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. Each one is high in the hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Nob Hill is on the west side of Chinatown, straight up the steep streets. Russian Hill sits to the north of Nob Hill. Here you will find Grace Cathedral, crooked Lombard Street, and the historic Fairmont Hotel.
The "Big Four" were four famous San Francisco railroad entrepreneurs who built their mansions on the top of Nob Hill in the late 1800s. They were the first to build in this neighborhood. Three of the four mansions burned down in the 1906 earthquake and fire. One of the mansions still stands today and is at the corner of California and Mason Streets.
You will find several high-end hotels in Nob Hill San Francisco, including the Fairmont Hotel, the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, and the Scarlet Huntington Hotel. Each of them 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.
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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 routes, 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 riding 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. My favorite part is watching the wheels pull the cables. It's always hard to believe that these are the actual cables that keep the cars running up the steep San Francisco hills as you watch them turn.
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 that were in attendance). While you are 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 on TripAdvisor
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 the city. 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 build 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 of this district given by the 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 the area.
The walk is offered most Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday afternoons at 2pm. There's 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. $$. 1509 Hyde Street
- Nick's Crispy Tacos: Another one of my favorites for a casual lunch is Nick's Crispy Tacos. It's a popular spot for locals and they have a wide variety of tacos on their menu. It's in Russian Hill at 1500 Broadway (at Polk). $
- Street: This busy restaurant serves new and traditional American cuisine. The menu changes daily and the food is always fresh and delicious. It is located at 2141 Polk Street between Vallejo and Broadway. Dinner only. $$
- Sushi Rapture: One of my favorite sushi restaurants is in Nob Hill San Francisco. This is another local restaurant with only a handful of tables. Come early for a table or to grab a seat at the sushi bar. Sushi Rapture is located at 1400 Leavenworth at the corner of Washington. Dinner only. $$
- Swan Oyster Depot: This casual seafood restaurant is one of the best in the city. It is both a restaurant and seafood market, so seating is limited. Here you will find a great selection of fresh seafood at reasonable prices. Lunch only. $$. 1517 Polk Street
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 at 1900 Polk Street (at Jackson).
- The Greens Sports Bar: If you want to catch a game, head over to The Greens Sports Bar. This large bar has several TVs, 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 1970s 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 luxury hotels. In addition, this neighborhood also offers several 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. It's in 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:
- High speed internet access
- Fitness center
- Business center
- Pets allowed
- Signature bedding, marble baths, and plush robes
The Aurea Restaurant and Lounge is located on site. It's a great place to enjoy some small plates and local and international wines.
A standard room here ranges from about $190 to $390 a night. Discover additional ratings and reviews on the Renaissance Stanford Court Hotel on TripAdvisor.com.
950 Mason Street
As I mentioned before, the Fairmont is a historic hotel in Nob Hill San Francisco. This four-star hotel is gorgeous and also in a great location.
In addition to its history, it has a good sized gym, the Tonga Room (a Tiki bar where it 'rains' once an hour), and a spot right on the California Cable Car line. Here are some of its other amenities:
- Concierge services
- Spacious rooms and suites
- Flat screen TV, minibar, and iPod docking station
- Many rooms offer beautiful views of the SF bay or the city skyline
- High speed internet
- Private parking is available on site for an additional charge
Rooms here range from about $280 to $725 a night. Compare nightly rates for the Fairmont Hotel on TripAdvisor.com.
Here are the two other highly rated four-star hotels in 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
- On-site, award-winning Big 4 Restaurant with American cuisine
- Rooms here start at around $270 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 free Wifi
- Rooms here start at around $200 a night
In addition to the luxury hotels, you can also find a number of mid-range hotels in or near this great neighborhood.
- Steinhart: 952 Sutter Street, 3 Stars
- A great place for extended stay that offers fully furnished studios and apartments
- Free Wifi and cable TV, shared outdoor patio for BBQs
- Rooms here start at around $200 a night
- Nob Hill Hotel: 835 Hyde Street, 2.5 Stars
- Historic hotel with a lot of character
- Small rooms, but great area with the cable car just two blocks away
- Each room has Victorian decor with satin bedding
- Amenities include a business center, free high speed internet, free breakfast, restaurant on site, room service
- Rooms start at around $160 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 microwave and refrigerator in room
- Rooms here start at around $155 a night
Read recent guest reviews and discover great hotel prices on TripAdvisor.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 10-minute ride and costs 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 lines. 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. It picks up passengers 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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