Russian Hill & Nob Hill San Francisco
Top Attractions in These Historic San Francisco Neighborhoods
Russian Hill and Nob Hill San Francisco are two neighborhoods in the central part of the city. They sit high in the hills above the San Francisco Bay and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Nob Hill is on the west side of Chinatown, straight up the steep streets, and Russian Hill is just north of Nob Hill. Here you will find Grace Cathedral, Lombard Street, and the historic Fairmont Hotel.
The story of Nob Hill's historic buildings begins with the "Big Four" railroad entrepreneurs who were the first to develop this neighborhood. Three of their four mansions burned down in the 1906 earthquake and fire, but the last one still stands today at the corner of California and Mason Streets.
You will also find several high-end hotels in Nob Hill San Francisco, including the Fairmont Hotel, the Mark Hopkins Inter-Continental Hotel, and the Huntington Hotel. Each holds an important place in San Francisco history.
Russian Hill is another important neighborhood in San Francisco. It is home to the famously crooked Lombard Street. Here you will also find some great restaurants and local shops.
Top Activities & Attractions
1. Cable Cars: Ride Up or Down the Steep California Street
The California Cable Car line was the first line built. It's one of my favorite cable cars, since it isn't as busy as the other two lines. It runs up and down the steep California Street roadway from the Financial District to the western edge of Nob Hill. It also stops right next to Grace Cathedral and other attractions in this neighborhood.
Learn More: Cable Cars
2. Cable Car Museum: Watch the Cable Wheels in Action
In addition to the cable cars, you will also find the Cable Car Museum in Nob Hill San Francisco. Here you can learn more about their history and see pictures of when the lines and cars were first built. However, my favorite part is watching the wheels pull the cables. It's always hard to believe that these are the actual cables that pull the cars up the steep San Francisco hills.
Learn More: Cable Car Museum
3. Fairmont Hotel: Stroll Around the Lobby of this Historic Hotel
The Fairmont Hotel is an historic hotel in Nob Hill San Francisco. Built in 1907, this luxury hotel has hosted dozens of presidents, celebrities, and other famous people. This is also where the United Nations Charter was drafted in 1945. The flags outside showcase all of the countries in attendance. While you're in the neighborhood, take a few minutes to step inside the lobby of this gorgeous hotel, or book a room and stay the night. Either way, it's an experience you will not forget.
Book A Room: Fairmont Hotel
See Pics & Learn More: Fairmont Hotel
4. Grace Cathedral: Visit the Most Beautiful Church in San Francisco
Another one of the top attractions in Nob Hill San Francisco is Grace Cathedral. It is the largest—and in my opinion, the most beautiful—church in San Francisco. The cathedral is open daily to the public. Stop by for a closer look at its famous golden doors, colorful stained glass windows, and other gorgeous icons.
Learn More: Grace Cathedral
5. Lombard Street: Walk or Drive Down the Crooked Street
Over in Russian Hill, you will find one of the most visited San Francisco attractions, Lombard Street. This crooked street was first built in the 1930s to allow easier access up and down the steep street for its residents. Today, this one-block street with eight tight turns draws visitors from around the world.
Learn More: Lombard Street
6. Top of the Mark: Stop for a Drink & Enjoy the View
One of my favorite places to grab a drink in Nob Hill San Francisco is at the Top of the Mark. It is one of the few bars with amazing views of the city of San Francisco. The bar is on the top floor of the Mark Hopkins hotel on the corner of California and Mason Streets. Stop by for a drink or two and enjoy the scenery from high above the city. This is also the perfect opportunity to dress up a little during your visit.
7. Walking Tour: Discover the History of this Important Neighborhood
Do you want to learn even more about the history of Nob Hill San Francisco? If you do, your best bet is to take the free walking tour given by the SF Public Library. This two-hour tour takes you back to the 1800s, when the first mansions were built here. You will also learn about the other important buildings and landmarks in this famous neighborhood.
The walk is offered most Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday afternoons at 2pm. No need to register. Simply show up at the front entrance of the Stanford Court Hotel on California Street between Mason and Powell a few minutes before 2pm and check in with the guide.
Learn More: Nob Hill Walking Tour
Where to Eat: The Best Russian Hill & Nob Hill Restaurants
After living in Nob Hill San Francisco for several years, I've grown to love so many of the restaurants here. Below are just a few of my favorites.
- Hyde Street Seafood House & Raw Bar: This is a great, non-touristy place to find some fresh seafood and oysters. The restaurant opened in 1985 and receives rave reviews from its customers. Dinner only. $$
- Zarzuela: This is a fantastic dinner place serving authentic Spanish and Basque cuisine. The setting is warm and homey. They are known for their paella, patatas bravas, and other delectable tapas (small plates), including a variety of seafood and baked goat cheese. Find it in Russian Hill at 2000 Hyde Street between Union and Allen. $$
- Seven Hills: For amazing Italian fare outside of North Beach, head to Seven Hills in the Nob Hill neighborhood. They offer up some incredibly tasty pastas and salads, with great desserts and a nice selection of wines to top it off. This is a cozy, intimate restaurant located at 1550 Hyde Street at Pacific Avenue. $$$
- Street: Heading back to the Russian Hill area is another one of my favorites, Street. This busy restaurant also serves new and traditional American cuisine. The menu changes daily and the food is always fresh and delicious. It is located on Polk Street between Vallejo and Broadway Streets. Dinner only. $$
- Sushi Rapture: One of my favorite sushi restaurants in the city is also in Nob Hill San Francisco. Sushi Rapture is a local restaurant with only a handful of tables. Come early for a table or to grab a seat at the sushi bar. Find it at the corner of Leavenworth and Washington Streets. Dinner only. $$
- Swan Oyster Depot: This casual seafood restaurant is one of the best in the city. It is both a restaurant and seafood market, so seating is limited. Here you will find a great selection of fresh seafood at reasonable prices. Lunch only. $$
Stop by for a Beer or Glass of Wine: Top Bars
- Amelie: This is a great wine bar on Polk Street near Washington Street. They have an extensive list of California and international wines. You can also grab some munchies from their menu such as cheese or meat plates.
- The Bell Tower: This is another great local place in Nob Hill San Francisco. I usually come and enjoy a drink at the bar, but they also have some great pub food. It is on the corner of Jackson and Polk Streets.
- The Bigfoot Lodge: This dive bar is another great place to grab a drink or two in the neighborhood. They serve a large variety of beers and the clientele is mostly local. It's right next to Amelie on Polk Street.
- Greens Sports Bar: If you are trying to catch a game, then head over to Green's Sports Bar. This large bar has several TVs and quite a few beers on tap, and is usually pretty happening during any major sporting event. It's located in Russian Hill on Polk Street near Green Street.
- Kozy Kar: Step back in time at the Kozy Kar bar on Polk Street. This eclectic bar was designed to make you feel like you are drinking in a 70s van. You will find old movies playing on the screens, two waterbeds, and many other eye-catching details. Don't forget to check out the decor in the bathroom before you leave. It is on Polk Street near Sacramento Street.
- Lush Lounge: This one is not technically in this neighborhood, but is close enough for me to add it to the list. The Lush Lounge is another one of my favorites and the drinks live up to its name. Head over at happy hour for great drink specials. The Lush Lounge is on Polk Street near Sutter Street.
Where to Stay
At the top of Nob Hill, you will find a group of highly rated four-star hotels. In addition to these luxury hotels, you can also find several budget-friendly two- and three-star hotels. Here are some of the best in both categories:
905 California Street
The Stanford Court is the first of the top four-star hotels in Nob Hill San Francisco. The hotel has a great location, right on the California cable car line and just blocks from both Union Square and Chinatown.
The 393-room hotel has the following amenities:
- Signature bedding, marble baths, and plush robes
- High speed internet access
- Fitness center
- Business center
- Pets allowed
The Aurea Restaurant and Lounge is on-site. It's a great place to enjoy some small plates and local and international wines.
Rooms here start at around $244 a night. Discover additional ratings and reviews on the Renaissance Stanford Court Hotel on Booking.com.
950 Mason Street
As I mentioned above, The Fairmont is an historic hotel on Nob Hill San Francisco. This four-star hotel is gorgeous and in the perfect location.
In addition to it's history, it also boasts a good sized gym, the Tonga Room (a Tiki bar where it 'rains' once an hour), and easy access to the California cable car line. Here are some of its other amenities:
- Concierge services
- Spacious rooms and suites
- All rooms include a flat screen TV, minibar, and an iPod docking station
- Many rooms offer beautiful views of the SF Bay or the city skyline
- High speed wired and wireless internet
- Private parking is available on-site for an additional charge
Rooms here start at around $240 a night. Compare nightly rates for the Fairmont Hotel on Booking.com.
Here are the two other highly rated four-star hotels on Nob Hill San Francisco:
- The Scarlet Huntington Hotel: 1075 California Street
- Right across the street from both Grace Cathedral and Huntington Park
- 135 spacious rooms in this landmark hotel
- Award-winning Big 4 Restaurant with American cuisine on-site
- Rooms starting at around $265 a night
- Intercontinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco: 1 Nob Hill
- This hotel is another piece of Nob Hill history (opened in 1926!) in a great location and just steps from the other four-star hotels mentioned above
- Great views of the city from many rooms
- Top of the Mark Restaurant and Lounge is on one of the upper floors in the hotel and also has amazing views of the San Francisco skyline
- Amenities include a business center, fitness center room service, and wheelchair access rooms
- Rooms starting at around $200 a night
Although there are several high-end hotels in Nob Hill San Francisco, they are not the only options. You can also find a number of budget-friendly hotels in or near this great neighborhood.
- Steinhart: 953 Sutter Street, 3 Stars
- 58 rooms with free high speed internet access, kitchenettes, suites available, and wheelchair access rooms
- Rooms starting at around $200 a night
- Grosvenor Suites: 899 Pine Street
- All suite hotel, 66 suites in total
- Amenities include a full kitchenette, free continental breakfast, free wireless internet, business center, and wheelchair access rooms
- Rooms starting at around $120 a night
- Nob Hill Hotel: 835 Hyde Street, 2.5 Stars
- Historic hotel with a lot of character, in a great area with the cable car just two blocks away
- 52 small rooms with Victorian decor and satin bedding
- Amenities include a business center, free high speed internet, free breakfast, restaurant on-site, and room service
- Rooms starting at around $135 a night
- Nob Hill Motor Inn: 1630 Pacific Avenue, 2 Stars
- This hotel is on the northern side of Nob Hill, just a few blocks from Fisherman's Wharf and Pacific Heights
- Amenities include free breakfast, free parking (a huge money saver!), free high speed internet access, and wheelchair access rooms
- Rooms starting at around $125 a night
Read recent guest reviews and discover great hotel prices on Booking.com.
How to Get Here
From Fisherman's Wharf to Nob Hill San Francisco
- Cable Car: As I mentioned above, this option is the most fun. You want to take the Hyde/Powell cable car from the western side of Fisherman's Wharf over to the these neighborhoods.
- Taxi: Another option to get to Nob Hill San Francisco is to take a taxi. It's a quick ride of about 10 minutes and costs only around $15.
From Union Square to Nob Hill San Francisco
- Cable Car: You can also take the cable car from Union Square. You'll want to look for the Hyde/Powell or the California cable car line. Either ride takes only about 10 minutes and is a fun way to climb to the top of the hill.
- Bus: The 1 California bus will also run you up the hill. It drops off only a block or so from most of the major sites listed above. Catch this bus on Sacramento Street, just a few blocks from Union Square. This option takes about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the time of day.
- Taxi: Taking a taxi is also an option. This is the fastest method and should only take about 5 or 10 minutes. Expect to pay around $10 for the ride from Union Square to Nob Hill. To Russian Hill, add about five minutes to the drive time and about $5 to the taxi fare.
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