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Lombard Street San Francisco: Tips to Visit the Famous SF Crooked Street

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

  1. Updated April 19, 2021

Lombard Street San Francisco is one of the most crooked streets in the city. This one block stretch zig zags downhill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets and includes eight tight turns. It's on the northern side of the city in the Russian Hill district.

Why is Lombard Street so famous? It's famous for two reasons.

The first reason is that its tight turns are unique and not how most roads are built. It makes for a fun experience for both those driving or walking down it.

The second reason this windy street in San Francisco draws in millions every year is its beauty. The road is paved with red brick and surrounded by colorful plants and flowers. This combination makes for a picture-perfect moment for anyone visiting SF on vacation.

History of Lombard Street San Francisco

How did it get this way? In the 1920s, many residents on the street were interested in buying cars. The problem was they couldn't drive down such a steep hill (27% grade). One of the residents had the idea to decrease the grade by creating turns in the road.

Cars coming down the steep Lombard Street hillCars coming down this steep zig zag street.

When it originally opened, cars could drive both ways on the crooked road. This created some challenges, so they eventually turned it into a one way heading east, which is downhill.

Today, more than 2 million cars drive down it yearly. In fact, the city even recently proposed charging people to drive down it during busy times of the day. However, this was rejected and it's still free to walk or drive down Lombard Street San Francisco. 

Looking down Lombard StreetThis is a view from the top of Lombard at Hyde Street

Did You Know? Even though Lombard Street San Francisco is often referred to as the "Crookedest Street in the World," it isn't. It isn't even the crookedest street in San Francisco! That title goes to Vermont Street in SF's Potrero Hill District. However, people still flock to Lombard Street due to its beautiful brick roads and colorful gardens.

Lombard Street Visiting Tips

A visit to this San Francisco crooked street is quick. The only thing to do here is either walk or drive down this steep hill. However, it is easy to get to and is close to several other San Francisco attractions.

Cars heading down the Lombard Street hillA look back up the hill at cars slowly making their way down.

Both driving down and walking give you a great sense of the tight turns on it. I've done both numerous times and each one offers a very different experience. Driving is great if you already have a car, but I wouldn't recommend renting one just for this drive. 

Most people arrive on foot or by public transit. By just by watching cars drive down it, you will get a sense for what it takes to make those tight turns! 

This is where you will find it within the city. It's close to both Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach.

Map on where Lombard Street is located in San Francisco

The best way to enter this crooked section of Lombard Street in San Francisco is to start at the top of the hill. This entrance is at Lombard and Hyde Streets in the Russian Hill district

Map on where to enter Lombard Street in San Francisco

This is where cars enter to drive down and where you can access the stairs that lead to the bottom of this SF attraction.

Tips for those Driving Down Lombard Street San Francisco

Driving down this zig zag, windy road is an interesting experience. The speed limit is only 5 miles per hour and it's tough to go any faster. Once you enter this crooked section of the street, it will only take you a couple of minutes to get to the bottom.

You are not allowed to stop or get out of your car at the bottom if you drive down. This allows for the traffic to continue to flow down the street.

Here are just a few things to know if you plan to drive down it.

  1. How much does it cost to go down Lombard Street? Right now, it's free to drive down.
  2. When is it open? It's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as it's currently a public street.
  3. How long will I have to wait in line? On weekends and during the heart of the day, you will sometimes have to wait up to 20 to 30 minutes for your turn. Keep in mind that you will be sitting on a section of road this is almost as steep as this one. This can be challenging if you are driving a car with a manual transmission. With an automatic, you will also find that your car will roll backward just a bit as you make your way up this street. Make sure you are comfortable with your car and how it acts on steep hills before you get in line. Also make sure you don't get too close to the car in front of you as they will roll down toward you as well. It's best to keep your distance to stay safe!
  4. When is the best time to visit if I'm driving? The best time is early in the mornings, late afternoon or anytime in the evening during the week. 
  5. Where do I go to get in line? Online maps aren't always a good option to get you here when you drive as you can't turn either right or left off Hyde Street onto Lombard Street. This is the case even if there isn't a line of traffic. You will need to drive up Lombard Street from Van Ness Street or from Polk Street.

The map below shows you where the line forms. The red line is where cars line up to go down. It also shows you the two best entrances as most people won't let you cut in line. 

Map to get in line to drive down Lombard Street in San Francisco with recommendations on the streets to use to get in line.Where the line forms for drivers on Lombard Street and where to enter to get in line.

On busy days, this popular attraction draws in almost 20,000 people!

Tips for Walking Down

A look up at Lombard street from the bottom of the hill on LeavenworthThis is from the bottom of the hill on Leavenworth Street.

For those walking down the hill, there is a set of stairs on both sides, so you can easily make your way down on foot. I love this option as it gives you more time to really check out this wonderful, crooked street.

You can stop and take pictures. You can also just stand back and watch the cars try to make their way through the curves.

You also must stay on the sidewalk. You are not allowed to walk onto the street itself as it's too dangerous. 

If you plan to walk down, the best time to arrive is early to mid-morning. This is when you won't (usually) have as much foot traffic. It also faces east, so this is when you will have the best sunlight on it for pictures.

When you get to the bottom, you will get the classic picture you see above. 

Make sure you don't stand in the street when you get to the bottom. There are people driving on these streets, so make sure you stay aware of your surroundings. You would be surprised at the number of people that stand in the middle of the street and not allow cars to pass through.

Lombard Street San Francisco is also free for those walking down the stairs.

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

Tours of Lombard Street San Francisco

If you want to learn more about this famous attraction, there are several tours offered that include a visit in their itinerary. Here are a few top options.

Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

One of the best ways to get from top attraction to top attraction is the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. This tour includes stops all around the city. There is a stop here at Lombard Street San Francisco as well as other top attractions including the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and Alamo Square.

These buses drop you off at 1599 Lombard St San Francisco. This stop is about five blocks away from this attraction. The last two blocks before you reach Lombard and Hyde are STEEP, so make sure to take you time. 

The 2-day is the most popular Hop On Hop Off tour which includes 48 hours of access to these buses. The tours run from 9am to 5pm daily with buses every 15 to 20 minutes. This gives you plenty of time to check out top stops and learn more about them as you cruise around SF.

>> Visit the Big Bus Tours site to learn more about their 2-day tour

San Francisco Urban Hike: Coit Tower, Lombard Street and North Beach

If you want to get your heart pumping, then check out this Urban Hike. It starts at Levi's Plaza, takes you to the top of Coit Tower, down the hill to explore North Beach and then up the hill to the top of Lombard Street San Francisco.

This 3-hour hike is strenuous and best for those that love to climb steep steps and hills. As you hike, your knowledgeable guide will tell you all about the hidden treasures around you and these top attractions.

It's available most days of the week.

>> Visit Viator to check prices and availability for this hike

San Francisco Love Tour

Sit back, relax, and enjoy this bus tour of San Francisco. During this two-hour tour, you will learn all about SF's history and our top attractions. This small-group tour is in a 70's-era VW bus. 

This tour allows you to experience Lombard Street in this funky, van. You'll get to take pictures as someone else drives!

Other places you will see on this tour include the Golden Gate Bridge, the Haight-Ashbury, Union Square, Chinatown, and more! Since it's a smaller tour van, you will get to drive along streets where larger tour buses are not allowed. 

>> Visit Viator for additional tour details and to check for availability

How to Get to Lombard Street San Francisco

Cable Car from Union Square or Fisherman's Wharf

A fun way to get over to the crooked, zig zag Lombard Street is by taking a cable car. The Powell/Hyde line drops you at the top on Hyde Street. You can then explore it and hop back on to head to your next adventure. 

They don't offer transfers, so you will have to pay if you hop off here and decide to hop back on to make your way along the route.

More Options from Fisherman's Wharf: The western side of Fisherman's Wharf is just a few blocks from Lombard Street San Francisco. In addition to taking the cable car, you can also walk.

  • Walk: If you decide to walk, your best option is to take either North Point or Bay to Leavenworth. This gets you to the bottom of Lombard -- but it's an easier walk than the steep hill on Hyde from the bay. When you arrive, you can then take the steps up Lombard to see the beautiful views at the top.

From Union Square: If you are staying in Union Square, you can also either take the cable car, a taxi/Uber/Lyft or the bus.

  • Bus: There are a few buses that get you within a couple of blocks of Lombard. Your first option is the 30 Stockton. Take this through North Beach to the Columbus and Lombard stop. You can also take the 45 Union bus. Get off at the Union and Leavenworth stop and walk up Leavenworth to Lombard. Both will take you about 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Taxi/Uber/Lyft: You can also take a cab over to Lombard from Union Square. This takes about 10 minutes and will cost around $15 to $20. You can then head down to North Beach to pick up another taxi for your return trip.

Things to See & Do Near Lombard Street San Francisco

  • Coit Tower: This fantastic San Francisco tower sits high above the city on Telegraph Hill. The first floor offers wonderfully maintained murals of what life was like in the 1930s. You can also visit its top floor with 360-degree views around San Francisco. The first floor is free to visit, but you must pay to visit the top floor.
  • Diego Rivera Fresco: Just steps away from Lombard Street San Francisco is one of three Diego Rivera frescos in the city. This beautiful piece is on display at the San Francisco Art Institute which is just two blocks away at 800 Chestnut Street. It's free to visit and open most days of the week. 
  • Buena Vista Café: Also, just a few blocks away is the Buena Vista Café. This highly rated restaurant is in Fisherman's Wharf and is famous for their Irish Coffees. They also have an amazing selection of tasty dishes. 
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