The Perfect Day in Nob Hill and Russian Hill: Tips to Enjoy the Perfect Day in these Two SF Neighborhoods

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: January 18, 2023

Are you looking for an easy self-guided tour through the Nob and Russian Hill neighborhoods? The itinerary below offers you a great overview of these two neighborhoods in just one day.

Nob Hill is a classic, upscale district with high-end housing and some of the best historic hotels in the city. In this neighborhood, you will find Grace Cathedral, the Fairmont Hotel and the Cable Car Museum.

Just down the street, you will find the enchanting district of Russian Hill. Originally settled by Russian immigrants, it now offers luxury housing and several fantastic restaurants and bars. It's also where you will find the crooked block of Lombard Street.

The itinerary below walks you through each neighborhood, so you don't have to back track. It also allows you to make the most of your day.

Feel free to modify the route as you go as the most important part is to enjoy every step of your journey!

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

9:30 am: Admire the Beauty of Grace Cathedral

Start your morning with a visit to the gorgeous church on the hill, Grace Cathedral.

Your visit starts before you even enter the doors with a look at the golden "Gates of Paradise."' It's a replica of the doors at the Baptistery of the Duomo in Florence, Italy.

It features 10 biblical scenes including Adam and Eve and Noah and his family.

The golden doors of Grace Cathedral in SF

The best time to photograph the doors is while the sun is rising in the morning. This is when their golden color shines the brightest.

While you are outside, you can also spend some time admiring the outdoor Labyrinth, a symbol used for prayer and reflection found in religious centers throughout the world. You can also 'walk' the three stages of the Labyrinth to release your inner conflicts and empower yourself for the future.

Once you complete your visit outside, it's time to step inside. This is where you will find the Interfaith AIDS Memorial Chapel, their indoor Labyrinth and almost a dozen colorful murals.

It usually takes about an hour to walk through the entire church. They do charge an admission fee.

Click here for additional pictures and information on what to expect during your visit.

10:30 am: Walk through the Historic Fairmont Hotel

After your visit to Grace Cathedral, walk across Huntington Park to the beautiful Fairmont Hotel. This SF classic offers a view into the past.

The United Nations Charter was drafted here in 1945. It has also been the site of many movies and housed dozens of famous politicians, dignitaries and stars.

The lobby of the historic Fairmont Hotel in SF

Step inside and take a seat in the lobby. Spend a few minutes here soaking in all the details from floor to ceiling.

Once you finish, head down the hallway to the right of the entrance (as you are facing the entrance). This is where you will see the plaque stating the location of the drafting of the UN Charter.

Keep walking down this hall and take a right. In this hallway, you will find a mini museum with photos of the hotel's past including images of the people that stayed and the movies filmed here.

Once you finish, head to the opposite side of the first floor of the hotel and peer into Cirque. This old-fashioned saloon features several gorgeous murals. Although it is only open for private events, you can get a decent look at it from the doorway.

Click here for additional pictures and information on the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

12:00 pm: Walk Two Blocks to the Cable Car Museum

Although it's only two blocks away, the walk between the Fairmont Hotel and the Cable Car Museum takes a little effort. The first block is STEEP, so be careful as you go. The second block is not as bad, but still slightly hilly. Fortunately, the walk is downhill all the way!

Before you head down the first hill, make sure you spend a little time admiring the views of the SF Bay. From this point, you can see part of Angel Island (the largest island in the SF Bay – click here for more information on this SF attraction) and a small portion of North Beach

It's gorgeous and is a 'picture perfect' moment.

>> Find additional hills around SF with the best views

12:15 pm: Grab Lunch Nearby

It's best to stop and grab some lunch before you continue. As you reach the Cable Car Museum, you will see a few places within a block or two. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Rural Ramen Bar: Enjoy Thai curries, noodles, & soups, just a few tables, closes for lunch at 2:30 pm, 1059 Powell Street
  • Nob Hill Cafe: This is a cute little cafe about a block off your route. they serve Tuscan pastas and pizzas. Take Sacramento west one block and you'll find it at 1152 Taylor Street. 
  • Dim Sum along Stockton Street: You can also head over to Stockton Street for some dim sum or Chinese food. It's only about two blocks way when you get to the bottom of the hill. Head to Good Mong Kook Bakery or AA Bakery & Cafe for a quick, simple meal.

An alternative option is to grab lunch at the Laurel Court inside the Fairmont Hotel. The food is good although it is pricey. Every day starting at 11:30am, they serve up gourmet salads and sandwiches starting at around $17 per dish. You can also sample their fish tacos, quesadillas or their popular Fisherman's Wharf Dungeness Crab Cakes.

1:00 pm: Watch the Wheels Spin at SF's Cable Car Museum

The Cable Car Museum is a fun place to visit for anyone interesting in learning more about the history of our famous cable cars. The city introduced these beauties in 1873 to take passengers up and down the steep street of Nob Hill.

At this free museum, you can read more about the original cable car lines, how the 1906 Earthquake and Fire severely damaged the lines and the fight to save the lines currently in use.  In the basement, you can also step inside a replica of a cable car to take a closer look.

The wheels spinning in the Cable Car Museum in SF

My favorite part of this museum is watching the cables in action. On the first floor, you can look down inside the wheel room and watch the large wheels spin as they move the cable cars up and down the hills.

A visit to this museum takes about an hour. Click here for more details on what it's like to visit.

2 pm: Hop Aboard the Powell-Hyde Cable Car to Lombard Street

Now that you know more about them, it's time to jump aboard a cable car for a ride to Lombard Street. You can pick up the Powell-Hyde Cable Car right outside the museum. Make sure you confirm you are on the right cable car as the Powell-Mason line also picks up here.

Looking up at Lombard Street in SF's Russian Hill district

Take the cable car to Lombard Street, one of the crookedest streets in the world. The Powell-Hyde Cable Car line drops you at the top of this block long gem.

Watch the cars make their way down the hill, admire the beautiful flowers and walk down the steps for the perfect view from below. It's a quick visit and a must see during your visit to San Francisco.

Click here for even more details for your visit.

4:30 pm: Head Back Up the Hill to Polk Street for a Few Drinks and Dinner

Once you finish your visit at Lombard Street, head back up and over the hill to Polk Street for a few drinks and some dinner. I recommend starting the evening with a nice cocktail at Macondray at 2209 Polk Street.

You can then make your way down Polk Street to Street Restaurant & Bar for dinner. This small local restaurant serves up gourmet comfort food including a delicious ground sirloin hamburger, a mouth-watering Angus New York Strip Steak with Gorgonzola butter and fries and a big boneless Pork Chop. Their specialty every Sunday night is fried chicken and it's DELICIOUS!

They open nightly for dinner at 5 pm except Mondays. They don't accept reservations so head over early on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to avoid waiting in line for a table.

Your best options to get here from Lombard Street include:

Walking: Macondray is about eight blocks away from the bottom of Lombard Street and the block back to the top of Lombard is the steepest. From there, you sill start heading downhill. 

Grabbing a Taxi/Lyft: The easiest way to get to Polk Street is to take a taxi or Lyft. The cost should be less than $10 for the ride.

How to Get to the Starting Point at Grace Cathedral

Your best bet from Union Square is the California Cable Car line. Pick it up at the corner of California Street and Grant Avenue. Take it to the stop right outside the cathedral at Taylor and California.

From Fisherman's Wharf, take the Powell-Mason cable car. Pick it up at the starting point on Taylor and Bay Streets. Take it to the corner of Sacramento and Powell Streets.

At this point, you can walk. It's only two blocks but the first block is VERY steep. You can also wait at the bus stop here, pick up the 1 bus and take it one stop to the top of the hill.

Other Attractions in Nob Hill and Russian Hill

In addition to the items mentioned in this itinerary, you will also find a few other attractions in these two neighborhoods. 

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

I would love for you to join me in my private Facebook group

It's a great place to interact with me and others who know the area well.

You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It's a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!

Come join the fun here!

Suggested Itinerary for Nob Hill

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