and nice views of the city.
- Hotel Carlton (address: 1075 Sutter Street) (directions: at Larkin) +1 415 673-0242 email@example.com
A reasonably-priced boutique hotel with decorations that feature international travel. Non-smoking and pet-friendly hotel, and certified as a green business. Saha Restaurant in the lobby serves Arabic fusion cuisine.
- Fairmont Hotel (address: 950 Mason Street) (directions: at California) +1 415 772-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org
price: The grandest suite costs $10,000 a night, but you can get a nice room for $300-400
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.
- Huntington Hotel (address: 1075 California Street) (directions: at Taylor) +1 415 474-5400 email@example.com
A former apartment building-turned-luxury hotel with individually decorated rooms.
- Intercontinental Mark Hopkins (address: 1 Nob Hill Place) (directions: at California and Mason Streets) +1 415 392-3434
Historic hotel atop Nob Hill. Convenient for walking tours of the city.
- Petite Auberge (address: 863 Bush Street) (directions: between Taylor and Mason) +1 415 928-6000
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 Hotel (address: 905 California Street) (directions: at Powell) +1 415 989-3500
Another 4-star hotel with marble baths and free limousine service.
- White Swan Inn (address: 845 Bush Street) (directions: between Taylor and Mason) +1 415 775-1755
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 Vertigo (address: 940 Sutter Street) (directions: on the corner between Hyde and Leavenworth) +1 415 885-6800 Reservations@PersonalityHotels.com
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.
There are many cafes in Nob Hill which provide internet service.
- Quetzal Internet Cafe (address: 1234 Polk Street) (directions: between Bush and Fern Streets) +1 415 673-4181
open: 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).
- Cup-A-Joe (address: 896 Sutter St) (directions: at Leavenworth Street) +1 415 563-7745
open: 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.